Coffee Break – The Tops and Tails Set

butter LONDON  The Tops and Tails Set I briefly mentioned that I was looking at this base coat and quickdry topcoat duo from Butter London back when had their big sale a few weeks ago — I got it, and I highly recommend. Not only does the basecoat go on nice and smooth, and the top coat dry super quickly, but it has kept my pedicure looking great for like 3 weeks now. Amazing. I justified the splurge because the set has Butter London’s “3 Free” guarantee — no formaldehyde, no toulene, and no DBP — which, even though I’m not 100% sure what those are, fits nicely with my new motto to try to decrease the chemicals in Casa Griffin as well as in our bodies. This would be a great gift for the girlfriend/sister/coworker/daughter/niece who always does her nails (or, ahem, for you). It’s $25 at butter LONDON The Tops and Tails Set



  1. Self-Splurge :

    I came into a few hundred dollars recently that I wasn’t expecting. I was considering buying myself a holiday present (which I’ve never done) and was considering the Lo & Sons OMG bag after all the rave reviews on this site. $275 still seems like a lot for a nylon bag though. I’m also not 100% which size I want. Thoughts? Does everyone who has it truly love it/is it worth it? I don’t travel a TON, but I love the idea of back panel sleeve for when I do travel. What do you typically keep in it? I don’t need a gym bag.

    • Almost There :

      I would also like to hear input on this – I recently bought the OG at 30% off and am considering returning it, it doesn’t seem like I will use it except to travel.

    • I bought the OG, and while I adore it for travel (which I do at least 1x/month), I don’t use it for daily use because it’s too big. I might use the OMG for daily use because it’s smaller. Also I got mine in a color, which I think looks less professional than the black in nylon.

      • Funny – I just got the OG yesterday and am considering returning it because I think it is too small for traveling. Of course, my day-to-day purse weighs 10 pounds, so I may have a “stuff” problem.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      I used the OG for the gym last night and it was great. I used the front zipper area as my purse, used the shoe pocket, and had space for a water bottle, toiletry bag, and gym clothes in the interior, which then became enough space for the tights skirt sweater cardigan scarf that I wore that day when I changed. Everything fit, no problem. I think I would have had to pack more carefully with the OMG for everything to fit, if it even could all fit in the smaller OMG. The OMG seems to me more “daily tote” and less travel/gym than the OG, but then again I carry a lot of stuff. I am guessing that either would work to varying degrees.

    • Jacqueline :

      I posted a few days ago about my new OMG. I LOVE it, and I’ve carried it daily since it arrived. However, I don’t know if it’s worth it if you don’t go to the gym and/or carry a laptop most days. I go to the gym 4-6 days a week, so it’s important to me to have a bag that looks sleek but can hold a lot. I was so tired of lugging around a purse and a bulky, unattractive gym bag — it actually made me less inclined to want to go to the gym. The OMG holds my gym stuff, my purse stuff (wallet, keys, phone, magazines, etc.), and a few extras. It can be a tight fit when I have sneakers in the shoe compartment, but that’s only because they’re so bulky. With flip flops for yoga or flats/heels to change into at work, there’s plenty of room for everything I need.

      I love it because it helps me stay effortlessly organized. There’s seriously a compartment for everything. I never have to dig around to find my checkbook, keys, or wallet. That, for me, made it worth the price. I have yet to find a bag that’s this functional yet still sleek.

      I got it in the black, which I think looks much more formal than some of the other (very fun) colors. And I am 5’3″, so the OMG is perfect on my frame, while I think the OG would be a bit too bag for everyday use. Hope that helps!

      • Almost There :

        I have been wondering if using it as a gym bag and a travel bag (on separate occasions) would make it smelly, from the gym clothes, which would not be weird in the gym but would be as a travel bag. Maybe not because it’s nylon?

        • Jacqueline :

          Hmm — I hadn’t thought of that. I tend to work out after work and then wear my gym clothes home and shower/change at home, so I haven’t had to put them in there. But now that I think of it, you could also put them into the shoe compartment to keep them separate from the rest of the bag.

        • I bought a waterproof (and supposedly smell proof) bag originally made for carrying dirty cloth diapers to use to carry my gym clothes in my normal handbags because of the potential smell problem. I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, but it seems to work really well (so much so that sometimes I forget to take my gym clothes out of my bag when I come home because I no longer smell them…).

          • Almost There :

            Where’d you get it?

          • I bought them at a local baby store (I don’t have a kid, but it’s the closest place to me that sells wool wash). They’re along the lines of these:


        • SF Bay Associate :

          I think because it’s nylon it’s clean-able. I’d check with the company before I did it, but I think wiping it down periodically with a Lysol wipe would do nicely.

    • You can get the OMG for less than $200, I believe, with the 30% off promotion they have going on through the holidays (HOLIDAYS2012, I think). I have it and really like the sleeve for traveling. I find it to be on the smaller side and would not use it for more than an overnight trip. I carry a lot of stuff, so I’m not sure it would work very well for me if I tried to use it for work and gym stuff at the same time (see SFBA’s comment above).

      • WriterKate :

        If I am not too late to this, I’m curious how people would compare the weight of the OMG to the large Longchamp Le Pilage? So far the Le Pilage is the only bag that works for me when I need to carry my computer – I need something lightweight because of back problems. Considering the OMG but have been holding out..

    • How does the OMG work for those of you who have to carry a laptop every day? (15″ MBP in my case)

      • I recently bought an OMG with the 30% holiday code and it arrived yesterday. It looks good, well made, pretty light and has all the pockets as promised.

        I haven’t used it yet because I am not sure how I feel about it being able to lug my work laptop. I have a 14″ laptop from work (regular thickness) that I have to carry everyday, and possibly travel with as well. It is a tight fit in the OMG, doesn’t slide in easily until you find the right angle, but it fits. I’m concerned it would stress out the seams with me carrying it everyday. I didn’t get the OG because it looked like it would be huge for my requirements and huge on me (5’3″).

        I’m going to take a decision this weekend (with input from DH), and will report back on how it works out!

  2. I have “outgrown” (to put eloquently) my brooks brothers button downs, does anyone have any thoughts on the Jones New York non-iron shirts, as they are offering them for 30% off?

    RANT: why does dress for success make it nearly impossible to donate? guess my too small suits will just go to salvation army.

    • I wear the BB button-downs a lot. My best friend (who is plus-sized) swears by the Jones shirts. However, they are slightly more casual looking than BB ones (fabric looks cheaper, cuts are less formal) and the handfeel of the fabric is not as nice either. So…if you really want Jones, go for it, but know that in my (and her) opinion, they’re not as nice.

    • Usually if you call your local Dress for Success they will help you out. Also, consider donating directly to a women’s shelter; most of them would love this type of clothing.

      • style advice needed... :

        I had a hard time donating to shelters. They actually told me they didn’t take donations because they were worried about bedbugs! I was pretty disappointed.

        I also had a hard time with Dress for Success. The one near me was literally only available for drop offs once a month for a few hours. It was also very far away, not in a safe area. Very inconvenient. They also didn’t return phone calls.

    • If you post the sizes of the unwanted items here, it’s quite likely that someone in this community would be eager to them off your hands :)

    • I’ve had no problem donating to Dress For Success – in fact, they came to my apartment to pick up several bags, but I know that you can turn up during certain hours to drop bags off at one of their warehouses. I know that they only accept clothes from the past few years – i.e., no tacky 90s suits.

      • style advice needed... :

        In my city, they would not do pick-ups. And I live in a huge city.

    • transition :

      Not sure if it’s a priority to you but please know that salvation army is open about their policy of not assisting LGBT people. If this is something important to you, please consider donating to Goodwill or in contacting local homeless shelters or reaching out to ask a local hospital if you can donate to a battered women’s shelter.


      • Stephanie Plum :

        I don’t think this is 100% true- I’m pretty sure complaints about their approach to LGBT issues stem from their treatment of their (paid) staff, not the populations they serve. They actually do a lot of good, notwithstanding their arcane views on social issues.

