Tuesday, September 21, 2004

One thing we do too often here is reinvent the wheel. I ask an associate to get me a memo on some point of law, I don't care if she writes it herself. If there's a memo someone wrote for another partner last week, give me that one. As long as it's decent. But why waste your own time and my time and the client's time on doing things that someone has already done. It's why we invested so much money into a document management system, not that I know how it works or exactly how much money it actually cost, but no one ever uses it. I know people have written these memos before. I even tell associates sometimes that I think there's a memo in the system they can use and merely update. But hardly anyone ever does. If you want to make more work for yourself, and make me think you're stupid for it, that's fine. But there's a reason we keep old documents.

The reason I write this today is because I gave an associate an assignment today and then a few hours later remembered that I had a memo on the same topic from about 6 months ago. I called the associate and told her, but she said she'd already started the research on this one from scratch and she'd "just as well go ahead and finish it herself." "No, it's not just as well," I yelled into the phone. "Maybe the other associate was smarter than you and found something you're not finding. Maybe not. But it's your job to check. Unless you don't want a job anymore and we can just give your salary to someone who doesn't want to waste her time, my time, and the client's money." "I'm sorry. I'll check." "Yes, you will. And if you could grab a Coke from the attorney lounge for me on your way up to give me the memo, that would be great too. Thank you."

Thanks AL! This posting made my day. *lol*
AL, if your telephone conversation with the associate didn't really happen, and you're just writing this more or less for "fun," then I suppose that's cool. But if it actually took place, was it really necessary to scream at her like that? Seriously, you can be stern and tell her exactly what you think she should do without putting her down like that.

Also, why, from time to time, do a lot of commenters here seem to act like AL on one of his "bad" days, and start calling each other "stupid," etc. (witness the comments in the previous post)? I hope that's not how law firms are like too. I mean this place seems to bring out the worst in people, to breed hatred and spite and all of our more wretched qualities. Whatever.
It's all about power, and this post doesn't reflect only the legal profession. The description of the associate's treatment is no different than how many CEO's or VP's or business leaders treat their "underlings." You could take this script, change the scene, and it would still reflect many American workplaces. Maybe Dr. Phil should address this in his next book. He seems to be the only person everyone listens to these days.
AL, if you're going to scream and yell at your associates, you can't just fucking cap it off with a "thank you." It undermines your tyrannical credibility. Its like Pol Pot giving the intellectuals tea before they got the hoe to the head.
More B.S. I can tell you from first hand experience that the first thing done when researching an issue is to check to see what is in the brief file. This guy (AL) is total B.S. Furthermore, what associate would not jump at the chance to do less work? I think AL flips hamburgers and dreams of becoming a real lawyer.
6:52--you might be right if you're working at Jim and Joe, Attorneys at Law, but "checking the brief file" at a large law firm involves more than flipping through Jethro's top drawer. I agree with AL that his associate was stupid for not checking, but checking all possible places where the memo could be might end up taking as long as actually doing the damn project from scratch.
So, we are to believe that these very best and brightest associates at this biglaw firm are not smart enough to either use a document management system or learn how to effectively use it? It tells me:

1) These very best and brightest associates are simply justifying their existence by bypassing this document management system for the sake of job security. After all, if a memo has been previously written...less work, i.e. less billables, i.e. leave the office at 7pm instead of 9pm.

2) AL has no control over his associates since this habit of not using the document system is widespread.

3) AL's biglaw firm is pure BS and is a figment of everyone's imagination, but nevertheless very entertaining.

I think AL is really a law school ethics teacher looking for new exam material.
Zzzzzz... AL, you can do better(?)
What do you expect from the associate? She probably went to college with no direction, picked poly sci because it was an easy major, and maybe worked a couple years selling clothes at a department store. Then she decided to go to law school because she figured out that degrees in poly sci, history, English, sociology, Greek and Roman antiquities, music, or any other liberal arts degrees soaked liberal acedamia can't put food on her table. Mostly because what she has, nobody needs.

The bottom line is that most kids in law school are those who have no useful education and no interest in doing anything hard.

The poor associate can bill hours by re-researching and rewriting a memo, which is much easier than finding more work to do.
It's also a sad fact that information retrieval systems don't work very well if the people who write documents don't take a few extra minutes to index them so that others can find them. A brief containing stellar research on (say) the standards for granting summary judgment in Iowa that's indexed only as "MSJ Smith v. Jones" ["MSJ" = motion for summary judgment] probably won't be found by an associate who's searching for summary judgment standards under Iowa law.
Yep, this blog is fake.
Anonymous @ 9:28 AM was a science or engineering major and wants everyone else to know how much harder he studied in undergrad. But he's really still upset that the Liberal Arts people got more tail in undergrad. Of course, I'm a liberal arts major who's pissed at the business majors, because they got even more tail than I did.
"Yes, you will. And if you could grab a Coke from the attorney lounge for me on your way up to give me the memo, that would be great too. Thank you."

I get the feeling from this post that AL is an associate. In my experience it is the assocaties, and not the partners that want to find precedent memos etc.

At my firm have a whizz-bang DMS, which is fine if you want to find "Agreement for Sale and Purchase - Business and Assets - Long Form - Vendor Draft", but no one thinks to file advice. We have full-text search capability for all documents, but that is a pain in the ass.

To anon 1.45: abuse on message boards is pretty common, (particularly with lawyers who think they are smarter than everyone) - IRL, 99% of the abusive posters would self-censor, however, there are no consequences for the abuse here, and so people are free in engage in this sort of behaviour.
She made a mistake. AL tore her a new one. She probably won't make that mistake again. This sort of thing happens in many places. In one company I worked at, at least one VP would be 'fired' at every meeting with the president. Of course, the VP(s) would be back the next day and the president was just a tempermental bastard. In another case at the same company, one mild-mannered guy had a heart attack at his desk only minutes after the boss chewed him out in a very loud fashion. Working in such a place is bad for your health. Better make sure they pay really well.
Come on, AL. This blog would be a much more effective tool for scaring the shit out of law students and other would-be lawyers if it stayed in the realm of the possible. The quote put it over the edge.
True! I didn't believe that AL said "thank you" either.

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