Wednesday, June 30, 2004

One of my colleagues stopped by my office earlier today to talk about the new house he's building. Apparently he's purchased 2 attached lots, each with houses currently on them, and is connecting them via an elevated walkway. So he'll have house 1, and then you walk over the bridge, and you get to house 2. It's an interesting thought.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

This is going to be my latest night at the office in a while. I'm a little flustered with work, to be honest. I have a vacation scheduled for Friday -- until the following Friday -- and suddenly some issues have come up and I feel like my vacation is in jeopardy. I could probably go, but I'll be checking my Blackberry every ten minutes and be on edge that something really critical will happen and I'll have to hop a flight right back. Associates think partners don't care, and that we're okay with missing our vacations on account of work, but we're not. We're just people, like they are, and it doesn't make us (or our families) happy to have to change plans at the last minute, but client needs come up suddenly... and what can I do? I can't make their schedule conform to mine; I have to conform to theirs. It's what I signed up for; it's why I can even afford the vacation. My wife is pissed, and rightfully so. It's up in the air right now. I'm hoping if I stay here late tonight I can bully the work into submission and all will turn out okay. I don't think it works that way though. I'd forgotten what Red Bull tastes like. This stuff's awful -- but there's no way I'm making it 4-6 more hours without it.

I think I have a crush on one of the summer associates, even though she's from a second-tier school. I've been contacting her about more and more assignments recently, even though her work product is nothing special and I'm technically supposed to spread work around to as many summer associates as I can, so I get to know them all. But whenever I pass her in the hall, I feel happy inside, and can't resist thinking of her first whenever I've got some due diligence that needs to get done, or just some documents that need to be put in sequential order. I don't think she's noticed my crush -- if she has, she hasn't made it obvious to me. But I find myself noticing what she's wearing, and looking into her bright blue eyes, and imagining what she must look like in something a lot more casual than business attire. I'm angling to make sure she's on the team I'm advising in our mock transaction deal we're doing with the summers in a few weeks, and I'm trying to set up a lunch to invite her to. Plus, the chance to see her in a swimsuit may be what gets me to the beach outing. I'd never actually act on any of this, of course, but it's nice to feel these feelings. Obviously she'll be getting an offer.

Monday, June 28, 2004

"The duplication center is currently experiencing increased demand. Waiting time for projects will be approximately 4-6 hours longer than usual. Please avoid sending unnecessary requests to the center, to allow critical projects to be completed as quickly as possible. As much as possible, use the duplicating machines located on each floor to do your own duplication. Please do not send personal work to the center for duplication. This is especially critical at times of increased demand. We expect the increased demand will slow down by this Thursday. Please save all non-urgent duplication jobs until then. A printed copy of this e-mail will be placed in everyone's mailbox. Thank you."

No comment.

Walking into the office this morning I passed two associates and overheard the following out-of-context piece of conversation:

Associate One: "But what does it matter? In the end we'll all be in the same place. Six feet under the ground."

Associate Two: "They can't bill our time after that happens."

Incidentally, thanks to the three readers who e-mailed over the weekend wishing me luck with getting my car back, and getting rid of this awful loaner. Luckily, the dealership finished up the repair, and I was able to drive my actual car to work this morning. Showing up to the firm picnic on Friday, I knew what the support staff felt like. One has a Kia. Imagine, a Kia.

Friday, June 25, 2004

This afternoon/evening we have our annual firm picnic, where all of the lawyers and support staff can bring their families for a picnic-style dinner and games and balloon animals. I'm not sure what the plans are this year, but last year there was a bit of an uproar because we had two tents, one for lawyers and one for support staff, and the lawyers tent had good-quality catered food and gourmet desserts and a fountain of chocolate, and the support staff tent just had some hot dogs and hamburgers. I'm expecting this year they will organize it differently, maybe just with different color bracelets for lawyers and support staff, or something less noticeable to demarcate the difference.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Car troubles this morning. A funny noise. A rattle. I took it into the dealer. They gave me a loaner. I'll have the car back in a few days. In the meantime, I'm driving a Toyota Camry. Imagine, a law firm partner in a Toyota Camry. Even just for a few days. It's shameful. There's not even leather seats.

I had to drive the Toyota to golf this afternoon. Which, despite being a day late, was still an enjoyable release, with a client, a colleague of his, and an associate here who I freed from the monotony of legal work with an invitation.

