Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Stop hiding from me. Twice, I saw you turn around and head the other way as you saw me coming. Once, I saw you dart into the bathroom. Yes, you owe me some research. But, no, it's not urgent, and I wasn't going to ask you for it today. That's why I didn't e-mail you. That's why I didn't call you. I don't need it today. It's busy-work anyway. Mostly because I don't think you're very bright. Yet you seem frightened. I can only assume this means the research isn't going well. I haven't asked about it. But apparently you think I will, and so you're trying to avoid me. Stop it. It's noticeable, and it only makes me want to make your life worse. Finish the research. Take your time. I won't say a word about it. But then, when you send it to me, I'll realize that in fact I didn't give you some of the most important details. So you'll have to start again. Oh well. Another late night in the office. That's what you get for hiding from me. Be a man. Stand up straight. Do your work, and do it well. I'm not playing games.

But I did like your shirt today. Where did you buy it?

Monday, November 29, 2004

I just got through with a client meeting. It didn't go well. I asked two mid-level associates to sit in on the meeting with me, but didn't have a chance to give them any background. In the middle of the meeting, one of them asked a question that was pretty stupid. She probably would have realized it was stupid if I'd told her anything about the situation before the meeting. My reaction to her question was probably a little too harsh. I asked her to leave. I told her that if she was going to ask questions like that, she shouldn't do it in front of a client, and I told her it wasn't worth her sitting through the rest of the meeting and I would bring her up to speed later. She looked like she was going to cry. I think I was mad at myself for not preparing them at all for the meeting more than I was mad at her, but she was an easier target to take it out on. Right after the meeting, I told the other associate I thought I had been a bit harsh and was going to go apologize. But he told me she deserved it. "That was a dumb question. I would never have asked a question like that," he said. "She does that a lot. I don't think you need to apologize at all." I told him he's a jackass and went to apologize. The associates complain, but, deep down, they're worse than the partners. The culture they've been brought up in is much more cut-throat than what we had to deal with. It's brutal. They fight to see who can bill the most hours. They try to cut each other down to partners behind each other's backs. We know who the team players are. I mean, it doesn't really matter, in the end, whether or not you're a team player. But we know who you are. We take advantage, and it doesn't do you much good. But at least we recognize it.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The office is surprisingly full this afternoon with people who spent too much time eating turkey and need to make up the hours. I brought in some leftover pie to offer to anyone who looked like he'd been here all weekend, and they approached like vultures. I quickly ran out of pie. And it was good pie. My mother made it, despite her quickly-approaching dementia. She doesn't understand why I have to work so hard. No matter how many times I explain it, she doesn't understand. So now I just tell her it'll pay for the assisted living facility she's inching closer and closer to each year and she shuts up.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I thought I would wish the people who read this a Happy Thanksgiving. I'm thankful that this year I finally don't have to go to Anonymous Wife's insipid relatives and give everyone at the table legal advice about their leaking implants, greedy creditors, or pending paternity suits. It takes all the fun out of the holiday. Instead, I'll go to my brother's house, tell everyone Anonymous Wife and Son are sick at home with the flu, and watch Aunt Fay eat an entire ham.

The one Thanksgiving table I wish I could be at is where a certain one of our first-year associates will be. The bar results came out last week, and she did not pass. Imagine having to explain that to your family. Like all of our peer firms, without a backbone, we give associates a second chance to do what they should have done the first time before we terminate them. I don't think we should. I think if you can't pass the bar on the first try you shouldn't even be allowed to take it again. You should be banned from the profession for life. It is frightening to think that you can spend millions of dollars on legal services and potentially find yourself working with someone who didn't pass the bar on the first try. Pathetic. We pay for any bar class you want to take. We give you a living allowance so you can afford to spend all day, every day for 2 months studying. If you can't manage to pass with all of those advantages, you deserve to work at In-N-Out.

She cried when she found out. Apparently she cried even more when she got called into a partner's office (not me) and screamed at. People who fail the bar leave pretty quickly, even if they pass the second time. You don't want to be known as the one who failed the bar. You need a fresh start. Of course, even with a fresh start, if you failed the bar, it's not like you aren't going to screw something else up eventually, so the fresh start doesn't last very soon. And, pretty soon, you're working for the government. Where everyone failed the bar.

