Saturday, May 15, 2004

I told you it was an early conference call. East Coast time. Saturday morning. When the client is on a business trip on the East Coast, all of a sudden we're all East Coast lawyers, with conference calls on Saturday morning. Right now I'm hanging on while some vice president of business development describes the thing they're doing that's causing the problem why they need lawyers. Anonymous Wife was telling me about an article she read in the New York Times magazine last weekend about casinos, and how they pipe in the sound of change falling into the metal trays. That's what I should do on this conference. Every second I'm not engaged in the conversation is still a second I'm billing. Lucky for you I have a quiet keyboard.

Okay, so it turns out these comments are a lot less fun than I thought, so I'm turning them off (just for now -- the next conference call maybe they'll come back -- I thought some of these questions would make me delve deep into my soul and come up with startling insights about the world; instead they're all about how to get a job here), but I will live up to my word and answer the questions posed. Again, don't take this for gospel. Read the disclaimer. You don't know if I'm real. For entertainment purposes only. I don't want anyone blaming me for bad, uninformed advice. I only know what I know. Trust at your own risk. If I thought people were hanging on the edge of their seats I'd post one at a time and get them up there faster, but I'm sure everyone normal is still sleeping, so I'll do them all in a bunch.

1. Someone asked if I'd rather have more time than money. That's the wrong way to think about it. A lot of jobs that pay a lot less money take just as much time, and a lot of jobs that don't take much time are so horrible that even the time they take feels like an eternity and life is miserable. There are a lot of interesting things about my job. If it paid nothing, there are parts of the job I'd enjoy anyway. I would probably still have to occasionally come in for early morning conference calls. No one chains me to my desk, it's not that kind of time commitment -- but we're service providers. When clients want us, we're here. So I don't have a real answer to that question. It's a stupid question. The same person asked if I had to do it over again would I take a "public intrest job, government job, or smaller firm." First of all, that's "interest," not "intrest." Learn to spell. Sorry, it's early. Second, "public interest job" is an awfully broad category. I have no interest in helping immigrants get visas, or whatever is it that people who do that do. I've done enough pro bono work to know that I'm glad there are people who do it, but it's not for me. I like clients who don't cry. I don't know what government jobs are like. They'd probably mean I'd have to live in a colder city. Smaller firms are like larger firms only smaller. Maybe as an associate the life is different but at this point who cares. You get smaller clients, less interesting work, and maybe you go home an hour earlier, but what's on TV at 7:00 anyway.

2. Next question: "I’d like to know how I should go about hooking up with an associate when I’m a Summer after my 2L. I mean, should I just ask them out, or should I just start feeding drinks to all the older women at the parties and see who turns flirty? And will that hurt or help my hiring prospects?" Look for the wedding rings. The married ones are usually most desperate for a summer fling with someone they can make sure won't get an offer and then they'll never have to see them again. So weigh the costs and benefits and make a decision. Personally, I've heard the cleaning staff at most of these places is pretty willing. If it's a serious relationship you're looking for, you're musguided. Lawyers are not nice people. Sorry.

3. Next: "I would like to know if you're really having an affair with your associate? And if you have to be a real hard-ass to be a successful lawyer." Anonymous Wife has started reading this. She liked the necklace I got her. I'd better watch what I say. You ought to need to be smart and motivated to be a successful lawyer. In practice, a lot of my colleagues are the latter, but fail to be the former.

