Last of a Dying Breed (of Big Law Scumbags)


Oh the irony. I returned from an extended lunch one day last month only to realize I had a meeting for my annual review that afternoon.

After ditching out of work early the day before to meet up with a cute cocktail waitress from my old bar for a 6:10 showing of Up in the Air, there was something about watching George Clooney fire people way more competent than me for two-and-a-half hours that put me on edge. I couldn’t help being a bit squeamish; however, I figured if I managed to survive for this long with all the shenanigans I’ve pulled, I was pretty much bulletproof. Firing Matthew Richardson at this point would be like trying to impeach George W. Bush now.

I closed my door and mentally prepared myself to meet the two ad hoc corporate review partners, Bob and Jin. I had managed to avoid working for—and barely even speaking to—both of them my entire career as a lawyer at [Big Firm.] Bob, mainly because his breath stinks and I hate staring at his ear hair. And Jin, well, mostly because I don’t mesh well with the Asian work ethic.

I rehearsed some stock responses in case they turned on the heat:

“Sure, my hours were low this year, but weren’t everyone’s?”

“I plan on picking it up BIG TIME this first quarter.”

“I know I haven’t worked with either of you before, but I’m really looking forward to doing so in the near future. Especially you Lin—I mean, Jin.”

“Offices are notorious for gossip. I know better than to dip my pen in the company ink.”

I took a few deep breaths. With those gems in my pocket, I knew I was going in fully prepared. They knocked on the door, and I offered them both seats in my office.

The looks on their faces immediately gave me a queasy feeling. I made a joke about the holidays that fell flat. I could see in their eyes they wanted to establish no human connection with me. I’m all too familiar with that look. It’s the same one I’ve dished out to many a stripper trying to pump me for more cash by telling me about their family life.

Jin: Matthew, I’m not going to beat around the bush. The reviews you received this year are consistently negative and your hours are way down. You’ve only billed 1350 hours to date.

Okay, wow. Cutting straight to the chase here. Not even a simple “How was your weekend? Did you see Avatar?”

Me: Well, I’ve had a bunch of broken deals, you know how that goes… I—I mean, sure, my hours were low this year, but weren’t everyone’s?

Jin: Matt, how do you feel you can improve your job performance? You agree that it needs improvement, yes?

CODE RED. I AM BEING FIRED.

I started tuning Jin out while visions of vengeance filled my mind.

My temperature started rising. I considered which one of them I’d punch in the face and which one I’d smash in the ear with a closing binder. I watch a lot of UFC, so they could be in for some serious pain.

I weighed the pros and cons of having a total Michael Douglas Falling Down episode. Should I handle this firing like a professional? After all, I’m Matthew fucking Richardson—not some whiny associate who actually gives a rat’s ass about this job—does my reaction even really matter?

Matt. Matt. Control yourself! Tune back in. What the hell is Jin even asking?

Then it dawned on me. Bob hadn’t chimed in yet. Was he the firm’s executioner? I stared him down carefully as I spoke.

Me: You know what? I think I’ve made some steady progress over the years. Overall, as an attorney, I think I’ve grown. Maybe this year isn’t as indicative, but I plan on picking it up BIG TIME this first quarter.

Jin: This isn’t just about your subpar work performance, Matthew. There are also some major concerns about your extracurricular activities.

He must be referring to me sticking my pen in every inkwell at the company. And, like I feared, he likely really did overhear me that time I threatened to carve a glory hole in the women’s bathroom on the 13th floor.

Jin: I think it’s fair to say you are starting to develop a less-than-professional reputation. It’s not good. For the firm especially these days.

Damn paralegals. They can never just bang and keep their mouths shut.

Jin’s BlackBerry started chirping and he excused himself, claiming it was a client. I figured this was their system for executions. Bob would now coldly ask me to lay my head down sideways on my desk ALA Mel Gibson in Braveheart, and I would wait for him to cut off my head and let it drop into the wastebasket.

