Thursday, June 29, 2006

I told them not to do it. I told them that a prestigious law firm has no business playing with modern technology and trying to put together a series of podcasts to help with the recruiting process. Did we not learn our lesson after watching the bizarre video testimonials on the Kirkland & Ellis website? Law firms have no business playing with multimedia. The web site is bad enough.

The consequences are never good when technology gets into the wrong hands. Some things are better left like they were in the old days. Like Star Jones, who Anonymous Wife is in love with, and she's been crying all week since she learned that Star would no longer be on The View, one of Anonymous Wife's fourteen favorite daytime television programs that she makes sure never to miss. Everyone liked Star Jones when she was four hundred pounds. But we create these new stomach surgeries that let fat people disguise themselves as normal, and suddenly she weighs fifty-seven pounds and everyone hates her. I came home late last night to find Anonymous Wife replaying on TiVo over and over again Barbara Walters explaining to the audience how Star betrayed us all, and the world will never be the same again. It's all because of technology. Fat Star would never have betrayed Barbara Walters. But stomach reduction technology created a monster. A thin, unemployed monster.

I sent an e-mail out to my associates telling them they should brace themselves for the possibility that their holiday weekend plans may have to be cancelled. There's no urgent business going on with any of my clients right now, and I don't expect there will be, but I don't want anyone to get too comfortable. So, on a whim, I figured I would warn them that something might come up. Get them to freak out a little bit, cause a little bit of discord at home. It's never a bad thing. They'll work extra hard tomorrow, and then maybe I'll only pick two or three of them who have to stay redoing a memo that's already been done, instead of the entire team.

I told the associates they should warn the summers they've been working with too, and tell them we may need some of them to stay over the holiday. With that I'm just trying to set up a good cop / bad cop kind of situation. Let the associates tell them they may need to work, and then I can surprise them tomorrow afternoon with an e-mail saying that the associates were right, and we ought to be making them stay, but out of the goodness of my heart, and the firm's, we're going to give them the weekend off. It's all about managing expectations. Under normal circumstances, it's no surprise that summers don't have to be here twenty-four hours a day, and they won't be terribly excited when they get to go home, because they expect it. But if you make them think they might have to be here, and then you tell them they're free to go? Huge rewards. This is how we suck them in. Make them feel like we're on their side. We're fighting for 'em. We're trying our hardest to make their summers as amazing as they can be. I'm waiting for the perfect moment to tell them we're going to let them walk on the partners-only colored tiles on the floor, and watch their reaction. It's been terrific to see them sidestep through the halls all summer. And, again, if they were allowed to walk on the entire floor from day one, it wouldn't be a big deal. They'd expect it. But we changed the baseline, and now everything is a bonus. Sometimes I love my job.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It seems that lots of people want to work at the firm. Or it's all a scam for the free books and t-shirts. Since I don't have anyone's first-year grades or know where they went to law school, I'm completely in the dark about how to make these hiring decisions. So come Monday, I'm going to post a bunch of the responses on here and you can help me choose the ten winners. Here's a sneak peek at a few of the 175 I've already received:

"I have the innate ability to locate the most random of emails with stacks of paper thousands of pages thick. Not to mention the facts that I can go over 3 days without seeing the light of day and can subsist on chips and cookies from the nearest vending machine. Plus my favorite past-time involves snitching on those I call my closest coworkers."

"I don't require any sunlight, food, or fresh air to function. Just sit me in front of a computer screen or box of documents, and I can go at it for days on end without ceasing."

"With a new marriage, shaky mental state, and math skills that usually result in the decimal place moving to the right a few spaces, I have plenty to offer your firm. While I do hold on to certain ideals, I am confident that after the first five 90 hour weeks those will no longer be a concern. Once the ideals are gone, my marriage is no longer a factor, and my math skills are put to work, my billable hours will soar. Ultimately, I hope your firm can help me achieve my lifelong goal of working like a dog for 5 or 6 years as a junior associate before jumping out of a window during the Christmas party simply to save the firm the trouble of breaking the news that I will never make partner."

"I like money and I will do what I am told if you give me a lot."

