Monday, September 26, 2005

I bought an iPod nano over the weekend. It's very small. Like an associate's brain. And very thin. Unlike an associate's stomach after a few months of sitting behind a desk and never getting any exercise. I haven't figured out how to use it yet, and I probably won't, but I like the idea of being able to say I have one.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Associates should never make the partners wait for them. I'm up at Stanford doing interviews, today and tomorrow. I'm going to dinner with the associates we brought up here, but two of them are taking forever to shower and change out of their suits, so I'm stuck in my room wasting time. There's nothing on television. I hate television. One of the students today told me that he read about a new show premiering tonight on the WB network about a young lawyer who can't get a job at a firm like mine and ends up working for a solo practitioner. I don't know if broadcast television is the right place for a show that sounds so profoundly sad. I also don't know why the student thought that telling me he's reading about television is going to help him get a job. Reading and television are both things I'd rather not hear about him doing. One interest is more than enough. Two is ridiculous. I told him to send me an e-mail telling me whether the show is worth watching. I don't know why. It seemed like the right thing to say. It seemed like it would show him we're interested in the kinds of things he's interested in, and that we'd be the right fit for him, if we choose to offer him a position.

One of the frustrations associates have (and even partners have) is that often times you don't know what impact the work is having, and whether you're really contributing or not. There's no scorecard when it comes to most memos and depositions and motions. Cases are too big to always make a difference with every piece of paper that gets produced. Results are too far off in the distance. Things settle, and maybe we won and maybe we lost, but it's impossible to know whether what you did mattered much at all. That's part of why I like being a hiring partner. I get a scorecard. It's a zero sum game. For everyone who chooses us, we've taken them away from every other firm out there. Those are the wins. And then there are the ones we give offers to who choose to go elsewhere. Those are the losses.

Of course there are always going to be losses that I can't prevent, because students want to work in a practice area someone else is stronger in, or because of location issues, or because they know someone who works somewhere else, or because they just happen to click with their interviewers better at some other firm. But I like to think I have some impact. I like to think that sometimes I can come up with the perfect lie to get someone to choose us. About "client contact" or "mentorship" or "unmatched training opportunities." Things that sound good but mean very little in practice. I'm sure I imagine I make more of a difference than I really do, but that's what makes this job fun. Stealing students away from firms that are probably a better fit for them, by lying to them about what we do.

And then looking them in the eye three years later and denying I ever said anything about an espresso machine in the attorney lounge.

Or day care. I promised someone day care once. I said it was about to be rolled out in the next quarter. They asked. I couldn't very well say we didn't have it. So I said it was coming. Not my fault it's not here yet. I'm not on that committee. Out of my hands. Oh well. Time for dinner.

Monday, September 12, 2005

You may have heard we had a brief power outage this afternoon. I used the time to delete from my Blackberry the e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers of all of the associates who have left the firm since I last updated my Blackberry. Who needs their contact information? They're dead to me.

I can't understand the e-mails that are streaming in from associates asking for extensions on some assignments they're supposed to turn in by the end of the day. The power was only out for an hour. They could have found a generator.

I called Anonymous Wife when the power came back on here to see if anything had happened to the house while the power was out. I wanted to make sure there were no looters or anything like that. There weren't.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I took a new first-year associate to lunch yesterday. His table manners are terrible. First, he used the wrong fork for the salad, which is just about grounds for termination, although I was in a generous mood so I chose to ignore it. We ordered some pasta that we shared, and when he reached to take some pasta and put it on his plate, he somehow carelessly dropped a pile of spaghetti on the tablecloth, in between the bowl and his plate. Of course, he instantly recognized the inappropriateness, and attempted to divert my attention and place a napkin over the offending spill. But my attention is not easily diverted, and I refused to look away. I just stared at the pasta, and stared at him, and stared back at the pasta, and stared back at him, and stared back at the pasta, and stared back at him, until he was sufficiently shamed and couldn't bring himself to engage in any real conversation for the rest of the meal. I think he also swallowed a bone in the fish to avoid having to deal with finding a delicate way to remove it from his mouth and place it securely in his napkin. He won back some points with that.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Anonymous Wife forgot it was a holiday and went to her yoga class this morning. No class, so she turned around, came back, and just yelled at me for not telling her it was a holiday when she left.

"I didn't know where you were going."

"Sure you did. You just didn't care."

"That's ridiculous. If you're going to be like this, I'll go to work."

"So go to work."