      • I don’t particularly support the Salvation army, but this is false. they help all in need. One of my sister’s friends is very open about being out, but I know they really helped her get back on her feet a while ago. Their policy about gay rights is about their employees, and the organization as a whole does a lot of good particularly in rural areas. One of their staff members said something (I forget the exact details, but something discriminating against gay people) and the organization quickly denounced the comments. I know they do promote celibacy if you are gay so I am not saying they are progressive, but I know they don’t turn you away if you are gay.

  3. e_pontellier :

    I’d really like to go on a vacation by myself – without my DH. Do other married women feel this way? Also, how do I go about bringing it up? I don’t want to make it seem like I want to get away from him, but I just need a break. I would want to go visit a (female) friend of mine at her parents’ house, where she’ll be spending the holidays. Thoughts? TIA.

    • I think you should phrase it exactly as you did here “I’d like to go visit ____.” If the friend is dear enough that you’re invited to her parent’s home, I don’t think it should be an issue at all.

      Also, if your DH is like most men, he’d be thrilled at not having to tag along. And if it makes you feel better, you could suggest the time as a good chance for your DH to visit a friend or family member of his own.

      • Research, Not Law :

        I agree that visiting a friend without your husband is entirely different than asking to go on a vacation solo. My husband is relieved that he doesn’t have to come.

        It’s completely understandable to want to travel by yourself from time to time, too, and I know some married women who do. It’s a much more delicate topic to broach, but I don’t think you have to for what you want to do.

      • My MIL takes a least one vacation a year by herself, and has a separate fund for doing this from a part time job that she has. Her first husband was very controlling, and when she remarried (some time ago) she made it clear that time to travel by herself was something she’d need. It works really well for them (she gets her free-spirited wanderlust out while he putters around at home and goes to the gym), although it certainly wouldn’t work for everybody.

    • I think it’s perfectly normal to take a vacation without your husband (think about girls weekends), and I think it’s completely reasonable that you would need a break from your DH. For your visit with your friend: unless you told him that you want to see your friend because you want a few days away from him, would your DH otherwise be weird about you going to a friend’s house for a few days? If not, I would just tell him that you’re going to go visit your friend for X days during Y time. The only thing that could be weird is if you have specific holiday traditions that would be infringed upon, or, if he has taken time off of work specifically to spend time with you. Barring those things, just tell him that you’re going to visit your friend.

    • Yes, other married women feel this way and do vacation on their own. If you can rope your friend into officially “inviting” you, you can say, “Dear Friend invited ME to spend a few days with her and I’d like to go.”

    • I know I feel that way sometimes – my sister and I have been meaning to do a girls’ getaway for a while. Doing things separately can be good for a relationship, and this is just an extension of that idea.

      No different than guys going a hunting/fishing trip . . . .

    • e_pontellier :

      This is very helpful and reassuring so far; thank you. How do I figure out money for this? I would need to buy a plane ticket and I’m pretty low on funds (being in law school and all).

      • Do you need to buy a plane ticket, or can you do something like rent a car or take a train? Does your friend live near where you live currently? Can you split the cost of a car rental and make it a road trip? You can easily drive 8-12 hours in one day (or if you’re like my crazy friends, you can rotate driving/sleeping shifts so that you never have to stop the car). Even if your friend doesn’t have time to make a road trip of it, since you’ll presumably be done with finals at this point, you have more flexibility and could make the drive by yourself (there are some pretty decent Motel 6’s on the road). Flight prices are craaaaaazy right now!

      • Almost There :

        Do you and H not share your dollaz?

      • I won’t presume to know how you work finances in your marriage. Here’s how this conversation has worked for us for me going out of town to see a friend. “Babe, I am planning a trip to see my BFF. Found tickets at a good price, I am going to buy them” He says ” Great, have fun” We are a joint account kind of family and while we give each other a heads up/right of first refusal for larger purchases ($300+), there is a general understanding that we can use our money as we see fit. But, we also are fairly moderate in spending solely on ourselves.

        • Research, Not Law :

          This is us as well.

          If he won’t share money with you, then I don’t see why you need to share your vacation with him.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        I really don’t mean to ask too personal a question, but is your husband in control of all your money? I ask because I remember you asking another poster about what she did while she was on vacation if she needed to get food or something while her husband was giving her the silent treatment (or something to that effect) and it struck me as odd because I would just go out and get food if I was the one in that situation. But I remember thinking that maybe it was a money issue and this question reminded me about it.

        In my vision of marriage (which is just my own view), the money would be shared and if 1 person wanted to go somewhere, they wouldn’t be expected to fund it entirely out of their own personal funds. I’d like to think that my future husband and I would use the money that we’ve pooled to at least partially fund things like that sometimes. I guess my point is that maybe some of the money could come out of your household funds, assuming you have them. I read your question to mean that you were trying to come up with the cash based on what you personally have separate from anything you and your husband have together.

        • Almost There :

          +1 This is what I meant to say.

        • e_pontellier :

          Well I’m a law student with very little money and no income. He’s gainfully employed (and has been for 12+ years). So there’s a huge disparity.

          • You are still 50% of the marriage and worthy of spending marital money.

          • And do you also have to pay for half of the ice cream, even though you don’t like ice cream or eat it?

            Sorry. That probably wasn’t very helpful. But good gracious. I think every couple has the right to share and split finances according to their choosing (totally shared, totally separate, a mix), but when one half is full-time employed and the other half is a full-time student, I feel like a little more “sharing” and a little more “separate” needs to be the name of the game.

            FWIW, my SO is a graduate student, so I pay for much more than he does (our finances are separate as we aren’t married yet). Doesn’t bother me a bit. In my mind, we’re Team Us.

          • I meant a little more “sharing” and a little less “separate”, obvs.

          • Almost There :

            I’m not married, so grain of salt. But- I think that when you (aka Your Husband) marry a person who you know will be in grad school while you’re working (or decide to go to grad school after you’re married, after mutual discussion), the working person takes on the financial responsibility for the couple. He will still benefit from the fruits of your labor, no? Increased salary from your law degree? Are you going to tell him all of your lawyer money is yours alone, since he didn’t share his hard-earned money when you were a student? Things to think about.

          • SF Bay Associate :

            What mascot said. So what you’re not making any money right now??!! You’re half the marital estate, so half the money the marital estate earns should be yours, even if it’s his name on the paycheck, end of story. In CA, that’s legally codified as community property. I have no idea about NY. If this is his outlook (“I earned the money, therefore it’s all mine.”), heaven help you if you have/choose to be a SAHM for any period. It sounds like he’s both older than you and makes more money than you, which he is using as a basis for this inequitable power dynamic and his dismissive and disrespectful attitude towards you, and it sounds like you’re buying into his view of those dynamics. I call shenanigans. You’re married. What he makes is half yours. The end.

          • Another S :

            Ditto to what everyone else said. I make about 1/5 what my husband makes but marital money is marital money. If the cost of a girls’ trip was prohibitively expensive for us, then I wouldn’t take it. If we (as a couple) could easily afford it, there would be no questions asked (although we do give each other a heads up for purchases over a certain dollar amount and we would certainly give each other a heads up if we were considering a girls/guys weekend without the other).

          • Meg Murry :

            I think it matters how much you are talking about. If you are looking into a trip that’s going to cost $1000 and you are flying to Aruba for 2 weeks and missing Christmas & New Years, that’s a lot different than $200 for the Delta shuttle for aong weekend in January.

            Separate but related thoughts:
            -Have you & your husband had talks about yours, mine & ours money and “fun money” for each of you? Even once you get out of law school you are probably going to have big income disparities if you have a lot of loans, so you need to talk about this – being married means that his money is no longer just “his money”
            -It’s probably at the time of year when holiday plane tickets are getting expensive. Could you plan a trip for a long weekend or spring break (does law school have spring break) & ask your parents or husband for travel expenses as a Christmas present?

