Info That Would’ve Been Helpful 100 Hours Ago


Partner drops a huge motion on me for summary judgment, which I am to write in one week.  This is a case that has been litigated for five years, involving more than fifty years of contracting history between the parties.  The associates regularly assigned to the case inexplicably never researched many of the significant issues of the case or drafted a statement of facts.  I am “the closer,” the savior, the only one who can get this done.

I am locked in a room with what seemed to be hundreds of boxes of documents, deposition transcripts and discovery responses.  I am told to write the motion and given nothing more by way of guidance.  After more than a hundred hours of work, I blearily forward a draft via email to the partner and other associates on the team and stumble off for a few hours of sleep.

That afternoon, I receive a terse email indicating that I am to report immediately to the partner’s office for a conference call with the client.  Apparently, my draft has not been well received.

Client is incensed.  At the beginning of this case, five years ago, client advised us that it did not want to make “Argument X” because of the ongoing business relationship client had with one of the defendants.  The same “Argument X” that is central to my motion.  Partner looks at me and shakes his head.  All associates in the room turn their faces away, ashamed at my failure.  Partner must placate the client—stating that I made a mistake and would fix it.

Of course, none of the people actually assigned to this case, including the partner, ever told me that the client did not want to make “Argument X.”

I haven’t spoken directly with a client since.

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9 Comments

  1. chris

    September 9, 2008 at 4:45 am

    Dude.  Why didn’t you tell them that no one bothered to tell you not to make argument X.  You’re an attorney for gods sakes, be assertive.

  2. Anonymous

    September 9, 2008 at 7:38 am

    This is typical.  The putz assigned to do the work is never told anything important, as everyone is either too busy, too stupid or too busy kissing the client’s ass to alert the gnome doing the work.  If the senior people had read it, they likely forgot all about the big issue.  This is the kind of problem that makes you want to just throw up.

  3. BSD

    September 9, 2008 at 9:28 am

    The partner should have had the b*lls 5 years ago to tell the client that the case was a loser if they used their thinking (that’s why the hired a lawyer in the first place),
    Find another partner ASAP.

  4. Bill

    September 10, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    You’re officially dead as a doornail for no good reason.  Find another firm ASAP.

  5. Interesting...

    September 10, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    … that the partner apparently forwarded your draft to the client even containing the Argument X!
    Apparently, either he didn’t read it, or had forgotten this himself – you should have called him out on not giving you the parameters of the assignment, and doubly called him out on sending work product that he, not you, should have known the client would not be happy with.  His job is to review your work, and if he’s not doing that, he is useless in this equation.

  6. Content Associate

    September 11, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    You should have perhaps asked what they wanted you to argue or as other here have mentioned tell the partner that no one informed you of that.  If you don’t know what you are doing before performing a task, ASK!

  7. Jesse

    September 15, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Shitty situation ….. but you should have bounced your ideas off someone before hour one hundred

  8. Big Country

    October 8, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I’m surprised at how many people say to ask questions or bounce ideas off of someone.  At my old firm, which resembled the prison where it sounds like this associate works, asking questions was highly frowned upon and “bouncing ideas” was the kiss of death.  A question, even if well-thought-out, is an admission that you don’t know everything, and some firms require that you maintain the pretense of being omniscient.  Bouncing uncrystallized ideas off of someone can be even worse because, not only does it show that you’re not omniscient, you come off as inarticulate and bumbling as well.  If this associate worked at a firm like my old one, then there was no way to avoid what happened to him, but he will suffer severe consequences.  Sort of like being struck by lightening on a sunny day.

  9. Nemesis

    November 19, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    “Dude. Why didn’t you tell them that no one bothered to tell you not to make argument X. You’re an attorney for gods sakes, be assertive.” – Chris
    Agreed. In a field where ‘work’ seems to be the bread and butter, you’d be surprised how much work you can avoid by cutting the crap. It is ridiculous to expect you to get up to speed with 5 years of litigation in a week. Either grab another associate who was on the case and ask some questions, or simply tell the partner the issue. “Hey, sure, I’ll write this motion, but a week won’t be sufficient time for me to become privy to all the information in the case. Can you spare an associate who’s been on the case? Because otherwise I don’t think this motion will end up being what you think it should be.”
    There are enough sniveling associates out there, too smart for their own good, running around the firms afraid of their own shadows, much less the partners. The way to earn respect is to set yourself apart. Work won’t do this… all associates work hard. Assertion and initiative, critical thinking and problem solving, being more than a glorified secretarial robot… all of these WILL do this.

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