I Have a Crush on a Partner

I’m a third-year associate at a pretty big firm, and over the last year and a half, I have developed a major crush on a partner.  He’s handsome, he’s winning, he’s sharp, he’s charming, and he’s newly single.  He was engaged for a couple years, but they broke it off about two months ago.  No, not because he wants to runaway with me.  To be honest, he only knows my first name.

Anyway, he and I have worked off and on together, and every time we’re in an office or conference room together, I realize that I think he’s a total “complete package.”

One night at a firm outing, he and I talked for over an hour, and I think it was more than a professional conversation, but I don’t want to read into it.  Let’s just assume that there has been plenty of interaction between us that felt “sparky,” but it has never crossed any lines. 

Without gushing about my attraction to him any more, I’m wondering what I can do about this.  Is there any way for me to attempt to hit on him?  Is it inappropriate to even try doing so?  I’m not trying to be his next booty call, but I actually want to date this man.

Basically, I’m a female associate with thing for a partner.  Can a dating relationship in this situation ever happen?  If so, how do I approach it?  If not, tell me, but don’t be totally insulting.

What you’re really saying is: I like someone, but I’m not sure if he likes me.  The only issue here is that the “someone” you like is a partner.  This is tricky terrain to navigate, no doubt—especially if you’re the aggressor, which is why I don’t think you should do anything too overt or bold to attempt to kick off the romance.  (And that’s advice I’m typically loathe to proffer to young, eager women.)

In other words, there’s no upside to you getting all Sex and the City on this guy.  If it doesn’t work, you’ll look like a fool and, quite possibly, hurt your career.  So, regardless of what sexually precocious strategy your uber-hip “Samantha” friend might suggest, don’t do it.  Showing up at this dude’s house naked in a trench coat for some surprise due diligence isn’t a good idea.  Unless, of course, you’re model-quality hot.  In that case, do whatever the hell you want—and it will work.  I promise.  (Yes, ladies, men are superficial.  At least in the beginning…)

My honest advice here:  Do nothing.  He’s a guy.  He gets it.  He smells “availability” like a bomb-sniffing dog smells C-4.  He already knows you like him, so there’s nothing more to do.  Men don’t need much encouragement to take the next step.  Especially a partner at a big law firm.  Do yourself a favor by playing it cool.  Be friendly, engaging, and find subtle ways to remind him that you’re single.  But that’s it. 

To be perfectly blunt, I’m sensing that Mr. Perfect Partner probably just ain’t that into you… If he were, he would have already asked you out.  Sorry.

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Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

26 Comments

  1. BL1Y

    July 20, 2009 at 4:26 am

    This girl has only had one real conversation with the guy but has already decided she wants to be in a relationship with him?  Creepy.  She doesn’t need advice about what to do with this partner, she needs advice on how to meet and attract men outside of her office so she won’t have to resort to projecting her fantasies onto her coworkers.

  2. Er, no.

    July 20, 2009 at 6:48 am

    Smart partners do NOT date associates.  Especially in this economic environment – risking a sexual harassment suit against the firm in pursuit of your own sexual fulfillment is how you get de-equitized.

  3. Partner

    July 20, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Er, no:  Partners date associates.  Fact.  99% of such relationships do not result in a sexual harassment suit.  Is it the smartest thing to do?  No.  But it happens every day and, most of the time, it’s just two consenting adults doing their thing.  There’s nothing creepy or inappropriate about it.  There are, of course, egregious and outrageous exceptions to this rule.

  4. lady lawyer

    July 20, 2009 at 8:50 am

    With adult men, meaning between 27 on up, it is all in the timing for them.  If they feel the need or want to settle with one woman, they will find one immediately for a serious committment. This Partner just got out of a relationship and he’s not ready to pursue another especially taking the chance with an associate.

    Move on girl, you can always flirt but don’t touch, your career is more impt.

  5. Jessie

    July 20, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I would say adult men start 30 and up.

  6. robert smith

    July 20, 2009 at 9:56 am

    The associate may be right on the button: maybe this guy is right for her.  Lots of firms are rabbit warrens for reasonably attractive people.  The “date outside the firm” advice is like saying “buy low sell high.”
    As to the guy here, , he has to be alert to a possible harassment claim from a misunderstood move, so he will NOT move on her first. She has to make it clear that its OK: she has to touch, flatter, etc the guy to show him the road is clear.  Ask if he has time for lunch: if yes, he’s in: if its no twice, he’s out.  He won’t mind her pushing it: if he’s into her he’ll move, but slowly, since he wants to avoid any problem, but he won’t avoid her. If he’s not, he’ll avoid her and all will be clear.

  7. Er, no.

    July 20, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Partner: Maybe so in the times when firms weren’t firing people left and right, but somehow I think standards of behavior might be different today than they were even three years ago.  Of course, if you’re the billing/relationship partner for a whale or two, you can do whatever the hell you want, including screwing the other partners’ wives, but if you’re a service partner?  I don’t think so.