          • mintberrycrunch :

            Just wanted to chime in that I understand where you are coming from here – I am in the same boat (law student, my DH is financially supporting me through school). I agree with the other commenters that you are entitled to spend money despite the feelings you’re having – but wanted to let you know that I have struggled with these feelings too (i.e.: I shouldn’t “waste” our money on something frivolous just for me). I don’t think I would necessarily go galavanting off on an expensive trip while my DH was stuck at home working to pay for it (at least not until I’m financially contributing, again, too!). My husband is giving me a plane ticket to visit my best friend as part of my Christmas gift this year. He would have been fine with me buying the ticket either way, but feeling like it was a “gift” helped me feel less bad about it. And he was happy he didn’t have to think of as many Christmas presents for me :) You absolutely should go see your friend – it’ll be such a nice break!

          • Left Coaster :

            I agree with all of the above posters. I’ll speak to this from the opposite side of the equation: I make significantly more than my husband — always have, and likely always will (not that we’re rolling in the dough — I am a lawyer and he’s in the arts). I cannot imagine ever thinking that the money I make is hours, let alone begrudging him the right to go on a trip or make some other purchase just because his earnings alone wouldn’t support that expense. To me, that’s just part of being married. We certainly check in with each other about big or unusual expenses, but that’s just to make sure that “we” as a financial entity can afford it. I couldn’t fathom arguing with him about a trip on the ground that he couldn’t afford it by himself.

        • Yes, I had the same control question. Even though we are a share everything marriage, I still have a car titled in my name only, a credit card that I am the primary accountholder on, a bank account that is just mine, and utilities that are in my name. If DH died or things went south, I still exist as a person with resources and a credit history. I think that it is important for a woman to maintain these things and not keep everything in her spouse’s name/control. Just my two cents.

          • e_pontellier :

            Well I agree with this, so I have my own things (bank account, credit card, name on the lease…) but I don’t have any income to fill those things.

          • Just because it’s not in your name alone doesn’t mean it’s not in your name/control. Everything we own and have (cars, house, utilities, bank accounts, credit cards, etc. etc.) is in the names Ms. TBK and Mr. TBK. Neither of us has anything in just our own name. Maybe it’s just how you worded it, but would you think a man needs to maintain a car and credit card in just his name? I think what stands out to me is the assumption that if it’s not in the wife’s name *alone*, it’s not in her control.

          • Yes, I should have added that my husband also has the exact same things in his name. We also have the house, bank accounts, etc. in joint names. I think my way of thinking is a throwback to spouses consolidating everything under just one name and the non-named spouse essentially dropping off the radar.

          • I have a similar set up (and I’m in grad school right now, so no income). Car in his name, separate bank accounts, will have joint house ownership. To the OP, I would say that if I didn’t have the money to make this trip right now, I probably wouldn’t do it. I can’t imagine asking my husband to fund a trip where he wasn’t involved. It’s marital money and all, but umm…this isn’t a “marital” trip – it’s a “me only” trip.

          • Kontraktor :

            Don’t want to get too into this, but I don’t really understand how people can keep their finances *so separate* and be married. I don’t really think the fact that one person does not have income because of schools means the spouse can or should begurdge that person anything, including the occasional splurge. What happens if one of you gets laid off in the future? Does that all of a sudden mean that only the working spouse gets to eat because the laid-off one has no income?

            OP, I would save asking for the money as a holiday gift as a last resort. I think you should not have to beg. I would find some low cost tickets/rental car/travel options and go to your husband with that in hand to have a discussion. “Honey, Mary has invited me to spend 4 days with her at her parents’ home. It would mean so much to me to go and visit with them. I’ve found a very cheap plane ticket for $200- will that be okay for us to buy?” If he says no, I would ask him point blank why this is not okay, what ideas he might have for lower cost options (ex., maybe he might drive you a couple of hours to a train station that was closer), and why he thinks it is unreasonable for you to go. I would say only then if he puts up extreme argument, ask for the travel as a holiday gift, but I feel he should be made to justify why you are not ‘allowed’ this by him.

          • It’s not an inflexible rule. I mean, things might change over time for example if one of us were to be laid off for a long time. The crux of the system is that he and I are adamant about remaining independent people who really care about each other and pool certain resources (like housing, groceries, etc.) And I 100% acknowledge that this is easier for us to do because we each make a similar amount, which separately is more than enough for basic expenses.

            But asking for him to pay for my vacation is not what I would consider a pooled resource like food or housing. Non-mutual friends stuff goes squarely in the independent bucket. I would be pretty annoyed if he decided to blow a couple of thousand dollars on a non-essential guys’ trip while I’m unemployed, but that’s more from a sensitivity point of view. I guess I would slightly revise my earlier statement to be a bit less strong: It’s not that I wouldn’t ask at all, but I would be totally aware of the fact that this a huge favor and would be a gift to me, not something I am entitled to.

      • Also in grad school here and married. We have ours, his, and hers accounts, though over time more of of our financial life has merged. I do think there is definitely a power imbalance when one party makes so much more than the other, but if you are married, one half of the couple shouldn’t be living in luxury while the other half struggles. For me and Mr. Lulu, our fun budget is tight right now because of my schooling and startup costs on a new business for him — but I agree with the other posters, if I needed a few days of girl-time with my BFF (especially if it was between semesters and Mr. Lulu had to work) and we had the money, I would discuss with him and book my flight.

        I think the question to consider is: Is your joint budget too tight for that now, or is it about he-who-makes-the-money-controls-the-money? If it’s the latter, then this is about rather more than a weekend trip.

        • Kontraktor :

          Totally agree regarding your last point (and clarifying some of my points above). I definitely think there are points in all relationships where the budget doesn’t really allow for either person to be frivolous. Or, LW mentioned the situaiton of one spouse being the sole earner and the other wanting a ‘treat’ to the tune of thousands of dollars. I agree that those are extenuating circumstances where spouses should be working together to determine what is in the budget and what really isn’t. My husband and I ask each other about just about any frivolous (even small) purchaes we want to make, even though we have 100% joint everything, just out of consideration for both of us and other priorities we might have.

          But it sounds like what is going on here is an issue of control, like the husband begrudges her everything simply because she is in school now and doesn’t have an income. That seems cruel and unfair. If my husband was ever unemployed, would I want him spending thousands on whatever extravagant thing? No, probably not (although that would probably stem from financial instability rather than me begrudging him things). But I certainly wouldn’t forbid him from treating himself now and again if all our other bills allowed, and I know he would do the same for me. I think that is what rubs me the wrong way about this, the whole fact that it seems like she needs to beg even for a small indulgence and that anything that is non-essential to her is off limits because her husband controls everything and is using her student status against her in unfair ways.

          • “I think that is what rubs me the wrong way about this, the whole fact that it seems like she needs to beg even for a small indulgence and that anything that is non-essential to her is off limits because her husband controls everything and is using her student status against her in unfair ways.”

            Yes, exactly. In a long-term partnership, student-status is temporary, and contributes to greater income down the road, so even from a “keeping score” perspective, it shouldn’t be an issue. (Though I don’t believe keeping score is particularly healthy for a relationship.) You shouldn’t have to feel like a second-class citizen or a child in the relationship.

    • Agree to all the above. We frequently do separate mini-vacations so he can camp with the boys, I can meet the girls in vegas, or I can visit my grandmother in another state, while he has to work, etc. This is much different, IMO, from saying, “honey, i’d really like to go to paris for 2 weeks without you.” I don’t see how what you describe should be an issue. Also, if i remember- you’re a law student, right? and he works full time? so you have extra time off this month and should definitely take advantage of it!

      • Well….if I had time off and my SO didn’t, I would totally go to Paris, or Singapore, or anywhere else without him for a week (as long as it wasn’t a special trip we were planning to take together). I see nothing wrong with that. It has no reflection on how I feel about him or our relationship in general, and I don’t actually see it as that different from going to NY for a shopping trip. Different things work for different couples….

    • I think it’s a great idea to get away for a bit by yourself. I did a girls weekend last year with my two best friends from high school and we spent the weekend in South Beach.

      I agree with KC on how to bring it up to your husband. If you’re staying at your friends parents house, then chances are your husband would not want to stay there. At least with my husband, he prefers the privacy of hotel rooms rather than staying with relatives or someone’s house.