The client couldn't believe I was driving a Toyota Camry. Even just for a few days. He drove his Lexus. He has 3 other cars. He said if I'd asked he would have let me borrow one. But it's a bad idea to borrow cars from clients.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I'm preparing for a "halftime" meeting the summer program committee is having this afternoon to discuss what's gone right, what's gone wrong, and things we can do better for the rest of the summer, or things we should change for next year. What frustrates me about the summer program is the unwillingness to think outside the box -- not that this is something lawyers are good at generally. We approach it with a fear of our competitor firms instead of wanting to somehow distinguish ourselves and go outside of the traditional mold. We're all relatively interchangeable -- even if in fact we're not, at least to the law students who apply, we are. We all offer high-level work in a set of similar practice areas, working with similar clients. The business models may differ a bit -- more horizontal or more vertical structure, more versus less individual attorney specialization versus general practice -- but there aren't things that summer associates look at, or have the experience to be able to evaluate anyway. And our summer programs all look exactly the same -- a little bit of low-level legal work, an attempt to help them understand the business, meet the people, get a sense of the culture and lifestyle, lots of good food, lots of fun events, a lot more like summer camp than a job, and the same salary. I believe it is very close to a crapshoot that determines which students we end up with and which ones the firms down the street get. To a small degree it's whether we send out good people who click with the right students. To perhaps a marginally greater degree it's how big our presence on campus is, what the buzz from recent graduates is, what kind of events we hold to get our name out there... but there's really nothing we legitimately can tell students that makes them see that a summer here is substantially different from a summer anywhere else. And because of this, we end up with the same pool of students as our competitor firms, we all have to be about as selective if we want classes of about the same size, and the students make choices, and we get a class interchangeable with the classes down the street.

I want to change this. I want us to have a better class. Not a better class of summers, necessarily -- the summers, during the summer, are a loss to us. The work they provide is marginal; the cost is huge. But I want a better first year class of incoming associates. One way we could do this is change the culture where pretty much everyone comes in and, as a default, will get an offer at the end of the summer to come back. There are definitely people, at the end of the summer, who I'd rather not give an offer to -- not because they're incompetent or evil, but just because I'd rather they work somewhere else, don't feel like they're a great fit here, don't think it's going to work out. But if we did that, no one would come here for the summer -- they would go to our competitors, because no one wants to finish the summer without an offer. It's really hard to go back and reinterview as a 3L without an offer and get a job; you're damaged goods. We rarely look at anyone like that. None of our competitors do much either. So we'd lose a lot of potentially great lawyers, afraid of the risk of not getting an offer. Because lawyers are risk-averse generally anyway, even if they have no good reason to be and would come through the summer with flying colors. So we can't do that.

What frustrates me is that I want our firm to be in a position to be more selective than our competitors and really get to pick and choose our new associates. But right now we're just one of many, and the work we do, while we think it's among the best in our peer group, there's no compelling way to prove that or communicate it, or make it something attractive to law students. But I've come with some radical thoughts for how we could change the whole program to draw the best students to us. Here's my reasoning:

1. The summer associate program costs a lot of money and we get very little in return as far as usable work product, especially compared to the cost.

2. Summer associates consistently tell us that they like our summer program, and that it gives them a good sense of what life is like at the firm -- but that by 2 or 3 weeks in, they understand it. If the goal is to give them a taste, a few weeks may be enough.

3. So my proposal: we cut the summer program down from 10-13 weeks to 4 weeks -- and make those 4 weeks perhaps slightly more intense, with an eye toward showing summers everything they see in 13 weeks, but over a compressed period -- making projects shorter, rotations shorter, more compressed schedule of events, etc. But -- and here's the kicker -- we pay them for perhaps a 10-week summer. Because salary, while it's a huge cost of the program, isn't the only cost -- and we'd save weeks of lunches, events, transportation -- and the man-hours of trying to find assignments for the summers and deal with their presence here. With a few caveats -- if a summer really wants to stay longer, and in the 4 weeks here finds a project he/she can be useful on and the lawyers want him/her to stay, that can be done -- no expectation of it, and no pressure. And -- they sign a contract that prohibits them from spending the rest of the summer at another firm. That wouldn't be fair. But let them spend the other weeks doing whatever they want -- on vacation, writing a book, anything that they won't get a chance to do once they start their lives as lawyers. We don't lose anything by letting them do this -- the amount they gain by being here is not tremendous beyond those four weeks. And this way we're really offering quite a benefit over the other programs -- 6 paid weeks of freedom. We'd get more applicants -- better applicants -- and get to be more selective in our hiring, benefitting the firm in the long run to, I believe, significant extent. I realize this is a radical plan, and there'd probably be some backlash in the media -- paying law students not to work? -- but I don't think it's as silly as it sounds.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Diary of Anonymous Lawyer

6:25 AM -- Alarm rings, to begin another week substantially similar to most of the past six hundred or so. In twelve years I've taken six actual vacations lasting more than a 4-day weekend. I'm getting better. Five of them have been in the past four years. Think about what that means for the first eight.

6:29 AM -- Checking my Blackberry. One of my associates is already in the office and needs me to read over a document for approval to send to the East Coast-based client, already in the office and probably almost ready for lunch by now. I read it on the screen and send back some comments. My eyes are still adjusting to the light.

6:38 AM -- I stumble out of bed, tripping over my briefcase, which was in the bedroom because I fell asleep last night reading a disclosure statement.

6:41 AM -- Go to the bathroom, shave, brush teeth, trim nose hair, take heart medication.

6:45 AM -- Get in the shower.