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your can of cranberry sauce is contaminated with botulism so you can sue Ocean Spray for millions and retire rich. Or you can just sue grandma for cooking the stuffing inside the turkey.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

There's a partner here who's sleeping with a young associate. It's obvious, everyone knows. I think it's outrageous. They're constantly flirting in the hall, people see them heading out to lunch together. It's one thing to have something discreet going on, that no one is completely sure about. But it's quite another for it to be out in the open. What makes this one especially galling is that the genders are flipped. The partner is a she. The associate is a he. That's not the way it's supposed to work. It's understood that there are going to be female associates who are prepared to do whatever it takes to make partner, and will find the guys with the vulnerable marriages and make their move. It's part of how the industry works. But to flip it around, it seems more vulgar. He's a very good-looking young man (I think he had his teeth bleached) and can surely have his pick of women, yet he chooses the shrew down the hall. It's obviously just for his career. Perhaps I'm jealous. No female partners tried to seduce me when I was a young associate. Of course, when I was a young associate, there were no female partners.

Monday, November 22, 2004

We had a little party in my practice area today at lunchtime, to celebrate Thanksgiving. What a waste. You don't think about this when you're an associate, but as a partner it becomes very clear that every dollar that gets spent on unnecessary frivolities is money out of my pocket. Everyone's going to have a big meal with their families later this week, except the ones stuck in the office, so why do we have to give them food today? They were all very greedy at the party, stuffing themselves with the little pieces of toast with the salmon and olives. At least it wasn't open bar. I sometimes see the spending reports that come through. Whenever we do an open bar event it's ridiculous. Lawyers are all drunks anyway. I'd bet there are less than a half-dozen partners here without a bottle of liquor somewhere in their offices. And some mouthwash, to hide the smell when you're drinking at ten in the morning. We had the toast pieces and other real food, but then we also had cookies and cake and dessert food. That's what really made me mad. If it's going to be lunch, we don't need dessert. And if it's just supposed to be dessert, we don't need lunch. It's just more money wasted. And then the leftover food, instead of letting us partners take it home, since we did basically pay for it, they give it to the secretaries and the janitors. Ridiculous. I hate all these benefits we feel we have to provide. Who needs subsidized gym membership and free real estate closings? No one else gets that. Health plans I understand. But we go overboard. People don't realize what some of these things cost.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

If I was going to make one change to legal education, I would require all law students spend a year in the military. Military service would make law firm life feel posh and painless in comparison, and would stop all the whining from first-year associates about how many boxes of documents they have to sort through or how many thousand-page contracts they have to frisk for inconsistencies. The snottiness of young graduates, the sense of entitlement they feel they have, expecting to come in here and immediately be given work that matters, or work that is actually engaging and interesting. It makes me angry. Not just at the associates themselves, but at the system that encourages it. All through school, these people are told they are special. Undergraduates don't even get C's and D's anymore, let alone F's. Half of them graduate with honors from a lot of top schools. Law school is even worse. People don't go to class, they spend zero energy on their work, and still, show up for the final, get a B. Show up and be reasonably intelligent, get a B+. At least. It's too easy. They're pampered. Life is not that easy. And they're not used to it. Especially the ones who haven't done real work. Who haven't shot a gun. Who haven't pursued the enemy into the jungle. Who haven't been frightened for their lives. I want associates who know what life-threatening danger really feels like, so they'll be more than happy to work as hard as we want so as not to be sent back to the killing fields. One year, mandatory military service. Especially the women.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The 1L resumes started today. It's like this every year. I know most schools used to have guidelines that say 1Ls can't send anything out until December 1, and I think they still do, but every year the process gets more and more competitive and we start getting them earlier and earlier. It's very hard for a 1L to get a job here. We nominally recruit at our top schools, but mostly to get our name in their minds for when they're 2Ls. We'll interview a few students, and have perhaps one or two 1Ls in the summer class, if we're blown away by anyone. It's all a game. The difference between taking one 1L and taking zero is that if we take one, people think they have a chance, and put us on their list, and pay attention to us. If we take zero, no one knows we exist when we come back the next fall for the 2Ls. But the worst part are the phone calls from 1Ls who've never looked for a job before, and they call every two weeks to follow up on their resume, like I remember whether I've read it or not. If I remember someone's name from having already called once, the second time they call without any reason, I throw away the resume. No exceptions. It's more to make myself feel better than anything else. If I haven't called you and you have to call me, it means as a 1L you're not getting the job. So it doesn't matter if I throw the resume away or not. Every fall I also get calls from students at some schools "updating their firm contact information," which, as far as I've been able to tell, involves the creation of mail merge spreadsheets that let students apply to hundreds of firms without nearly enough trouble. I assume they are better at mail merge than I am. I wondered how they found students to call the firms. And then one of them told me that what they do is dangle the promise of access. "You'll be on the phone with the recruiting coordinators, and sometimes even the hiring partners. So if they're hiring anyone, if you make a good impression, they'll remember your name and you'll have a foot in the door." This is baloney. They think this helps them. It doesn't. If anything, it makes you look weak in my eyes. You thought you needed to telemarket in order to have a chance? You must be useless. Sometimes we give them mercy interviews if we think it'll hurt our reputation on campus if we don't. That means we invite them down here, but we know they won't be getting an offer. They don't know. It makes those interviews a bit more fun than most.

