Saturday, May 29, 2004

I played golf today with a few summer associates -- the one I had lunch with earlier plus two others I told him to bring along. Anonymous Wife was going to an engagement party for one of her friends, and the kids were at friends' houses, so it was just going to be me in the house anyway. So I figured I'd treat some summers to a round of golf. It went well. I'm trying to make an effort to show myself as a real human being to some of these summer associates, and see what happens. It's an experiment. At lunch after we finished (I won, of course -- but that's what happens when you practice once a week for a dozen years), I told them I didn't want this to be like the normal lunches with lawyers, where they felt like they had to be putting on an act and couldn't say what they really thought. It's no fun to sit through those, on either end of the table. I told them this was all off the record, with regard to career matters -- nothing they said would be held against them, absolutely. So one of the summers mentioned he was in some ways ambivalent about this whole law thing. He felt like it wasn't what he was "meant to do," whatever that means, and that he thought he'd be settling for something that he knows isn't going to ever be as fulfilling a career as he'd like to aspire to have, if he were to take the job. I told him, just my own opinion, that I thought he was being a little naive, and perhaps relying a bit too much on the notion of fate. We all make choices, we all make sacrifices... but putting it on the shoulders of "what I was meant to do" seems to remove a bit too much personal responsibility from it all. Make a decision, sure -- but blaming it on destiny and fate and forces beyond oneself seems cowardly. But then I told him that if he really is ambivalent about this job, he's right to be questioning. In some ways this is just a job, but it's very time-consuming one, and if your heart's not in it, I don't know how long you can expect to last, or at least happily last, especially if you feel like you passed up other options to do it. One of my mentors told me when I was just starting out that lawyers should always keep in mind that this is a service industry -- and clients expect you to be there for them whenever they need you, whether it's Monday at 9 in the morning, or Saturday at 2 in the morning, or in the middle of your trip to Peru. I remember he actually said "trip to Peru," because it turned out he had been planning a trip to Peru for three years at that point, and had never gotten to go because work had always gotten in the way. He eventually did get to Peru, and contracted an infection from an insect bite of some sort that kept him bedridden for about a month. I don't know if there's a lesson in there at all. But I was pleased to have this chance to talk to some summers a little more informally, and glad that one of them (perhaps foolishly) let his guard down a bit. Made lunch more interesting, and that's often a good thing. I told him to use the rest of the summer to try things out and see if perhaps the ambivalence goes away, or he finds some law he's really passionate about. I also told him he's given me some stuff to think about, although I said that just to be polite. Another of the summers found a hair in his salad. I'm not going back to that restaurant.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I got an e-mail from my niece today. She's 16.

Uncle [Anonymous],

Mom said you might be able to help me. My boyfriend made a web page for a company and they said they would pay him $500 but they didn't. He didn't have a contract because he said they said to trust them. Can he sue them? Would you be able to be his lawyer?

[Anonymous Niece]
I'm sure doctors have it even worse, but family members seem to think that just because I'm a lawyer I know everything about every area of law and want to help them and their stupid legal issues. At least no one in my family has gotten arrested. Yet. I wrote her back:

[Anonymous Niece],

I'd like to help you but the truth is that it would cost your boyfriend more than $500 for me to be his lawyer. And probably for anyone to be his lawyer. To get his $500, it will cost him more. He should have gotten a contract. That would make it easier. If it's just his word against the company, no one will believe him because he used to sell drugs.