    • I just want to highly recommend the getaway with a girlfriend. This past weekend was just what the doctor ordered for me. Total relaxation. And my SO admitted that he would have hated the whole thing. He hates to shop, we ate food that he probably wouldn’t have liked, and he would have been bored senseless. He was just happy that I had such a great time and that I came home so relaxed. He did ask me how much I spent and I just said “I don’t really know” but we don’t share expenses so it’s really none of his business.

    • Lady, I think given the way your DH treats you sometimes you could are well entitled to whatever kind of vacation you want.

      That said, girls weekend’s are completely a blast. I will say, I also like to vacation solo sometimes because I like to just chill out and have complete me time. If I want to lay by the pool, I do. If I want to sit in my hotel room and blast the AC until I feel like I’m in the artic and watch trashy tv, I don’t have to feel guilty about not being ‘fun.’ Honestly, vacation =relaxation, so I say do what makes you happiest!

    • big dipper :

      Can the plane ticket be his holiday gift to you? You could ask him to cover all or part of the plane ticket as your gift this year. I’m in a very LDR (plane ticket required) and my parents frequently gift me the cost of a plane ticket to visit my boyfriend for Christmas. It’s a great, thoughtful gift.

      If not, also, I will say that not all plane tickets are expensive at this time of year if you pick your travel dates wisely. If you’re dates are flexible, consider visiting her during the week (M-Th) or on an extended weekend (Th – Mon) to cut costs.

    • anon in-house :

      Sorry to threadjack your Q, but I have a similar Q: have any of you ever dealt with a BF/DH who wanted to travel for a long period of time when you cannot because of his flexible schedule and yours not allowing to join? My bf wants to go travel for a month to Asia and I can’t because of work (he works from home and has uber-flexibile schedule).

      I know it’s selfish and unreasonable for me to begrudge him, but I think it’s so unfair that he can travel while I’m stuck here toiling away at the office!

      • Away Game :

        Meet him somewhere cool for a long weekend, but otherwise, yeah, he should go. It’s not fair that he should stay home just because you have work commitments. (Totally fair to be a bit jealous though!) Ask him to respect you’re feelings , and to at least not talk incessantly about the trip either before or after, and try to be interested/happy for him on occasion when he does want to bring it up.

        • Away Game :

          *your feelings. sigh

        • anon in-house :

          He can go for a longer time, but is limiting it to 1 month for my sake. What is the longest amount of travel time you would allow your partner before saying “no way”?

          • I traveled for four months on my own while I was in a serious relationship – it was something I really wanted to do and my then-boyfriend was fully supportive. I think it depends on the couple and what your comfort levels are.

    • My BF just doesn’t like traveling very much. I go places without him, either on my own or with other friends, all the time. How can he miss me if I never leave?

      • This. Not married, but in a LTR and luckily with an SO who is super understanding about alone time, girls night, my need to be social (esp. since he’s so The thing is, spending time away makes me appreciate my SO more when I do see him.

        As for money, since your law degree is marital assets in NY (I think–last time I thought about this was, oh, 1L Property?) I don’t see why you can’t spend some current marital assets on a trip for what is needed girl-bestfriend time (2L fall semester is the WORST).

        Hope you get it worked out and enjoy!

    • Divaliscious11 :

      Yes. Just tell him what you need.

  4. I was just contacted by a recruiter for a job that I may want to pursue. Salaries in my field in my city vary widely – is it cool to start off by asking about the pay range? I haven’t even updated my resume in years (I know, I know), and I’m on a big deadline at work (working hours at home each night.) I’d love to know if this is worth the time it would take to update my credentials. Is that rude/presumptuous?

    • karenpadi :

      I think it’s fine to ask a recruiter for a salary range. It’s kind of a big deal.

      FWIW, I think it’s generally fine to ask for salary range before applying to a job if it isn’t in the listing (except for students applying to internships or clerkships).

    • Research, Not Law :

      Asking a recruiter for the salary range seems reasonable to me.

    • Meg Murry :

      3rd party recruiter or HR for the potential company itself? If 3rd party recruiter personally I have no problem not “playing the game” and being more upfront with them on getting the job decription, who it’s for (if they’ll tell you), where it is and salary range before we waste each other’s time, especially since I’ve been sent on some wild goose chases by some really clueless recruiters that sent me to interviews for jobs that would NEVER work for me. They must already have some ideas of your credentials if they contacted you, I think it’s fair to say “I don’t have a current resume right now but give me some more of the job specifics like location & salary range and let me do some research, I’ll send you an updated resume if I’m interested.” Of course, it also matters if you are desperately wanting a new job vs pursuing an out of the blue opportunity that you don’t really care if you get or not.

      • It is a 3rd party recruiter, and I’m not looking – this just came up because the recruiter contacted a former supervisor of mine and she recommended me. I’ll try your suggestion.

        Thanks to everyone!

  5. Mountain Girl :

    Any suggestions for a camel or tan wool pencil skirt that’s a bit on the longer side (at least 24″) since I’m quite tall?

    • e_pontellier :

      I’m 6′ tall and I have found J C r e w to have wonderfully long pencil skirts. They currently have a No. 2 Pencil Skirt in double-serge wool (no clue on how well that wears, but you requested wool) on sale in “heather acorn” (which looks tan) for $80. Even though I’m very leggy and very tall, I get the regular size. Since it’s such a sale, maybe get a few sizes and return ones that don’t fit?

    • J.Crew No 2 Pencil Skirt in Double-Serge wool. Camel. Comes in tall sizes (25.5 inches). I have it and wear it often.

      • Sorry – when I wrote “camel” the color is officially “heather acorn”.

    • TO Lawyer :

      Have you tried J.Crew?

    • Mountain Girl :

      I’ve never bought online from JCrew. Do the skirts tend to run true to size and should I wait for a coupon code?

      • Mountain Girl :

        And thanks for the recommendation everybody.

        • e_pontellier :

          Right now they have some decent sales and I think they’re doing 30% off. I usually wait for (or buy enough for) free shipping. If you can get a skirt under $100, that’s a pretty good buy for something from them. As far as TTS… I have no idea because I don’t shop anywhere else. Oh actually, I’m the same size as JCrew at Lucky Brand Jeans, in case that helps.

      • Diana Barry :

        They run big, like all of the pants/skirts I have tried from J Crew lately. I take one size down from my reg size.

      • I have found Jcrew to be TTS (BR/Gap sizing) on the upper range (sizes 10 and 12), but the ancedata suggests that run big on the lower end. I have no idea how that resolves itself in the middle

        • Agree with Mpls. I’m a pear shaped size 14, and I find J Crew’s pants and skirts are often too small for me. I think they’re pretty TTS for the higher numbered sizes, and further, they are cut for some one with a more straight up and down shape. It’s actually kind of disheartening sometimes to hear everyone else talk incessantly about J Crew’s “vanity” sizing when you are sized out of their things.

        • Cosign–my friend and I also just discovered that if you have hips/curves, with the exception of the No. 2 pencil, this also causes folks to size up in JCrew when they would not normally, especially in pants. So while I am in the upper-range mentioned above (10+), in pants I am not TTS, but in JCrew pencil skirts I am (due to the fact that they “build in”) curves.

          Also know that the Pencil skirts go on super-sale after Christmas usually (~$50), so if you don’t need it now, I would wait.

        • Mountain Girl :

          I’m on the upper end (10 or 12) so I’m thinking I’ll go with a 12 to start. Thanks for the suggestions. The No. 2 Pencil is not available until January in my size so I might go with the Telegraph skirt and go from there.

  6. I bought Cole Haan Air Violet pumps in beige from 6pm in the Cyber Monday sale. I know some of you all did too. I just got the shoes and they look kind of beat up. There are a few tiny black marks on the leather, the bottoms look a little bit like they were worn, and the seams at the back are coming undone. Also, the leather looks really wrinkly. Is this normal for Cole Haan or for I’ve never ordered from 6pm or owned Cole Haan.

