Minority Report

minority report“Matthew, I need your help with something,” the senior partner said as I stepped into his office.

Even I couldn’t get you laid with that gigantic mole on your face.

“There are going to be some changes around here.”

I don’t like where this is going… I am way too hung over to get canned today. I wouldn’t have the energy to go down in a blaze of glory.

“I’m just gonna put it out there,” he said. “Matthew, I need your opinion about some cutbacks we’re making.”

Yes, I am the firm’s greatest asset. Don’t fire me.

“We have to rescind some offers for the incoming class, and since I based my reviews on what you told me, I need input here. We need to make sure we only hire the most competent, sharpest people.”

He handed me three files and said, “It’s your call. Tell me which summer associate to cut.”

Wow, did he just give me free reign to fire someone? Woo hoo. There’s nothing like being drunk with power to remedy a Patron-induced hangover.

But when I got back to my office, I realized “drunk with power” wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  The candidates weren’t the problem.  It was what they represented.

Here’s how they broke down:

Candidate #1: Jason. Georgetown Law. Conservative guy, engaged, worked on a deal with me. Made no mistakes.

Candidate # 2: Sherry. U. Penn Law.  Very uptight, worked on two deals with me and her total lack of social skills and typical female chip on her shoulder rubbed me the wrong way. But she didn’t make any major mistakes on the two deals she worked on with me.

Candidate # 3: Adam. Harvard Law. Good guy. Actually, my favorite guy.  If this were a personality contest, I would tell the others to get lost. However, there’s this trivial matter of competence. In the three deals we worked on together, he demonstrated a skill level somewhere between gross incompetence and my dog stepping on random computer keys.

Adam, my friend, all the best. Good luck and farewell!

Two little problems.

Adam is black.

And Sherry’s a lesbian.

I want to be clear: I am not prejudiced. I have black friends (both on Facebook and in real life) and have seen every Tyler Perry movie. And lesbians?  Do I even have to justify my love for lesbians?

Race and sexual orientation cause a problem because I don’t think the firm would actually rescind either offer under any circumstance. In fact, I’m certain both of them are untouchable. They may as well be riding around in that bulletproof Popemobile because of that unwritten BigLaw policy:

Thou shall not fire any protected class lest we be faced with picketing from the ACLU, the wrath of Rev. Al Sharpton and some candy-ass jury handing out $10 million to any young associate who gets called a name. 

Not that there aren’t incompetent white lawyers. There are. One of my good friends at the firm reads at a seventh-grade level. And I know a tax lawyer who has trouble with simple arithmetic. They should be canned—and they will be.

However, when the firm finally comes around to jettisoning its non-minority dead weight, it just fires them. There’s no meeting with HR or the recruiting department or the PR coordinator. A partner simply walks into the guy’s office and says something like, “Get out, and don’t forget to take that Hofstra diploma that has been desecrating our walls for two years with you.”

So, was I supposed to tell him to fire Jason, the competent white guy without a ready-made cause of action? Or maybe the senior partner really wanted my professional opinion on the merits of each candidate, now that the economy is in the toilet and we can no longer afford political correctness. Or maybe everyone on the hiring committee was relieved because they could finally fix their mistakes.

I wanted to think it was about merit, I really did. But I knew better.

The firm regularly turns a blind eye to incompetence when the person in question is a minority. And I’m not the only one who has noticed this. Associates openly discuss the fact that [NAME] would have been fired a long time ago if they weren’t [INSERT YOUR FAVORITE PROTECTED CLASS]. And by “openly discuss,” I mean in front of other white dudes while out drinking heavily.

So, I walked into the partner’s office for clarification.

“I’m just supposed to be going on merit here?”

“What else would you be going on?”

“Well, you know, I just feel like the firm might be a little leery about letting certain candidates go.”

“What are you inferring?”

You can’t fire the lesbian or the black dude!

“Um, well, you know, with the firm being worried about bad press or lawsuits…”

“Matthew, let me stop you right there. The firm has a policy of reviewing every candidate and holding everyone to the very same exacting standard. So please, strictly based on their qualifications, which candidate would you let go?”

“Okay, then even though I really like the guy, based on merit, I’d have to say Adam has no business working here because he screwed up every assignment.”