Uncle [Anonymous]

P.S. Tell your mom everyone in the family knows she's drinking again.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

A summer associate turned down work from me today. Turned down work!! I had this stupid little project, to go find some SEC filings and look for some stuff, summarize it in a short memo -- called up a random summer associate -- and she said she was busy! With work given to her by a second-year associate! I'm a partner! No one should be turning down work from me! Luckily, the next person I called seemed more than willing. Did an okay job too. Maybe good enough to get a lunch with me. Maybe good enough not to. But turning down work? From a partner? That's a no-no. A big no-no. I'll remember her, and one day... one day she'll pay for this.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Why am I still in the office? I promised Anonymous Son I'd quiz him on his spelling words tonight, but I'm not going to make it home anytime soon. One of my associates came in this morning threatening to quit. We don't want her to leave. We're trying to figure out what the problem is and get her to stay. Losing our best people isn't a good thing. It happens, but it isn't good. They go on to other firms and badmouth us. We lose reputation points. It's not good. I don't mind when it's for understandable reasons. Someone left a few months ago because he missed his kids. He used to live close to the office, and he'd see his kids in the morning before he left for work. Then he moved to a bigger place, longer drive, and wouldn't see them. And he was getting home to late to see them at night. So he became a weekend dad. On the weekends he didn't work. And felt like he was depriving his kids of a parent. So he quit the practice and does in-house work now, with better hours and a happier balance. Works for him. So more power to him. I respect the decision. But when someone just wants to go to another firm, then it bothers me. Because we shouldn't be driving people away. There's no reason to lose people to competitors. Not that we're necessarily the best, but there's no reason why we can't be -- and if someone's here already, and we like them, I don't want to lose them. If this is a power play on this associate's part, it's working. She's gonna come out of this with some real gains, if she plays her hand right. Maybe a parking spot.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

At home waiting for a call from a client while Anonymous Wife and Kids are at Shrek 2, a movie I wouldn't have gone to see even if I could bill the cost of the tickets and popcorn to a client. So I'm killing time on the Internet while I wait. My best wishes to Evan Schaeffer and his wife on the birth of a new baby boy. And congratulations to the summer associate who, three e-mails from last night tell me, made a clumsy attempt to hit on his married secretary. Not a good idea, summer associate. One e-mail urges me to give him the benefit of the doubt, and that maybe his actions were misinterpreted. The other two describe actions it would be hard to misinterpret. I suppose I'll let him sweat over the weekend and give him a talking-to on Monday. Sad as it may seem, this is probably not a fire-able offense in the tight competition for high-quality law students. Assuming the facts as I know them now are true, it's probably a warning, some sort of probationary period, and a note in his file. And an apology (to her, not me), and a commitment to professionalism in the future. And maybe we'll make him give back his Dodgers tickets. I'll go with his secretary. She ain't bad.

Friday, May 21, 2004

I got back a memo from a summer associate, the same one I took to lunch yesterday -- I gave him a quick research project involving something relatively small we're working on. As I read it, I'm struck by how many little conventions we've got here that there's no reason for anyone to know, yet they end up with me filling the page with red pen.