When Jin was good and gone, Bob leaned in close. I pictured the last paralegal I would ever bang and braced myself for the guillotine—my well deserved fate at long last.

Bob: (Practically whispering—) You’re lucky you’ve got allies at this firm. Partner told me about all of the intangibles you bring to the table. Guys like Jin, they just don’t get it. In their country, it’s all about the work—not about the people. That’s why we run this world. In the old days, a guy like you would be on partner track, but now we’re more international. One of these days, you’ll have to take me out on one of your famous Richardson adventures.

Hold the phone. Hold the goddamned phone.

If I understood Bob correctly, he just said that Partner made a call on my behalf and gave me a stay of execution based on my “intangibles” (i.e. I take a lot of these loser associates out and get them pussy, and I take loser clients out and get them pussy). I DO perform a valuable service!

Also, Bob had just revealed himself to be a blatant racist, but he’s old, it wasn’t that overt, and he just saved my ass—so I’ll let it slide.

I was thanking him for understanding as Jin walked back in the room. Jin looked at Bob, and Bob nodded. As if to say, “I set him straight.”

Jin: Before we go, we really need to impress on you that this is the only time that we’ll ever be having this conversation. We hope you take what we said to heart and that we see some marked improvement soon. Otherwise—

Me: I get it. 100%. And you will see a 180-degree turnaround. I’ll call you both tomorrow to see you have any new deals for me. I know I haven’t worked with either of you before, but I’m really looking forward to doing so in the near future.

They got up to walk out. Bob patted me on the shoulder the way a scummy-but-proud grandfather would. It was enough to make me start rethinking the whole bad breath/ear hair thing. Maybe he wouldn’t be so bad to work for after all.

I exhaled. Holy shit, that was definitely a close call.

I have been playing with fire for years. Have almost got burned many times. But nothing like this. I always figured the fact that I lasted this long was a testament to my rapport with partners. Guess I was right. I’m like the law firm version of Liam Neeson in Taken. “What I do have are a very particular set of skills.”

Now I know I have Bob and Partner on my side to protect me from the Jin’s of the world. If he had his way, he’d be dining on my corpse right now. But, unfortunately, the Jin’s of the world are becoming the rule; the Bob’s are now the exception. The fact that I came this close to being canned today means I may be the Last of the Mohicans.

In a few years, there may be no more room for a guy like Matthew Richardson in BigLaw. I’ll shed a tear when that day comes. Obviously because it will mean I got canned.

In any case, for once in my life, I was a little shaken up and needed to clear my head. So I calmly walked out of the office, smiled at my secretary and headed straight for the strip club. All in a day’s work.

Matthew Richardson is mergers & acquisitions by day, Unethical & Amoral by moonlight.

Read more Unethical & Amoral.

32 Comments

  1. Alma Federer

    January 15, 2010 at 4:44 am

    This is why I detest the big firm environment.  Because the partners live for the sexual charge they get at work—sometimes at a mens club with strippers, and if not out of the office, then with paralegals and pretty young associates like me.  Ugh!  There are a few partners I work with with bad breath who also want to sleep with me, and take me to the Knicks games.  I really don’t understand why they don’t go home with their wives.  They have kids, too, so why do they always just stare at me and my breasts?  I can’t imagine these men in a personal sense, but they do pay me a salary, but to do my job, not to provide a sexual outlet for them.  I am very smart, and just want men to think of me for my professional skills.  This article shows how difficult it is when a man can be revered by the partners for having sex with every woman in the office.  Well he would not get anywhere with me.  I am very discerning and would keep away from him.

  2. Ex-BigLaw

    January 15, 2010 at 5:09 am

    Alma, you’re so clearly an emotionally clouded idiot, thinking that any modern, desirable man would ever fall for this nonsense, that it’s totally clear that not only won’t you ever find one, you won’t ever make partner at any respectable firm either.  Enjoy the feminist reading list in your small cat filled apartment.

