QI work in the litigation department of a large law firm. As in all large firms, the partners are aggressive and don’t have time to answer questions from junior associates. The partnership track is a very long-term commitment and is extremely competitive. Since summering at the firm, I relied upon one senior associate (who had became a junior partner) to mentor me. We formed a relationship that summer and have worked well together ever since. We eventually started working together almost exclusively. This partner would advocate for me to get better projects, and I, in turn, worked long hours.
I was counting/betting on this individual to champion my promotion to partnership. Instead, she left the firm to go in-house at a large corporation. How can I recover from losing my support structure at the firm? What do I do now?
AFind another one. She’s not the only smart, reasonable partner at the firm. If she’s as cool and professional as you suggest, I’m sure she’s told other partners about you. But a person you know and like leaving for greener grass is part of life in the Big City. You need to re-group, find another “clique” within the firm and keep going.
Having said all that, I’m a bit worried about your use of the term “support structure.” This ain’t group therapy. I’m sure you two connected and had a good working relationship and all, but don’t mistake work-friends for friends-friends. Or therapists. We all need someone we can talk to—or bitch and moan to—but don’t look for “support” at the office. It’s possible to find it, no doubt, but it’s tricky. Look for smart, reasonable people with whom you can work and learn. Find your support network outside of the office (i.e., real friends and/or shrinks).
PS: Part of being an associate is figuring out how to interact with aggressive, overworked partners in an efficient and productive way.
My supervising partner comes into my office and says, “Might need you this weekend. Be available.” I get it—it’s part of my job. But this is the fourth time he’s done this in as many weeks, and he’s never called me. No call, no email, nothing all weekend. He always says, “You’re around, right? Going to need you.” Then no call.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not opposed to putting in long hours. In fact, if straight-up given the choice to either “work” or “maybe work” a weekend, I would choose to work. At least I would be billing hours and not sitting around my apartment for two days straight, holding my Blackberry like a warhead, and neither enjoying my weekend or actually working. To me, “might” means there’s a decent chance he’ll actually need me, but I’m getting the impression this guy doesn’t need or want me on weekends. He just wants to know that I’m waiting for his call (that never comes) and not having any fun in the meantime. An annoying way to remind me that the firm always comes first.
My main problem is that this weekend I’m taking my girlfriend away for her birthday. She’s been looking forward to it for weeks, and if I postpone the trip only to sit around the whole weekend for no reason, we might as well break up. So I decide to get out in front of it. I tell this ass clown I’m going to be out of town this weekend. “Just giving you a heads up,” I say. And he looks at me with a smug, disapproving grin and says, “Must be nice.”
Aahhh! I want to kill this guy. Must be nice? I was ready to work each of the last four goddamn weekends! And now I’m an undedicated asshole because I want to go away with my girlfriend this weekend? It’s not like if I stayed put I’d actually have work to do. Nor would he even know if I went out of town. Can’t win!!! Now I’m just another lazy schmuck who doesn’t want to work weekends. Sweet.
It’s back-to-school raffle ticket season. I don’t want any goddamn raffle tickets. The prizes always suck, and I never win anyway. Two secretaries have asked me so far if I’ll buy some for their kid—“no pressure,” of course. Am I a bitch if I say no? Or if I only buy one to get them off my back, do I look like a cheap ass? I have loans.
Buy ten dollars worth from each and call it a day. Cost of doing business.
Got a question for Ex-Bitter? Email it to email@example.com
My secretary is a disaster. One of my supervising partners has an awesome secretary. She has an opening on her desk, and I’m thinking of trying to get her. Is it a bonus or a burden to share a secretary with my boss?
Burden. Don’t do it. First off, the secretary will totally blow off your work for your boss’s work. She’ll answer your phones, but that’s about it. Second, you’ll never be able to sneak out of the office to play hooky or go on interviews because your secretary will feel awkward about lying to her other, more senior boss. The best part of a secretary is having said secretary cover your ass when the boss is looking for you. If she is also your boss’s secretary, she won’t be able to play dumb (or won’t want to play dumb) when her other boss—i.e., her real boss—is hunting you down. Your goal should be to share a secretary with the most junior person possible—and someone who has little or nothing to do with your career.