First, there's the appropriate header. We have a format. It's not written down anywhere, but it's assumed. Obviously not assumed by people who've never been here. Then the to: field -- name, and e-mail address -- there's no reason to know we include the e-mail address, but we do. Date: written out, no abbreviations. Subject line -- sentence caps, not title caps. And a bias in favor of middle initials generally if you've got one. Page numbers are center justified on the bottom. Internal outline numbering is done according to a template that lives somewhere on the server but I couldn't tell you where. Footnote text is 11 point. Cases are fully cited the first time they appear. Corporation gets an abbreviation but committee does not. And everyone initials their work at the bottom, ostensibly as proof you wrote it, but it's not like that can't be pretty easily faked. So it's all just form. But we don't have a pamphlet or even a sample memo we hand out. So every partner here is probably making the same comments I'm making. This is inefficient. I think his next project will be to write up a memo on memo form. I like that. Non-billable, but I like it anyway. Maybe we can bill a portion of it to every client who has us write memos. Maybe. I'll see what the legal department says. It has always struck me as ironic that law firms have legal departments. It makes sense. But it's weird. I didn't take any summer associates to lunch today. I should have. All I had was a sandwich from down the street and already I'm getting hungry again.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Had a good lunch with the associate today. He picked a wonderful restaurant, and we made it a two-and-a-half hour event. He told me about the novel he wrote, and the book of short stories he's hoping to produce in his spare time this summer, and I asked him what he could possibly be doing at a law firm. There are people who are passionate about the law, there's no question. There are people who genuinely love the intellectual challenge of what they do here. Absolutely. And there are people who don't, but there aren't any jobs where they would, so why not pick something that pays well and has some prestige. They don't have tremendous passions or productive activities they find fulfilling -- they like good food, good wine, exotic travel, nice things -- so the job that's going to make them happiest is the one that pays well, and they're smart, and this isn't the worst life imaginable, so they make the work-long-hours tradeoff, pretty easily, and they do this for a living. It's understandable. There's nothing else really pulling at them -- maybe family, eventually, but they recognize they have to earn a living somehow, and this is easier and more lucrative than construction, so here they are. It's fine. I get it. But then there's people like this guy. People who are smart enough to do this, and probably do it well and make a good living from it -- but it's never going to be enough, it's never going to be what they really want to be doing, and it's never going to send them home at night truly happy with who they've become. Yet they do it because they're frightened. They're frightened of taking that leap of faith, but not knowing how to turn what excites them and motivates them into a way to make a living, and not sure they really have the talent, and not at all confident it will all work out in the end. And worried that by giving up the safe, reliable, however sould-crushing income stream and societal respectability, they'll have made a disastrous choice that will come back to haunt them in the future. And they can't take the risk. And so they end up here -- not necessarily miserable, although in some cases probably, but resigned, beaten, conquered, tamed -- by a life that isn't really what they feel like they were meant to be doing, isn't really what they feel like they want to be doing, and isn't really what makes them able to look in the mirror without regrets. If he stays here, this is who he will become. He knows it, and, after today, I know it. He can stay, in the cloak of someone who loves the law, or in the cloak of someone who loves nothing so he settles for the law -- but either way, he's hiding. I told him I'd love to read his novel.