Thursday, November 05, 2009

I've been following the news this morning about the Ropes & Gray associate accused of insider trading as part of an investigation into the Galleon Group hedge fund.

Ropes & Gray released a statement, saying in part: "We are deeply disappointed about this situation, which suggests an extreme breach of this person's duty of trust to our clients and to the firm."

Well, no kidding. It's damn well a breach of the duty of trust to the firm. If an associate here found out some insider information we could use to make a killing, they better not be keeping it to themselves. They ought to tell a partner, tell the whole executive committee, give us all a chance to get in on it. If we can't trust our associates to bring us valuable opportunities to increase our own personal wealth, what do we really need them around for? I've spent years digging through client paperwork looking for information that I could use to make better investment decisions. And for an associate-- not even a partner-- for an associate to be running with this, without making the opportunity available to his superiors.... Well, it was a pretty easy decision to fire him. And it should serve as a warning to everyone else at the firm-- you find a good deal, you bring it up the chain of command and let us all have a piece.

Hey, it's not like I don't tell my associates when I go to mortgage foreclosure auctions and try to feast on the corpses of evicted homeowners. They're welcome to come along and join the fun.

As long as their work is done.

And they carry my briefcase. I hate carrying my own briefcase.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Just read about a lawsuit against PepsiCo, regarding Aquafina water, where the plaintiffs won a default judgment of $1.26 billion because a legal secretary forgot to respond to the complaint.

This is why we have the associates do our secretarial work.

Gosh, what a lesson for firms that actually expect their secretaries to do anything. Of course secretaries can't be trusted to do anything, that's why they're secretaries. That's why we need eighth-year associates, supervising sixth-year associates, supervising fourth-year associates, supervising second-year associates, supervising first-year associates whose only job it is to stamp numbers on papers and sort things in the right order.

If we relied on secretaries to do important things like get me a highlighter or clean my shoes, they'd never get done and we'd lose billion dollar cases.

I don't know what PepsiCo was thinking having a secretary responsible for something. Everyone knows secretaries are only good for bringing in food and taking up space in the cubicles. And sometimes having affairs with, but only when extremely desperate and all of the associates are busy stamping numbers on papers and sorting things in the right order.

I once gave my secretary a task. I was filing a motion, and had woken up the morning it was due with an incredible idea -- instead of numbering our 135 exhibits A through EEEEEE, we should use the Greek alphabet instead, since the judge was Greek, and he'd probably get a kick out of it and therefore be much more likely to rule for our side despite the evidence completely favoring our opponents. So I needed someone to switch all the pages out and replace them with pages labeled with the Greek alphabet. Plus I needed all the references in the brief to be amended. Plus I needed the city's best gyro for lunch, just to get me in the mood.

After an hour of serious deliberation, I decided to send the associate for the gyro, and have the secretary do the re-labeling, because even though the brief had a 5:00 deadline, the gyro needed to be in my office by 1:30 or I'd be eating too late to still be hungry for dinner. So clearly the gyro was priority number one.

Sure enough, down to the wire, the secretary is running around trying to figure out whether beta comes before or after theta, and the associate is dripping tzatziki all over the exhibits binder... and then the secretary threw up, all over exhibit Eta. She claimed it was because the yogurt sauce had gone bad -- I mean, of course I had her taste the gyro before I ate it, just to be sure it wasn't poisonous, that's just part of the job -- but she could have at least avoided vomiting on the papers.

So we missed the deadline, our clients received a default judgment against them, and I had to come up with a phony excuse about how we did everything we could but the evidence just wasn't on our side. They paid the bill, so no harm no foul, but it taught me to never put secretaries in charge of anything, ever again.

Lesson learned.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

You may have caught a glimpse of the firm on national television this past Thursday, when we locked an associate inside the compartment of a hot-air balloon and sent her flying across the Colorado landscape. Unfortunately, she somehow escaped before the balloon took off, and when the craft finally landed, she was nowhere to be found. We were hoping she would stay in the balloon, and upon landing take the hint that we wanted her to relocate to the middle of nowhere. Instead, she's still here. And the firm is facing felony charges of attempted kidnapping and unlawful use of a balloon.

In all seriousness, I have to applaud the Heene family for pulling off its plan and getting live news coverage, across the nation, for what was apparently just an elaborate publicity stunt. Back when we were hiring associates, we did everything we could think of to get people to pay attention to us, to find a way onto the national radar screen. And all it would have taken was a hot air balloon. The money we wasted on pens and stress balls and recruiting fairs and full-color brochures. All we needed was a balloon.

I'd hire the father as marketing director in an instant, if we had any marketing budget left, or anything we were still trying to market. I wouldn't hire him as a summer associate (too entrepreneurial), but I might think about hiring him as a litigator (great liar), if only he had a law degree. Or even if he can pretend he has one and convince the state. Hire his son to do document review; he seems excellent at sitting in a confined space for five hours without going to the bathroom.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A very successful annual firm luncheon yesterday.

We've been trying to figure out how to cut costs in a way that most associates won't recognize as cost-cutting. Trim some expenses that would otherwise be a little too much to bear in this economy.

Killing the annual luncheon would have been obvious. It's a longstanding tradition that every fall we officially promote the associates to the next class with a celebratory lunch. First-years become second-years, second-years become third-years, ninth-years become tenth-years. It's partly our way of apologizing that not everyone can make partner. It's partly our way of making them think we value their contributions.

But lunch is expensive.

So I had the idea to do it on Yom Kippur. With a quarter of the firm observing the holiday (although still in the office of course -- we certainly can't have them taking the day off), we'd save 25% on food costs. Easy. It gave us enough flexibility in the budget to upgrade from the usual Italian buffet to an entire roasted pig. Everyone who was able to eat loved it. And everyone else had an enjoyable time watching, I'm sure.

