Saturday, October 29, 2005

I just got back from a dinner. Anonymous Wife is always saying we never go out, so to punish her for bothering me I dragged her to an Bar Association event so she could see what we're missing and never ask me again. She wants to go out, we'll go out. And she can be tortured by having to talk to the same kinds of people I have to talk to every single endless day.

At first I thought we'd be safer talking to the associates at this thing, because perhaps they still have interests extending beyond the intricacies of the tax code. I thought perhaps some talk about current events, or movies none of us had seen, or (and I was reluctant to even hope) someone might have something to say about the Dodgers pointless firing of their general manager this afternoon, as if it's a problem to have a well-educated, if perhaps a bit interpersonally challenged, person running your organization instead of some retired ballplayer who wouldn't know a spreadsheet from a PowerPoint slide and only got the job because he used to be able to throw a ball really fast. This conversation, of course, would have the dual effect of engaging me, and also sending Anonymous Wife running to the ladies' room to mix some wine with some Xanax.

But, alas, none of the associates seemed to care about the Dodgers, or the movies, or presidential aides with childish nicknames and recent indictments. Instead, and perhaps I should have predicted this, in this self-selected group of associates who choose to go to Bar Association events, all they could talk about were the upcoming bonuses at their respective firms: how much will they be, when will they announce them, which firms won't match, will they be higher than last year, will they be given to everyone or just based on hours... and, of course, when's the first day you can quit and still receive the bonus. I didn't let on that at my firm, they'll be lucky if we match the market, and we're not announcing until the last plausible moment, just to keep people on the edge of their seats and a little bit frightened. Fear. I love it.

But I couldn't stay in a conversation about bonuses for more than eight minutes without betraying the knowledge I have, so I dragged Anonymous Wife over to the partners, and we joined in the midst of a fascinating conversation about the President. I've long since reconciled any urges I ever have to talk politics with other lawyers with the realization that lawyers think they know everything when they really know nothing, and will never concede a point, even if their point is that the Earth is flat, there is no gravity, or, my favorite argument at these things, that corporate lawyers don't make enough money. You can't win an argument at these things. I don't even try. I just listen, and smile, and feel like a better person because I don't need to be the loudest man in the room.

"Would you send your son to fight in this war?" a liberal asked a conservative.

"No," he replied.

"Then how can you defend it?"

"Look, I wouldn't send my son to fight in any war. Not the War in Iraq, not Vietnam, not World War II, not the Civil War, not even the Revolutionary War. And in the American tradition, if he was drafted, we'd pay someone to take his place. Gladly, and preferably with stock options that would be completely underwater by the time he got back from the war, limbs shot off, and wanted to exercise them to buy himself a wheelchair."

"Well, there are some things I *would* send my son to fight for, but not Iraq, I tell you that. Lower tax rates, absolutely. A better bankruptcy code, for sure. Separate bathrooms for partners and associates, definitely. Oh, I think my blackberry is buzzing. I need to take this."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

There's a 3L who was a summer associate this past summer, and he still hasn't decided whether or not to accept the offer. He just badgered me with another e-mail, about the training opportunities and how many classes we offer and whether we offer opportunities to attend seminars on some garbage or another. Last week's was about the low-fat and vegetarian options in the cafeteria. It's a waste of my time to even answer these e-mails. It's not our training program that's going to make him accept the offer. He's just an indecisive risk-averse baby who's afraid of committing to anything. I bet he's sending these same e-mails to the other firm, and their answers are exactly the same as ours, and he's pulling out the little hair he has left. Law students are going bald younger and younger these days. They should do what I did and get some help with that. Medical science can perform miracles these days.

Law students think we don't mind these ridiculous questions about how we stack up to the competition, and of course we have to pretend that's the truth, but enough is enough. Ask me real questions, fine. But don't ask me about the hardwood finish on the desks as if this is really the critical factor in your decision. And don't ask me for an extension when it's just so you can obsess a bit more. If you make a mistake, then wait a year, suffer for your own inability to make the right decision, and then just lateral to the place you wish you were working at, only to then find it's no different at all, since we're all the same.

But don't ask me how many square feet your office is going to be, whether Columbus Day counts as a holiday or a vacation day, how far the farthest parking space is from the office, whether the elevators have TV screens in them, if the coffee is Starbucks, if we've upgraded to the newest Blackberry model, if the partners are encouraged to mentor their associates, if you'll ever get to leave the office before dinnertime, or if you'll like it here. You either already know the answers, shouldn't believe what we tell you, or are only kidding yourself if you think these things matter.

But we do provide free shoe shines, if that's going to tip the scales.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

One of the bizarre tax partners brought his dog into the office today. Ridiculous. Immediately, everyone's attention was on the dog instead of where it belongs, staring into their computer screens. Associates were getting up, actually getting up out of their chairs, to go pet the dog, play with the dog, feed the dog, talk to the dog... as if there aren't enough animals in the office already. The dog barked once. I told the tax partner to keep him quiet. Some of us are trying to work. There's a peaceful quiet that pervades the halls of the firm, and it's a good thing. We don't need people making noise. Talking is for the restroom and the elevator. Not the workspace. I overheard one of the associates say, "The dog really brings some life into this place. I don't feel so alone." I gave her some more work to do after I heard that. She's supposed to feel alone. This isn't just a regular business, where people can go into their co-workers' offices and chat about the weather or the stock market or their "relationship issues." It's a law firm. Time is billable. Time is money. Small talk doesn't pay the bills. Every minute you're talking to a co-worker is a minute the firm isn't making any money off your presence, even though you're still using the office supplies, eating the bagels, drinking the coffee, and consuming electricity. You're overhead. And if you're not earning your keep, you shouldn't be here. No small talk. You're not paid for small talk. You're paid to sit at your desk and bill time to clients. The dog is just a distraction, albeit at least when you're talking to the dog only one of you is losing billable hours. Unless we can somehow train that dog to do something useful. Maybe eat some paper we need to destroy, and bill the client for that. Maybe he can bark at some opposing counsel and scare them into accepting our settlement. That we could bill. Maybe he could just pee on someone. Not billable, but fun to watch. Dogs in the office are almost as preposterous as holding the elevator for a paralegal. Ridiculous.