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I made a summer associate organize my desk today. It was his own fault. I'd interviewed him in the fall; he knocked on my door just to say hello. So, of course, I asked him how things were going, and he said he hadn't gotten any work yet. So I asked him if he wanted some, and he said he did. So he spent 3 hours sorting my post-its by size and my pens by color and my papers by client matter and the bottles of liquor I keep in my bottom drawer by proof, year, and percent completed. I told him I'd pay him back by taking him for a nice lunch tomorrow, his choice. Incidentally, while he sorted, I played golf. Because it's Wednesday, and that's what I do on Wednesdays. And maybe on Fridays too, now that it's summer. I also had the unfortunate task of firing an associate today. We don't do it very often, but this guy failed the bar three times, and we have a policy. We gave him some time to come up with an excuse that might save his job, but the best he could do was Test Bias. He's a guy who went to prep school and his dad's a lawyer. Test bias ain't working, sorry. Especially on the Bar Exam. Plus he got a 178 on the LSAT, which is somewhat above average, so I don't even know what we're doing in a conversation about test bias. He said he's going to go to business school and get an MBA. Good for him. I have no idea how someone fails the bar exam 3 times after graduating from a top-10 law school. No idea. And he took the classes, which are useless, and even got a private tutor, which I can only imagine is pretty useless too. Speaking of useless, our tech people spent all day with my Blackberry and it's still not working. I actually had to call into voicemail from the golf course on my cell phone, which was a real drag. The rest of my foursome was laughing at me for having to suffer through the pre-Blackberry dark ages. I reminded one of them that he still uses a key to open his car door. That shut him up pretty quick. So hopefully that associate will pick an expensive restaurant for tomorrow. Actually, for 3 hours of desk organizing it's probably a pretty good deal for him -- except that he has to listen to me talk for two hours. I reviewed his resume before I made the lunch offer -- he's got some actual interests, unlike most of the people here, so maybe it'll be fun. Maybe I'll make a friend.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The first wave of summer associates arrived yesterday, which made the halls noisier than usual. It's a day we all look forward to, mostly just because the new faces make life a little more interesting. The "Welcome Breakfast" seemed like a pretty big success -- in the past we've started out with computer training right from the get-go, but decided to do a leisurely breakfast in the morning instead, to help the summer associates get to know each other, and then we eased into the paperwork and training later in the day. Already we've had a dress code issue -- one guy came in wearing what could only very charitably be called dress pants. One of the recruiters pulled him aside and casually mentioned he might want to invest in some pants that were more beige. Hopefully he got the hint. We're very casual here -- polo shirts are fine -- but there's a limit when there are snaps up the side of your pant legs. Not acceptable. I think a girl at lunch confessed she's bulimic -- she didn't want to order dessert, and after some prodding said that she'd only throw it up anyway. It was an awkward moment for all. But dessert was delicious. There's a story circulating the halls today about a summer who complained about the size of his office. I'm having trouble believing, although maybe I shouldn't. We've not yet really started distributing much work -- today they're in research and writing training, and tomorrow each business unit is going to give a short presentation. By the afternoon we'll have assignments handed out. We're trying a more centralized system this year than we did in the past -- all of the assignments from one central contact point, so no one falls through the cracks. A few years ago we had someone go through the whole summer without producing a single piece of written work. He got an offer, because we couldn't figure out if it was our fault or his, and luckily he's done fine, but we'd rather keep some more control on the process.