    • No ma’am. Send ’em back.

    • Sounds like they were worn and returned or a badly made pair that slipped through qualoty control. My Cole Haans have all looked brand new out of the boxes and certainly no seams coming undone. I’d return them.

    • Thanks everyone who answered so far — I’m going to send them back. For those with Cole Haans — does the (non-patent) leather end up becoming wrinkly after wear? If this is how these shoes will look after I break them in, I’m not sure I want a new pair either.

      • Brooklyn, Esq. :

        I bought a pair of non-patent Cole Haans in August. I wear them often, though not daily and mostly inside (though I have worn them outside for longish walks, as well as to a couple of weddings with dancing). The leather does not look wrinkly at all–in fact, these shoes look better after 6 months than most cheaper shoes I own look after 1 month.

        So, I’d say the pair you received were a true anomaly.

      • I have a pair and they don’t look wrinkly, but I haven’t worn them a ton (>20 times) because they are super uncomfortable.

      • Thank you BK and L — I’m sending them back and requesting a new pair.

      • darjeeling :

        I have a different style of CHs and the leather looks far from wrinkly- after almost 2 years (of frequent but mostly indoor wear) they still look virtually brand new

    • 6pm has really been pissing me off off lately. The last straw was when I bought something there that ended up being the SAME price on zappos but w/out the nice perks like free shipping & returns & longer returns… send ’em back & make sure they don’t charge you shipping.

      • Yeah, I always check Zappos before I buy from 6pm. If the price at Zappos is the same, or within the extra costs of 6pm shipping charges, I get the item from Zappos.

    • I’ve ordered numerous times from 6pm and that is not OK. Exchange them and tell them why. 6pm is amazon’s clearinghouse.

  7. Yay !
    I have a networking event scheduled this week, which means that, after 3 years in the Land of Flip-Flop Casual, I’ll finally get to wear some real grown-up clothes.

    Honestly, I’ve spent 1 hr brushing up my resume, and 2 hours browsing through my closet and giggling.

  8. Margie told the manageing partner that she thought it would be a good idea if he gave a 1950’s theme to our holiday party. What is WORST is that the manageing partner wants me to wear a RED POODLE SKIRT that Margie picked out! Frank liked the idea, but he is sexist.

    So I said “WHAT???? Why would we want to make our cleint’s dress up in silly 1950’s style’s? I was NOT even born until the 1980’s and that was long before the manageing partner even became a lawyer! Mabye Jim would also like that, but NOT me, and CERTAINELY NOT ROBERTA or my new cleint’s.

    So I said to the manageing partner that Margie is liveing in a dream world. I hope she does NOT get mad, but mabye my dad might like it (and he said he would be MY date), but I will NOT dress up in a silly POODLE skirt.

    BESIDE’s it will be cold and I DO NOT like for cold air to be bloweing around when I have to get out of there and wait for a cab late at night. I told the manageing partner I do NOT want to be like Mariln Monroe! FOOEY! Am I WRONG? What does the HIVE think? HELP!

  9. I’m 5’10 and have had good luck with the JCrew Telegraph skirt (I got it in place of the No. 2 as the skirt bottom to my suit). The inseam is 27″ and I think there’s currently a tan version.

    • Sorry, that was for Mountain Girl.

    • Mountain Girl :

      Thanks – I have it in my shopping cart but I haven’t ordered it yet. I think I’m going to see if I can wait for a coupon code.

  10. Thanks for the London feedback on the questions I posted yesterday. It was very helpful! I’ve made note of the reccomendations and will report back if I get a chance to try any of them. Since it will be Christmas week while I’m there I’m keeping a long list of places to try in case some are closed for the holidays. Thanks again!

    • Enjoy! Keep an eye on the weather, it has been pretty crazy here so you may want to prepare for anything.

      • anon analyst :

        Thanks! I’m going to watch the weather closely and will start packing a couple of days before the trip so I have the most accurate weather report.

      • Hey, cb.

        I found the spread on Hart of Dixie at PopSugar:

  11. springtime :

    Holiday party & inviting a guest question-

    My firm’s party is in the middle of December. We always have great parties! I have been dating a guy for only three weeks at this point. Seen him 4-5 times. Would it be weird to invite him (1) for him/our potential relationship and (2) people at my firm since he’s not ‘official’?

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Yes and Yes. Don’t do that.

    • karenpadi :

      It would be weird to invite him. There are various rules of thumb here. Some say only wives/engaged couples, some say only long-term relationships (>1 year). It’s a know your office thing but I can’t imagine where it’d be appropriate this early.

      Besides, just imagine how awkward it’ll be at work if you break up. Well-meaning people will be making small talk all year by asking you how he’s doing.

      • springtime :

        Wow- some firms are crazy strict/uptight! My firm wouldn’t really care to be honest. I imagine some partners would encourage me to bring him if I told them! People have brought dates like this in the past.

        Blonde Lawyer’s old firm seems more in line with mine. Anyway, I’m not going to invite. While I think it’s fun to dress up with someone, I don’t wanna deal with the stress.

        • I am a banana. :

          It would be fine at my (small) firm. I brought my BF to a firm date event last year after only dating him for a month, and it was fine. But we are very small and everyone knew about him anyhow and wanted to meet him. Know your firm!

        • I think if you introduce him as your “Date” that’s fine. If it turns out to be a non-relatinoship, you can always tell the well-meaning people tha task about him that he was just your date for the evening.

    • Blonde Lawyer :

      Depends. My old firm did “plus guest” and the non-long term people tended to bring a friend of the opposite gender. I’d say bring him if he is cool playing your “friend.” My firm was also kind of out there in comparison to most though. The Christmas party was kind of like prom and you were expected to be there with a date.

      • Blonde Lawyer :

        Instead of saying “opposite sex” I should have said “brought a ‘friend’ as a date.” We were LGBT friendly and there was no requirement the “friend date” be opposite sex.

    • Depends on the office party and on the guy. Does *everyone* come with a date, even people who don’t have steady SO’s?

      I’d maybe just let the guy know it’s coming up and see his reaction. Does he love holiday parties? Is he really good at being sociable without being inappropriate for work? Also, how often are you seeing him? If you’re seeing him every weekend, and that would be date #7 or 8, I don’t think it’s so weird. As for people at your firm, I don’t know that anyone needs to know how long you’ve been dating!

    • At every place I’ve worked, you’ve been able to bring whoever you wanted as your plus one, and people have brought friends, sisters, grandchildren, roommates, people they were only casually dating, etc. The only problem that ever came from that once was a friend once brought someone she had only seen a couple of times and he was not very friendly at the party and even though I don’t believe that they went out more than a couple of times after that, people would mention him for years long after she had moved on and forgotten him.

    • I don’t really get the “absolutely not” comments either. My SO can’t attend our holiday party (we are long distance), so I’m bringing a friend. Others do this too and no one bats an eye. However, I will add the caveat that our firm is very large and the party is for both attorneys and staff, so it’s not like people’s dates will have to mingle with higher-ups; people just sit at tables with those they are closest to at work.

  12. Looking for suggestions for an as-long-as-humanly-possible-while-still-looking-nice wool coat. I’m 5’10. and live in New England, so the wamer/more lined, the better. Right now, I have a couple wool coats that hit at the knee. One is not warm enough (unlined, from Talbots) and one is at LEAST 10 years old and some version of Thinulate lined coat from Jcrew. Until the lining literally started falling out, it was warm enough on most days, but i’d really like somethign with more length. And possibly camel in color.

    I’m interested in options in various price ranges, because it’s something I’ll use often and keep forever….just a matter of how long I need to save up/ how generous DH is feeling around Christmastime.

    • I feel like the answer to any outerwear question is LL Bean.

      Here is the most attractive option:

      • Whoops, got the links mixed up. That was the Def-Con 4 winter coldness option. This is the more attractive option:

      • That would be a good rain trench, but I”m looking for something a bit dressier for the daily commute.

        • also doesn’t come in a tall, which means those sleeves will be borderline too short.