  3. BL1Y

    January 15, 2010 at 7:02 am

    The only way to respond to someone vaguely mentioning “extracurricular activities” is to play dumb and ask them to be specific.  If they have something solid, you’re screwed anyways.  But, they usually don’t, and it’s just the rumor mill, and they’ll be forced to admit it.  Once they can’t point to a specific thing you’ve done, you can make them agree that your reputation is more the fault of the rumor mill than anything you’ve done.

  4. PGuy

    January 15, 2010 at 7:21 am

    Hey, this is really well written! Congratulations Matthew! You had me almost sympathizing with your amoral, lazy ass,

  5. Juris Depravis

    January 15, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Guess who’s back….back again….Matthew’s back….[exchange big bills for a bunch of singles and] tell a friend.  Thank heavens he dodged this bullet.  We need more depravity at the office to make it worthwhile to come in every day!  And BL1Y is right (again)–“extracurricular activities” is one of those fishing lines they throw out to see if you are dumb enough to bite.  Always play dumb and demand specific details!

  6. great

    January 15, 2010 at 8:27 am

    best BL post ever!

  7. Sympathizer

    January 15, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I’m with you, Matthew.  I bring a lot of “intangibles” to my firm and that’s the only reason I’m still around.  Since I work in a very conservative environment, I’m not getting clients laid, but I can still very much sympathize with your position.  Now, if I only lived in a state where they allowed actual nudity at strip clubs…

  8. Miserable associate

    January 15, 2010 at 11:01 am

    This is total crap. I work my ass off just so I can keep this job that I hate, hoping that I will stand out from the jerkoffs like Richardson and he gets kudos from a partner. I got a warning about my hours and I billed 1800, which was pretty tough to do in this environment. F*&k;you Richardson!

  9. BL1Y

    January 15, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Advice for people who bring “intangibles” to their firm: make sure the people above you know about it.  I did tons of favors for other associates, like proof reading stuff for the non-native English speakers, or explaining that when numbers are left alone they don’t change value.  But I doubt I got any credit for it.  They still ask me for help even now that I’m not working there.  What the hell?

  10. DantheMan

    January 15, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Matt my man, I feel your pain. You clearly are so much more talented than you get credit for. dey need you in hollywood man.

  11. Norbert Humperdink

    January 15, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Only ugly people work at my firm (with a few married exceptions).  Nothing to bang.

  12. www.pinkshoelawyer.blogspot.com

    January 15, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Richardson, I love your sense of fun and adventure.  But aren’t you concerned that some moderately ambitious feminist/former sexual partner is going to chop your dick off? Oh wait… Big Law.. known for its endorsement for sexual harassment… they even give it its own euphemism: “marketing.”
    And pesurely you are suffering from some disquiet, knowing that the only people laid-off Big Law lawyers with nothing better to do hate more than you are the physics majors puking out algorithms at Goldman for a couple hundred tho a year, plus bonus?  And that they may, in their copious amounts of free time, figure out from their resume-stuff pro-bono criminal clients how to get an unregistered firearm??

  13. Stay Classy NY

    January 15, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    First time I’ve read this column. I seriously doubt much of the validity of what he claims. Though, with the culture in some firms…you never know.
    What I find much more interesting is the comments. Some of you actually look up to a narcissistic moron like this? Really?
    Grow up and grow some balls, you self-entitled pricks. The definition of character is doing the right thing when noone is watching. It appears many of you aspire to the opposite.
    You guys won’t amount to a hill of shit.

  14. Evil Lawyer

    January 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I don’t understand why you (Alma) won’t take one of the more powerful partners to bed. Providing sexual favors to powerful men has worked for hundreds of years. He’d praise you to others, protect you, and take you on wonderful mini-vacations. He’d buy you nice clothes and take you to expensive dinners. You could always insist that he leave his juiceless, nagging, ungrateful wife and he would.  Why do you toil so when the means to an easier life are at hand?  Centuries ago a powerful man would have taken you as a prize when your city (defended by the Matt Richardson’s of the day, out at strip bars) was sacked and the Jins defeated. You’d have been happier then. But you can make it happen now.

