Saturday, April 24, 2004

I'm sorry for not updating this more often this week. It's been a busy time: annual "please look for another job" season. We don't actually do layoffs here -- well, unless someone has truly done something awful, like lose an account, or cry in front of a client. Instead, we do "performance reviews," and read to the associates from a list of mysterious code words and phrases that are supposed to indicate whether they're on the partner track or should start looking for a different line of work, but are vague enough that anyone can interpret them however they want until we get really desperate to get rid of them and then we're slightly less obtuse. In fact, I'm in the office this morning to catch up on work I didn't do because I was in performance reviews with associates all day Friday, and meetings with the other partners to prepare for those reviews on Thursday. So one of my associates has been getting these vague hints for a few years now. We started out gently: "you may want to focus more on the details in some of your written work," which we thought we provide adequate notice that she was not a rising star at the firm. She didn't take the hint, or just decided to ignore it. Last year, we told her: "some people have observed that your personality may be best suited to small-firm life in a low-pressure environment where no one will care about the quality of the legal services provided." We thought this was pretty blunt. She did not take the hint. This year, it was up to me to come up with something that on the surface sounded polite, but actually meant that she should leave immediately and never come back. Fortunately, she made it easy for me by botching an assignment I gave her earlier in the week to clean the office microwave. She cleaned it with steel wool, and the next time someone used it, the metal fragments left in it caused a small fire. So she was on the hook for that. Plus, she misspelled the name of a client in a tender offer document, and that's really a rookie mistake that we just won't tolerate. "Do you remember the microwave incident," I asked her? "We think perhaps you're like that microwave, and the high-pressure work here in overheating you, plus most of the written work you hand in would be suitable as kindling in a fire, much like the one you caused," I said. "Oh, I'm so sorry about the microwave," she said. "And I'll try to improve, I really will." "I trust the janitor to do legal work more than I trust you," I said. "And I want to increase that trust in the coming year by demonstrating the true extent of my capabilities," she said. "I think another job may be the best thing for you," I said. "Oh, but I love this one," she said. "I wish you'd fall out the window," I said. "I think I need to take this call," she said. And exited. I've scheduled a "follow-up" meeting for next week. Hopefully by then I can come up with a clearer way to express myself, but I'm a lawyer, so obfuscation comes naturally.

It's really a shame member/partners are so abusive to associates. I'm glad I don't work at a big firm where the big fish partners think they actually earned their way to the top and blather on about the dues associates must endlessly pay to earn the trust of those who have arrived. Get over yourself.
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