Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I think one of my colleagues had some work done. Botox or something like that. He wasn't here yesterday, and then he came in very late today all red-faced. I don't know if botox makes someone red-faced or what. He looks somehow younger, and less haggard than he looked on Monday when he stayed until midnight calculating possible penalties for SEC violations. Maybe he just stayed in all day and slept, or had an allergic reaction to one of the new salad dressings in the cafeteria. Or maybe he's becoming just another Californian, who goes in for plastic surgery every few months like it's a dental appointment. I'm not originally from California, but I've been here since after law school. I wasn't going to reveal what state I'm in, but I realized I'd already given it away by mentioning the ocean view, the golf weather, and the Six Flags my family went to last weekend. But it's a big state. I'm sure I can still be anonymous for another week or so.

Once again it's Wednesday and I want to leave early to play golf, so I'm in the office much earlier than I ought to be. It's not so much that I need to be here so early, but it's a reflex from my days as an associate -- I don't want anyone thinking I'm not committed to my job, and I don't want people talking about how I shouldn't be trying to get a round of golf in every Wednesday. Even though I don't really think anyone would say that, especially not associates because if they did I'd get them fired. (No, obviously that's not true. Instead I'd just give them really crappy work to do, like searching through my client's e-mail archives to find out if he ever mentioned that he was planning on cheating on his taxes, just in case that ever comes up in the completely-unrelated case we're working on.) So at least if I get here early, people acknowledge I'm doing what I can to compensate for the hours I want to miss. The plus for being a partner is that I can make the plans to play golf and be pretty sure, given what's on my plate, that I won't have to cancel. It's a luxury the associates don't always have, although more and more we're trying.

The other thing that made me leap out of bed this morning is that no matter how many years you do this, the last day of the month is always a pleasant day to go to work. I guess it's different now that we have direct deposit, but it's at least nice to get that pay stub and find out how much has been deposited. When I was an associate I developed a payday ritual. $20, on the way home, on something stupid that I don't need. Sometimes more if I get particularly inspired, but usually I try to stick to twenty bucks. Last month it was 10 packages of Silly Putty, for no reason except that Silly Putty is fun. I put all of the Silly Putty together into one big ball, brought it to the office, and have found that bouncing it off the window -- think Toby Ziegler in The West Wing -- is actually a very pleasant stress reliever. I'd bounce it off the wall, but it would bother the guy next door. What was disappointing is that even though Silly Putty does a great job lifting the print off the comics section in the newspaper, it does a terrible job lifting the print off our legal documents.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The cafeteria downstairs switched salad dressings sometime recently. It bothers me that I notice this, because it means I'm eating in the cafeteria too often. In a way, it's nice to have a cafeteria in the building, because there certainly are days when I'm too busy to go out and find some food, and I'm not organized enough to pack a lunch for myself every day, although I probably should. But in a way, it would be nice to be forced to leave the building, even if just for a few minutes to pick something up from a street vendor or a sandwich shop. Although when I was interviewing with firms, a long time ago, I remember one firm that was on the same block as a McDonalds, and I interviewed around lunchtime, and every lawyer I met was either eating McDonalds during the interview, or I could see the wrappers in his trash can. It was one of the reasons I didn't pick the firm, actually - and this was before everyone hated McDonalds. I didn't want to work somewhere where everyone ate McDonalds for lunch. But is it really any better to work somewhere where everyone goes downstairs, picks through the salad bar, and ends up with a greasy slice of institutional pizza for lunch four days out of the week? It's easy to get complacent at a place like this, and forget that there's life outside these four walls, although my one wall with the ocean view is pretty impressive... and that other wall with the painting I borrowed from the art gallery the firm has an agreement with... and the other wall with all of the impressive-looking law books... maybe it's not so bad to be within these four walls after all.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Uh oh. One of the recruiting coordinators knocked on my door this morning. Apparently she had lunch over the weekend with one of her colleagues, and heard a story about an associate at another firm who had "some sort of online journal -- something apparently called a weblog," and was writing stuff about the firm, and her colleagues, and when they discovered this it became a big deal, because of what was up there, and they ended up reprimanding the associate and having her make the blog vanish immediately. So having heard this story, first thing this morning the recruiter starting googling all of our summer hires to see if anything would turn up. And, sure enough, we've got one with a weblog of his own. It's actually not a bad read at all, and doesn't say anything about us... but recruiting is concerned. I'm certainly in no position to make a big deal about it, since I've got this little side project of my own... but now I feel like since this summer hire is someone I really championed, and now I know about the weblog, if anything bad comes of it, it's on my shoulders. Almost tempted to shoot him an e-mail just to let him know someone's watching. I mean, I have no problem at all with it if it doesn't mention the firm, or say anything damaging about anyone here or anything we do. But I'm not sure everyone else is as "enlightened." Words for all to see make lawyers uneasy. We're used to privileged communications....

