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Two bits of advice for rookie Chicago visitors. First, snag the window seat. The glittering skyline rising from the shores of massive Lake Michigan is one of the architectural wonders of the postindustrial world. Then, on your way in from O'Hare, chat with the cabbie, but use the phrase Second City only if you mean to praise the early improv work of Belushi, Murray, et al. Otherwise you'll get an earful about how Chicago is homier than New York, less flaky than San Francisco, and compared to Los Angeles ... well, screw L.A.
Chicago may trail its coastal cousins in glamour, headlines, and supply of Baldwin brothers, but consider this: The Cook County Circuit Court is the largest unified court system in the nation. The Chicago metro area boasts 45,000 practicing lawyers and six law schools, two of which (the University of Chicago and Northwestern) rank among the nation's best. The city's location makes it the business and legal hub of the midwest. The cost of living is crazy cheap. And besides, Chicago's deep-dish pizza makes other cities' taste like Wonder bread dipped in Clamato. Sorry-did that sound defensive?
The big-firm experience in Chi-town is as demanding and lucrative as it gets. Homegrown Kirkland & Ellis boasts clients like General Motors, Dow Corning, and Motorola, and the recent merger between Chicago's Sidley & Austin and New York's Brown & Wood creates a 1,300-lawyer global powerhouse-the ninth largest firm in the world. As usual, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom takes compensation honors ($140,000 for first-years). There's a good reason why the street by which many jurors arrive at the Cook County courthouse is named Philip H. Corboy Way: Personal- injury lawyer Corboy, of the litigation boutique Corboy & Demetrio, has hundreds of million-dollar verdicts and settlements to his name. And scrappy Adler, Murphy & McQuillen is known for rolling up its shirtsleeves to defend aircraft manufacturers in air disasters (senior partner John W. Adler co-owns a racing plane himself). Want to use your legal superpowers for good? The Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago is one of the nation's largest providers of free civil legal services to the poor. For advice on just about anything, look up legendary trial attorney and oracle Michael W. Coffield, whose career-long hobby has been helping young lawyers determine the "highest and best uses" for their skills.
Hot Bars Ghost Bar, an eerily lit lounge with egg-shaped chairs, is the new haunt for hipsters. If Mork and Mindy had owned a bar, this is what it would have looked like. Spy Bar is the place to move, with D.J.'s spinning everything from R&B to light trance. For something less spooky, infuse with blues at Kingston Mines, a touristy but excellent fixture of the city's famous music scene.
If you're just out of school and still craving action, Lincoln Park is the answer. Don't let the stately brownstones fool you-on Friday nights there's a keg being iced in virtually every apartment. Rowdy Wrigleyville, home of the rabidly beloved Cubs, is just up the street. If you prefer neighbors who eschew baseball caps, try trendy Bucktown or booming Wicker Park-both have huge SoHo-esque lofts for sale or rent.
The landmark Berghoff Restaurant is a lawyer's lunch tradition. The butter-smooth bratwurst is like nothing you've ever abused your waistline with. MK is the current scene for dinner-the reservation list is full of big-name patrons (Sting, Tom Hanks, Benicio Del Toro) who come in search of the smoky grilled quail and delightful desserts. Mirai Sushi flies in yummy raw fish daily. Gene & Georgetti is Chi-town's quintessential steak house.
Now that M.J.'s long gone, you'd be lucky to trade a Bulls ticket for a bus pass. But the annual Bears-Packers game (on November 11 this year), the oldest rivalry in the NFL, is always worth a seat at Soldier Field, even in the post-Ditka era. The Art Institute of Chicago has a track record of sold-out impressionist shows; its main fall event "Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South" should be no exception. No matter what time of year, look for the next John Malkovich or Gary Sinise at the innovative Steppenwolf Theatre (both men started there), or scope out tomorrow's Smashing Pumpkins at the renowned Metro.
If your wallet's too fat to sit on, Michigan Avenue offers world-class places (Bloomingdale's, Gucci, Louis Vuitton) to empty it. Or head west on Oak Street to drop unwanted green at Prada, Barneys New York, and Kate Spade. For shoes to housewares to cosmetics, take a stroll down eclectic Armitage Avenue in Lincoln Park. In the mood to set off some pacemakers at the firm's holiday party? P.45 in Bucktown will make you look like a rock star-literally. Local indie queen Liz Phair is a model for the shop.
This article originally appeared in the November 2001 issue of JD Jungle.
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