Monday, June 26, 2006

The firm launched our online job application this morning. Like I need more resumes to read. It's pretty ridiculous. They didn't say anything on the firm's web site yet, but there's a section where you can fill in 200 words or less about why you should be hired, and the funniest 10 we receive by Friday are going to get free Anonymous Lawyer t-shirts and an advance copy of the book. That's a secret, so tell everyone you know and help spread the word.

We fired a summer associate on Friday night, on our July 4th boat cruise. I know it's early for a July 4th boat cruise, but a few of our competitor firms booked the cruise before we did, and there weren't any boats left for the night of the 4th, or for this coming weekend, and we'd promisedin the recruiting literature a July 4th boat cruise. So we had to do something and this seemed like the best solution. We had an open bar, and after everyone was drunk enough to forget it wasn't July 4th yet, we let the summer associates set off some fireworks. We had a set custom made with the logo of the firm. They explode in our signature cornflower blue, and if you really concentrate you can see the shape of the logo and a silhouette of our founder, filling the night sky with light.

But one summer associate started getting belligerent and insulting some of the partners. He accused one of our corporate guys of doing pro bono work, which really made him mad. And he kept going. He called the tax guy a wannabe public defender, he said he saw one of the real estate partners helping immigrants get asylum, and he pointed at a trusts and estates partner and yelled "Advocate for the Poor!" They all put down their drinks and started to rush at him. I had to hold back the trusts and estates woman. She was really steamed.

And then he took off his clothes and jumped into the ocean. So of course we had to fire him.

We had a few summer associates ask to get out of the replacement July 4th event, which is a lecture about real estate law developments, with a red, white, and blue cake at the end. (When the boat cruise fell through, we had to get creative.) A few summers said they have plans that night with friends or family, and wish they didn't have to stay late listening to someone talk about real estate law. I suppose I understand, but I figured at least I needed to set up a few hoops for them to jump through before they could get out of it. I had the recruiting coordinator go to Target and pick up some hoops, and I set them up around the halls. Any summer who wants out of the event needs to complete the entire obstacle course in 3 minutes or less, and then he or she can be excused. But they need to jump through the hoops.

I don't even want to start thinking about what we're going to do when they start asking about not coming into work on the 3rd. For the full-time associates, of course they'll all be here. But the summers, it's tough. We want them to like it here. But we don't want to get silly about it. Missing a day of work? That's pretty silly. Maybe we'll bribe them with a t-shirt.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Some readers have noticed I didn't mention Father's Day this past Sunday. A couple of them e-mailed, hoping I was too busy celebrating with my children, and didn't have time to post. Or perhaps that I flew home to Michigan to visit Anonymous Dad. Sadly, that didn't happen. I did offer to take Anonymous Son into the office with me, but he opted to watch television instead, and I didn't force the issue. Look, work doesn't slow down just because Hallmark's created another ridiculous holiday to slow worker productivity. We had a full office on Sunday. Granted, many of the associates don't have kids because they haven't had time to cultivate personal relationships and find a partner. But even just the ones with children, many of them were here doing work, just like they're supposed to be.

A couple of years ago, after a bit of an outcry from some younger associates, we started allowing associates to celebrate holidays, on a limited basis, in a specified time frame. For example, if someone's anniversary fell on the 15th of a month, we might try to work his schedule so that even if he couldn't leave to celebrate on the exact day of the anniversary, he'd get two hours on the 17th to go surprise his wife with a dozen roses, and we'd try not to send him any urgent e-mails on his Blackberry.

But the policy became a bit ridiculous after a while, and the delay between when the holiday occurred on the calendar and when the associates got to celebrate it just kept growing. No one could leave to celebrate Christmas '04 until May '05, and by then everyone's thinking about Valentine's Day instead, which they got to celebrate around Halloween. I think it's a terrible policy. But I lobbied in a bunch of the partner meetings to at least try and catch up by skipping some holidays that aren't important, like Labor Day and Mother's Day. So we did, and finally, we've been able to cut the delay so that we gave some associates an hour off this afternoon to celebrate Father's Day, even though it only happened three days ago.