“Thanks for your input, Matthew.”

I walked out wondering whether I was being a racist or a realist. Should I join the KKK or the ABA?

* * * * *

The other day, I got a call from the partner.

“Matthew, I know I put you in a tough spot,” he said. “I just wanted to let you know, we rescinded Jason’s offer.”

“Well, I’m sure Adam will be disappointed… Wait, did you say Jason?”

“Matthew, the committee based their decision on a number of reviewers.”

“Really, who else?”

“It was a combination of your reviews and, well, mine. It was a tough call, but this decision was in the best interest of everyone involved.”

Translation: It’s easier to fire competent white dudes than it is to get rid of incompetent minorities.

Stay PC, BigLaw.

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

Read more Unethical & Amoral.

51 Comments

  1. Northern Chick

    February 26, 2009 at 5:28 am

    The typical white male partners at BIGLAW will necessarily favor their own, and keep White males (Like BL1Y), laying off women and minorities that are not likely to be good in bringing in or nurturing paying clients.  To the extent that the women and minorities start bring in paying clients, they would become more valuable to the firm; but until then, they are more in the nature of window dressing, and expendible when it comes down to cutting out the fat.

  2. BL1Y

    February 26, 2009 at 7:12 am

    Is Northern Chick (a) too dumb to realize she’s a bigot, (b) too bigoted to think hating white men is wrong, or (c) a troll?

  3. Color blind

    February 26, 2009 at 7:19 am

    BL1Y is white?
    Sorry, I don’t see race when it comes to internet comments.

  4. Old Enough to Know Better

    February 26, 2009 at 7:39 am

    Northern Chick is on to something.  The typical partners at BIGLAW will protect their own.  Unfortunately, what she doesn’t realize is NOBODY right out of school is one of “their own.”
    Face it, ALL of the new kids are window dressing.  The firm is just rolling the dice and praying that none of them screws up badly enough to lose a client. 
    Since most 1st years at BIGLAW are useless in the grand scheme of things, why not keep the ones that will keep the discrimination claims to a minimum.

  5. Alex Hump

    February 26, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Who cares what color BL1Y is?

  6. anon

    February 26, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Couldn’t have been happier to find this guy as the writer this morning after being up all night writing a brief. At least some things about law school are good

  7. Craig

    February 26, 2009 at 8:22 am

    I agree anon (below). I just had to give a 45 minute speech on anti tort reform last night in front of my 100 person class. This website is one of the things that keeps me sane while I research/read. Please keep the new articles coming, from all the writers. This guy is my favorite though. (And I even enjoy reading the comments, no matter how crazy some of them are.)

  8. Anonymous

    February 26, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Go Craig!  I think it’s best to diversify the firms, even if it means losing the white guys that mightl, over the next 10 years, bring more revenue into the firms than the others.  It doesn’t pay to be stylish, but it’s good business (whatever that means).

  9. anonymous

    February 26, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I don’t think this is accurate at all. I think Matthew needs to take a long look in the mirror and admit that he is a bit racist and that is where his perspective is coming from.

  10. BL1Y

    February 26, 2009 at 11:31 am

    I don’t think @11:05 is accurate at all.  I think @11:05 needs to take a long look in the mirror and admit that she is a bit racist and that is where her perspective is coming from.

  11. biglaw midlevel

    February 26, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Sadly this story is repeated EFD.  I feel sorry for protected minority group assocs who are actually competent, because everyone just assumes they are incompetent because they are sacrosanct. Then again, a lot of them aren’t competent to begin with.

  12. anonymous

    February 26, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    It’s going to be a brutal summer for 2Ls.  Would this be a good time for me to start questioning my sexual orientation?

  13. chad_broski

    February 26, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    this post reminds me of possibly the most absurdly inept summer associate in the history of summer associates. he was a charismatic guy, but i can’t even begin to describe his incompetence. it was shocking that he was actually attending a decent law school. and the guy knew how to work the system – once his mid-summer reviews clued him in to the horrendousness of his work product, he began making vague accusations of racism and a hostile work environment, and he suddenly became an HR nightmare. ultimately he was not extended an offer, but only after forcing the firm to triple and quadruple-cover its own ass. a white candidate of his caliber would have likely been shown the door after about two weeks. he managed to get about $30 grand out of the experience, not to mention all of the freebies he pilfered (such as running up ridiculous lunch and happy hour tabs). he was the poster child for the costs of forced diversity initiatives.