  15. Anonymous

    January 15, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    I have tried unsuccessfully to woo Alma, Evil Lawyer.  She is too proper, and does not like men from Ghana, even though I have a good job.  I do applaud Matt Richardson, because he takes a lot of these loser associates out and get them pussy, and takes loser clients out and get them pussy.  While I do not pursue women just for sex, the women in my firm think that I do.  I do have evidence that white women actually prefer black men when given the choice.  Here is an article I hope you will read, and then perhaps, I will be able to get many more white women to give me a chance.  Please read this article, entitled “A White Woman Explains Why She Prefers Black Men” and women please provide your name and e-mail address on this website if you want to try me out for size. 
    http://www.nypress.com/article-12509-a-white-woman-explains-why-she-prefers-black-men.html

  16. Evil Lawyer

    January 16, 2010 at 11:21 am

    anon: if I have that problem (woman prefers a black man to me) I’ll have an african-american woman lawyer friend of mine show up at her work place dressed like a street fighter, hair askew, threatening to “whump your skinny white ass.” That should do it.  As to Alma, she baits her hook with a carrot, insisting that the fish like it. It’s good you are done with her.

  17. BL1Y

    January 16, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Anon: Before me, ex-BL1Y’sGF had only dated black men.  Women who like black men like BL1Y.  I don’t understand it, but I don’t question it.

  18. Bitter Overseas

    January 17, 2010 at 1:45 am

    Great column

  19. Marshmellow jd

    January 17, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I relate to MR. You speak your mind.

  20. Alma Federer

    January 18, 2010 at 3:41 am

    You guys are losers.  I only prefer an HONEST man, and a man that respects ME, not some guy who is deified because he can “get pussy” for his clients and loser associates.  That is not a man who would respect me, because I do not respect that.  I simply want a man (preferably white) who will respect me and treat me the way I treat him.  What is so complicated about that?  I do not understand why men bash me for being honest and straight on this.  I think it is ONLY because I will not sleep with men so quickly.  The few men I have slept with will all agree that it was worth the wait.

  21. Schadenfreude

    January 18, 2010 at 6:27 am

    Alma, YOU are a loser. Your whining disgusts me. Why is it that feminists (and you are clearly a feminist, judging by your “I-hate-men” tone) hide behind their militant ugliness to shade themselves from one simple fact: You are not capable of getting laid? The sex game is DEFINITELY a two way street, as is mysogeny/feminism. Women who are actually attractive use that fact as a tool to get what they want out of men, and embrace it rather than reject it. Your bs response to this is just as bad as a man saying that women are objects and should be at home barefoot in the kitchen.

  22. Schadenfreude

    January 18, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Sorry. *Mysogyny.* Your whining has caused me to make spelling errors. I hate you.

  23. what

    January 18, 2010 at 7:03 am

    First off, that column was funny. 
    Second, I’m a feminist, but I disagree. There are men of all types, if you look around there are men who will respect women. Obviously on the other side, there are men who only view women as objects. If there are men leering who want to find younger women at the firm for “extracurriculars” let them be, don’t participate and find some normal men to date. Offensive, maybe
    Yes, men and women use flirting and sexuality to their benefit. But people at work want to be around other people at work who don’t suck. It’s not all about sex, some of it is just some sort of work friendship that may seem like something more sinister.

  24. Schadenfreude

    January 18, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Dear What,
    “What aint no country I ever heard of. They speak English in What?” -Sam
    You make a valid point, albeit a meandering and cryptic one. Please explain the finer points to Alma. She is in need of mentorship. Also, as a feminist, would you please explain to me why most feminists are anything BUT feminine? Thx.