4. Next: "Would it be possible (or common?) for a large firm to conscript its associates into organizing regular events like tennis or golf or softball for the summer associates? "Conscript" as is, force them to do it, and act happy about it and try to fool the hapless SA into thinking the associates are one big happy socializing bunch." Conscript may be the wrong word, although at least you're using your vocabulary. Although the definition was unnecessary. I know what it means. I'll assume it was for the benefit of my readers. Look, everyone knows the summer is an opportunity to sell you on the firm. If that means encouraging the associates to be friendly and organize events, and that those things start to feel like part of the job, then I don't know why it's so nefarious. Is it impossible that at one of these events you will meet some summer associates you get along with and they become mentees / friends / colleagues / whatever? If the firm wants to create opportunities to make that happen, and help people meet each other and get to know each other outside the office, why is that so terrible? It helps the summers know if the place is the right fit, and helps the associates meet the new people. I don't think anyone's fooled into thinking unhappy people are really happy. It's hard to hide that stuff for a whole summer. If Jane in Real Estate is upset about being "conscripted" to plan a picnic, I'm sure she'll let everyone know and it'll be obvious. Relax. We're not building a cult. We're just trying to create a bit of community. I can't believe your question is actually making me defending the recruiters. Wow.

5. Next: "Your thoughts on hiring (in general) nontraditional (older - 40's) law graduates. Did the family first, and now have the next 20-30 years free and clear. Does past work experience, perspective and freedom from family obligations work in my favor (assuming grades and legal writing/research skills) or do I plan to just hang out a shingle since I will be competing with equally educated > 30 Barbie and Kens?" You got your > sign wrong. You mean <. Younger than 30, right? Yeah. First, I don't use the word "nontraditional." It makes it sound like you will come to work wearing a cape and speaking in tongues. And I've never heard anyone use it. I have no idea what makes an older student "nontraditional." You're just old. Yes, you will be competing against people younger than you. Telling me you have the next 20-30 years free and clear makes me think you're willing to put in the hours. But it also makes me wonder what you've been doing with yourself while raising the family. Is corporate law really what you want to do with yourself? And if you think everyone here is Barbie and Ken, you haven't visited. Helga and Moe, perhaps. Maybe your eyesight is going in your old age.

6. Next: "Do you ever hire summer associates or first-year associates from non-elite law schools? Or are those people just wasting their time sending in their resumes?" Non-elite law schools. Is that where "nontraditional students" go? Did you finish high in your class? Is there a reason you chose that school? Is there a reason you want this firm? Since sending a resume requires 10 cents to print (well, $1 if you're a client and we do the printing) and a 37 cent stamp, why would it ever be a waste of time if this is really where you want to work? Maybe I'll read it wrong and think it says Columbia Law, not Colombia Law. You never know.

7. Finally: "I am going to be a 1L this fall. I decided to go to law school after listening to attorneys bitch endlessly about their career choice. After hearing one of them describe a legal career as “quibbling over pedantic bullshit and miniscule details” it sounded like a dream job to me. Am I setting myself up for bitter disappointment, or can I look forward to a long career mired in minutia? As a self-described pedantic asshole with borderline OCD traits, I think the law might be the career for me." Oh, come on. Every job is about details. You think the general manager of the Dodgers doesn't have to make sure the contracts are signed and he's followed the arcane waiver rules? You think Britney Spears doesn't spend half her day making sure her hair is combed just right and her breasts aren't lopsided? You think doctors don't need to make sure that brain tumor is right where they thought? Doing good work in any field is about the details. I don't why that makes law any different from anything else. Borderline OCD will be a hindrance, not a help though -- a lot of partners keep their offices filthy, takeout inevitably spills out of the containers, papers are never in order, staples are never precisely flush with the margins, ties are never straight, judges never iron their robes, and the pictures on the walls are always crooked. Have I frightened you? If I haven't, you're lying about the OCD.

Actually, this killed time pretty well. The business development guy finished and passed the baton over to the tax guy, who's explaining why the company doesn't want to pay taxes, and why it sucks that the IRS is making them. He's trying to save his job, I think. I changed my mind a little bit -- I'll answer questions by e-mail for now, but I will open up the comments every so often if you want to be anonymous but you're too lazy to invent a fake yahoo address to e-mail me with. Watch for it.

Maybe I should start paying attention to the conference call. Or go refill my coffee.

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