Monday, November 15, 2004

This morning a sixth-year associate announced that she'll be moving to a "part-time" schedule because she wants to spend more time with her year-old daughter. She's in for a surprise. Part-time has been the biggest boon for the firm since we instituted the policy a few years ago, reluctantly, since a number of our peer firms had done it. What we didn't realize at the time, but has become abundantly clear now, it that all part-time means is that people work 100% of the time they used to work for 80% of the pay. It's a profit center. It's fantastic. Technically, the people working part time don't come in on Fridays. That's the part-time part of it, the 80%. But their clients come in on Friday, and the partners in charge of their cases come in on Friday, and meetings get scheduled on Fridays. So they end up spending a few hours working from home on Friday, so as to not get behind. But then they usually end up coming in over the weekend to catch up too, and in some cases they're here more weekends than the people working full-time. Their "flexibility" just means they substitute some weekend hours for Friday hours, they work just as hard, but they get 20% less salary, and lose pretty much any chance to ever make partner. The truth they don't realize is they could work from home on Fridays as a full-timer anyway if they were careful about which partners they ended up working for. I won't usually tolerate it, but a lot of people here would have no problem if the work product was good. But I think in a way they know this when they go on part-time schedule. They know they're going to work just as hard. They want to work just as hard. But they're willing to spend 20% of their salary just to be able to tell themselves, and everyone they meet, that they work "part-time" for the good of their children. That they're making some sort of sacrifice. It's self-delusion, and it makes them feel better about putting their career first if they can tell their husband / friends / hair stylist that they only work "part-time" and they're giving up such magnificent career opportunities all so they can get by with only one nanny instead of two. Pathetic. But the firm loves it now. The more the merrier.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Pathetic response to the previous post. I wouldn't hire any of you.

To the person who keeps asking for a smaller comment font size: tell me how. I will make it smaller, but I don't know how. You tell me how and I will. Also, if I knew how to ban commenters, you would be first on my list. Just thought you might want to know.

To 10:35 AM: "I'll work my self up to partner through shear hard work." Are you a gardener? Shear hard work? Come on.

To 2:08 PM: Maybe you think you're not "expected to bill more than 1900 a year" but the associates striving for partner sure are. We tell associates here there's no hours requirement. We don't mean it. No one means it. The hardest workers get the most respect. And the least respect. But the ones billing 1900 aren't getting the good cases, and won't be on the right track for their careers. They're our wage slaves. We need wage slaves. But they're replaceable. And you don't want to be replaceable.

To 1:08 PM: I don't care if you go to Harvard. There are lots of morons at Harvard. True, your chances of an offer if you interview here are higher than they are from most other schools, but it doesn't mean I want to work with you. Harvard is one of the least enjoyable places to interview students every year. Partly because it comes so late in the process that I'm tired of talking to people. But partly because of people like you who think they're entitled to an offer just because they go to Harvard. I didn't go to Harvard, and I did okay. Although the chocolate covered pretzels in the Charles Hotel hospitality suites are unusually good for hotel food.

To the people who sent me resumes via e-mail: Thanks. I'll save them for when we're looking for paralegals.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

One spot left in the summer class. Tell me why it should be yours.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

My secretary is having a fit about my billing records this week. Apparently I accidentally recorded an hour more than I was in the office last Friday. I write my time on a sheet of paper and hand it to my secretary at the end of the day for her to input into the system. We have an electronic system on the computer. I don't know how to use it. I try to be good about my billing but it's hard to be accurate all the time. You start thinking about other things when you sit down to do work, and before you know it, a tenth of an hour has passed and you really haven't gotten anything done. I take turns with which clients get charged for my weblog time. Usually I pick the ones who don't read the bills too carefully. There are two types of clients when it comes to bills. One type demands a detailed printout from us and labors over every line. I get phone calls, "why did it take your associate two hours to research that issue?" And if we don't report in enough detail that they know what we're doing, I get phonecalls about that. Then there are some clients that don't care, we send them one sheet of paper with a big number on it and they pay it. And obviously we know which is which. When there's time that doesn't look right, it may not be fair, but it gets a lot less scrutiny on our end when we know the client isn't reading. I once billed for a dream I had about a client. More like a nightmare.