    • Kontraktor :

      I’d suggest Talbots, Pendleton Wool, LL Bean and Lands End.

      • Talbots, LLBean and Lands End have been thoroughly vetted and have nothing that fits what I’m looking for (though–I own several great LLBean and LE jackets–like the puffy goose down ones, my rain jacket, my ski jacket, etc.!). I’ll check out Pendleton but I’m pretty sure that’s not quite formal enough for what I’m envisioning.

        • Bah, I actually like this one (link below) from Pendleton but it is too short for me (comes in Petite and pLus, but not Tall). And in an ideal world it would have another set of buttons.


          • Kontraktor :

            That’s a nice coat. It’s not long enough though? How long do you want it? It seems pretty long. The only other places I could think to look might be some of the higher end department stores, maybe Neiman’s, BG, Saks. Lord and Taylor might have an okay coat selection as well (I know they sell fur, so perhaps they also have longer, heavier, more functional other coats as well).

          • The issue with not coming in a tall is often the arms (or that it doesn’t hit me where it hits the model!)

    • I have a mid-calf length Anne Klein charcoal gray wool coat. I got it from Burlington Coat Factory, if that helps.

    • Now I am intrigued by this challenge. I am short with short arms, so this is the opposite of what I am usually looking for.

      How about this?

    • Am 5’9″ and bought the Kenneth Cole New York Long Wool Blend Coat @ nordstrom’s this fall for $238 and am happy with it. I don’t need to wear it everyday but it is dressy and seems warm enough for MN winters. Description says 50″ from shoulder to hem. I found it ran kind of small – I’m usually a 6 or 8 and to be able to wear it with a blazer/jacket underneath I needed a 10.

    • Charlotte :

      DOn’t know if you’re still looking at this, but Macy’s has some surprisingly good options in the loooong-coat category this year. Calvin Klein, Anne Klein, etc. I love long coats, because I am coooold!

      • Good to know! I’ll check it out at lunch. I think I have a Macy’s giftcard, too!

    • Eddie Bauer carries a lot of tall puffy down coats. I can’t vouch for their wool coats. Land’s End also has a super-duper long coat that does not come in tall. I am short waisted but long-of-limb, so sometimes I can do regular bc the waist hits at the right part, if there are cuffs (since mittens cover the 1″ too short in the arms) if that makes sense.

      • I already have a long puffy down coat :) But it’s too casual for dressy days at work, or client visits. I am in love with it, though :)

  13. first time anon :

    I just received my MPRE scores…and I didn’t pass in my state by 6 points. I’m really mortified. I took the exam at the same time as a friend, who passed, and others know I just took the exam and should have my results. What do I say if these people ask how it went?

    I’m so embarrassed.

    • I failed the MPRE, it happens.

      • Also that was in an effort to make you feel less supportive, but I like Almost There’s suggestion below!

        • *Embarrassed.
          I’m just going to stop talking. I need to call it a day.

          • first time anon :

            Yeah, it has been a long day. But thank you, all the same! It does help to know that I’m not the only one this has happened to.

          • SF Bay Associate :

            It happened to a very smart friend of mine too. In CA, the correct answer in the MPRE questions is usually the second-most ethical answer. She, being the good person she is, picked the (wrong) most ethical answer a few too many times. After she failed, we joked that she needed to watch a dubiously ethical lawyer show like Boston Legal or The Wire a few times before she took the MPRE again. She passed the next time.

    • springtime :


    • Don’t be embarrassed. It happens. A lot. Just wasn’t your day. Thankfully, you can take it again. You might even make a joke of it “Well, apparently I’m not ethical! No, there was some issue with my scoring [true, no?] and I have to take it again.” … and then change the subject.

      • first time anon :

        Thanks for you kind words! Making light of it is a good suggestion. I have a bad habit of channeling Chandler Bing and being flippant about stuff I don’t like talking about, so I probably won’t get anything more than a few eyerolls if I joke about it.

    • In-House Optimist :

      My now-husband failed it. And he CALI’d Professional Responsibility in law school. And I may have just outed myself, but I thought you could use the support. ;) Smart people totally fail the MPRE all the time!

    • Anonymous :

      It happens. Study and retake it. Don’t worry about it and certainly do not think it is a reflection on how you will perform on the bar exam. I failed my first MPRE but passed 3 bar exams 1st time.

      • first time anon :

        “do not think it is a reflection on how you will perform on the bar exam.”

        That was actually the first thought that ran through my head. I was like, this is like the harbinger of doom for bar! But I have everything I need to study and pass for next exam.

        Thanks for the reassurance!

    • Did you take the free Barbri MPRE course? It tells you exactly what to memorize and regurgitate.

      • first time anon :

        I did. We had a great lecturer who provided us with a succinct outline, and I used that and the Barbri MPRE book.

    • Agreed– I failed the MPRE AND the bar the first time.. felt like my world was falling apart when it happened, got over it the second I passed.

      • first time anon :

        I’m keeping my fingers crossed for April, when the next exam is scheduled. Which sounds so far away, right now.


    • Frou Frou :

      I’m sorry. It really sucks to have to retake it. This happened to a good friend of mine, and she was horrified. If people ask, you can say, “I didn’t pass, I failed it. and I’m devastated, but I’ll be taking it again.” You don’t need to provide an explanation. If people push you for more details, then that’s their own rudeness, and you don’t need to satisfy their own feelings of discomfort by providing them with some kind of explanation that will make their asking/probing less awkward. Failing the MPRE (and the bar exam) happens to a lot of people. Don’t confuse your own self worth and value as a budding attorney on your score. This advice also applies to those who pass with flying colors. ;) I know plenty of attorneys who I think are not only terrible attorneys, but also jerks, who passed (both exams), and I wouldn’t have them represent me, even if my life didn’t depend on it. But I also have friends who struggled with passing who I think are great attorneys and I promise you, I do not think less of them for not getting a passing score the first (or second, in some cases) time around. The people in your life who truly matter will not (and do not) care that you didn’t pass it. I promise. Don’t let jerks get you down. And better luck with it next time. :)

      • first time anon :

        Thanks for such a nice response! Most of my friends have taken it, and as far as I know, they’ve all passed. But sometimes being in a competitive environment (inadvertently) brings out the worst in people, and you can see their judging you even though their words ostensibly say otherwise.

        I think I know what my problem areas were, so I know where to focus my studying, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for April.

      • first time anon :

        * they are judging (not their!)

    • NOT a big deal – don’t be embarassed! I’m a few years out and remember a few friends/acquaintances not passing on the first try. It really wasn’t a big deal and I doubt most people will even ask you about it….if I remember correctly, you take it to coincide with when you take PR, so not everybody takes it at the same time? Anyway, post-law school nobody is ever going to ask you what you got on the MPRE or how many times you took it. Study harder/longer this time around, but otherwise don’t worry about it! :)

      • first time anon :

        Ideally, you do try to take it soon after PR, but I wasn’t able to do that because life had other plans, so I put it off. I was worried that taking it a year after the class would hurt me. I don’t know how much it would have changed had I taken it sooner.

        I know that post-school no one really cares, but I think it’s just that time right now–the bar is this summer, and in a state where you have to pass the MPRE before taking the bar, everyone is getting the MPRE over with so they can focus on the bar. The feeling that I have to pass in April so I can take the July bar only serves to make things worse. But I’m hoping for the best!

        Thank you!

        • You can tell people you had to put off taking it after PR – maybe it did make a difference, like you said, you can’t know. But if you’re worried what people think, you can just blame it on that or not getting a chance to study. If anyone judges you for that, they suck anyway because it’s a silly, bs test anyway.

    • I failed it too the first time. Graduated magna cum laude, two federal clerkships under my belt, Big Law, blah blah. Don’t worry. Just study next time (I didn’t because everyone kept saying it was sooooo easy – big mistake). I passed with flying colors the second time. Hugs!

  14. Almost There :

    “I didn’t quite pass this time, and I’m disappointed, but I know where I lost points and am working on those areas so I can pass in February.”

    • Almost There :

      Sorry that was for first time anon above.