Got a question for Ex-Bitter? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m a 2L at a Pennsylvania T2 law school. I’ve received and accepted a summer associate position at a top Detroit firm. How much will my grades and staying on law review this year affect my chances of getting an offer at the end of the summer? (Assuming that I do an adequate job while actually working as an SA next summer.)
For the most part, your grades will be irrelevant in the hiring decision. The firm will most likely make its decision based entirely on your performance as a summer associate. Evaluating your actual performance as a lawyer is far more important than your second-year GPA. Having said that, don’t start partying your ass off just yet. Some firms do review second-year grades—especially in a tight job market like this. So keep working hard, but don’t freak out about an occasional B or B- either.
Got a question for Ex-Bitter? Email it to email@example.com
He’s the smiley, overly earnest dude who can’t wait to give you the inside scoop on everything and anything. He loves the firm more than any human being should love anything. Wears firm T-shirts on the weekend and is a member of every goddamn committee that will have him. He’s pretty darn active on the charity/political circuit too. And, of course, he can’t wait to mentor you. To teach you. To sprinkle avuncular nuggets of lawyer dust on you. Whether he’s giving you the head’s up on the best local lunch spot or spewing cautionary tales about cantankerous partners, this guy’s here to advise 24/7. He’s so helpful that you can’t help but hate him.
2. Hot Lawyer (Who’s Really Not That Hot)
A 6 in a land in 4’s, so she looks like an 8. She’s the woman you hear about the first day you set foot in the firm. The one everyone talks about in hushed, reverential voices. The unimaginably unattainable legal goddess used as a ridiculous reference point for beauty in casual conversation. “You know that actress… She used to be a model… Sort of looks likes Liz Silver…” And then, alas, you meet her, and you want to cry. Because she’s barely cute. She’s the fifth-cutest chick at a random SOHO café at lunchtime—if she’s wearing her best-fitting jeans. That’s when you realize being a lawyer really sucks. When not-that-hot lawyer chicks are considered off-the-charts gorgeous.
3. Douchebag, Know-It-All, Smartest-Guy-In-The-Room First Year
The guy who reads law journals in his spare time, writes law review articles for fun, and genuinely gets “a kick” out of the law. He’s twenty-six (but acts fifty-six) and is prone to wearing a bow tie from time to time. He’s a lawyer and damn proud of it. The senior associates and partners love him too. He’s the guy who makes you feel stupid—who makes you wonder if becoming a lawyer was a major mistake since he’s so much more advanced and educated than you. He’s a tireless worker and a relentless go-getter. Then, one day, he screws up and everyone sort of stops talking about him. People begin to whisper that he’s not really that bright. “A hard worker, sure, but not much candle power.” A year later, he leaves the firm for “personal reasons” and becomes a punch line at the holiday party.
4. The Uber-Cool Partner
The 35-year-old playa who everyone thinks is way hipper than he really is. The law-firm equivalent of the “cool mom” who lets you drink at her house and allows her high-school son’s girlfriend to spend the night in his room. Or even worse, the dude who graduated from college three years ago but still hangs out at the frat house. He’s single, immature, not-that-great looking and dates a lot less than he suggests. He’s every socially presentable associate’s best friend, while the wannabe-cool associates fight and clamor to become part of his “fascinating” social circle. He’s an all-around great guy—until you work with him on a deal and he turns into just another disapproving, workaholic dick.
5. Legendary Genius Everyone Reveres
He went to Harvard or Yale, worked for NASA (for real) and is now some legendary M&A guy who constantly cites obscure Delaware cases and SEC regulations. In his spare time, he creates exotic transaction structures and tax loopholes. The other partners and associates can’t go three seconds without saying, “He’s brilliant.” That’s all they talk about. How goddamn smart he is. They act like he’s curing cancer or solving global economic problems—instead of simply closing deals or trying cases. But that doesn’t matter because being scary brilliant is the “thing” all lawyers want to be. It’s much cooler to be a brilliant geek than cool, which is why being a lawyer sucks.
6. Paralegal/Secretary Slut
The sweet, nondescript, innocent chick you barely notice the first six months you work there. But then, over time—and after a few drinks—you learn that practically every young associate and horn-dog partner has had sex with her. You start to look at her a little differently. And she notices. Then one night, after a firm function . . . . Well, you know what happens. And it ain’t pretty. The next morning, you show up at work hungover and nod to the “hot chick” who you used to think was 4 but now looks like an 8.