6:47 AM -- Cell phone rings. Get out of the shower. "Hello? I meant you should cut that line. Yes, I'm sorry, I was hardly awake. Yes, I'll be there soon. No, I don't need you to send me another draft. Yes, I had a good weekend. Oh, happy birthday. See you in less than an hour."

6:49 AM -- Back in the shower.

6:56 AM -- Out of the shower. Gray pants or blue pants? I'll pick the gray pants. And the blue shirt. The medium blue. No, not the one with the pinstripes. Well, maybe. I like the pinstripes. Pinstripes it is.

7:02 AM -- Grab a Nutri-Grain bar... I hate Nutri-Grain bars... sneak out of the house and try not to wake up Anonymous Kids by slamming the door.

7:04 AM -- James Taylor is good on Monday mornings. "My Traveling Star" on the October Road album, about a guy who can never go home. I go home every night. I just never stay.

7:11 AM -- Cell phone rings. "No, I'm not in the office yet. Yes, I can meet at 8:30. No, I don't have plans tonight. Yes, I know the deadline is coming up. No, I haven't looked at it. I'll look at it. Before the meeting."

7:16 AM -- Red light; check the Blackberry; 7 new e-mails since I left home. Garbage, garbage, garbage, client wants me to bend over for him, garbage, garbage, secretary will be late.

7:32 AM -- Someone's in my usual spot. A Chevy Malibu. American cars. Ridiculous. I'll park in the next one. No big deal.

7:34 AM -- Starbucks. Tea. I gave up coffee. Tea is more civilized anyway.

7:37 AM -- Elevator. A messenger got on at one floor, and got off at the next. Take the stairs!

7:39 AM -- In my office. 3 more e-mails since I checked in the car. Yes, I'm in the office. Yes, golf on Wednesday sounds good. Yes, I know those papers are expected by noon. Eastern.

7:56 AM -- Finished reading the document for the 8:30 meeting, marked it up with some thoughts, set it aside.

7:58 AM -- Bathroom. Run into a summer associate. "Why so early?" "Left a project for the last minute." "You don't need to be so diligent. You're only a summer associate. It's not like anyone cares." "I wish you were the partner I was working for." "No you don't. Don't forget to wash your hands."

8:01 AM -- thinks Stepford Wives is terrible. That's what I told my wife.

8:06 AM -- Phone rings. "No, I've been here for hours. Yes, I can look at that draft right now, send it over."

8:19 AM -- Finished looking at draft of purchase agreement. A few notes. Sent it back to the associate. "Make the changes and send it."

8:28 AM -- Called the summer associate I saw in the bathroom. "You want to work for me? Come sit in on a meeting, in two minutes, in the conference room. Free orange juice."

8:29 AM -- Conference room. Meeting. I am ALWAYS early. That is not the culture here.

8:32 AM -- Finally everyone is here. I hate waiting. Everyone is always late. Why can't 8:30 mean 8:30 and not 8:32? Painful. Client is on the phone; me, 2 associates, and the summer I invited are in the conference room. We discuss a meeting from last week with some other parties; we discuss next steps in our case; we discuss the weather.

8:58 AM -- "Yes, we'll get a copy of that to you by lunchtime here." Summer associate, I need some research on that legal issue that just came up. Get me something in an hour? Great.

9:02 AM -- Partner down the hall stops in with his morning coffee. He does this sometimes. We chat for a couple of minutes. He tells me he heard that one of the secretaries on another floor is leaving. She left two weeks ago. "You're behind on the gossip." "Yeah, well, I didn't like her anyway."

9:14 AM -- Phone rings. It's an associate. "No, that memo [I haven't read yet] needed some work. Stop by in twenty minutes and I'll go through it with you, ok?

9:34 AM -- Call associate. "I was on the phone with a client [no, not really, I just haven't finished reading your memo yet]. Give me 10 more minutes."

9:43 AM -- Finished. This memo's actually pretty good. I need to make some stuff up. Associate stops by. "Yeah, I want you to go through and get more specific on how this stuff impacts the client, ok? Just another couple of sentences in each section. Thanks."

9:58 AM -- I pick up the phone to the summer associate. "Done with the research yet? It's been an hour. OK, 10 more minutes. E-mail it to me."

10:07 AM -- I get his e-mail. It's useless. "Thanks for the research. Feel free to take an assignment from someone else -- I won't need anything else from you." Call an associate -- "A summer just wasted an hour and did crap. Can you do this research for me before lunch? Thanks."

10:23 AM -- The summer associate I've actually been getting decent work from swings by the office to see if I need anything. "Yeah, got any gossip about the summer associates?" "Actually, on Friday Dan hooked up with Susan, but then they both went out to an associate's party on Saturday and Susan hooked up with [associate] Bob and went home with him. And Dan hooked up with [associate] Pete. They were both pretty drunk though." "Thanks." "Any more work for me to do?" "No, but if you want a free lunch today, I could probably swing that." "Perfect. Should I invite any other summers?" "Yeah, invite one more. Not Dan or Susan though. Or Sam. I hate Sam. He's a jackass." "Oh. I'm pretty good friends with Sam." "You have bad judgment. Come by my office at 12:30. I'll e-mail you if I have to cancel."

