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.

Why are you feeling bad about this? She asked a question without knowing the situation and made the firm look bad. You reacted reasonably, as far as I can tell. It sounds like you have an eye on this one. Crush her spirits and then take her out for pie. If you think that people won't notice you're wrong. People just won't care. And it was a stupid question. And she does do it a lot. Jackass. What is it with you and stupid women?
What was the point of having the associates at the meeting at all? You admit you didn't prep them, or provide them with the (apparantly) necessary background, and yet you were upset with the woman when she tried to fill in the gaps of her knowledge. It seems like you were more at fault than she for (1) not getting her up to speed; (2) inviting her to the meeting anyway; and (3) chastising her when she asked questions. You suggest that the associates are cut-throat, but you are contributing to this environment by punishing a lawyer who is trying to do her job by gathering facts and learning about the case or the client's business. A good lawyer asks a lot of questions.
Way to beat a dead horse.
Sorry to continue to beat a dead horse, but it seems to me that AL was mad because the question reflected badly on him personally (rather than the firm). He has taken two associates into a meeting and then one of the associates has indicated that they weren't briefed prior to the meeting and are therefore their presence is, in essence, an expensive waste of time. Clients don't like lawyers who don't keep their teams up to date. Clients don't like lawyers that bill for no reason.

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