Cost-cutting doesn't always have to be painful. It just takes some creativity.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Above The Law leaked a memo from Sheppard Mullin about problems in the firm's bathroom. Apparently a few weeks ago, someone urinated on the floor of the women's restroom. Today, "the perp struck again but this time the act was even more disgusting." They've got security cameras to narrow down the suspects.

Reminds me of a similar situation here that prompted a memo I thought I'd dig out of the archives.

FROM: Anonymous Law Firm
TO: All Associates
RE: Mandatory Urinary Catheterization

As many of you are aware, there has been a string of incidents this past week prompting attention from the managing partners. On Monday, we found what we believe was an associate's urine inside a Partners-Only toilet on the 18th floor. On Tuesday, we once again found associate's urine inside the same Partners-Only toilet, as well as evidence that three squares of toilet paper from the very same bathroom had been used without authorization. On Wednesday, we believe there were as many as three instances where associate urine was deposited into the Partners-Only toilet, and up to thirteen squares of toilet paper used. On Thursday, we received a report that there was not only associate urine but also associate feces in the Partners-Only toilet. We deployed a bowel-sniffing dog to match the odor in the bathroom with the odor of each associate, but were unable to find a match.

As we began our investigation, multiple associates made us aware that on the days in question, the Associate Outhouse on the 18th floor balcony was closed for repairs, and they offered the theory that some associates, rather than use the working outhouse on 26, decided to sneak into the Partners-Only bathroom instead.

While we understand the desire for convenient bathroom facilities, and the potential annoyance of walking up eight flights of stairs** to reach the alternate outhouse, this does not excuse the behavior in question. As you are all aware, bathrooms are a privilege not a right.

Thus, while we continue the investigation, we will be issuing mandatory catheters to all associates and closing the 26th floor outhouse until further notice. We have also installed scanners at the door of each Partners-Only facility. You will need to place your genitalia on the scanner before entering the stall. If the scanner recognizes your genitalia as belonging to a partner, the door will unlock and you will permitted access. If the scanner does not recognize your genitalia, it will trap you in position and an alarm will sound. Security agents will be automatically summoned to the restroom and you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Thank you for your cooperation.

**The associate elevator is still under repair. We expect it will be another 8-12 weeks before it is operational. In the meantime, we ask that you walk up and down the stairs in silence and single-file to avoid creating unnecessary interruptions.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

There was a letter to the editor in the New York Times yesterday:

By taking away the possibility of easy employment in high-paying jobs, the economic downturn may end up helping the current crop of law students.

Very few law students at elite schools make meaningful explorations of the broad array of career choices available to law school graduates. Instead, lured by prestige and a high salary, they march through on-campus interviews to large urban law firms, where a great many end up leading unfulfilled lives.

As the jobs with large salaries disappear, law students will draw on the thoughtfulness, intelligence and perseverance that got them into law school in the first place in order to find employment that they actually find rewarding. They will also find creative ways to pay their loans and other expenses.

Most law graduates already do not expect a starting salary of $160,000 and yet are able to make ends meet. Graduates of elite schools will adjust to the new financial realities and come out better for it.

What an insane, paternalistic point of view. Anyone intelligent enough to read this letter should be offended by it. Poor law students! They used to have so many employment choices! Good grief! First of all, no matter how you feel about law firms, how can you possibly make the argument that a law firm job, at $160K/year, is worse than no job, poverty, and sitting in front of your computer all day desperately sending out resumes? Second of all, is there a SHORTAGE of lawyers for all these other amazing jobs that this guy wants lawyers to find? No! The places people can find rewarding employment? Those jobs are already filled! And when there's a vacancy, you know who ought to get them? The people who would have wanted them enough in the first place not to be seduced by the lure of a law firm job that wasn't right for them. Why should an abundance of choice be blamed for people making bad choices. People who make bad choices deserve the outcomes they get. People who are intelligent enough to get into law school should be intelligent enough to live with the consequences of their decisions. If you can be swayed to come work for a law firm, you deserve the law firm life. And if we hire you even though you won't like it here, we deserve to have you, and to have to deal with you complaining all day.

Here's the problem. What about the law students at "non-elite" schools, who don't have these choices, and have long had to do what this author says. Who had to use their intelligence and resourcefulness to find a job. These graduates who have long been "able to make ends meet."

Well, they're shit out of luck now, because all of those jobs they really wanted are going to be snapped up by "elite" law school graduates who'd rather be working at firms. So all these jobs that probably ought to be filled by people passionate about doing them (instead of just upset they can't work for a law firm and settling for an inferior backup choice) will be filled by the "elite" and everyone else can go sit on the unemployment line.

Taking away choices is great! Law firms are worse than poverty! The recession has vanquished evil from the face of the Earth!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Above The Law writes about a legal organization that asks for a family photo along with a resume.

We tried that.

We stopped.

Most of the people we hire? I don't want to see a picture. Have you looked around law school recently? Sitting in front of a computer all day doesn't exactly do wonders for the physical appearance. I don't want to have nightmares. The less I look at the people around here, the better.

And their families? That's the last picture I want. I don't want to know what your kids look like as I'm forcing you to cancel your family vacation. I don't want to know what your wife looks like as I'm telling you to stay late on her birthday. I don't want to know what your dog looks like as I'm forbidding you to go home and feed her even though you had no reason to think you'd be here all weekend and there's no one with a key to your apartment who can go in and give her some food. I don't want to know what you look like in casual clothes. I don't want to know what you look like when you smile. No one smiles here. I haven't seen a smile since 1993. I don't want to see it in a picture.

The only picture I want with an application is a picture of your acceptance letter from a top-10 law school.

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