10:53 AM -- 30 minutes reading through some stuff. Boring papers. You don't want details.

11:15 AM -- Call from client from this morning. "No, I meant lunchtime our time. Yeah, I'll get that to you soon."

11:17 AM -- Call associate -- "Got the research yet? 5 minutes, great. Send it over."

11:48 AM -- We don't have a good case, at least not according to what the associate found and my quick reading of it. Call client, advise him to settle. Tell him we'll touch base later in the day.

12:00 PM -- Conference call with client on vacation in Bermuda. "Wish I was there." "Wish you were here too." "Really?" "No. You're a lawyer. No one likes lawyers." So funny, these clients, so funny.

12:30 PM -- Summer swings by with his friend for lunch. We go for Italian. It's pretty good. I had pasta; so they had pasta. They copy. Whatever partners do, summers try to do. If I were to eat with my hands, so would they. If I were to urinate at the table, so would they. If I were to leave a big tip... well, they would just nod and smile.

2:12 PM -- Back in the office. Missed 14 e-mails. No, I don't think we should cancel the summer associate picnic despite the wind. Wind gets people worried here. No rain, no snow, no ice -- so we worry about wind.

2:18 PM -- My brand new stapler is out of staples already. And my secretary has no idea where to find them.

2:24 PM -- has nothing worth reading.

2:32 PM -- No one e-mailed me anything so far today to my weblog Yahoo account.

2:38 PM -- Call from client. Can we push back the 3:00 conference call to 3:30? Sure.

3:00 PM -- E-mail from associate -- was the document draft for internal use or for the client? Internal use, don't worry about the citations or anything. Cool, she says.

3:06 PM -- I get the document. I read the document. It's a very boring document.

3:27 PM -- I fill out my timesheet for what I've done today and give it to my secretary. She trades it for staples. She found them.

3:30 PM -- Conference call. They want to pursue a settlement.

4:23 PM -- Call wife. It'll be an early night probably. Home by 7:30. Save dinner for me.

4:56 PM -- has nothing for me.

5:00 PM -- Meeting of a bunch of us to brainstorm an outline for presentation to summer associates about our practice group. "Because we're the smartest people in the firm." Rejected. "Because we work the shortest hours." Well, we don't work the longest.... "Because you've got to choose something." I like that one.

5:45 PM -- E-mail from an associate with a new draft. Read and mark up.

6:17 PM -- Quick turnaround from the associate.

6:38 PM -- Quick turnaround from me.

6:57 PM -- Quick turnaround from the associate.

7:04 PM -- "I'm heading home. Just have a new draft for me in the morning."

7:14 PM -- Elevator. Messenger gets on one floor, gets off the next. Take the stairs!

7:16 PM -- In my car. James Taylor again. "Mean Old Man." Good song. Fits.

7:58 PM -- Pull into the driveway. Another 12 hour day. And I'll do it again tomorrow.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Someone sent me an e-mail: "Your blog is interesting. But even with all the stories, I don't have a sense of what you do all day. What does a day in the life of Anonymous Lawyer look like?"

Fair question, despite it coming from a poorly-nicknamed hotmail account. Jeez. I hope people realize, at least in the job-seeking context, that when you send e-mails from an account like it doesn't make a good first impression. But it's a fair question. So here's what I'm going to do. Tomorrow I'm going to keep a log of everything I do, and if I have some time at the end of the day, I'll post it.

Also found an e-mail from a college student in the account, looking for advice about whether or not to go to law school. "I don't know what else to do, but I know I want a good career where I can earn a lot of money." Sounds like a good enough reason to me. Not like I know what else to do either.

Back to my Father's Day barbecue -- just came inside for a minute to see if work had anything important for me to do. As a father's day present, Anonymous Son made me a picture frame at school, for my desk -- they glued together some popsicle sticks and had to write a message in glitter and marker on the frame. Mine says "See my picture? This is why you should come home more." Kids sure know how to make you feel guilty about earning enough money that they can live in a big house.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

I'm working from home this morning, before the kids get up -- although I hear rumblings, and a television, so I know my minutes are numbered. Numbered, but billable. An associate came into my office late yesterday afternoon and told me she's leaving. I told her that was probably a good idea, because she was never going to make partner. As I said it, I realized that had she been kidding -- "Oh, I was just teasing. I'd never leave you." -- I'd have been in a real bad spot. But luckily she was serious. So off she goes. She and her 1500 billables last year, her grating personality, and her obsession with pro bono work. I don't know why people come to large firms, and then expect to be given the freedom to work on cases we don't get paid for. If you want to make the law firm salary, and live the law firm life, you should have to do law firm work. I don't know why people bristle when I say that. There are lots of great organizations out there that do pro bono work, and if that's what someone wants to do, they should work there. Otherwise, if they do pro bono work from here, they're taking jobs from people who really want to do pro bono work full-time, and they're costing the firm money. A little bit here and there is fine -- when you're young, to get it out of your system; or when you're old, to help justify your seven-figure salary. But in between, I just don't understand. Office workers don't use company time and company resources to help poor people. They do it on their own time. This whole culture of pro bono work at large firms -- this fetishization, almost -- is bizarre to me. If that's the kind of work you want to do, you're free to go do it -- but leave my paper clips here. Because every paper clip you take and give to the battered women's legal defense association, or whatever they're called, is another three seconds your colleagues have to work to keep the firm's profitability at the same level. It sounds heartless, but we're a business. We give lots of money to charity. We don't need to give time too.