The firm's making a whole big deal about it, and issuing a press release, and sending out self-congratulatory e-mails, just to trumpet the fact that people get to celebrate a holiday within a week of it actually happening. And even though it was my idea at the partner meeting, I'm not mentioned in any of it. Unappreciative. Ridiculous. Why am I wasting my time trying to make life better for the associates if I'm not even going to get any credit for it?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

This past week and a half has been the perfect illustration of why I'm glad the firm's not a very diverse place, even among the support staff.

The World Cup.

Americans have the right idea. We don't care. It's some people kicking a ball, it doesn't matter, it's not like it's baseball or something important like that. It's soccer. Football. Whatever they want to call it. And the handful of people here who have some tie to some other country, some country where they actually care about this silly activity, have been distracted ever since it started, sneaking into the conference rooms and turning on the TV, taking long lunches, making excuses for why they're not being the good little servants we pay them to be.

What I'd like to do is send the entire firm to wherever they're playing these games and stick them right in the goal. You want to watch the World Cup? Then watch it with your body on the line. Watch it in a position of danger, where you can actually be hit with the soccer ball and suffer some consequences. Real consequences, like our clients are suffering because the guy who delivers the mail is too distracted by the performance of his team back home in Serbia. Why are we making this so easy for everyone, by televising these games?

See, it's the once-every-four-years thing that gets to me. Because it gives people a chance to hide their obsession from the firm for a while, to pretend they don't have this secret outside passion that they're not allowed to have. No passions. We tell them that. It's on the forms. No one's allowed to care about anything other than the work we do. They know that. And they fool us, for three and a half long years. Three and a half years where they diligently come to the office, never go home, and convince us that we can rely on them. And then some people from their country start to kick a little ball around and the jig is up. They can fool us no longer. Passions. Interests. The deluxe cable package. I'm sorry, but we can't bend the rules for the World Cup, even if it's only once every four years. The World Cup has to take its place along with vacations and sleep: things you used to care about before you came to the firm, but must put out of your mind once you're here.

For everyone who talks about people kicking the ball, tries to catch a glimpse on TV, or sneaks out early, here's the payback: you watch them kick the ball, and I have the right to kick you in the head. That seems fair. And I won't necessarily exercise that right immediately. I'll wait. Until just the right time. Maybe the day you ask me for some Advil because you have a headache. Or the day your dog dies. Or the day you think I'm calling you into my office to let you know you're making partner. Nope, no promotion. Just a kick in the head. There you go. There's my plan. So go watch the World Cup, sure. Just know you'll be paying for it later. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. You never know around which corner I'm lurking, hiding in wait. Enjoy the rest of the tournament.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I received an e-mail yesterday from an anonymous employee at a law firm in a major city. He forwarded the text of an e-mail everyone at his firm received:

"I am sending this email on behalf of [Partner]. He would like to know if you all think he is "stupid" with respect to your Internet use. You all know about our Internet policy. - You should only be using the Internet before or after work and during lunch.

However many of you choose to ignore our policy and go on the Internet during business hours. When you see [Partner], you either minimize the Internet or switch to another program which [Partner] sees.

If this use of the Internet doesn't stop, you will be denied any Internet access even for Fed Ex etc."

Clearly someone is overreacting. I see no reason why the employees of this firm should be upset about this policy. Obviously the Internet only causes distraction and provides no value in a corporate law firm setting. It breeds lazy associates, who, despite how much more quickly they can find cases and statutes in the library, instead they sit in their office and waste time doing legal research on the Internet, as if that's really more efficient and they're not just too fat to get out of their chairs.

It used to be extremely efficient to get back to my office and have 14 phone messages to listen to, and a random pile of notes and papers on my chair to sort through, as opposed to "e-mail," which is just an excuse for people to forward garbage, like that note from the partner at the firm about the uselessness of the Internet.

