Tuesday, March 22, 2005

We're debating whether we should raise our summer associate lunch limit to $65/person. One of our competitors just did, according to one of the associates here who seems to have friends at every firm in the city. It's useful to have one associate who still has friends. She gets us the gossip from all of our peer firms without us having to resort to Internet message boards and paying paralegals to get temp jobs there and report back. We use her more than we should. This is the only reason why she's on the Associate Life Committee. She has connections. She's friendly. Everyone tells her everything. When another firm puts video screens in their elevators, we know about it in two business days, guaranteed. It's a tremendous help. The lunch limit is a source of debate among everyone here. Associates are torn.

On the one hand, they get to take advantage of the lunches all summer, because the only way a summer associate gets his lunch paid for is to find an associate willing to take him out. So associates love the summer because they get free meals at the best restaurants in town.

The downside is that associates feel slighted when we are too nice to the summers. It reminds them what their lives are like now, and reminds them what lunches are like the rest of the year, when there are no $65 meals that take three hours and let them hang out with their colleagues realizing they have nothing to talk about besides work. It's dangerous to let associates spend too much time with each other socially. They start to think too hard. Better to keep them distracted and overwhelmed.

The other part of the summer lunch calculation is that even though we can always raise prices to cover the cost, people think it's money out of their pockets, and that's never the image we want to convey. That's why we stopped with the shoe shine man. People thought it was a waste. They didn't realize we paid him three dollars an hour and so all we needed to do was fax some unnecessary documents to a few clients every couple of weeks and with the markup on professional services, we made it all back and then some. But someone complained, so we got rid of the shoe shine man and replaced him with a container of polish in the attorney lounge and a lint brush next to the defibrillator at the front desk. The defibrillator comes in handy every so often. The lint brush never does. Attorneys don't care about lint.

I love seeing the reaction the summers have when we tell them they get to go out to eat at the best restaurants in town for free. You can tell who the sophisticated ones are. They hardly move a muscle. The ones who get all excited are in way over their heads. They're not ready for this life. They should go do public interest. They don't deserve the finer things. They won't appreciate the nice cars and expensive suits that come at a place like this. They eat at Applebees and ride the bus. I can't believe there are still buses in this country. You would think we would have gotten beyond that by now.

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