Friday, June 18, 2004

An associate just came in to chat. I asked him if he went out with the summers last night. "Yeah, I did. I left here at 10, headed over to where they were meeting up, hung out until about 2 in the morning, and then came back to work to finish something up." Such is the life.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

We have one client here who's known for being a bit hard to deal with. More than one, actually, but this story is only about one of them. I'm not the partner in charge of this client relationship, but I've done some work for them before, and the CEO knows who I am. I get a call from him this morning: "I don't like the work [another partner] is doing for me; I want you to step in." Normally our policy is that you hire the firm, and we handle staffing, not you -- but we don't like to make anyone unhappy, and so our policy has no teeth. I called up the partner and told him about the call, and he told me he'd be happy to bring me up to speed on what he's working on, if that'll make the client happy. This is a partner with a smaller ego than most of us, so it didn't become a problem at all. The client's nuts -- we all understand that. This other partner is ten times the lawyer I am, without question. So he briefs me on what's going on -- there's a couple of matters in the pipeline, some assorted issues we're working on. I call the client back and tell him I've been brought up to speed, and I want to know what's making him upset. Apparently, it's been taking too long for his voice mails to get responded to, and just didn't feel like the attention he was being given was commensurate with the importance of his business to the firm. And his latest bill was more than he thought. That was the big problem, I think. Clients get so upset over stupid stuff like the bill. We do a lot of work, our fees are no secret, why do people complain? So we charge forty cents a copy, so we over-bill the Lexis charges, so we order nice meals when we're working late on your case, and sometimes work late just to order nice meals, so we charge you for the time we spend inputting the time we spend on your case into our billing program. So we include an automatic 18% gratuity. It's all part of the game. These people's companies make billions of dollars. What's a few million more in professional fees?

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Just discovered that yesterday two summer associates left in the middle of the day to go to a movie. I asked what movie. Our informant didn't know. I say if it was a good movie, we excuse them. If it was a bad movie, we fire them.

I told a summer associate he needed to record his time in greater detail. We had entries like 3 hours / Did some research, 1 hour / Wrote something up for partner, 2 hours / Searched Internet for information. Information about what. If we're going to charge clients for wasted summer associate time, at least we need to know what we're charging for. And no one really does things in round numbers. If you're going to estimate, estimate 1.8 or 2.2, not 2 hours even. Otherwise you're making it too easy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

In the comments of yesterday's post, someone posted a very amusing "rebuttal." I have my doubts as to whether it was the same person who's been e-mailing me the resume. If it's someone different, consider yourself invited to send me a resume if you like, because you're just the kind of person I might actually want to hire. If it's the same person, please don't send it again.

A summer associate dropped into my office today to ask about the very sensitive subject of billable hours. Apparently an associate he's working with mentioned that he had billed 340 hours in the month of May, and the summer associate thought this sounded somewhat alarming. He wanted to know if that's the kind of number we look for. I assured him that the associate was either joking, or hadn't read the memo about not telling summer associates how much work they really do. This answer did not seem satisfying to him. I told him we do not have any kind of minimum billable hours requirements, but that anything below 2400 a year is grounds for termination. He was not sure if I was serious. I am not sure either. We don't have a minimum, technically. But if someone finished the year with 1750, I'm not sure that person should be getting too comfortable, unless there were some extraordinary circumstances, like a head injury that took the lawyer out of service for a few weeks. 340 is a busy month, sure -- but I've seen as much as 400 in a month when it gets really busy. And I've seen as little as 60. Not that often. I told him to think of it like he thinks about things he does for fun -- you don't care how many hours you put into a hobby, or spending time with a girlfriend, or other stuff you enjoy. Just pretend you enjoy work, and it'll all work out fine. He liked that advice. I'm pretty sure it didn't make any sense. But they listen to anything I say, as if I know things and have magic answers. It's remarkable. If only they knew I've never gone to court.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Stop it. Someone keeps e-mailing me his/her resume, looking for a summer associate position for next year, with the name redacted -- "Anonymous Law Student," he/she writes at the top. I've e-mailed back each time politely saying this isn't the right way to go about it, and please send the resume through the appropriate channels, but he/she just sends it right back. It's happened five times now. And it's getting pretty annoying. Also killing this guy/girl's chances of ever getting hired here. Unless the whole resume is a fake and then I can't figure out who it is when he/she applies.