Monday, November 08, 2004

I'm stuck here late reading through a memo a couple of my associates put together about a new client matter we just took on. I wasted too much of my afternoon interviewing a potential lateral hire, a mid-level associate from a peer firm. I don't normally deal with real estate people, but the partner this guy was supposed to interview with had a last-minute meeting and so they sent him down the hall to talk to me for little while. I spent most of the time asking him why he'd want to leave a firm with the reputation for the nicest offices in the city. Especially since as a mid-level associate aiming for partner he knows how much time he'll be spending in the office. It's the commute. Which makes sense, I suppose. It's always the commute. The work's the same. He seemed too excited. I don't mean that in a bad way. I mean that he seemed genuinely excited to be thinking about new opportunities. Maybe that's what I need. A new opportunity to make life interesting again. We should switch places. He can work here, and I can go do employment litigation. It would be exciting to learn a new practice area. This was fun back when I started. Before it was the same, day after day. Even just for new gossip. I know all the gossip here. This guy today was good though. No gossip. It's much more entertaining when the laterals hate their firms and tell me why. One woman once told me she got sexually harassed by a partner, and that was one of the reasons she was looking to leave. And, with a little gentle coaxing, she named him. And I knew him. Small world.

Friday, November 05, 2004

There's an scheduled e-mail outage this weekend, for maintenance. Our IT department is miserable. Awful. You could make the argument that e-mail is more important over the weekend, because during the week you know people will be at their desks and so you can just call them. But over the weekend, people could be anywhere, and it's only by e-mail that you can get them to come back from the shopping mall, or whatever it is people do with their families on the weekends when they're not at work, and come into the office. You could call them on their cell phones, but no one does that now that everyone has Blackberries. The phone feels too personal. I don't want to tell someone over the phone that they have to leave their grandfather's hospital bedside and come in to the office, and hear their voice on the other end wavering and questioning and wondering if it's really necessary. I want to send them an e-mail, know they'll read it, and let them make decisions about what they need to do without having to listen to them do it and feel like the bad guy when I tell them it really would make things a lot easier if they were here, or that there's a team of people waiting who can't get anything done without the document on your computer, or that it's not fair if everyone else has to be here on Saturday and you don't, even though you don't really have anything pressing.

I have a lunch appointment today with the son of a friend of mine. He's a 1L in law school and his father asked if I'd talk to him about some firms in the area, and how he might think about starting a job search. I think he was waiting for me to offer to interview his son for a summer position here, but that's not going to happen, so he settled for lunch. How this kid ended up in law school, I do not know. All through high school and college he was apparently a typical jock. Played a bunch of sports, was all-state in one or two, but not good enough to turn pro although for a while during high school they hoped he'd get nabbed in the late rounds of the baseball draft, but then he hurt his shoulder. There are some people who like to hire athletic guys at their firm, they like to have people who were once "cool" in high school or college. I think most of us would rather not.

Lawyers, especially at firms like this one, were not the "cool" kids. There is a complete redefinition of "cool" once you get to law school and come work for a firm, and it's based on power and on associating yourself with those in power. The associates who are the rising stars are probably the ones who got beaten up the most in the schoolyard. They're the ones who suck up to people like me, but there's a fine line they have to watch between sucking up and getting places, and sucking up and being seen as pathetic. If you suck up, and you're comparatively incompetent, you're pathetic, because you end up working long hours at the bottom of the totem pole, thinking you're impressing everyone above you when really you're everyone's lackey doing all the crap work. But if you suck up and you stand out for your competence, everyone wants to work with you and you move up the ranks very quickly. You get put on better projects, you get better work to do, and you get a reputation as a star. For everything that's negative, it's hard to deny that it really is a meritocracy. If you can put in the hours and consistently do good work, and make me feel like your ideas were my ideas, and don't argue when I take credit for your work, and don't misunderstand instructions or spend weeks on a project you could finish in six hours, I will take you under my wing and you will have a future here. The problem, for incompetent young associates, is most of them believe themselves to be competent, and don't realize when they've become pathetic. They think they are rising stars, when in fact everyone just craps on them because they'll take it, thinking these are great opportunities, because that's what we want them to think, when in fact they're being laughed at behind their backs.

