A Partner Blows Smoke in My Face

Q.I have what you may think of as a trivial issue but one that bothers me quite a bit. A partner in my firm smokes. No big deal. But, he often insists that I accompany him on smoke breaks, for what he calls “shop talk.” So, for the last year or so, about every third day, I find myself down in the office building’s “smoke hut” with a bunch of smokers, talking shop while the partner smokes.

The thing is, I learn valuable stuff, mostly about the inner workings of the firm, choice work assignments, good working knowledge about case strategy. But I feel like the smoke is killing me.

Should I decline the invitation to join him? Or maybe tell him something else? I seem to be stuck, and my peers think I’m nuts whichever way I choose.

A OK, first things first, and I hope you have already realized this. The guy is a schmuck. Pure and simple. Plus, he knows what he is doing, favoring you in return for getting off on some warped sense of blown-smoke power.

I don’t know about you and a certain number of your peers, but do what you think is right. And I hope that means telling the partner your actual thoughts. Actually, it’s often my first piece of advice to young associates: just be honest. Not brutally honest, but honest about the whole situation. Don’t say “hey, sure, I’d love to come get my daily dose of black death” (unless you mean it). But say something like, “Uh, no thanks, Darth. To be honest, I don’t do so well breathing in all that smoke.”

If you want to get a bit touchy-feely, feel free to expound on your explanation, something along the lines of you enjoy hearing about cases and talking shop but that the smoke is not something you really enjoy, at all. Maybe there’s a middle ground, like grabbing a coffee. Or, if you want to go kamikaze, I guess you could take up smoking yourself. Again, your choice. But you do have a choice. All associates do, whether you feel it or not.

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.

2 Comments

  1. The Dean

    July 20, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Screw cancer man. He’s a nutjob playing mind games with your weak ass. Get some balls. And then when he bites it in a few years from the big C, you can have his sweet partner office – although it probably reeks of smoke.

  2. NL7

    July 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I’m assuming he just doesn’t want to sit there smoking alone so he brings you along. He thinks he’s paying for your time by giving you special knowledge. It’s a trade.

    The smoke is probably not as dangerous as you think, since the doses you get are way less than the doses a smoker gets. Just don’t let it make you become a smoker.

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