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.

Friday, May 14, 2004

I couldn't sleep, and decided to fool around with the new features on Blogger. Apparently I can add comments. I'm going to give this a try; no guarantee they stay if I don't like the results. Let's see what happens.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Busy day. Client meeting, motion for summary judgment to write, Indian takeout to order. So many choices. Do I want Chicken Korma? Lamb Saagwala? Tandoori? A big crepe filled with potatoes? Indian food is one of my favorites. The problem here is that a good number of partners and associates are so unadventurous with their food. Constantly asking to order "American" food. When there's so much other delicious food out there. Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, South American, Italian, Middle Eastern.... "We had Thai last week." So what? It's good! It's better than the freaking Cheesecake Factory twice a week. Yes, their menu is big. But it's just not that interesting.

Anyway, there's a weblog I occasionally read that had an "all-request day" a few days ago where she took questions from readers and promised answers. I have to be in the office on Saturday morning waiting for a looks-to-be-long conference call with a client -- long story, not fun -- and I predict I'll need something to occupy the dead time in between the parts where I actually have something to say. So if anyone wants to e-mail me any questions before then (ADDED LATER: or post to this new comment thing below), I'll see what I can do. Might keep me awake through the soothing tones of a 72-year-old CEO whose board of directors needs to boot him out before he really collapses the company. He doesn't "do" e-mail. It's a blast.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Golfed in the morning today instead of in the afternoon. At the request of the associate I asked to join me this week. He had a meeting this afternoon he had to get to. So I accommodated. Makes life interesting. I told him not to tell his fellow associates he went golfing with me. They'd get jealous. It's not every day I invite an associate golfing. I made sure to mention this invitation had no special meaning -- that is, it's not some secret sign he's on the partner track or anything like that. I mean, maybe he is, maybe he isn't, but my golf invitation was just because he's a friendly guy and does good conversation in the office so I figured I'd try him outside the office. If he plays his cards right he can end up with a reasonably in-demand mentor out of this. Not to be immodest -- it's just that not that many partners here really take any affirmative steps to mentor the up-and-coming associates. Most of them go through the motions -- take their assigned mentee to lunch every so often, drop by for the occasional chat -- but their hearts aren't in it and they treat it like they treat pro bono work: gotta do some, but not too much, and don't have to like it. But I think it's actually pretty rewarding to take the occasional associate under my wing, give them a leg up if I can, make a new friend, get him to care enough about me that he gives me his best work, and then ride him until he becomes a partner and leaves for a general counsel position at a movie studio.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The cart downstairs was out of these apple-raspberry muffin-cake things I really like. I try to avoid them too often, since I'm sure they're terrible for me, but sometimes, driving here in the morning, I get a craving, and it keeps me from wanting to drive into oncoming traffic and just end it all. So this morning I had a craving. And they didn't have any. So I had to settle for what looked like a cheese danish, but it's actually not cheese, it's just a big glob of frosting. It's really quite terrible. I don't understand how the apple-raspberry thing can be so good, and everything else they have can be so awful. Although now that I think about it, it's kind of like some of the associates here, actually. They'll hand me research summaries that are terrific, absolutely terrific -- but ask them to do anything outside their comfort zone -- think of some outside-the-box legal claims to make, investigate our client's competitors, anything interesting that takes some more mental horsepower than searching on Westlaw, and I get crap. Maybe the apple-raspberry things are frozen and the cart guy doesn't actually make them. Maybe he buys them from a good bakery somewhere and marks them up 50% for all of the captive lawyer customers he's got who can afford $2.50 for a muffin. Maybe it's all a lie. Maybe life is a lie. Maybe if my cleaning people didn't keep cleaning the stray paper clips off my desk, I could actually find a paper clip in the morning when I need one. Yesterday I spent a good thirty minutes making a long paper clip chain, with a whole box of paper clips, and then I left it on my desk when I went home -- and this morning, it's gone. The cleaning people think paper clips are garbage. And they think garbage belongs scattered around the hall, in bags they leave there and forget to come back and dump. If I were to leave the rest of my frosting danish, half-eaten, on my desk, it would be there in the morning. But my paper clip chain? Gone.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Hope your weekend was better than mine. The parents-in-law reacted with horror when I intimated that eventually I may find a way out of this law gig. "But what about the lifestyle our daughter has become accustomed to?" Screw you. There's enough in the bank to cover it anyway.

One more week until the new kids show up for the summer. Well, most of them. One of them sent an e-mail to recruiting today that got forwarded over to me: "Due to a family emergency, I need to start one week later than originally planned. I hope this meets with your approval and the approval of the firm. I feel apologetic for any problem this situation may be causing with you." I checked the files to see if English was this kid's first language, because the e-mail didn't sound like it. The one thing I expect law students to be able to do is write decent e-mail, and this kid can't even do that. Take the week, I don't care -- we save $2500 -- but don't send me an inarticulate e-mail. Like the morons who send sloppy thank-you notes after interviews, with the firm's name spelled wrong. Stupid. Lawyers don't have to be brilliant but they do have to be careful. We live and die with technicalities. Give me a break. You're 24 years old. Read over your message before you send it.

The recruiting staff just gave me a copy of the summer agenda for me to sign off on before they set it in stone. I nixed one activity on their list -- Paintball. I decided that opening ourselves up to tort liability is probably not the way to go. Paintball. Ridiculous. We're replacing it with golf. Of course we are. I love golf. Also, I asked them to add another Dodgers game. This is the part of the job I like. Forcing law students to do things I think are fun. Maybe I can send them all antiquing with the in-laws.