  14. BL1Y

    February 26, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I don’t understand the purpose of diversity initiatives at a place such as a law firm, other than for affirmative action and PR.  Universities can make the argument (however persuasive you find it) that a diverse student body and faculty creates a better learning environment because of the different view points present and the opportunity to learn about other cultures, religions, etc.  What good does it do in a law firm?  Do black people tend to have a unique perspective on the 1934 Exchange Act?  Does it help a client to have every tenth filing be written by a lesbian?

  15. Anonymous

    February 26, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    It’s stylish to have some diversity around the table, even if only 2 or 3 people actually do the work for the rest of the laggards.  To be honest, there are plenty of useless and lazy white guys, so the minorities arent the only dunces I’ve seen.  Once in a great while, you’ll get a smart one, so it’s not a foregone conclusion that every minority is useless.

  16. chad_broski

    February 26, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    totally agree, anon – the firm i worked at also had some very skilled and competent minorities. but there were some real clunkers, and i agree with bl1y that the whole diversity thing really doesn’t add much in a commercial law firm environment. it’s another story if you’re in a plaintiff’s p.i. firm or a firm that does a lot of civil rights litigation – i think that’s where “diversity” can really be an asset. but i totally agree that you don’t really need “diverse” viewpoints to handle a UCC claim or an asset sale. you need competence. if minorities possess that competence, great – by all means hire them. if not, they should not be hired as window dressing or for the firm brochure.

  17. Anon

    February 26, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Can anyone coherently explain why “diversity” in an intellectual pursuit such as the law is measured based on skin color, which really offers no insight into how different two individuals are, rather than differences in philosophy, background and outlook?

  18. Anonymous

    February 26, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Also, I worked with a totally stupid female, who was only there because she was stacked, and the partner in charge was a tit man.  She in some ways was worse than a minority, because she was totally out of bounds for sexual reasons (partner had exclusive dibs) , but useless for any other purpose.

  19. Katzenbach

    February 26, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Just to be clear, the guy was incompetent because he went to Harvard, not because he was black.

  20. chad_broski

    February 26, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    anon – skin color is used as a proxy for firms actually having to get to know their candidates and learning about their backgrounds, philosophies, etc. the assumption is that if you’re black, you bring a completely different “viewpoint” to the table, despite the fact that most black lawyers come from upper-middle class families whose upbringings were no different from their white counterparts. the racism is implicit in that the assumption is that if you’re black, you must have had some wildly exotic influences that will cause you to see the lanham act in a whole new light.

  21. Anonymous

    February 26, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Lanham Act?  What that be, man?

  22. anonymous

    February 26, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Just out of curiousity, who do you think firms are MORE afraid to fire, minorities or gays? I would have said minorities, now that Obama is president, but the gay coalitions seem way more organized. I learned this from watching Milk.

  23. Anonymous

    February 26, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    They can fire the gays, as long as they’re willing to take it up the rear end in court.

  24. thinking lawyer

    February 26, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Anonymous @ 2:39- “Once in a great while you’ll get a smart one”.  I bet you fantasize about being Jefferson Davis, you racist dunderhead.

  25. Anonymous

    February 26, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Unbelievable pussy manager at the firm. Don’t they know that if decisions are to be based on merit that they should keep the guy / girl with the most merit?  As between the black and white guy, the white guy was better.  Not enough information about the woman/lesbian, but that should not matter as long as she doesn’t make an issue of her sexuality at work.  I would have voted to jettison the black guy.  Does that make me racist?  I don’t think so.  If he sucks, he should go, even if he complains to the EEOC, they will have to let the firm win, especially if they prove he is a buffoon.

  26. BL1Y

    February 26, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    @4:54: If they fire the black guy and he sues, the firm can have problems regardless of the merits.  They’ll certainly get a lot of bad publicity from a discrimination suit.  The accusation hits the news (er…ATL, etc) and gets attention, but no one cares any more by the time the claim is dismissed.  Also, to show he was a bafoon, they’d have to smear a former employee on the record, which will also give them bad publicity, even if true.

