Thursday, May 31, 2007

We lost another associate today. Apparently he's annoyed that I ran him over with my car last month. I was late to a deposition. He was in my way. I had to get out of the parking garage as quickly as I could. It's not that I didn't see him. I just didn't think the firm needed him as much as it needed me to be at that deposition, and even if he'd be on medical leave for a few weeks, he wasn't getting much done anyway and me being there a few minutes earlier was going to end up being much more beneficial to the firm. I did what they taught me to do in my law and economics class too many years ago. I did a cost-benefit analysis, a quick calculation, spur of the moment, in my head, and decided it made sense to hit the gas instead of the brake and deal with the consequences later.

And it turned out the consequences were even better because he's leaving. He wasn't even good enough to hear from headhunters, apparently he did it all himself, found some website that tries to place lawyers in new jobs. I hate the Internet. It's made it all too easy. If this guy is unhappy, he should have had to do what we had to do years ago: walk the streets, knock on doors, and hustle. You wanted a new job before the Internet, you had to do some real work. It wasn't as easy as looking at some job listings and clicking a few buttons and sending your resume. You had to sneak around, put in some real effort.

Now, for the subset of people good enough to be who everyone wants, graduates from top schools, employees at top firms, escaping is just too easy. We coddle them. Sites like this one coddle these people. They have a database of jobs that aren't even just sweatshop jobs like the ones here. They have in-house jobs, hedge fund jobs, all sorts of things most lawyers here would kill for, but just don't know how to find. We benefit when they don't know how to find these jobs. We benefit when it's too hard for them to leave. They're stuck here, as our indentured servants, forever. Or at least until they don't make partner and have to leave out of embarrassment. But if they're shown a light at the end of the tunnel, if they're shown that there are other things out there, if they're shown that they don't really have to be here, and that changing jobs doesn't have to be some huge upheaval involving months of financial insecurity, then we're screwed. And I worry about our future.

On the other hand, it gives unhappy lawyers no right to complain. You don't like your job? Go away. Go click on Lateral Link or wherever and look at the job listings. Get tempted. Sign up, shoot a resume out, leave us. You can't hack it here, we don't want you. You're not man (or woman) enough to stick it out until you have a heart attack at your desk, we don't want you. Take the easy way out. I'll find you. I'll run you over. I have liability insurance, that's what it's for.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Our new crop of summers started yesterday. I added a couple of recent movie clips to my orientation speech. Thank You For Smoking, to show it's okay to defend people who, at first glance, seem to be doing bad things. Bridge to Terabithia, to show the summer associates that sometimes even when life seems dreadful, you can always invent a fantasy world where you get to go home sometimes and see your family. Borat, to illustrate what we have to go through whenever we deal with attorneys overseas. Friends With Money, to remind the summer associates they'll be rich if they stay here. And, finally, Lady in the Water, to put them to sleep.

I just got back from the paintball event. Partners versus summers. I thought it was a good way to start off the season. Let us shoot them before we even really know them. This way they're still all nameless, faceless enemies and we could really get into it without feeling too much sympathy. The partners won, obviously. The summers were too scared to shoot. Who'd shoot a hiring partner on his second day? Only one of the summers had the nerve. And he won't be getting an offer. Ruined my suit. (We made everyone wear business attire just to make it more fun.)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Roger Clemens reminds me what's right about the world. In case you missed it, this afternoon he announced that he's signed with the Yankees. Most players sign with teams during the offseason, go to spring training, and then try and play the whole season. Not Roger. Roger's better than that. And a terrific demonstration of why people who are better than everyone else should get to play by different rules. If Randy Wolf had told the Dodgers he wanted to wait until May to decide who he wanted to play for, they would have said, "Okay, Randy, that's fine, but we can't wait for you. We probably won't have a spot for you, or the budget flexibility to sign you at top dollar." That's because Randy is merely a run-of-the-mill major league starting pitcher. He's good, but he's no Clemens. Clemens, on the other hand, gets to wait until the entire Yankees rotation is on the disabled list, and they're desperate for pitching help. And then he can swoop right in and volunteer to help them out, in exchange for just a couple dozen million dollars.

I'm not intending any sarcasm here. I applaud Clemens. I applaud him for being able to tailor the system to his needs, and I celebrate the ability of the free market to adjust to a player like Clemens, who only wants to pitch part of the season, and who wants to keep all of the cards in his hand for the longest time possible. I'm just glad the law firm recruiting market doesn't work the same way. It would make my job a lot harder. Imagine the normal recruiting season. The run-of-the-mill Ivy League law students interview and get offers. But what if the standouts got to bypass the system? What if they were able to call us the day after we signed Big Client X to a headline-making deal, and offer their services for 50% above the normal rate? Well, we'd laugh at them. We'd say they should have gone through the normal recruiting process. We'd send paralegals over to their houses to throw eggs at their windows.

But that's only because there are no standouts. Associates are all the same. They're all equally capable of doing the mindless work we assign, and the "standouts" are just the ones who never go home. They're all fungible parts, easy to swap in and out when they leave for the hospital after their nervous breakdowns. That's just the way the system works.

And the way it works here makes me forget that there are other places in the world where skill and talent actually make a different, and standout performers deserve special treatment. Not here. But on the Yankees. And that's what Clemens reminds me. Good for Roger. I wouldn't hire him to do document review outside of the normal recruiting calendar (although he'd probably do just fine at it), but I'm glad he gets to pitch for the Yankees and get $30 million for half a season's work. Congratulations, Roger.

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