But just in case it's not a fake, I'm going to tear it apart on here for my hundred-odd readers to learn from.

1. I don't care what you did in high school. You were captain of the tennis team, I don't care. It was 7 years ago.

2. "Wine making" is not an "interest" it gets me all that excited to see on a resume. Wine making = wine drinking, and while that's perhaps a fine interest, it's not an interest that's going to help you succeed in the workplace, so get it off the resume. Similarly, darts, ping pong, foosball, arcade games, computer simulations, and having sex with your dog are not good interests to list -- those weren't on the resume; I'm just trying to be helpful.

3. I don't need to know your PSAT score. I'm assuming it's on the same scale as the SAT, but I'm not sure. If so, your 1120 isn't that impressive. Sorry.

4. Kaplan LSAT Prep Class should not be listed under education. I can't imagine why you thought including that on your resume wouldn't hurt much, much more than it could ever possibly help.

5. Listing famous professors you've had is only marginally more necessary than listing good restaurants you've eaten at. I don't care if you signed up for a class with someone famous. If they're willing to vouch for your brilliance, then maybe we can talk.

6. Unexplained gaps in work history raise questions. Did you really do NOTHING for a year in between the consulting firm and law school? And am I really supposed to take from that anything besides the assumption you got unceremoniously dumped by the consulting firm and were so incompetent you couldn't find another job for a year? Because that's the picture I get.

7. "Turned down accepted transfer application to [better school than you're at]" is shameless prestige-whoring. Lawyers are prestige whores as much as anyone, but that goes too far even for us.

8. Don't spell stuff wrong. It looks bad.


Friday, June 11, 2004

A little while ago I asked my secretary to see if she could get me a new stapler. Five minutes ago, a delivery person came in and asked me to sign for a solar calculator. She insisted I'd ordered a solar calculator. I told her I'd ordered a stapler. She took away the calculator. I don't know where the miscommunication happened, or how, or why we're making people sign for solar calculators. Sometimes I just scratch my head.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Last night we had a cocktail hour for partners to mingle with the summer associates. It is always amusing to see how nervous the summers get when meeting us.

One guy apologized for his suit -- "I left my nice one at home; I forgot about this event; I'm really sorry." Like it matters. When you're making $500,000 a year, then maybe you want to buy some nice suits. As a summer associate, as long as you're not dressed in rags and you look like you showered recently, I've got no complaints about what you're wearing. In fact, seeing other people in obviously cheap suits just make me feel better about myself, so I'd rather the summers not outdress me.

One girl brought her boyfriend and spent the whole time trying to impress him by pretending she knew more partners than she really did. She came over to me, acted like she was my best friend... I met her once, I think. Maybe I interviewed her, but I interview so many people it's hard to remember. But I could tell what she was trying to do, and it made me a little annoyed, so I pretended I didn't know her name and let her get a little flustered. She introduced her boyfriend, saying that he's an investment banker. Two minutes of conversation uncovered that he's actually just a low-level admin guy at an investment bank. Which is perfectly fine, but she was just telling stories. Ridiculous.

One guy treated the event as a race, and tried to meet everyone. He would literally run from partner to partner when conversations showed any sign of slowing. More than one of us shared the thought that someone should have stuck his foot out and tripped the guy. That would have been nice.

One guy drank too much and got a little loud.

One guy asked me if I had any assignments for him -- at the cocktail party. "Yeah, get me another drink" was what I should have said.

My wife came away with the observation that the summer associates treat us like Gods. We make jokes, they laugh. We look like we want to open a door, they grab it. We ask them to do something -- pass me the ice, for example -- and they all jump on it at once. It's a little embarrassing. We're just people. Rich people, sure. But still people. Well, some of us. I overheard one of my colleagues talk about how he hasn't been inside a retail establishment in seven years. He just has his personal employees do all of his shopping. Another partner was asking whether the summers had heard about a TV show he just read about, something called 'American Idol'. A lot of us live in some other world, it seems, separate from the world that everyone else shares. Hopefully I won't get to that point.

My wife also noticed how boring everyone was -- summer associate and partner alike. No interests, nothing to talk about besides the law, the firm, the food, and the weather. No one mentioning any hobbies, or movies they'd seen, or activities they'd done, or things they'd read. Just a bunch of busy, solitary, ambitious, boring people. Not all of us, of course. But many of us.