  27. Matthew is an Idiot

    February 26, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    “I want to be clear: I am not prejudiced. I have black friends (both on Facebook and in real life) and have seen every Tyler Perry movie.”
    Matthew-You’re an IDIOT!
    Who cares if the guy is black! Who cares if the girl is a lesbian. You fire the incompetent worker & you hire the competent worker. It’s not rocket science. This is business. I don’t care if the guy went to Harvard.

    You’re statement was RACIST!
    This reminds me of my friend who wanted so badly to save the auto industry. Save the American auto industry! He drives a German car.

  28. Susie

    February 26, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    I wonder why there are people in this country who believe that minorities do not get their jobs based on intellect. Gee…maybe because of dummies like Matthew.
    Look past the race. Your focus on their race/sexual orientation was disgusting. You’re a moron!

  29. Reality Check

    February 26, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    To “Matt is an idiot”
    I think it’s called a joke.

  30. Anonymous

    February 26, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    I think this writer is right.  Mabye not politikly correct, but right.  Why are the liberals bashing him?  Hire and fire based on merit.  What is wrong with that?  BL1Y seems to say don’t do it because it’s bad politics?  How is the firm to survive if it is teeming with mediocrity?  Tell us, BL1Y, how?

  31. boss with both

    February 26, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    my boss has both male and female genitals.  worst attorney ever but completely impossible to get rid of.

  32. Anonymous

    February 26, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    I think that “Matthew you’re an idiot” and “Susie” are the same poster. Both either don’t get the point or choose not to accept how things really are.

  33. BL2Y

    February 26, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    Matthew is an Idiot:  You are indeed the idiot.  The point of the article was to demonstrate that race and sexual orientation should not matter, but that so often it is the determining factor due to an overly pc society.  You are calling the writer an idiot, yet your statement on firing the incompetent worker is consistent with Matthew (not-the-idiot) Richardson’s.  I don’t think your reading comprehension is up to par with a BL.  Assuming you read the rest of the article, Matthew advised that the incompetent employee should be fired regardless of race.
    Susie: There are people in this country who believe that minorities don’t get their positions based on intellect because of diversity requirements and affirmative action.  If a minority comes from a low income area with a school district that performs substantially worse than that of a white kid from an affluent neighborhood, the minority is not going to be as well educated.  Diversity requirements or affirmative action may get that minority a spot at a top university or law firm, but his intellect will be questioned as a result…and then when he messes up on a deal, the boss will keep him.  This is why we need to reform the education system instead of trying to “increase diversity,” which makes minorities tokens.

  34. Elmore

    February 27, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Man?, wha choo tawkn’ bout, man?  I be degreed, man! JD’ed man! from Ivey Leegue skool, man!

  35. BL1Y

    February 27, 2009 at 5:08 am

    @7:55: I was saying why a firm might act that way, not advocating that they do so.  And Susie: Have you never heard of affirmative action?  Universities accept minority students with lower highschool GPAs/SATs than would be acceptable for whites.  Law schools accept minority students with lower GPAs/LSATs than would be acceptable for whites.  How do you think a law firm’s diversity initiative works?  You think Matthew should “look past the race?” That’s what he did!  You’re confusing Matthew with the partner who would rather deal with incompetance than a discrimination claim.

  36. Alma Federer

    February 27, 2009 at 5:18 am

    Hire and retain WOMEN.  We have been put down and kept down too long by the men, like BL1Y and his forebears.  We are tops and based on merit we should be retained.  As for minorities, I think they should be hired and retained on the basis of merit.

  37. Anonymous

    February 27, 2009 at 8:08 am

    This is funny, sad and true.

  38. Anon

    February 27, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Matt’s not racist, he’s honest.  Big difference.  I’ve been there myself and that’s how it happens.  Great article!!!!

  39. Desi

    February 27, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Good article impressed by his honesty.

  40. Confused

    February 27, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Shouldn’t Michael have nipped this in the bud and pointed out Adam’s glaring incompetence by his third failed deal as a summer associate.?  Why complain now?  Michael should have said his piece long before Adam ever received an offer of employment.