So I'm at work. She's wrong. I didn't know where she was going. Her yoga schedule is the least of my concerns. I figured she was going to the supermarket, or to get her tan sprayed on, or shopping for a new purse. How do I know what she does on Monday mornings? I was surprised she even got out of bed. There are days when I get home at 11 at night and there's no evidence she's moved an inch since I left in the morning. She used to surprise me with little presents. Then again, I used to surprise her with big presents. Lately there are no surprises.

I don't know what she wants out of life. She says she wants to spend more time with me, but I don't think that's really what she wants. She just knows that's what she's supposed to say. Whenever I'm home I don't fit in. I'm just an extra person hanging around and getting in the way. The kids don't know what to say to me and she doesn't know what to say to me. I'm interrupting the routine. I don't know where to get the dry cleaning and how much juice to buy and what Anonymous Daughter is allergic to and any of Anonymous Son's friends or their parents. I took him to a friend's house this morning and had to explain to this woman that I'm his father and, yeah, I've always been his father, and, no, I'm not new, and, no, we're not divorced, and, yes, I'll figure out where the indoor hockey rink is, down the stairs and, oh, okay, you can just show me, fine.

They start school again on Wednesday, so there are just a few more days of summer left. I told Anonymous Wife I'd take off tomorrow and we can do something with the kids, but she said she already had plans to take them to the beach and since I don't like the beach I should just go to work. The beach is boring. I can't sit there and do nothing. I end up on my laptop doing work. And then sand gets in my dress shoes and it's a mess and I have to get someone to clean them for me.

So she doesn't want me at home, and the kids don't care, so I'm at work. There's no one here. August is a slow month as it is, and nothing picks up until after Labor Day. I've given up my crusade to get it de-listed from the holiday sheet. It's a fake holiday. No one important died today, we didn't declare independence, no one's going to scream racial insensitivity if we cancel it, it's just an excuse to extend the summer by a day.

I'm planning out some interview scheduling. I'm going to UCLA and USC this week to do some on-campus interviews. We've already taken care of a lot of our second-tier schools, like Emory and Georgetown, but this week is when we start to get to the places that will really fill our class, building up to Stanford in 2 weeks, Boalt at the end of the month, and Harvard and Yale in early October. So I send the associates in August, to spoil their vacations, and then I get to cherry-pick the trips I feel like making.

I asked Anonymous Wife how she'd feel if I pulled Anonymous Son out of school for a few days and took him with me to Harvard next month so he could see Boston. She could come too, to watch him during the day while I interviewed, but I could take a few extra days out there and we could do a little vacation. Anonymous Daughter would never want to go, but Anonymous Son is still young enough that he doesn't hate me. So I want to do that. But Anonymous Wife doesn't want me disrupting the schedule. He has a soccer game. He has a tae kwon do tournament. He has a birthday party to go to. So I'll probably just go myself.

I think I hear something down the hall. I should go check it out. Maybe it's something that needs my attention.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

This past Sunday's Dodgers game was "Turn Back The Clock" day, where the players wore uniforms from 1955, and the telecast was in black and white. It made me think we should do a Turn Back The Clock day here, and practice law the way they did fifty years ago. It would finally give us an excuse to cut that dinner budget down to $5/person, and get everyone back to the old dress code. Ever since we went business casual, it's been hard to evoke the same kind of respect from the people we pass in the street when we head in every morning. It's much easier to feel like you're in a different class when you're wearing a designer suit than when you're wearing Dockers and a pair of boat shoes. We could also reinstitute the corporal punishment policies that were phased out in the 1960s. Partners used to be able to beat associates in the back room when their work wasn't up to code. It still goes on in silence, but to get that back out in the open would be a refreshing change, and would mean I could actually keep the blinds open during meetings.

The other advantage of Turn Back The Clock day would be 50 years worth of billable hours, recovered and available for charge once more.

(Incidentally, I removed the post from 8/29 once the extent of the devastation in New Orleans became clear. Of course, I quickly sent our local counsel there new Blackberries and cell phones, and allowed them to take a half-day of vacation to find new office space and resume work on the case. I've also donated a day's worth of binder clips and post-it flags to the Red Cross and would encourage others to do the same. Absent from the news media's reports has been talk of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of office supplies that have been destroyed by the storm and will go to waste. No, in all seriousness, it's hard to fathom the amount of damage the area has suffered, and that something like this can happen in America in 2005. I didn't mean to trivialize it with my post.)

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