I did have a nice conversation with the novelist-summer who I've mentioned before. He's been doing some work in the Tax department, which actually sounds more interesting than I'd have imagined it would be. But he said he feels like an outsider looking in. He finds it hard to get motivated beyond just wanting to impress whoever he's working for. Like he's just going through the motions. I said I think that's how we all feel. It /is/ just going through the motions. We're lawyers, but the law is not always riveting. We should be thankful we can at least go through the motions. My wife asked me, on the ride home, why that guy wants to be a lawyer. I asked her if she thinks the same thing about me. She said she used to. But now she can't imagine me any other way. And it makes her sad sometimes. Because, she said, she still loves me, but she used to /like/ me more. As a person. I was more interesting, more vibrant, more passionate. Now I'm just more busy. More stressed. More angry. I asked her if she wants to move to the woods and open up a bakery. She asked me who buys cake in the woods. I told her she had a good point. Today the associate I've been flirting with off and on -- reports on here of an actual affair may have been exaggerated; I don't think I could ever really do that to my family -- transferred to the Lisbon office. She'd been wanting to go for a while. I greased the wheels a bit. Better for both of us. Don't want to be tempted.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

So I'm contemplating buying a vacation house. This is a new purchase I hadn't thought about until last night, when Anonymous Wife started bothering me about where we're going to go on vacation in August, and I have no good ideas. Before we had kids -- and before I had gobs of disposable income as a partner -- we'd have normal vacations, like Paris or Rome or a jungle tour in Peru. But then since the kids came, we've mostly just gone to their grandparents or to Disneyland and places like that. But now they're getting old enough that we could theoretically really go somewhere, and I can afford pretty much anything -- but taking the kids to China just doesn't sound like that much fun. They're too old to just tag along in a stroller looking at whatever we want to look at, but they're not old enough to really appreciate something exotic like Bhutan or the Galapagos Islands (both on my short list), plus they're going to want to eat all the time, and be tired, and whining, and complaining... I just can't get excited about dragging them around Prague against their will, and I'm not real confident they'd find anything interesting there anyway. So I feel like a vacation house -- somewhere to go, but where they can have their toys, and can invite friends to come too, and there'll be a pool, and we can do little day trips to places -- that might be the perfect choice. I mean, besides just leaving them somewhere and going away just me and Anonymous Wife. But if we have to have the kids with us, then it doesn't seem worth going somewhere I really want to go. So I'm thinking about a vacation house. Maybe on the East Coast somewhere. All the New York lawyers have houses in the Hamptons. I don't know what they do there, but it would sound nice to say at cocktail parties. I'll ask around and see what my colleagues think. Maybe there's some service that can take the kids on a vacation while we go to some better place. I'll ask around about that too. Or maybe either set of grandparents wants them for a couple of weeks. I'll pay them if they want.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A summer associate got hit by a car tonight. Nothing terribly serious -- a couple of scrapes and bruises, but nothing's broken and he's fine. But it's on the firm's conscience. We organized a downtown scavenger hunt for the summer associates -- hired an outside firm to plan this thing, a lot of the firms do it -- take your picture in front of these five famous buildings, get a takeout menu from this spot, find a certain famous person's house. Stuff like that. And crossing the street, racing to the end, one summer associate stepped into oncoming traffic and... whoops. One of his team members called 911 and then called the recruiting coordinator; once he got to the hospital, they called me; and now a bunch of us are on a conference call while the rest of the summer associates are at dinner at a top-notch restaurant. There's always the fear that these boondoggle events will backfire somehow -- someone will get food poisoning, someone will have an allergic reaction, someone will get killed in a random drive-by shooting. And so now we have to re-evaluate, especially if this kid sues us. We did, after all, tell them to run fast, and the first place team wins a prize, and all that stuff. There's a case to be made. Not a great one, but still. It was on our watch. We should keep them locked up in the offices. It's not like they won't do anything for an offer anyway. We expend all of this energy trying to "sell" them on this place, but for a lot of them the energy they'd need to find another firm to hire them is enough that we can do anything we want, say we do it because we're better than the other firms, and we'll get them back. It's all in how we pitch it. "Working late is prestigious" ; "Lunches are for wimpy lawyers" ; "Stapling packets of paper is the most critical work we do."

Monday, June 07, 2004

I'm still in the office. It's really quite dreadful. Basically, a client wants to do something quicker than we can realistically get it done. But we have to try. I sent out an all-points-bulletin to the summer associates: "Partner needs help on project. Positive: Exposure to partner, challenging assignment, brownie points with the firm. Negative: You're going to be here until at least three in the morning tonight. But as compensation: You can take Friday off. Seriously." I got four replies, and took the two I liked best. Didn't need more than two. Figure I'll give a couple of kids a taste of what life can become around here every so often. It's a sea of type-A personalities, as we take our 30 minute dinner break. People screaming at each other over nothing; tempers flaring... not mine of course. I act in more subtle ways than that.

An associate came to me this afternoon and said that she wants to take 6 months and do a rotation at a pro bono organization we're affiliated with. I told her she can do that if she can balance it with a full normal workload. She decided not to take that on. Oh well. Sucks for the battered women. We had a real public relations nightmare situation a few years ago when it was discovered that one of the partners was beating his wife, and we have this great relationship with the battered women's organization, and she was going to go public and ruin the firm's reputation. We paid her off. I don't know the exact details (the chairman's probably one of the only ones who does) but it was a fair chunk of change. Came out of that partner's salary disproportionately though, which was good. He ended up taking "early retirement" and now does some Wills and Trusts work on the side. Ah, Wills and Trusts, the place old lawyers go to die.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