  8. Lawyer Bob

    July 20, 2009 at 10:49 am

    @ Er, no,
    I think the point partner was trying to make, and it’s a good one, is that a lot of people do things that COULD lead to a problem. Yes, that’s stupid on their part, but it’s stupid in the way that speeding is stupid. Yes, speeding COULD result in a deadly crash. But it like won’t. Likewise, an affair at the office COULD be a career disaster, but for a lot of people, people who go WAY under the radar, the affair (no matter how it ends), goes unnoticed and without any adverse consequences to anyone’s career.
    It’s not that you’re wrong, er, no, it’s just that you’re not right. That is, you’re not right about the vast majority of cases that actually do work out just fine.

  9. Partner

    July 20, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Lawyer Bob:  I agree.  Well done.

  10. BL1Y

    July 20, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    An attorney with few prospects for getting laid outside of the office won’t turn down an intraoffice affair, regardless of the risk.  One who can go have risk-free sex at will won’t look twice at a coworker.  It’s not a question of prudence, it’s a matter of desperation.

  11. robert smith

    July 20, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    BLY1, are you being contrarian just to be stubborn? Realities like the eased access to someone in the firm and the thrill of a semi ilicit affair (to name only two) are not ignored by most men.  Few with jobs requiring them to be there relatively full time will ignore those benefits. I suppose the surfer dude who leaves at 5 and has a short shelf life at any firm might be an exception.

  12. BL1Y

    July 20, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    An illicit affair with an associate isn’t a benefit of being a legal partner.  It’s a consolation prize.

  13. robert smith

    July 20, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    BL1Y I apologize. I didn’t realize you worked in the mid west.

  14. Hannah Palindrome

    July 20, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    “To be perfectly blunt, I’m sensing that Mr. Perfect Partner probably just ain’t that into you… If he were, he would have already asked you out.  Sorry. “
    He is not interested!!!

    Next!

  15. Me

    July 20, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    “He’s a guy.  He gets it.  He smells “availability” like a bomb-sniffing dog smells C-4.”
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  16. BL1Y

    July 20, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Rob Smith:….I don’t follow.

  17. Alma Federer

    July 21, 2009 at 2:10 am

    This associate should steer clear of “mr. right”.  Trust me, he’s not. I was that girl.  But I was smart enough to know there are plenty of guys other than law firm partners out there.  Law firm partners will seize the opportunity for sex, but not commitment.  Fortunately, I had other options and even though 3 partners were busy for my first 3 years at the firm trying to get me into bed, I kept them all at arm’s length.  I am still very pretty and men always want me, but I keep my work and personal lives seaparate.

  18. Guano

    July 21, 2009 at 4:22 am

    As long as the woman uses proper birth control, I am not sure what the problem is?  Why is everyone so hung up on a simple sexual act like this?

  19. BL1Y

    July 21, 2009 at 5:52 am

    Guano: You’re on a site called BITTER Lawyer and you think people behave in perfectly rational, emotionally stable ways?

  20. Partner

    July 21, 2009 at 6:45 am

    I’ve had “relationships” with associates, summer associates, receptionists and a few partners… Not one complaint.  Ever.  Not even a whiff of a problem.  But I’m honest and respectful.  I don’t force myself on them and I don’t make promises, and when it ends, I don’t get all weird and distant….  So just chill out and have some fun.

  21. Georgie

    July 21, 2009 at 6:56 am

    I’m all for the fun, but it’s important to be honest and respectful.

  22. Robert Smith

    July 21, 2009 at 8:22 am

    BL1Y: I didn’t mean to be snarky, but was reacting to the term “consolation prize” to describe an in firm relationship. Lots of women at law firms on both coasts are very attractive, smart and worth having an affair with, or marrying.  Lots of men with bus careers or that want kids or simply the absence of endless turmoil in their personal life find hem attactive.  “Outside” women come with their own set of problems, as hordes of divorced lawyers who found little sympathy for their competitive careers can tell you.

  23. Urdu

    July 21, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Women in law firms are generally giddy, and many can do well with a good F***.  , I recommend this women give of herself to the partner, and he can then decide, after having her, whether she’s worth it to go at it for a few more weeks.  She is not particularly bright, so he should just wear himself out, and then find a fresh one.

  24. Er, no.

    July 21, 2009 at 10:12 am

    The fact that many people have office relationships (or drive drunk, have unprotected sex with strangers, or dance with the devil in the pale moonlight) without the worst happening does not make it a good idea.  It’s kinda like smoking – you may not be the guy that gets cancer, but if you have other options for fun, why take the chance?  I stand by my position – SMART partners do not do this, esp. in today’s economic/hiring environment.

  25. Craig

    July 21, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Bitter Lawyer has it right here.  Don’t do anything too brash. Just lay back and see if he slowly gravitates towards you over time. If he does not, move on.  If he does, then great.  Throwing yourself at him may result in sex, but it will seem desperate and will likely affect how he thinks of you as a lawyer.  Make him chase you a little bit. On the other hand, he may appreciate the ballsy, no bullshit, up front approach, and respect you even more. You never know, good luck out there.

  26. nobody

    July 23, 2009 at 8:54 am

    No, no, no. There are other fish in the sea—as my mother would say.  Never take a bath in the water you have to drink—or whatever that saying is.
    You are attracted to his “power” which is a very juvenile thing to give into.  Grow up and find somebody to crush on that isn’t in a position to ruin your career.

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