      • first time anon :

        That’s actually what I’ve been telling MYSELF! (Well, in between feeling crushed.) But I suppose I can say that to my friends and others, too.

        Thank you!

        • Don’t be crushed!!!! It’s such a silly test. I’d honestly just tell people that I didn’t study very hard because I wasn’t taking the test seriously (I don’t know if you feel so flippantly about it, but since many people don’t take it seriously, there’s a chance you may have approached it that way). I definitely know people who failed and I didn’t think negatively of them for one second.

          • Diana Barry :

            Yes, this. I failed by ONE POINT the first time bc I didn’t study at all. The second time I studied a bit and passed easily.

          • first time anon :

            “I definitely know people who failed and I didn’t think negatively of them for one second.”

            That’s my biggest fear. I usually don’t get hung up on what others think of me, personally, but when that opinion pushes up against what they may think of me professionally, then it does bother me.

            But thank you very much! I know I can pass it in February. I guess this is just my initial overreaction.

          • Not to be too cool for school, but I actually remember one classmate got a REALLY high score and I silently judged him for that because passing is passing, so why did he study so hard? MPRE is a weird situation.

          • This. I didn’t study either. I just hoped for the best and turned out to be one of the least “ethical” (according to the score) among my friends, but ethical enough to not have to take it again.

            Also, it’s really that thing about the truly ethical answer being incorrect so you have to go against intuition…

  15. Ideas for a white elephant gift exchange with my in-laws? Each person needs to bring two gifts worth $25. My first gift idea is some yummy chocolate truffles and a bottle of $10 champagne. But for the second gift I am drawing a blank. People in the group range from ages 21-70, and I am told by my husband that they are not really into “things.” I want it to be something fun, but not junky, something creative, but not so weird that people won’t enjoy it. TIA!

    • Ugh, why do people who aren’t into “things” think this kind of party is a good idea?

      Sorry, feeling a little Grinchy today.

    • e_pontellier :

      Maybe check out Think Geek? They have really random stuff that sometimes turns out to be great gifts. Just trying to think out of the box.

    • Ok, so these aren’t all that creative, but in case they spur something, here are things I think anyone would enjoy and aren’t junky : $25 Amex card, box of chocolate dipped strawberries, really nice coffee or an S-bucks gift card and a really nice mug, one of those super cozy slipper sets from Brookstone, split the first gift into two (one (bigger) box of truffles, one (nicer) bottle of champagne), DVD(s) with popcorn and “theater” candy, and … a partridge in a pear treeeeee.

    • Almost There :

      Along those lines, you could do two themed presents: champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, and a bottle of bourbon and bourbon balls.

    • Are you married to the idea of one gift being chocolate AND wine? Because if not, why not get some $25 bubbly and some $25 chocolate / food gift? I would not consider $10 bubbly a “gift” because I’d have to (a) pretend to be thrilled with it and (b) find some humane way to dispose of it.

      How about a cute mug with some nice tea or coffee? Transit cards or museum or movie tickets?

      • Almost There :

        Heh, a $10 bottle of wine is still a splurge to me. Different strokes!

        • That was tongue in cheek, but just to clarify, I’m all for $10 wine…but, IMHO there is not any gift-worthy sparkling wine at that price point.

      • With orange juice, Nellie. With orange juice. :P

    • Snuggie. I’m going to hunt for one at Kmart this week because I don’t feel like thinking about my office white elephant party.

    • I should have added–the gift exchange will take place while we’re on a 7-day cruise (all you can eat, but drinks not included), so that’s why I was thinking $10 champagne and $15 truffles would be a fun pairing that people would actually be excited about. :-) I would love to give something else that people could enjoy on the cruise, if possible, but not a requirement. Thanks for the ideas so far!

      • Anonymous :

        It varies by cruise line, but many do not allow you to bring your own alcohol on board (for obvious reasons–they want you to buy it on the ship!). So I would definitely check the rules before you try to do this… you could always try to sneak it on, but then if you get caught you are left without your gift (I think they x-ray bags and a champagne bottle would be pretty easy to spot).

      • if you’re on a cruise, what about fun travel games that everyone could play together? Or fun/schmancy pool/spa things: toys for the pool, comfy relaxing things for the spa. Or, vary depending on the kinds of cruise activities your family will be most into.

    • Mountain Girl :

      DH’s family had their Christmas gift exchange over Thanksgiving and we do gift exchange about the same price. I got a pair of touch screen gloves and think that was a total score so I was happy with my gift. DH ended up with a GC from Cabela’s so we both ended up with something we can use.

    • Fab (dot com) has a bunch of great, quirky items for under $25. It’s worth a peek.

    • Research, Not Law :

      So lawn gnome is out? ;)

      Weather stations usually go over well, especially with the ‘not into things but still want a gift exchange’ crowd. High quality coffee does, too.

    • Someone suggested this to me for a gift exchange (although it was for a $10 one) and I thought it was a great idea– lotto tickets.

  16. billable woes :

    as the end of the year approaches, i’m beginning to panic about billable hours. i’m finishing my first year in big law and i’m on track to end up around 2050 or 2075 hours for the year. my budget, like all first years at my firm, is set at 2000. is there an unwritten understanding that you are supposed to bill MORE than your budget? i’ve been operating under the assumption that my hours were great since i will be at, or slightly over, the budget, but i’ve just learned that a lot of people in my class have billed significantly more this year–2400 or 2500 hours. i am shocked and i feel like i missed the boat. to make matters worse, i feel like i work all the time, but i am a chronic under-biller (especially when i first started–i’ve been trying to be more accurate in recent months).

    any advice/insight?

    • You hit your hours. Congratulations! Own it. You’re fine. Maybe those 2400-2500 people will get a bigger bonus. That doesn’t mean you didn’t pull your weight 0r that you shouldn’t be bonus eligible.

    • This is very much a know-your-office situation. At many firms there is an unwritten assumption that you’ll bill more than your budget. At others, there many not be an assumption that you’ll bill more, but if there’s a big disparity between you and others in your class, it may raise questions.

      I would go to someone a year or two above you whom you trust and ask this question. I’d also suggest trying to get a handle on why there’s a big gap. 2400-2500 is a lot of hours, so I’m not saying that you should be working that. I do think that you never, ever want to be significantly below the norm for your class, barring medical emergency/bar leave/mat leave/other extenuating circumstances.

    • Unless a junior associate has a MAJOR matter, those who bill 2400-2500 hours are padding. This is a gross generalization, but I will stand behind it. It’s not even deliberate, necessarily. Just spending way too much time on things, including non-billable time with billable, etc. And yes, also some of it is just BS rounding up. Which is what happens when firms award bonuses based on hours and not quality. Don’t let the perverse incentives pervert you!

      Be proud of what you’ve done. Billing 2050 hours, which takes many more hours of work, is great. Even more so if those were quality hours. When I was in biglaw, I had similar concerns, until one partner told me that he specifically chose me for his cases because I could do good work without being “heavy with the pen.” Your reputation as a lawyer will be built on the quality of your work, even if the biglaw model doesn’t fairly value that. I wouldn’t give the same advice to someone who didn’t meet their mark (which just opens you to too much risk), but you did.

      In closing, any idiot who brags about billing 2500 hours should be forced to look a real live client/ in-house lawyer in the face while doing so. The modern equivalent of a firing squad.

      • billable woes :

        i love this! thanks for the encouragement; i really appreciate it.

    • karenpadi :

      This is know-your-office. I’ve been at different firms where there’s been no goal–I was a rockstar billing 1800 (avg was more like 1500)–, there was a 1800 minimum but a 2300 “expectation”, and my current firm where there’s a (unstated) minimum, a “goal”, a bonus tier, and a “maximum”.

      For this year, you can’t really worry. There’s only so many hours left to bill. If you want insight–What kind of feedback are you getting? What did your yearly review say? Have you asked a mentor (if your current mentor didn’t warn you about an actual expectation, find yourself a new mentor)? Were the other first years on different kinds of projects where there was more budget?