Monday, October 10, 2005

At least I didn't have to be in the office today to see half of my associates show up and the other half claim some sort of right to stay home just because we've decided that today we honor the guy who discovered the New World. You know the first thing Columbus did when he found America? He got to work. He named the native people, he spread some disease... he worked. As should everyone else. Columbus Day is another holiday trumped up by the greeting card companies.

But I'm not in the office. I'm at Harvard for interviews. Today and tomorrow. Today's went as well as could be expected. At least this year I don't have to fake any small talk about the Red Sox, since they've mercifully been put out of their misery. I just watched the end of the Angels-Yankees game. I didn't want either team to win; I suppose I rooted for terrorists to blow up the stadium. Who's a Dodgers fan to root for when it's those two?

Half the interviewees commented on the rainy weather. An opening to reassure them that, of course, if they choose us, they'll never have to deal with weather like this again. The weather talk is great in Boston. They eat it up. I get a whole routine out of it. It's a bigger selling point than our unmatched training program. It's a bigger selling point than the "small firm values with large firm opportunities," or whatever we've plastered on the cover of the brochure this year.

I can do the whole pitch with half my brain figuring out how to manipulate associates into doing my dry cleaning. Our mentoring program is the best in its class. Our lecture series has won awards. We’ll teach you everything you need to know. You won’t be flying solo. We have a culture of collaboration. We have a commitment to cooperation. We have an open-door policy. You advance at your own pace. We give you as much responsibility as you can handle. There is no face time. You set your own hours. We treat you like the professional you are. We work hard, but we play hard. It’s all about the people. We have great people. The people here are like nowhere else. You’ll do good work everywhere, but it’s the people that make the difference. You will love the people here.

We’re a leading full-service international law firm with a proven track record for meeting the needs of our clients. Our clients come first. They rely on us for top-notch service. You won’t find a place with more interesting cases or more challenging work. Our clients are on the front pages of newspapers worldwide. Our work is unparalleled. Our practice is global. Our commitment to excellence is clear. Across all of our practice groups, what ties the firm together is our pursuit of excellence. We’re on the cutting-edge. We serve our clients domestically, and around the world. We have a strong presence in all of the major financial centers. Leaders in business count on us. Our success speaks for itself. Our list of awards is substantial and impressive.

We place a premium on collegiality. We strive to maintain an informal working atmosphere. We are committed to diversity. We treat each other with dignity and respect. We know what really matters in life. Our benefit package is state of the industry. We provide cars home if you’re working late. We provide meals. We provide coffee. We provide a brand-new laptop. Our information technology services are top-notch. Our word processing center is open twenty-four hours a day. Our client services department is there to meet your every need. Our support staff is magnificent.

The atmosphere of small firm combined with the resources of a large firm. The congeniality of a small firm combined with the diversity of a large firm. The one-on-one contact you find in a small firm combined with the kinds of cases you can only get at a large firm. It’s the best of both worlds. It’s the best of all worlds. It’s the best, according to a recent survey. It’s never been better. We’re growing at an unbelievable pace. We have a five-year plan. We have a ten-year plan. Our finances are strong. Our client base is stronger than it’s ever been. Our partnership is among the strongest in the industry. We just bought another floor in the building. The views are amazing. The artwork is unbelievable. The bathrooms are sparkling. We’re in the best part of the city. There’s so much to see. There are so many things to do. There are so many ways to relax.

The people make all the difference. You’ve never seen such a collection of people. I’m constantly amazed by the people here. The people here are unbelievable. We strive to find the best and the brightest people we can. Our people are truly special. It sounds like a cliché, but I promise, you will love the people here, you really will.

And we want you to be one of them. That is, if you got an A in all your classes, made law review, and have connections at a couple of Fortune 500 corporations. Oh, wait, you go to Harvard. So all of that doesn't matter. We want you as long as you're not drooling on yourself.

Welcome to the recruiting process.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Based on today's news, I guess I'm next in line to be a Supreme Court justice. A decade of distinguished service at a law firm, no paper trail, and I have a cousin who once met the President at a fundraising event.

She went to a law school we don't even recruit at. That's ridiculous. I'd love to know her LSAT score. If she couldn't even get into a top law school I don't know what she's doing getting nominated for the Supreme Court.

The bigger news today is the handful of associates who decided that since the Jewish holiday starts tonight, they can take a long weekend and no one would notice. I notice. And I'm making a list. These associates will have a paper trail.

The last handful of first-year associates are starting today, the ones who begged off starting earlier because they wanted an extra-long vacation, or hate to work (a terrible reputation to have before you even start), or, in one particularly ridiculous case, had to take care of an elderly relative. There's an obsession with the elderly in this country, and it's not very healthy. People get old, people get sick. It's the natural course of things. We shouldn't try so hard to fight it. People get old, they become useless. The Chairman is useless. He should retire.

I can't figure out how to get the printer to print on both sides of the page, and I can't figure out how to get out of this marriage counseling thing Anonymous Wife is making me do tonight. One of her vapid friends recommended a therapist. The friend is divorced. Thrice. I'm not looking forward to this. Maybe that's why I've been grumpy today. I made Anonymous Secretary get me another bagel after she sliced the first one badly. It was lopsided. She should be more careful. I'd hate to see what she's been doing with my billing reports.

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