Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I was in the restroom today and I saw an associate in the stall next to me wiggle his fingers under the partition between stalls. I ignored it, like I do whenever associates do anything besides work. He did it again. I thought maybe he was holding his hand out for an assignment, thinking perhaps I'd brought one with me to the bathroom. It turns out I had. I took the papers from my pocket and put them in his wiggling fingers. Then his foot crept under the stall and rubbed against mine. He wanted more. So I reached into my other pocket and pulled out a credit agreement. I scrawled at the top, "Proofread this," and slipped it under the partition. He took it. Forty minutes later, the completed assignment and proofread credit agreement arrived on my desk. Well done. Associates bold enough to ask for assignments in the bathroom are acceptable in my book.

But not everyone sees it that way. See, this associate was already working for another partner. And it's not entirely within the normal protocol for an associate committed to one partner to be looking to engage with other partners, especially in the bathroom. And especially from a completely different practice group. There are rumors he's done this before. There are a number of different bathrooms in the office designated as "work bathrooms," where there are outlets in each stall for laptop computers, fully functioning wireless, a printer, and a secretary on duty at all times. While these bathrooms function as normal bathrooms throughout the day, everyone is aware that work does go on there, especially in the corner stall. So an especially eager associate can cruise these bathrooms throughout the day and, if he's lucky, find an extra assignment or two. These may not be the best assignments the firm has to offer, but they allow some exposure to new partners and perhaps enable connections that will help the associates down the line. Most associates don't talk about their secret bathroom rendezvous. Somehow the bathroom assignments are considered dirty, illegitimate, cheating. And some associates, over time, get a reputation.

What ends up complicating matters is that most associates don't like it when one of their own is begging too hard for these bathroom opportunities. They don't like to see someone stand out, meet new partners, and put themselves in a position to move ahead. So once an associate gets a reputation for cruising the bathrooms, he puts himself at risk for vigilante justice. Associates who aren't into the bathroom scene corner their colleagues, rough them up a little bit, steal their copies of the tax code. It can be an ugly scene. But it's not my job to police the associates. In a way, I like to see associates take matters into their own hands. And I like that it means that associates who want the bathroom assignments know they're taking a risk, but they do it anyway. Their impulse to do as much work as they can, their impulse to impress as many partners as possible, their raw biological impulses are so strong that they're willing to put their bodies (and tax codes) at risk for it. That's the kind of dedication I like to see. The kind of commitment that makes me proud to work at a place like this, and proud to see an associate's fingers wiggling under the bathroom partition and give him exactly what he deserves. To put that thick, hot-off-the-printer lease agreement right in his hands. Makes me proud to be a lawyer.

those impulses are a bitch, aren't they?
This is by far your best post in a while. And I was beginning to lose faith....
It is rewarding to have associates ready, willing and able to accept assignments at any time and to have them to actually seek one out is even better.

I bet Senator Larry Craig was just looking for new legislation to sponsor.

May you have many billables.
If you like this post, check out my blog


Interesting office protocol I must say.
This was a fantastic post. I sent it my colleagues who also enjoyed it as you could hear laughter down the hall during lunch. Thank you!
that was genius.
Great to see you taking such a wide stance on Associate ingenuity!
Finally - a good post. This actually happens. Even when I was a summer associate, a senior associate told me about finishing assignments on the toilet and the partner demanding he hand them under the stall door.
almost sounds like you had an orgasm at the end there? Isn't it great doing what you love? ;)
That was a brilliant post. Greatness.
Fantastic. You just sold your 20th book, Mr. Man.
that somenting it is going wrong with the united states lawyer people, i been noticing that since, arround the 1984, some body were saying that some foringer person, with his billions of stoled money, he were prettending to buy the united states bureau of lawyer people, many of the united states proud lawyer people them were ding, in about that, some powerfull foringer rich person, with the help of a powerfull band of drug dealer, he were prettendig to quiet to many american lawyer people, many dosen't know why? some how the american treauser department them contact to a foringer rich thief person under name sheldon, for he to pay to a drug dealer mexican latin band this band it is form by many of the latin american countries, to start to cool and to kill to the american lawyer people, many lawyer people them weren't making notice of that call, to follow to a cain of communism starting in america, many saying them are staring by the california state them are growing, many states them didn't want to make notice of that, because some body out side of the american country, i lost to my lawyer people, because those moves, and been a witness person of how in los angeles lawyer district many lawyer them got kill, them got unfree to deal, some how them said that the united states american army, them make call to the american lawyer people, the united states forces, them were openly acussed of using a foringer economical sistem in the american country, the communism, it is ilegall in american, the american army, them were reading to hold the any foringer's money inside the american country, them were ready to stole to any body and to make the communism sistem, but some body stop to them, many american people them left to brasil and to europe, with them money, to avoid to the american army's people, some body very powerfull men them argue at the illeagly of that moved them call them drunk people, it is going on so much in america that them are forming group of persons, to stole to another group of person, the leasy group them want to stole to the working group, the leasy them call to them self communism the working group them are the lawyer people, well the leasy them call to kill to the lawyer people in the beverly hill lawyer district, but none body got noticed because the american army them suporting to the leasy group and a men named sheldon, it because sheldon he grow as a lasy thief person he like them how much, that much it happend in america, but many dosen't know how the ting are going on arround the present time, in about the lawyer people, them got free, or them didn't i bealive powerfull countries must to make care in about that, beacuse i bealive that the american army still them are fighting to them lawyer people, the other crude true it is, that the american country it is been drove by foringer german people, inside the american goverment them drive the command to the american public to the american army to the american bank, some body say i don't like to eat the american scrambles egg.-
Holy crap Anonymous,

How many billables did you just charge some unfortunate client to put in that wordy post?
Please send me some SPAM. I'm looking for a megaton to come my way. Feel free to SPAM the following addresses:

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