      Next year (and the following years), decide if you want to be the type to bill 2400 hours per year. If so, get on the projects where you can bill that much. Do you want to be partner? If so, start making more of an effort to bill 200 hours per month.

    • Anonymous :

      Agreed with the above – this is a know your office thing, you should definitely talk to your mentor, and those claiming they have billed 2400 and up are likely either doing some serious padding or are jerking your chain to try to intimidate you. I also want to point out that it is much easier to bill a large number of hours in some practice areas than in others. E.g., litigation associates who have been doing a lot of doc review or a lot of travel where they get to bill for travel time are going to have an easier time racking up hours than say, someone in a transactional practice who is doing drafting all day and not traveling. I still think those that say they have billed 2400 and up are padding and/or lying, but part of the discrepancy could also be explained by being in a different type of practice group, and 2050-2075 may be perfectly reasonable for your practice group.

      • 2400-hour a year biller right here. I don’t talk about it to anyone, because I find it a sad testament to how much time I spend at the office. It’s an average of 50 hours/week, assuming you take four weeks off. I’m a senior associate in a transactional practice.

        • billable woes :

          thanks for the insight. i’m in a transactional practice too. just out of curiosity, is your budget set that high or are you way past your budget?

          • Just waaaaaaaaaaaaay past it. I don’t even know what my budget is – maybe 2100?

            I’m not the norm in my practice, though! And I would be really surprised if first-years were billing that, absent a crazy enormous doc review or something.

    • billable woes :

      this is all really helpful, thank you :)

    • emcsquared :

      Are the other members of your class in the same practice area as you? When I was a first year, several of my class members billed 300-500 more hours than I did. Turned out, they were in litigation and doing lots of document review, while I was a baby corporate lawyer who prepared a lot of CLEs and picked up little projects until I proved myself worthy of running a diligence process.

      As far as under-billing; I was WAY too careful about rounding down my time as a baby lawyer, and it meant that I billed less than even my direct colleagues. I think I even posted a semi-hysterical post on this site once about my time entry questions. I switched to using timers, which helped me pick up quite a bit of my lost time, and now I’ve actually switched back to keeping it by hand which somehow helped me pick up even more time. Try several different methods, but make sure you are always thinking about time entry when you are thinking about work (even when you are checking an e-mail while standing in line at the grocery store). If I spend time on a client matter outside of the office, I send myself an e-mail with the time information so I don’t forget it.

      • billable woes :

        the specific people i know about are in transactional groups but not the same one as me.

        as far as rounding down goes–yes!! this is certainly part of my problem. some people have the urge to round up but i instinctively want to round down. i guess the fear of having someone think i billed too much trumps the fear of having someone think i billed too little? it would never even occur to me to bill time reading emails when waiting on line, but you’re right, it probably should.

        i’ve never tried using a timer, but maybe that would help. is this something you downloaded?

        • WestCoast Lawyer :

          As for rounding up or down, it should really be dictated by your firm’s policy, which has presumably been communicated to the clients in the engagement letter. While you should never pad your bills (and I’m talking about billing for work you didn’t do or intentionally taking longer than necessary to do something, not rounding up), your time/work product is the product your firm is selling. By rounding down or not billing for time you legitimately spent working on a client matter you are basically giving away your firm’s products for free and shortchanging yourself in terms of your potential bonus and career advancement. I once had a particularly supportive partner tell me never to undercut my time because I deserved to be recognized/paid for it. If the bill needs to be adjusted to meet client expectations, that should be the billing partner’s responsibility. That said, I feel your pain. After many years at a large law firm I finally went in house and am so happy not to have to deal with billable targets anymore!

  17. Another Office Party Question :

    My husband’s office party is being held right after work, catered on-site. I’ve been to these things before, so I was surprised when he mentioned the other day that he’d be home late on X day because of the office party, no discussion of whether I’d be going with him, just assuming I wouldn’t. Truthfully, I didn’t really want to go, and my husband hates these things and will probably stay as briefly as possible, but I’m a little weirded out that he didn’t even ask if I wanted to go. And yes, relationship 101, I did ask him about whether I should plan on going with him, but he just brushed it off with “I’m sure you don’t really want to go” etc.

    Is this odd, or am I overreacting here?

    • SF Bay Associate :

      With no other info, I think you’re overreacting :). Ours is on site, right after work, and I’ll stay no more than a couple hours. My DH doesn’t like these things. I didn’t bother asking him either. He doesn’t want to go, and if I ask him, he might think that I want him to go, which isn’t true, and put on a good show of being willing to go because he’s a team player and he’ll go if he thinks I want him to. If he wants to come, fine, but I don’t care if he does. He’s my DH and if he wants to come, he can invite himself to go with me. I’m not going to go out of my way to invite him, particularly after grumblings previous years at making an appearance. It’s just a stupid office party. *DO* you actually want to go? Or is the issue that he didn’t ask you just so that you could say no?

  18. Thanks, that’s what I needed to hear. I don’t really want to go, though I would if it would be helpful for him. And he gratefully escapes any of my work events that he can, so I know he’s not thinking he’s denying me some delightful experience. Just unusual for him not to mention ahead and ask whether I want to go, and that combined with my recent bout of self-doubt (both work & weight related) added up to me feeling a little uncertain about this. Hey, at least I suspected I was overreacting. ;)

  19. emcsquared :

    I just gave my first CLE presentation (at least 50 people – eep!), and several people came up to me afterward and told me I’d done a good job! It was actually fun – I was worried that I hadn’t prepared enough, but it turned out that I knew the stuff cold and fielded several questions confidently, and enjoyed the back-and-forth with the attendees (which isn’t usually my style). I’m proud of myself right now, and it totally pulled me out of a grouchy work mood.

    Only bummer is I’m probably stuck at work until late tonight as a result. But at least I’ve got adrenaline!

  20. A friend and I are planning to visit Washington DC (both for the first time!) sometime next May-early June for a longer weekend. We both like history and are planning to see the sights (White House, Capitol, Washington Monument, etc.) and would also both like to visit the Holocaust museum. Other than that, does anyone have recommendations for other places to visit? Where is the best part of town to stay to get reasonable hotel rates, good food, and relatively easy transportation to the sights? Thanks!

    • National. Gallery. Of. Art. free museums FTW. Also, the Archives, you can see the Declaration/Constitution, the Archives and Library of Congress are my faves. Also, a great walk is heading down to the Tidal Basin and walking to the FDR memoral and then the MLK memorial. Gorgeous, and those are very moving monuments.

      Also, my last few trips I am addicted to AirBNB. I can find great places in the Capitol Hill neighborhood that are comfy and reasonably priced, and super close to the Capitol/Mall. I think most of the hotels are either way overpriced for what you get or in not-very-convenient locations to where stuff and food actually are. I hate being stuck at the Residence Inn where the only convenient places for dinner after a long day are like Subway and Cosi. ;oP

      Also, the Metro is pretty helpful for getting around the big sites. But don’t be afraid of cabs for short trips, they are pretty cheap and easy, and definitely check out the Capitol Bike Share where you can rent bikes for short trips to get to the sights, etc, pick them up at one kiosk and drop off at your desination at another kiosk. love it!

      • Oh, and if you like politics and history, DEFINITELY contact your member of Congress’ office and ask for a capitol tour. it’s fun to get to check out your rep’s office for the first time, and if they’re in session, you might even get a Celebrity Politician Sighting or two.

        • OMG keep thinking of new things, Sorry!! But for evenings, check out the Kennedy Center’s schedule for a free concert or arts event, and GO. The Kennedy Center is my favorite place in the world, and it’s incredible to be able to check it out for free. You can even get a tour if you want, or just wander around, go up to the terrace and check out the view of the river and the infamous Watergate Hotel.

        • You can sign up for the Capitol tour online:
          Keep in mind that the White House tour needs to be arranged through your representative and it needs to be done some time in advance:
          Hillwood museum gardens will be lovely at this time of year.
          The National Portrait Gallery is awesome if you are into history.
          I also recommend checking if there is a carillon concert during your stay – google Netherlands carillon.

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