Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

As is the custom here, I gave a few of the associates I work most with some small holiday presents, which I hope they'll enjoy.

My secretary is always complaining that she's hungry in the mornings, so I bought her some gourmet
, which I hope she'll appreciate.

It's always nice to get people useful presents.

I found a perfect present for Anonymous Wife, something that will fit right in with what she spends most of her day doing, and won't challenge her too much either.

I bought Anonymous Son a toy, and Anonymous Daughter a pretty holiday sweater.

I gave the mail guy and my floor's custodian presents too. The custodian's gift was on sale, so I got a second one for Anonymous Son's second-grade teacher.

I hope you and your families enjoy the season.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

One of our peer firms did something stupid today and raised first year salaries by $10K. Which of course means we have to follow suit or we'll be left behind and relegated to second-tier status by the law students we hope to woo and the associates we hope to bleed for a few more months until they finally escape to a faraway island where their Blackberries don't work.

$135K is too much base salary for someone just out of law school who can't do anything but comb through stacks of paper. $125K was too much. But at least it stayed there for a while. This comes right out of the pockets of the partners. It's robbing Peter to pay Paul.

But at least associates show up to work pretty regularly. I got an e-mail from a colleague at a firm in New York, where I understand there's a transit strike and people who suffer through public transportation most days didn't have the luxury this morning. Part of his e-mail:

"It's days like this that highlight how useless the support staff is. Most of my associates found a way in. But half the staff is out and we're struggling to cover for them. I'm typing this e-mail myself! So excuse any misspellings. My car came right on time this morning. There are taxis. There's some sort of commuter system the city set up, I don't know the details. There are sidewalks. It's not that cold out. I don't know why the secretaries feel like they didn't have to come into work today. The bridges allow pedestrian traffic. I don't buy the excuse that most of them live too far from the office. I live in Westchester. I got here. We decided we're treating them like the city is treating the strikers. Penalize them 2 days of pay for every day they miss. Maybe that'll make them a little more resourceful tomorrow."

Monday, December 19, 2005

I saw a commercial for "Brokeback Mountain" on television this evening, first time I'd seen it. I think they're doing the movie a disservice by pitching it as a gay cowboy movie. Fairly clear from the trailer that it's a movie about the benefits of a job that consumes most of your day. I think I'll show a clip at next summer's orientation. "Don't worry about how much time you'll spend in the office," I'll tell them. "You might just fall in love with someone you're working with." Looks like a terrific story about the possibility of on-the-job romance, assuming that in the movie they're actually good cowboys. If they screw up and let the sheep in the commercial all get away because they're distracted, then my lesson is totally ruined. But if they can balance love and work, then I think I've found a winner there to make that point. There are far too few movies out there that extol the virtues of a job that takes up all your time. Hopefully this is the start of a trend and we'll see some more just like it.

I'm less certain about this one, but it seems to me I might be able to use the title song from "Rent" in a lecture about billable hours. Sure, there's 525,600 minutes in a year, but the important thing is that every one of those minutes is potentially billable to a client. That's what people need to keep in mind.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A selection of reader ideas for torturing my associates, presented without comment:

"On Friday, December 23, around 4:30pm, hand out assignments that MUST be completed NOT LATER THAN 5:00am (PST) on December 26 for a very important East Coast client. Make sure that's it's something like looking for puntuation errors in a 1,200+ page document. A loan agreement would be good. Make it very clear that the bonus distribution meeting will take place on December 31st at 5:00pm so they will think this work is very important. Of course, only you know that the docs have already been signed by all parties."

"I'm not sure how it works in the US, but top-tier firms here have a system here whereby three times a year we get 40 or so 'Vacation Clerks', who are basically final year law students on a 4-week long interview. The VCs are assigned 'Buddies' - first, second or third year lawyers who are supposed to support and help them through the process. The VCs generally share their buddy-lawyer's office for the duration of the clerkship. I always thought it would be wicked if TPTB were to tell the Buddies that one VC was not a VC at all, but a plant by the firm to spy on the lawyer concerned to make sure they were up to par. It would create such wonderful paranoia, suspicion and animosity between the clerks and the buddies."

"This one may depend on the technology capabilities of your firm, but we can do this at ours. Have the IT people run some reports per associates on all of their internet activity including web sites visited and duration. It would make for some great fun during a performance evaluation or billable hour discussion."

"Roll them around in honey and set them on a fire ant hill. If no fire ant hills available out there on the left coast, set them near a yellow jackets nest. If no yellow jackets nests available, I guess just stick them on a surf board or something. If no honey available, just roll them around."

"Make the associates work extra hard over November & December so that the partners can surprise-close the office for a week (Oh, you took all your vacation/sick time already? Unpaid leave for you!) in the middle of January. If the associates question it, tell them they should be more respectful of people who want to honor MLK's birthday with a week in Fiji. They'll be so sure they are getting SOME kind of Christmas bonus that they will work their tails off, and then be ungrateful for the experience they got when no bonus is forthcoming."

"Don’t know if you are still taking suggestions, but as I sit here studying for my first law school final, Property, I can’t help but suggest firing Future Interest conveyances at them. For instance, they can’t use the restroom until they correctly figure out the interest each party holds in the conveyance, “To A for life, then to B and her heirs but if B predeceases A, then to C and his heirs.” If nothing else, it will bring back nightmares of their first-year property class."