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Why do I check my e-mail when I wake up early in the morning unable to sleep? I got out of bed, went to the bathroom, and, just because I'm crazy, gave the e-mail a quick peek. One of my clients needs something from me. "Urgently." So, of course, "urgently" means I'm not going back to sleep. At least this shouldn't take too long. Were jobs 24/7 a hundred years ago? When there were no phones, no e-mail, no fax machines, no instant communication? Could you leave the office and know that you wouldn't have to write up any more documents until you returned, parked your horse in the garage, and hiked up the thirty-three flights of stairs to your cubicle that overlooked the barn? Would running out of ink for your quill pen be an excuse to take an early leave one day? Back to work.

Friday, March 26, 2004

The copy code for non-billable photocopies is 2479. I'm sharing that with you because it makes me mad that we have to punch in a code every time we need to photocopy something. And, yes, sometimes I actually go photocopy things myself instead of giving them to my assistant, because it's faster, or sometimes I wantit a certain way and it's just easier to do it myself. 2479. There's a whole sheet with all the codes, for each client. They used to tape it up on the wall near the copy machine, but it's gone, and so now every time I have to photocopy something for a client, I have to go searching for the sheet. Or ask my assistant. Or just punch in 2479, and we don't bill those three photocopies. We bill enough. It's not breaking the firm. I could probably just add it back elsewhere. Three photocopies = 15 cents = another 3 seconds of billable time, or whatever it works out to. Five cents a second would only be $180/hour. We cost a lot more than that. 15 cents = less than one second of billable time. Interesting. I think we can afford to eat the cost of the copies.

Last night, for the first time, I saw "The Apprentice." Not live -- we TiVo'd it, and I watched it when I got home. I hadn't seen it before. All the contestants seemed like idiots. They wouldn't get through a first round interview here or anywhere else. Especially at that boardroom part at the end. They couldn't hold their own there, they won't hold their own in a client meeting or in a courtroom. Pathetic. Just having seen the one episode, I predict Bill the cigar salesman will win. He seemed reasonably intelligent, compared to the rest of them. Although if I knew the name of his company I'd look into suing them, because his cigars are probably giving people lung cancer and he should be put out of business. And, no, this is not a plaintiff's firm. But I support what they're doing. The more businesses they sue, the more businesses who need lawyers and come to us. And that's what the legal system is all about.

I hate Fridays. Everyone else in the world loves Fridays because it means the weekend is here. I hate Fridays because it means another weekend when I should be home but instead I'll either be at work, thinking about work, or wondering if I should be at work. Saturday at least. Sunday I don't work. Well, 80% of the time. Sunday is help my family spend my paycheck day. Anyone want a pony?