  41. Anon

    February 27, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Confused: It’s called politics. What’s the upside for some mid-level associate to hammer a minority candidate?

  42. BL1Y

    February 27, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    What’s the upside of a mid-level ripping into any summer associate?  Everyone knows they’re incompetent.  He’d just looking like a jerk if he brought it up earlier.

  43. Alma Fan Club #1

    March 1, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Thanks for showing how not to think Alma.  If women can be generalized to be “tops and based on merit … should be retained,” how is it that people shouldn’t be discriminating again?  We knew why you were single already, but if you hate men so much, have you tried a same-sex relationship?  Perhaps you should.  In any event, your argument basically justifies men acting the same way, which is pretty funny.  Guys, you should feel free to discriminate against women, and don’t feel bad about it – as Alma so handily demonstrates, women do the same when they are able.

  44. Alma Federer

    March 2, 2009 at 1:41 am

    How am I wrong?  If firms hire and retain the best, then they, by definition, will hire and retain women.  Look at the female firms –they do well by doing good.  I am all for merit.  I said if you don’t hire the best you will suffer.  How many law firms can say this about hard working women?  Not many.  There always will be some non-productive workers, but on the whole, women are the best.  If you hire and retain us, you will do well.

  45. BL1Y

    March 2, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Alma: Just for the record, this isn’t feminism, it’s womenfirstism, or what the lay people call “bigotry.” Yes, if you hire the best lawyers, you will necessarily hire SOME women.  But, that’s not the argument you make.  You didn’t say that “women are among the best.” Nope, just that “women are the best.” When you say this sort of shit all you do is encourage discrimination against women.  If when women get into positions of power they use those positions to promote female-supremacist ideals, then men will feel free to keep women out of power.  Misandry is no better than misogyny (except that the Firefox spell checked recognizes misogyny).  Your bigotry doesn’t deserve a fair shake, so don’t complain when the other side fights dirty to keep it out of power.  However, I believe that most men and women believe in fairness and equity, and that your extremist position is in the minority, so all we need to do is discriminate against bigots like you, instead of women at large.  I look forward to the day when we are all judged on the content of our character.  On that day, Alma, I hope you bring a box of tissues.

  46. Ace in the Hole

    March 2, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    BL1Y, have you considered that this is how a large number of feminist-educated women think today?  It is, if you get them behind closed doors.  It’s not that men and women are different but equal, or the same – it’s that women do everything men do, better, and are generally better off without men at all.  Alma’s statements below are a perfect example of this kind of thinking.  The original ideal of equality and valuing each person for what they brought to the table was horribly distorted into man-hating, blaming “male oppression” for all failures, and other plain old sexism.  This is what suffices for “education” these days in many places.  Sad, and the fact that Alma can’t see the irony in her position would be funny if it weren’t so depressing.

  47. BL1Y

    March 3, 2009 at 4:22 am

    This is actually pretty close to the views expressed in my feminist jurisprudence class.  I’d get to hear all about how men were violent, and animalistic, dangerous criminals, and how the women were afraid of them, especially if they were alone in a bad neighborhood.  If you’d have substituted “black” for “men” you’d have instantly been teleported to Birmingham circa 1960.

  48. Anonymous

    March 3, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Yea, those beeotches want us to do everything for them, and then want to take our jobs.  I say to heck with them!

  49. Anonymous Woman

    April 8, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    I know nothing about big law PCness, since I don’t work there, but I totally believe.  (Btw, competent women hate incompetent women too.)
    One thing that is true, however, at least in smaller and medium size firms, is that female associates don’t seem to get into as many pissing matches with young male partners as male associates do. So we don’t get fired as often for being assholes.  (Notice I did not say “never,” just “not as often.”)

  50. lawyer directory

    May 12, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    It is essentially important for human beings to follow laws and orders

    without which a man can be brutal enough harm others. It can be easily

    mentioned that law plays a vital role in arranging the mob in a

    systematic manner. So, one should never fail to follow laws of any

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  51. abiton

    May 25, 2009 at 3:05 am

    I appreciate the concern which is been rose. The things need to be sorted out because it’s not about the individual but it can be with everyone.
    abiton
    <a href=http://www.legalx.net>lawyer directory</a>

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