Friday, May 07, 2004

There are a lot of things I'm terrible at, like being a decent human being, but one thing I'm excellent at is remembering people's birthdays. It fools people around here into thinking I have a heart. I'll go up to an assistant and wish her a happy birthday, and she'll tell me I'm one day off, but she's shocked I even remember the vicinity. Sometimes it's the doughnuts-and-coffee we do at the firm -- I'll just remember what day we had it for a particular person, and it'll stick. Or if someone tells me once, I've just got it there forever, and it's easy. Names of wives (and husbands) and children too. It shocks people. It's like a party trick. "How's Roberto and Juanita?" I might ask, if we actually had any Hispanic lawyers at the firm, and their eyes would open wide and ask me how I possibly could remember that when they can't even remember ever talking to me before. It's just something I'm good at. It fools clients too. But it especially fools summer associates. If I bring up something from our interview, or even just something from the resume that I remember reading although we never talked about it, they think I care, and that I took the time to remember them, and that they must be special. But, nah, it's just my party trick. "How'd the year at the law school newspaper finish up?" "You remember?" "Of course I remember, Sam. I remember everything we talked about. You're quite an impressive student. I'm glad to have you aboard this summer." "Thanks, I appreciate that." "Now I know that another partner's got you working on that fascinating research assignment, but I was hoping I could steal you away for a half a day to help me track down a piece of paper that's somewhere in a big room full of boxes. I picked you especially because of that newspaper experience -- I know journalists are especially good at uncovering the story, and I'm sure you're one of the best. So what do you say you log out of Westlaw, help me out, and I'll take you out for a reimbursable lunch later on this week?"

Thursday, May 06, 2004

I had breakfast this morning with an old friend who now does venture capital work for an investment bank. We talked about last night's episode of "American Idol," which neither of us saw because we were working, but both of our wives are big fans and so they have us rooting for people. I apparently want Latoya to win. He apparently wants Fantasia to win. Neither of us have ever heard these people sing, or have any idea what they look like, except that he thinks Fantasia sounds like a stage name. He was interested in whether Anonymous Son likes his Tae Kwon Do class, because his son keeps getting picked on at private school, and my friend thinks it would do his son some good to learn self-defense. I said I think that's a terrible reason to take tae kwon do, since, at least from what I've seen, if I saw a kid going around wearing a funny white robe and making grunting sounds while he kicked through paper-thin boards of plywood, it would be more reason to pick on them, not less. I said he should buy his son a switchblade instead, and I would get someone at the firm to defend him in case anything happened. Or I can just write up a cease-and-desist order for the kid to hand out to the bullies at school.

Anonymous Parents-In-Law are coming to visit tomorrow for a week. They're not as bad as you might expect. Ever since I figured out the best way to get them to like me is to buy them expensive things, it's been pretty easy. On the way home from work tonight I'm picking up a new microwave we'll give them and then ship to West Palm Beach so it's there when they get back. Last year it was TiVo. Anonymous Father-In-Law also likes that I keep an extra set of golf clubs in the house so when he visits it's easy to get a few rounds in. I'm better than him, but I let him win. We're going to drive up the coast this weekend and go antique shopping. Maybe I'll have to work and they can go without me... wouldn't that be a shame.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I've been surprised at the quality of the law students we've hired from the University of Iowa. It's only been a couple over the past decade or so, but both excellent. The ones from USC, a higher-ranked school last time I checked, haven't been nearly as good, overall, although there have been many more of them to form a judgment about. It's interesting how one or two students can make or break a school's reputation at a firm, and really affect decisions. Like just because a guy last summer from Chicago had stains on all of his shirts, I have this image of Chicago students as dirty and unkempt. I think of Berkeley as being a female-dominated place, just because we've tended to have mostly women from there. Northwestern is a place they really teach legal writing well -- because the one guy I remember who could really write went to Northwestern. Penn lawyers are good at golf; Michigan lawyers are fat; NYU lawyers come into the office drunk; Georgetown lawyers quit the firm after two years to go make babies. I know my biases probably don't make any sense, but they affect me. I'm less likely to call back a borderline candidate from Yale than from Harvard, because I don't like the Yale guy here. It's almost impossible for a Cornell student to get an offer here because the last two were terrible. A girl from UT-Austin caught me looking at porn; so no more students from there. But Virginia lawyers look great in skirts, so they get offers. It's weird how all of this works.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I received an e-mail from a reader that said, in part, "From reading your blog, you don't seem to like anyone or anything." Perhaps that's true. Perhaps years of this work have turned me into someone unable to find any joy in life. So, to prove I'm not completely heartless, I thought I would try and make a list of the people and things I like. Here goes.