This is not, unfortunately, the story I get to tell my friend's son at lunch. Instead, I will tell him how rewarding life at a big firm is, how many great opportunities there are, and then I will give him a list of firms that I happen to know hire 1Ls so he can bother them, tell him I'll be glad to take his resume just in case something opens up here, and treat him to a 3-course lunch he can go home and tell his father about. I think I'm in the mood for sushi today.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The last 3L we're waiting to hear from about whether or not she'll be accepting our full-time offer called today to ask for more time to decide. She acted on the phone like she was "entitled" to more time, like it was automatic. I didn't appreciate that. We spent a lot of money on her this summer. She's entitled to nothing. She's lucky to have an offer. I told her February 1 is the latest. She asked for April 1. I told her to call me in mid-January and tell me where she stands, and we'll see. I honestly couldn't care less if we lose her, but I have to pretend. That's not completely honest. On the margins it's true, but we do need our first-year class to be the size we planned, just to replace all of the associates who leave every year. One more or one less won't affect us, but two or three or four and we'll feel it, in one way or another. The second- and third-year associates will feel it most because there won't be enough people to pass down crap work to. She said she's still exploring some public interest jobs. Again with the public interest. Every day lately someone is talking about public interest as if public interest lawyers are something other than the people from terrible law schools who can't get jobs at a place like this one. Every single lawyer at the Sierra Club would trade places with me if given the opportunity, or if not then they deserve to be at the Sierra Club, because they aren't accomplishing anything at all, and they're getting paid nothing to do it. It hit me a number of years ago, about a year before I made partner, when in a moment of weakness I felt like I was getting burned out doing this stuff and wondered if it was worth it. I called a legal recruiter to see what some other options might be. I snuck out for a couple of interviews. But then I realized it's all meaningless. Life is meaningless. No one is doing great things. Even the people who seem like they're doing great things, the older you get the more you realize their lives are no better than yours. Working fewer hours would just give me more time to realize there's nothing out there. More hours to sit around the empty house I'm going home to. More hours to waste time until I die. When I was a second-year associate, a partner once told me that when he was an associate the way he made sure he was as productive for the firm as he could possibly be is he tracked his hours in the office, but also outside the office. I never forgot this. He'd keep a diary of his time for everything he did. 0.5 hours watching TV. 1.0 hours at the gym. 1.5 hours out to dinner with his wife. And he discovered he was wasting a lot of time. He told me that he realized if he was ever going to make partner, he needed to cut down on all non-essential outside-of-the-office activities. He dedicated his life to job productivity. He didn't leave himself time to think about the meaning of it all. I don't know if I'm strong enough to leave myself any time to think. I'm not happy with the thoughts I have. I need to rededicate my thoughts toward something more productive. I need to find an unwinnable negotiation and win it. Or get some associates on it and take credit for it. That's why we need as many first-years as we can get. They don't ask for credit.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

They've set aside a conference room for people to watch election results, with a TV on and some cookies. This way no one has to go home. I walked by for some cookies, but they were gone already. I meant to vote, but I didn't get a chance because of a last-minute conference call. I'll vote next time. Of course, I said that last time. Some sanctimonius associate was telling people that if they don't vote, they should be ashamed of themselves. I don't know why he thinks it matters. The companies we represent probably have a much bigger effect on the government than most of the people we vote for anyway. There are people here who shuttle back and forth between the firm and government. They feel guilty making so much money that they feel they have to spend a few years on the poverty level working government hours instead of putting in real hours here.

Monday, November 01, 2004

I just got off the phone. We lost another kid to a peer firm. But not just any firm. We lost him to a firm I can't believe anyone would choose over us. I've said before that we're all the same, and most of us are. But this firm is really a sweatshop, beyond the normal bounds. Even we realize that, and people have called us worse. But while we might keep people here a few weekends a year, they'll keep you there every night until three and at least 6 days a week, consistently. I can't imagine life as an associate there, and I've been through a lot. And the work they do is not any different from the work we do, so it's just a culture issue. You give your life to one of these places, no matter where you work. But to lose someone to a place that is without question more unbearable, in almost every respect (I will admit their window views are nicer), makes me feel silly for even giving him an offer, since no one with half a brain would ever choose them over us. This was one of my future stars. He had the asterisk next to his name. But nope, won't happen. I hope he ends up on due diligence for his first eighteen months. Worthless law students.

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