Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm sorry I was unable to post yesterday. The firm decided to shut down the Internet for a while, in order to stop associates from e-mailing their colleagues complaining that we haven't yet raised our salaries. I know the list of firms keeps growing, but we're trying to stay on the cutting edge of law firms who don't think associates need to make quite as much money as these new raises will give them. We will probably match at some point in the next week, but I've been lobbying to make everyone sweat for a few days, wonder if we'll match, resign themselves to thinking we won't, and then surprise everyone with an announcement after everyone else has already done it. This way we surprise the associates and get some more goodwill out of the whole thing. If you're just a copycat, your people expect it and no one's that excited. But if you make them worry for a little while, the psychic benefits in the end are that much sweeter.

We like to do something similar with the milk at the coffee stations. Keep it out until it's right on the verge of souring, so that people start to get a little bit frustrated and disappointed when they pour it into their coffee and it curdles... but then when we replace it with a fresh container, everyone is jubilant. We wouldn't get those moments of jubilation if we just kept it fresh all the time. It's all part of a firm-wide strategy to keep the associates on edge and make sure they recognize every decision we make for their benefit, instead of taking things for granted. Like toilet paper. A few years ago we hired a "toilet paper fairy." Really she's just an old woman making the minimum wage, but we liked the title. She goes around to all of the bathrooms and hands out toilet paper while people are doing what they have to do in there. If there was toilet paper there for everyone, all the time, no one would even think about it. But if there's never toilet paper, and you have to wait for the toilet paper fairy to get to you, you have no choice but to think about it, and you're grateful each and every time it happens.

Same thing with the air conditioning -- it doesn't turn on until it hits 83 degrees, but when it does start blowing, you can hear the cheers down the hall. And the parking garage. There's no attendant, and the bar only lifts every three minutes, so you usually have to wait to exit. But what a thrill, each and every time. And travel expenses. Sure, we pay them, but usually we reject them first and make people resubmit with more explanation. They get all ready to fight the system... and then it goes through, and they're grateful.

Little moments of joy, anywhere we can manufacture them. That's all we're hoping to do. And I think our associates appreciate it. At least more than at Sullivan and Cromwell, where I read today there's been more than 30% associate attrition each of the last two years. Of course, I think the industry average is 92%, so they're actually doing okay. No, wait, I read that wrong. 21%. Oh, that sounds more reasonable. We lost 420 out of 423 last year, so we were at... right about the average.

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