My associates miss talking to me on the phone. E-mail and the Internet have made it too easy to go through the day without yelling. It's made it too easy for associates to ask questions. Too easy for people to order food on the company tab. Too easy for people to arrange "vacations" they're never going to take. Too easy to check movie listings for showtimes they're never going to get out of the office in time for. Too easy to make restaurant reservations they're never going to keep. Too easy to keep in touch with friends they don't have time to see. Too easy to focus on outside interests, like following the news, or checking the weather. No one should have outside interests. And no one should have access to the outside world at all.

I'm thinking we should follow the lead of this cutting edge firm that sent the e-mail I was forwarded. We should ban the Internet entirely. Take a bold step into the 18th century. I'm proposing it at the next partnership meeting. I can't remember when the meeting is, but I know there's an e-mail somewhere I can check. Thank goodness for e-mail. I mean, we should ban it. Yes, definitely.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

One of my associates came into the office today wearing a Brooks Brothers suit. People think Brooks Brothers is a good place to buy a suit, but they're wrong. The suits are cut to hide the fatness of fat people. I don't want fat associates. They eat too much at the free lunches, and the partners end up bearing the cost at the end of the year when our profit pool is lower.

Last time I bought suits I found an associate who was about my height and made him get a personal trainer and work out for a few weeks so he'd be the same size as me, and then I sent him to Italy to get fitted. I don't have time to fly to Italy for the suits I want. I was annoyed the associate ate the meal on the plane, gained a pound, and so the fit wasn't exactly right. It was close, but I still had to waste an hour dealing with a tailor. It's hard to get good help. I think the tailor was a former associate at the firm who quit because the job was too stressful. I made his experience tailoring my suit pretty stressful, just to show him he can never really escape.

The associate whose kid is breaking in Anonymous Son's new baseball glove should be bringing the glove in tomorrow. I promised my son we'd play catch this weekend for two tenths of an hour. I've carved out the time. It'll be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I don't know if you caught the article at the firm's web site, but we made a radical change in policy yesterday afternoon at an emergency meeting of the partners, and I'm pretty upset about it. The Supreme Court came out with a ruling yesterday that inmates on death row will be allowed to challenge the constitutionality of lethal injections. While they didn't rule the injections unconstitutional, merely opening that door prompted some of the partners here to revisit our own policy about lethal injections. We've been using them as a pretty painless (for us) way to get rid of associates, for the past two decades or so. Every year we'll take a handful of associates who rank particularly low after the annual evaluations, and we'll place them on a list and after some quick procedural hearings, we'll terminate their employment with a mix of sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. It's been a fairly straightforward procedure since the mid-1980s, but now that the Supreme Court is opening the door to a legal challenge, some of the partners felt we ought to re-evaluate and at least let the associates on our own "career death row" (the dumpster side on the 20th floor, in terms of office location) have a chance to appeal before we kill them.

I dissented, obviously. The Court hasn't said lethal injection isn't constitutional. All they've done is open the door to appeals. I'm happy to defer to them once they make a real ruling, but something procedural like this shouldn't change our policy, and the politically correct majority at the firm are afraid to be bold and stick to our guns on this. It's pathetic. We have a policy and there's no reason to change it. They're afraid of bad press. They're afraid that law students won't apply to the Firm if they find out about the lethal injections. Big deal. Any student who's afraid he'll rank low enough in the performance rankings to be subject to lethal injection isn't a student we want working here. I want confident students. Smart students. Students who aren't worried about qualifying for a lethal injection. I'll live without the people scared by the policy. But, no, I lost the battle, and now we're adding all sorts of layers of bureaucracy to our easy and simple policy. It's a waste.

I'll shut up about it, and won't make a big deal, but if they try to get rid of the behavior modification chamber in the basement, then I'm really going to throw a fit.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I took a summer associate out for tapas this afternoon. His idea. Sometimes I demand we go to a certain kind of restaurant just because I'm in the mood for it or because I know the summer associate doesn't like that type of food but that he'll defer to me anyway and then I get to watch someone choke down food they don't like, which is always enjoyable. But today I decided to let the summer pick. And he picked a tapas place I'd never been to. And we had to share. I hate sharing food. Not with people I like and respect. Sharing food with people I like and respect is fine. I like variety. But sharing food with people beneath me is not my idea of a good lunch. Whenever I'm in a sharing situation on a summer lunch, I like to leave the last bite of every dish, just to see if the summer associate will take it. Obviously he shouldn't. Obviously he should leave it for me, out of courtesy, no matter how much I insist he take it. Obviously even if I beg him to eat it, if I say I don't want it, if I say I've got no interest, obviously he shouldn't even think about taking it. That last bite of crab cake is for me. I'm the hiring partner. He's just the summer associate.