I tagged along on the summer associate event last night, with two other partners and a half-dozen associates -- we like to have a few people there, to mingle with the summers, and to make it seem like we do things like this all the time. I picked this one because dinner was at one of my favorite restaurants, plus a couple of the associates who were going were ones that I can tolerate, as opposed to most of them. The event ended up with everyone heading to a somewhat rowdy bar -- on the firm's tab of course. It was interesting to watch the summer associates -- who've known each other now for three weeks, or two if they started late -- interact with each other. One girl, about whom there's already gossip that she's interested in finding a husband more than a job -- she's one of the few female summers who doesn't have a ring on her finger (it's strange -- the vast majority of the females are engaged or married; the vast majority of the men, the same age range, are certainly not... which, from what I've heard, has been a little disappointing to some of the guys, but it's not as if it's different at our firm than anywhere else) -- was literally hanging on a couple of the guys, doing everything she could to get them to notice her and flirt with her. Frankly, I think the guys she was picking, from what little I know, illustrated a profound lack of good judgment on her part. Even so, they couldn't have been more obviously ignoring her. And she got more and more bold as the night went on -- and she got more and more intoxicated -- it was really quite pathetic to watch. She was still there when I left at around half past midnight -- pretty much begging for attention. I had a voice mail on my phone this morning when I woke up from one of the associates who was there, and watching this all with me -- he hung around later than I did, and said that she eventually ended up heading out alone, not looking too thrilled about that. He also told me he thought he saw two other female associates making out with each other -- but he said he was pretty far gone by then, and it might have just been his imagination. And the summer associates think the partners and associates don't gossip about them. In this insular world we exist in, what else can we do but gossip about each other? We know more about them than they think we know. We know which girl is borderline anorexic, which guy has a kid, and which summer associate was masturbating in the bathroom late Wednesday. We know everything.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

I'm in before most everyone else this morning, and taking a quick walk around the hall, peeking in other people's offices at the messes they leave around. There's an office shared by three summer associates -- who've been here not more than three weeks -- that probably has upwards of a thousand sheets of paper spread across the desks in no particular order. It's really quite dismal. In the corner of the office are two (empty?) beer bottles, and what looks to be a wad of used Kleenex. A stack of perhaps two dozen inter-office mail envelopes is strewn in the vicinity of the recycle bin, with only one or two having made it inside.

Just three doors farther down the hall is an office that belongs to two first-year associates. There's twelve Diet Coke cans that I can count from outside the door, probably more I don't see, and an open file drawer with all sorts of papers sticking out so it won't close. There's a sushi container I see on one desk, still containing a few old pieces of sushi. There's a romance novel in plain sight.

One assistant's cubicle has nailpolish, nailpolish remover, and three kinds of lipstick, all right on the shelf. And a pill bottle. I didn't read the name of the prescription, but that probably shouldn't be left out where summer associates can get to it. You never know what they'll do.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

I got an e-mail from an associate who left a number of years ago, asking if I would be a reference for her. She left here to go to a competitor, and now she's applying for in-house jobs. I don't remember her work product particularly well, and in fact all I remember about her were the inappropriate outfits she would wear -- thigh-high boots, leather skirts, blouses that bordered on see-through. So I would perhaps be more comfortable giving her a reference for a job at, say, an adult entertainment parlor. But she seems hell-bent on continuing to practice law, so I suppose I can say pleasant things about her if someone calls. I asked her to remind me of some of the projects she worked on. Her memory was not much better than mine. I'm wondering why she isn't just using people at her current firm as references, but perhaps that has something to do with why she's leaving. If I needed a new job, I'm not sure there are too many people I'd feel comfortable asking to be references. I suppose there are partners I work with who would be able to say decent things about me, if I prepped them first, but probably not too many. Ever since I stopped caring, it's been a real struggle to produce work product that anyone would say is anything exceeding the average. I can do competent legal work without a tremendous outlay of energy, but to really put together top-notch noticeably-good stuff, I really need to be engaged, and lately that just hasn't been happening. Sure, I'll put in the hours -- but they're just hours. The energy is harder to find. Too often I'm reading a regulation and find myself drifting off into thoughts about my golf swing, or the Dodgers, or if there's any associate I can pass this work off to. I don't think anyone has noticed the flagging intensity -- no one pays that much attention to what other people are doing. As long as you seem busy, and nothing goes wrong... it's easy to get away with mediocrity as long as the clients still pay. That's the name of the game I guess. If I start losing clients, then I'm in trouble. Well, sort of. I've invested well, my house has equity, I could live without this. I don't know what I'd do all day, but I wouldn't starve. Maybe the kids don't get grad school all paid for, but they get college, they won't starve, maybe my wife could get off the couch and do something, who knows. Maybe I'll write a book about being a lawyer.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

This may have been the first three-day weekend in a while that actually felt like a three-day weekend and not just a weekend where the traffic was lighter on the way to the office Monday morning. A couple of matters I was working on wound down toward the end of last week, and so I was able to basically take the weekend off, get some needed rest, pretend to care about my family, and splurge on a new suit. Just for fun.

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