  25. Alma Federer

    January 18, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Shanefrude, I am no more a feminist than the next girl; all I want is a guy who respects me; not just until he gets his sexual fix.  So many men I know just like to stare at me and my body, because I am very pretty, and because of that, they think I am just a sexual object with no mind of my own.  Well I went to law school and passed the NY bar, so I am smart, too, but these men just want me for sex, and do not care what I am thinking about or my ideas on legal topics.  That is the experience I see here, too, with you guys being part of a club that just thinks of pretty women like me as objects for sex, not for marriage and family.  I want both a career and marriage and family.  Is that too much to ask? I do not think so, and that is what I am holding out for.  A decent man who respects me and loves me; not just some oaf that wants to have sex, then rolls out of bed and out of my life.  No thank you; not for me, pal.

  26. Schadenfreude

    January 18, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Alma, I obviously can’t speak for all guys out there, but I actually PREFER a woman with a brain. A hot woman who is incapable of holding an inteligent conversation is nothing but a shell. Boring. Pointless. If I settle down and marry, it will certainly be with a woman who challenges me in every way. Sexually, yes, but also intellectually and physically. The 50’s model of woman whose life ambition is to realr kids is a (thankfully) dying breed. What the hell do you even talk to a woman like that about? That said, I also hate whining. Especially when it is shrouded in a veil of self-righteousness. So yes, please have a brain. Yes, please be hot enough to warrant objectification. Yes, please use both of those aspects to impress men. But for the love of christ and all that is holy, STOP WHINING ABOUT THE MALE STATUS QUO!

  27. Magic Circle Jerk

    January 19, 2010 at 7:53 am

    It’s stories like this that keep me going. It’s good to see that our profession hasn’t totally been over-run by the hordes of nebbish idiots and work freaks out there.  Keep it strong.

  28. Magic Circle Jerk

    January 19, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Alma: you are schtick is getting too tired.  Good schtick doesn’t take itself seriously ALL the time.  Think up another routine. (oh and if this isn’t schtick, then seek professional help, our comments are f-ing insane).
    Miserable Assoc- brother, the key is to work smarter, not harder. I’ve seen a dozens of people get canned over the years because they think that hard-work is all they need. WRONG! MR has the right of it. Just as partners have to suck up and “build relationships” with clients, so to do associates have to with partners. Think about it this way: they spend more time with you then their families, so they better like you. BL1Y realizes this, if, sadly, only in hindsight.

  29. Son of Guano

    January 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I love smart women. Having them is a thrill you can’t get with women of lesser wattage. This has been a huge burden to me since I prefer the smart and good looking types.  But is Alma for real? Is she worth the wait? Is she witty or brittle? Bitter or genuinley nice? Smart or just overly impressed with a mediocre intellect?  Does she snap at waiters? Does she really want kids?  These pressing issues need to be resolved.  So I volunteer to date Alma next time I am in NY, and LF10 when I am in Chicago (I was just there) and she seems smart to me. Maybe she’ll dump “Carson”!  Or if either comes to LA. To avoid any bias, neither will give me a real name, we will meet in a public place, arrive separately, and I will not make a pass at either in the first two hours, giving both adequate time to bail.  Both will have to provide accurate measurements, astrological sign, birth order, most personal traumatic event, most embarrassing moment, answer a brief questionaire, and I will provide a full and unbiased report.

  30. Anon

    January 20, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Alma’s laughing at you all. She’s probably surrounded by cats, boxes of See’s candy and nestled in an overside Snuggie.

  31. Seniorpartner

    January 26, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Really, a few moments of discomfort with an older man who can’t last more than about 25 seconds is a small price to pay for a ride straight to the top!

  32. LLM

    January 30, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Dude, seriously?  I really hope that these accounts of your life are mostly fictionalized.

    And while reading about your career trials and tribulations is interesting- what happened to that girl you were dating?  I’m guessing she went by the wayside, otherwise you wouldn’t be wasting so much time at strip clubs.  tsk tsk.

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