I’m currently a 1L at a Tier 1 in Texas. I am thinking about transferring to a higher-ranked law school. My only reason for transferring would be to ensure that I would even have a chance of getting looked at for a U.S. Supreme Court clerkship. Is it worth it?
Right now I’m at the second-best school in Texas (may not be saying too much), and if I do well, job prospects will still look good. I just want a shot at fulfilling a dream and need advice. The schools I am thinking about transferring to are University of Texas, Georgetown, Yale, Harvard (last two are big dreams with little hope).
Transferring schools is always tricky. My instinct is: Unless you get into Harvard or Yale, stay put, get awesome grades, graduate number one and become Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. But even then, the odds of getting that Supreme Court clerkship are remote. As for Georgetown and UT, they’re good schools—and both boast past Supreme Court clerks—but it’s not like going there is some sort of Supreme guaranty. Neither is going to Harvard or Yale, for that matter. You’d have to be in the top 5% and be an Law Review editor.
Since it’s tough to get on Law Review—much less become an editor—as a transfer student, you might want to take this into consideration. Then again, if you get into Harvard or Yale, just go. You probably won’t become a Supreme Court clerk, but so what?
Bottom line: Transfer because you want to transfer—because you’re unhappy at your current school or because you get into someplace you think you’ll like better—not because you think one school gives you a better chance at a Supreme Court clerkship. No one has ever succeeded because he went to Harvard, or failed because he went to a Tier 2 Law School, so try not to get too caught up in the whole “Where I go to school” thing. Dangerous game.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Got a question for Ex-Bitter? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
While I never wore a ridiculous drugstore-purchased Superman costume to the office, I did wear one to a swanky Halloween party at the home of a famous female pop star. Problem was: I arrived at the party two hours early. It was just me—in a stupid costume—and the pop star—in jeans and a t-shirt. Oh yeah, and she didn’t exactly know me either. I was a friend of a friend. So there I was, some random ex-lawyer-turned-writer in the lamest costume ever, ringing the pop star’s doorbell. I was already nervous. Being an outsider. Not famous. Not terribly successful. I was sort of the token regular Joe at a fabulous LA costume party that I was told started at seven. And like the naïve outsider I was, I thought seven meant seven.
When Pop Star opened the door, she just looked at me quizzically. No smile. No recognition. No Halloween festiveness. Just a weak, slightly annoyed smile. Then finally, she uttered the following six words—six words I’ll never forget—“The party doesn’t start until nine.” Silly me, I actually thought that seven meant seven. Plus, it was a Sunday night. A school night. Who kicks off a party on a Sunday at nine? (Answer: Pop stars.)
To be fair, she did invite me inside. Pop Star and her two assistants—also both dressed causally in jeans—talked to me for about two minutes then ushered me into the den, where I sat by myself, in a Superman costume, for about two hours. But it only got worse…
When the other guests finally arrived, it was clear that I was pretty much the only loser who took the costume thing literally. About 70% of the people didn’t dress up. The other 30% wore “cool” costumes. You know, the kind that actually make you look better or hipper than you usually do. Not the kind that you buy at CVS—and make you look like a pedophile.
As for Living the Dream, in my quest to highlight the 24-7 randomness of Big Firm life, I thought it would be funny to see Nick’s nemesis boss, Phillip Atkins, call him back to the office on Halloween night while he was at a costume party, trying to have a good time. Costumes are embarrassing enough when you’re at a goddamn costume party, let alone an uptight, humorless law firm (which is why, I guess, I thought it would be funny.) To me, Atkins’ lack of reaction to the costume is the best part of the episode. He’s just another stupid associate in a stupid outfit getting called back from a Halloween party.
Anyway, the bottom line is: If you’re ever invited to a costume party, don’t go. And if you do, go two hours late—and don’t buy your costume at a drug store.
For the deal geeks out there:
If you were paying attention to the actual episode, you’ll notice that the Partner (Edward Kerr) tells Nick (John T. Woods) that the buyer wants to bump the purchase by $40 a share. Obviously, that’s a pretty big increase. Like crazy huge. So why does he say it? Because the actor made a mistake on that particular take. He was supposed to say $4 a share, but he said 40. And since it was his best take, we decided (after considerable and vigorous debate) that we’d go with the best acting performance, regardless of the $36 increase.