Thursday, March 25, 2004

I had a good round of golf yesterday. I get more use out of my $3000 set of Callaway golf clubs than out of my assistant, who costs quite a bit more. And, thanks to my good fortune finding a couple of clients who like to leave the office early on Wednesday for a round of golf too, it's a tax deduction. I'm glad I don't practice tax law. We've got some great partners and associates in the tax practice here, absolutely; I'm just glad I'm not one of them. The price I pay for golf on Wednesday is a long, long Thursday catching up on what I missed taking off when the sun was still out yesterday. It's not looking like I'll be so lucky today. A kid that I interviewed this past fall -- I can't remember exactly which one -- commented on all the stacks of paper in everyone's office. It was just idle small-talk, it wasn't like he asked a question about the paper, or made a big deal of it. He said he'd have thought so much more would be electronic. And a lot of what we do is electronic -- I certainly don't print out every e-mail I get -- but you can't mark up a document on the computer, you can't carry it down the hall and wave it in someone's face and ask them what they were thinking when they left out the comma on page 17. I never thought about it before, but I can't imagine ever getting to a point where there wasn't all this paper. You just can't walk into an associate's office, slam your laptop on his desk, and scroll down to the place where he made a mistake. You need to have that brief printed out, you need to be able to tear those pages right in front of eyes, to scatter them wildly across the room, to fill the sheet with red lines and crosses and corrections, to crumple those papers up, toss them in the trash can, light them on fire, and watch them burn. Sure, we could probably afford to destroy a couple dozen laptops a day just to make a point that we demand perfection -- but paper just works so much better for that.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


I've figured out what this weblog is good for. I can't really go screaming down the hall looking for my stapler, but I can get the anger out of my system my typing it here, in big letters, with an exclamation point at the end. Someone, and I think I know who, keeps "borrowing" my stapler and never returning it. So I have to get my assistant just to come in here and staple some papers for me. Or if it's 7:30 in the morning, and my assistant isn't here yet, I have to go wandering the halls looking for someone else's stapler, so I can steal it, and bring it back to my desk. I shouldn't have to go combing the halls for a stapler. I'm a hiring partner. Staplers should be lining up at my door, begging for me to use them. Like summer associates. The hiring process is very rewarding, but having thirty insufferable law students here for 10 weeks every summer is a real chore. None of them know how to do anything, but they don't realize it and just end up making everyone else's lives more difficult. There are two types of summer associates that bother me the most. The first are the ones who half-ass everything and turn in memos that my five-year-old niece could write. The second are the ones who are hell-bent on finding a "mentor" and follow me around all day. "Can I look over your shoulder while you read a three-hundred-page contract?" No! If I like the work you're doing, I'll come find you and take you to lunch and, if you're lucky, make you feel like you actually belong. But if you make yourself my shadow, the only thing you're doing is making me wish we never gave you an offer. Those stakes really aren't high enough. We need to fire more summer associates. That would make the summer fun again. I need a stapler.

I'm in the office early today, hammering out some paperwork for a meeting later this morning with a client. A paralegal knocked on my door yesterday -- one that's been doing pretty good work, solid kid, definitely could succeed as an associate here -- and asked me for some law school advice. He's got three schools he's choosing between, all really solid choices, schools we do plenty of recruiting at, and I told him I didn't think there was a wrong choice in the bunch. I think he wanted more from me, he thought I'd really have a strong opinion -- because lawyers have a strong opinion about everything -- but with the places he's choosing between, it's six of one, a half dozen of the other. They're all fine schools, and he'll have a whole bunch of job offers coming out of any of them, and if he doesn't mess anything up from now until the fall, probably an offer here too. I told him to choose based on location and where he wants to spend the next three years. And then I gave him a really big stack of paper to photocopy, for no reason at all. No, I'm kidding. I didn't give him a big stack of paper to photocopy for no reason. But I could have. And he would have done it. And just knowing that makes me happy I'm a lawyer.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Yesterday was a great day. Did some reading for work in the morning, but then my wife and I drove the kids to Six Flags and there were no clients to calm down, no documents to prepare, and no e-mail. E-mail runs my life. It's frightening to think about what they used to do without it. I got an e-mail from one of our summer hires this morning, he wanted to know if he could do a rotation in one of the practice areas not on our list we send out to let them pick. I forwarded him over to recruiting. I know we do some real estate work, but I can't imagine why anyone would want to do it here.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