"You should bait someone into being your tech support guy and/or "muffin/bagel getter". Fake a jammed fax or printer and have him come in and fix it. Then tell him he's officially your new tech support guy. He'll think he's on his way to making partner when really he's gonna get the "your numbers look down for the month of December...maybe you should stop playing with my printer and do some actual work...this doesn't bode well for your bonus" speech. Or have him get you a bagel or muffin one day per week. A different day each week. And then after a few weeks, you can yell at him when it's not there even though you didn't ask him for it and he had no way to know you'd want a bagel that day."

"take away their secretary and give them a huge assignment with only a smith corona typewriter to use. tell them that it's a test of their ability to survive under less than ideal circumstances. quite frankly the group that you have don't even have an inkling of a world without computers or internet. then, to be REALLY mean, don't give them the correcting tape ribbon."

"Pick out one associate and favor him/her with peach assignments, trips, lunches, your attention (including even nonbillable time kicking back in the office laughing about this and that--as if AL would really do that), and then suddenly DROP that associate like a, pick your favorite cliche. He/she is dead to you. THEN pick up someone else to favor. Nuff said. Just consider the angst."

"Have Anonymous Son make a dummy of the bar exam results page, modifying several of the results to show that associates who have passed in fact failed. Upload this to a website. Email a "status update" message which appears to be from your state's bar association (Anonymous Son probably knows how to do this; it's not that difficult) directing your associates through a misleading link to this webpage. Send out one message at a time, and make sure you are there to observe the sheer joy in their eyes at this marvelous message."

"Choose your employee most needing a lesson taught to them and generate a fake email from yourself to another partner discussing his/her imminent firing. Leave this somewhere it will be found, but not obviously. Deny any knowledge of its existence, even when presented with the "proof.""

"Schedule a meeting to discuss "reorganization of the firm" on a holiday or weekend. Do not attend yourself. Repeat as necessary, but show after three or four meetings and fire one of the non-attendees."

"get the IT guy to print you a list of all of their email passwords. Then have them rapidly distributed throughout the office and watch everyone scramble to their computers to change them/check other peoples email to see who is saying what about whom."

"Print your memos expressing displeasure with your associates' performance on pink paper. The more trivial the infraction the better."

"Harangue one associate -just one- about leaving his calculator on overnight. Mention that it's wasteful of energy.When he remembers to turn it off, praise him."

"A sex scandal arises in the office. Many of the important rain making partners are discovered to have been getting oral sex from a particular secretary. The news explodes around the office, as details come out. People discuss the identity of the participants, how they approached their wives (denial, or tearful admissions, or simple apologies coupled with promises of jewelry and exotic vacations). Word leaks out on to the street, to clients, and around the country. Some clients are outraged that supposedly responsible adults could exploit an obviously sick and vulnerable woman, others give a nod and a wink and are proud that their litigators are real men. Calls come in from around the world. "No comments," are given to the American Lawyer and the local papers. It seems as if everyone knows all of the details. But rain makers must be protected--they cannot be disciplined, their activities cannot be admitted, lest the bottom line suffer. The associates, in particular, know and relish every detail So one day, all of the associates are called into a conference room. They are lectured by one of the two managing partners (both of whom have the effective power to reduce associate salaries and to fire them). He announces that the sex scandal is not true. It is a rumor started by a competing firm. It must never be repeated and it must be denied outright when it is heard. He again says that it did not happen. He raises his litigator's voice and speaks slowly, "If any one of you knows any differently, come privately to my office and tell me."

More to come.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

There's an associate in the office who has the flu, or the avian flu, or something pretty terrible. She came in yesterday and spent the day coughing loudly enough you could hear her down the hall. I told her to try and be a little more considerate. She asked if she should go home, but I told her obviously that wasn't an option given her workload but she should definitely try and cut down on the coughing and that might even make it easier for her to get the work done.

So this morning she calls up and says she's really feeling terrible and she wanted to "work from home," but I know that scheme and I told her it's not going to work this time and she really needs to come in. And, again, she spends half the day coughing, even after I told her not to. She's coughing out of spite because I wouldn't let her stay home, obviously. And it's a game I just don't have time to play this week, with a deadline on a response brief and a bunch of other clients with time-sensitive work we need to get out by the end of the year.

So I see her sneaking out at about 7:30 tonight and I asked her how far she'd gotten on the piece of the research she's working on, and she said she hasn't finished yet, so I told her to turn back around and finish it before she left, and to please use the service elevator when she finally does leave because I don't need her germs infecting everyone else. We're going to have to clean her office and get rid of whatever she's got, because she hasn't been smart enough to keep herself healthy at crunch time. You need to take care of yourself so you don't get sick, because you're not really allowed to get sick here. Bonus time is coming. I'm hoping we can play around with her billable hour reports so she doesn't get a full bonus, as payback for this whole "sick" thing. I'm sick too. Sick of her.

I'm also sick of the generic post-it notes and their lack of sufficient stickiness. Generic everything is pretty terrible.

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