Or, if you’d prefer, we can assume that the seller’s stock is trading at $400 a share, so the $40 bump is only a ten-percent increase. Not earth-shattering news here, no doubt, but I wanted to make damn sure I preempted the M&A geeks and the mistake-hunters from ranting about the seemingly ludicrous $40 increase. Just so you know, I fought to use a lesser take where the actor said $4, instead of $40, to endure the transactional veracity. Until the editor told me I was insane, and the producer suggested I was ridiculous. Just another example of legal PTSD. Once a law geek always a law geek.
As for the Pop Star’s identity? I can’t say. Which is sort of ironic. Don’t you think?
QA lot of kids from high school who thought they were “cool” ended up getting fat and stuck in dead-end jobs. That makes me wonder, what happens to gunners when they grow up? Do they ever make partner? Or do they just curl up into a ball of douchebaggery and die?
AFirst off, I love the anger. It practically pops off the page. Nice.
As for your question. Do gunners ever make partner? Sure, some do. But remember, all gunners aren’t created equal. Some of those who “gun” have no bullets. They can gun all day and never hit the target. Others shoot from the hip far too often and ultimately miss the mark. And, yes, others are simply douchebags. But like I said, some do end up making partner.
The real question is: Does one have to gun to make partner? In other words, can you become a partner without being an ingratiating, overly-enthusiastic asshole as a junior associate? To me, the answer is yes. You have to work hard, be smart and excel relative to your peers, but you don’t have to gun. At least overtly. The most effective gunners out there—the gunners most likely to make partner—are the ones nobody really knows are gunning in the first place. That is, the stealth gunner.
Anyway, why do you hate gunners so much? Do they threaten you? Make you feel lazy and inadequate by comparison? Or do you just detest all the ass-kissing and gung-ho legal BS? Or are you a pacifist, anti-NRA lefty who just hates the word?
I stayed up all night revising this stupid Stock Purchase Agreement. The Partner in charge, who’s a classic angry-nerd-law-dick, gave me lots of detailed comments to incorporate into the agreement. He wrote them in red ink on the contract and said, “Make these changes, and get it out by midnight.”
It’s like 9:00 p.m., and I’m cranking away, when I notice that some of his comments don’t make sense. They contradict other parts of the contract, etc. So I email him right away, explain the issue and ask him to get back to me ASAP and let me know what he wants to do. I also said that if I didn’t hear back from him by midnight, I’d stick with his version. I wait a half-hour. No email. Then I call his cell phone. No answer. Leave a message. I call his home phone. No answer. Leave a message. It’s now 11:45 p.m., and there’s still no word from Loser Partner. I email and call both numbers again. Nada.
I send out the document at midnight WITH ALL OF HIS COMMENTS incorporated into the contract. Like I told him I would do in my email. I wasn’t just going to make the changes I thought made sense. I’m a third-year associate. What do I know?
He calls me into his office the next morning and screams at me for screwing up the Stock Purchase Agreement. “How could you send a contract out to a client with obvious errors?!” (He was talking about HIS errors, by the way, not mine.) When I asked why he didn’t email or call me back, he said he didn’t get the emails or messages. Obviously, he was lying, so I called him on it. “You’re kidding, right? You’re telling me you didn’t get my two emails or any of the messages I left?” He then accused me of having an attitude problem and said he was going to talk with the Managing Partner about my insubordination. I said, “You’re an asshole. You know that?”
He just looked at me and told me to get out of his office. But I didn’t leave. Not at first. I just stared his weasel-y ass down for a few seconds, and then told him I was going to have a talk with the Managing Partner and explain what really happened. And I’m going to tell him the truth—and I’m going to show him the emails. This loser almost turned purple. He tells me to watch my step, or I’ll be on the street.
Anyway, the Managing Partner was pretty cool. Told me take a walk around the block and calm down. He also promised that this incident wouldn’t be held against me and that he’d have a talk with the Loser Partner. Later that day, two Cool Partners came up to me and said, “Don’t worry about that guy. He’s a dick.” The lesson to be learned here is: Stand up for yourself and don’t let asshole partners throw you under the bus.