This weblog thing is getting addictive. At least on the weekends I feel less bad about billing clients for it. I'm kidding. This isn't billable. It's "professional reading." Well, sort of. I take your brief into the bathroom with me, though, and that I'm billing. It's nice to be here on a quiet weekend night. Well, not nice exactly. But tolerable. More than it used to be. But I play golf every Wednesday afternoon, and I take my vacation days and all in all this isn't terrible. Plus this hiring committee stuff is fun. The hardest phone call related to this stuff I ever had to take was this girl, she was from a decent school, great grades, it was totally a borderline call, could have gone either way, and it was just that the people she met didn't click with her, or something. Just wasn't strong enough in comparison. So we decided not to give her an offer, and sent her the form letter, but she called to ask what happened, and at first I put her to voice mail, and I didn't really want to deal with it, but I had to, so I called her back, and I explained that we really liked her, and it was right on the edge, nothing specific that she did, could have gone either way... and she starts crying on the phone, saying we were her top choice firm, and listing off the reasons -- and they weren't bad reasons -- and I just didn't really know what to say. I felt bad, but there was nothing I could do -- and she had an offer from a great firm. But had me on the phone for a half hour, I felt like I was talking her down from the ledge. Other than that this job is pretty cool though.

Friday, March 19, 2004

One of the recruiting coordinators just asked me if I'd be able head up to one of our target schools for a 1L recruiting reception next week. Most of my colleagues hate the receptions, even though it means a night off from work and a free meal. There's travel, and you have to put on a smiley face, and I guess it's a pain, but I kind of enjoy it every once in a while. The difference is that I take names. If I meet a kid and I think he's a jerk, just from the thirty second conversation where he tries to impress me with how much of our website he memorized, or how many of our clients he can toss into a sentence, I jot his name into my Palm Pilot and he doesn't get an offer. But it works in the reverse too. If you give off the right vibe; if, for whatever reason, I just like you, I'm not saying you're going to get an offer, but I'll jot your name down and come resume-scanning time you might get another look. Or maybe you get me for an interviewer and you have a little edge going in. Not going to make a ton of difference but maybe it helps. Cancels out the B+ in Torts. Well, probably not. If you couldn't manage an A in Torts, I don't know if I really have any use for you.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

My favorite interviewing story is the time I made the law student totally break down. He was a law review kid, from either Columbia or NYU, I think. He asked me what my favorite thing about the firm was. I told him it was the way everyone was so nice to me after my nervous breakdown. I explained that I'd been in the office for a week straight, doing due diligence on a really important case, as a first-year associate, and the partner I was working for came in and just started screaming at me, throwing things, telling me he was going to throw me right through the window if I didn't get my act together and start earning my salary. So I started crying, and he took the picture frame from my desk, and slammed it into the ground, and glass went everywhere, and I just lost it, and had to be sent away to the hospital to recover for a few days. But when I got back, I explained, everyone was really nice about it. They only made me work 6 days that week, and even let me grab a quick lunch that Friday. So I could tell this kid didn't want to believe anything I was saying, but I kept a straight face through it all. And he asked if I was telling the truth, and I told him I could show him the picture frame to prove it -- that I had the broken picture frame in my drawer, all this time. And I reached for the drawer, to open it, and he quickly said of course he believed me, and wanted to know if things were really that bad. I was the last interview before he went out to lunch with two associates, and when they filed their reports they said he was a mess, couldn't stop shaking and fidgeting, asked all these lifestyle questions, and went to the bathroom right after the main course, and they thought he might have vomited it all up. This is power. Making law students vomit. This is why I like being a lawyer.

Just testing. I spend enough time reading what other people are writing that I may as well start my own page.

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