1. Golf on Wednesdays
2. Knowing that I have financial security for the rest of my life
3. Anonymous Wife and Kids
4. Anonymous Mother-in-Law
5. Feeling smarter than my clients
6. My Rolex watch
7. My BMW
8. The Dodgers, when they're winning
9. The view of the ocean out my office window
10. Sushi
11. The smell of freshly-cut grass
12. The associate I'm having an affair with
13. My cup of coffee in the morning
14. Anonymous Son's laughter
15. Botox
16. That I am living nothing less than the American Dream
17. The four hours of pro bono work I did last month
18. Tax refunds
19. My down pillows
20. Robert Redford movies
21. Porn on the Internet
22. Unpasteurized cheese
23. Towel racks that keep the towels warm
24. Paralegal #3
25. How good I look in a freshly-pressed dress shirt

Monday, May 03, 2004

Another e-mail from Human Resources:

With the new summer class arriving in just two weeks, we wanted to advise you of some protocol for helping to make this the best summer yet! Please adhere to these guidelines as closely as possible; the recruiting staff will be paying close attention:

(1) The summer associates are not your slaves. We want them to receive important, challengeing projects, not just spell-checking a document or making sure all of the numbers are in the right order. Give them substantive work to whatever extent possible, and be sure to provide guidance and feedback. Every year one of the most common complaints we get is that the associates and partners did not provide enough guidance and feedback. We are bringing in an expert in guidance this Friday, and an expert in feedback next Wednesday. They will provide optional lunchtime sessions to share how to be a better mentor to the summer associates. Everyone is encouraged to attend. Free lunch will be provided, as well as a $5 gift certificate to Starbucks as an incentive. Sign up in advance by e-mailing [deleted].

(2) Lunch is a time for mentoring. Before you go to lunch, try whenever possible to take a summer associate along with you. Remember that lunches with summer associates are reimbursable. At lunch, talk to them about their experiences at the firm. Try not to reveal anything that reflects badly on the firm, or on any of your colleagues. We do not want a repeat of last year's incident when one partner made negative comments about a colleague and it got back to him. Summer associates gossip a lot. It is important to exersice discretion.

(3) Smiles are addictive. Smile!

(4) Never tell any summer associates they won't get an offer, even just joking. They take those kind of remarks very seriously and they only create problems on our end. Please exersice extra caution.

We know you are all very excited about the new summer class, just like they are excited to be here! Get ready for an incredible summer!
I love human resources.

Back in the office bright and early on a Monday, after some elective plastic surgery this weekend. Everyone seems to be doing it -- Anonymous Wife encouraged that I give it a try after she had a good experience last year that's made life much more pleasant around the mirrors at home. And what better way to spend grotesque amounts of disposable income than on making yourself look younger.

On Friday night, my assistant and her family came over for dinner. It was a lovely evening. We ordered in from a local Mexican restaurant, and everyone loved it. My assistant and I probably talked too much office gossip and bored the others. I learned that we've got one associate who has slept with no less than three clients, one associate who routinely bills twice as many hours as he spends on writing assignments, and one associate who doesn't wear underwear to work. I'm not sure how the assistants know all this stuff, but they seem to know everything. In return for her gossip, I told her which two of her colleagues are being laid off at the end of the month, and how much higher the health insurance co-payments will be rising. She also told me a story about how one of the 1L students we interviewed for a summer position tried to hit on her as she was walking him between offices. She said she would have mentioned it sooner if we'd offered him a position, but since we didn't, she thought it better not to make a big deal of it.

I wonder if she'll notice my plastic surgery. I hope not -- I wouldn't want to be known as the partner who spends his disposable income on making himself look younger. That could become quite embarrassing.

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