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.

Why tell a person in this situation a lie? There's really no point.

I've frakly had more than one instance in which I'm asked to meet with somebody going to law school, or thinking about entering. They ultimately ask about the details of law work, chances of getting a job. I have to be careful not to be too blunt, but I don't lead them on.

It does make them very uncomfortable. Typically these people have already been fed a line, so its a shock when it doesn't keep up. But giving them illusions is not a service, so there's no point in doing it.

Also, while lawyers hate to hear this, I can see no reason why this fellow would be unqualified for law school. The implication is that the fellow isn't very smart. Well, being smart is not a prerequisite to being a lawyer. Lots of lawyers are as dense as fenceposts. All lawyers know this. We all know people in firms, and some in good firms, who are of less than average intelligence. And getting through law school doesn't require smarts either. It helps, no doubt, but plenty of basically dumb people get through law school as they are able to retain what they study.

Also, FWIW, being a jock and poor law student (neither of which would describe me by quite some margin) doesn't mean he'll be poor lawyer. A law school contemporary of mine was both of those things and went on to be highly successful. His personality gets him clients and he's actually a pretty good lawyer.

Finally, the class of lawyers are not those who got beat up on the playground. They tend to be the ones who were unusually competitive. Perhaps aggravatingly so. But they weren't the weak.
As always, sorry for the typos. I'm definately not a typist.
Many a former athelete flourishes at an upper-middle-tier law firm. There's nothing quite as appetizing as seeing their pink, beefy forearms in tennis whites at the firm outing. Puts me in the mind of a good Easter ham. Speaking of appetizing, it's good that he's a dumb jock as he will have no idea how vulgar the idea of a three-course-sushi-lunch is.
sp. crx. athlete
ld, i love you, and someday i will find you. i can tell where you live from the background of your profile photo. you are to me what cynical despair is to al. the closer i get. the closer i get.
A plus side to an athelete being a law student is in fact the food. The one I knew still lived in the atheletic dorm his first year, and would bring over their free chow. We only go the fruit, snacks, etc., but it was pretty good stuff.
No, he has his own firm. I wish somebody proofread mine, but as you can see, even I do not do that often enough.
Oh please. I was all-american in my sport in college and it helped me during recruiting. I got offers from many of top firms in the country (all those i applied to). It's clear that nobody here has any idea what they're talking about, AL included.

All things equal, athletic success is a plus. When you're looked up to by an entire team and school, you naturally develop confidence and leadership abilities. Athletic success requires discipline and hard work and ambition. No good firm will loosen its academic requirements just to hire a good athlete, but if you've got the academic credentials to back up your athletic achievements, it is a big help in getting noticed.

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