But today, of course, he took it. He had at least 5/8 of two of the dishes, and all I had was 3/8. And he knew it. And he did it anyway. Inexcusable. A fireable offense. I didn't fire him, of course. He's only a summer associate. But he shouldn't be eating 5/8 of the crab cake, and taking all of the mango salsa too. I don't like mangoes, but that isn't really the point, is it?

Friday, June 09, 2006

One of the partners just sent out an e-mail to the entire firm. It appears he thinks he has an Internet stalker. Apparently someone set up a profile under his name on Friendster, using his photo from the firm's website, and put all sorts of unsavory (but mostly true) information on it, like about how he's currently cheating on his wife with three different members of the support staff. Imagine -- the support staff! It's one thing if someone's cheating on his wife with an actual attorney, but to cheat on your wife with a member of the support staff is pretty shameful. Also, he put up photos of the partner drunk at a recruiting event, and also a photo of him spitting on an important client file. He was annoyed one day. It happens. It's not like the client was there to see it. But one of the associates in the room must have caught it on his cell phone camera, and now it's on the Internet. The partner's been receiving e-mails from friends about this page, and he's had to deny any involvement in creating it. He doesn't know which associate did it. Lots of them plausibly have gripes about him. Almost all of them. He's hoping the e-mail to the entire firm will help him figure it out, but I expect it will just make whoever's created the page feel like he's really getting to him, and encourage him to continue. Maybe it's not even an associate who did it. Maybe it's another partner.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I came into the office this afternoon to catch up on some work and there was a Trader Joe's truck completely blocking the street, preventing anyone from turning into the parking garage. I honked the horn a few times, and finally the driver moved, but it was a serious inconvenience, and a pain in the neck. I like their triple ginger snaps and banana crisps as much as the next guy, but it's ridiculous for their truck to be blocking the parking garage entrance, even on a Sunday. So I sent out an entire e-mail to the firm: I don't want to see any Trader Joe's products in the office anymore, and I don't want anyone at the firm to be shopping there. If I see a bowl of cashews on anyone's desk, I'm going to ask where they came from. And if I catch anyone with their products, they're not parking in the garage anymore. Terminating them would be too extreme, I admit, but revoking their parking permit seems like the right punishment. Everyone can get their truffle oil and frozen brown rice somewhere else from now on. Trucks. Ridiculous.

I got a few e-mails from people who visited my law firm's new web site and discovered I've got a book coming out in just a few weeks. I'm putting the Amazon link in the sidebar. Pay no attention to the author's name. Just a ghostwriter. They're afraid to let me reveal my true identity. ;) The book's a novel about my life at the firm, unlike this blog, which is the god's honest fictional truth. So the book's different from the blog, although it's written in the form of weblog entries as well as e-mails. A couple of entries from here have found their way into the book in some form or another, but the vast majority, maybe 85%, is brand new material, with a plot, a whole bunch of characters you've never met before, and an epic battle between me and one of my colleagues to see who gets to run the firm.

Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz read the book a couple of weeks ago, and had this to say:

"I know who the Anonymous Lawyer is! He's my former students, their bosses, and their colleagues at the big firms. This hysterically funny novel made me laugh and cry -- laugh at my profession, and cry for the talented students who sell their souls to these soulless law firms. This is Grey's Anatomy for lawyers, with a touch of Seinfeld. You don't have to be a lawyer to laugh out loud at Anonymous Lawyer. Everybody will be talking about this book and seeing a little bit of themselves in its exaggerated truths."

But I'm not going to bore you with this book stuff. The link'll stay over in the sidebar, but it'll be business as usual over here, unless I get an outcry for something else. Updates about the book will be over at the law firm web site, if you're looking for them.

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