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BigLaw: Attention Partners: Top Five Reasons Associates Hate You

By Legal Tease of Sweet Hot Justice | Monday, November 8, 2010


Originally published on November 8, 2010 in our free BigLaw newsletter.

If you're a biglaw partner and have spent any time cruising around the latest legal blogs, or, hell, even cruising around your office building, you've probably noticed the obvious: Your associates don't much care for you. In fact, on most days, we sort of hate you. A lot.

And no, it's not because you make scads more money than we do, or just because you're our bosses. It's mostly about the small stuff — the grating little things you do on a daily basis that make us, on a good day, resent you and, on a bad day, want to go target shooting with your professional headshot.

But there's hope! All it takes is a little self-awareness mixed with a dash of self-restraint. So, take a hard look at the five most common hate-mongering partner habits below and if any of them seem familiar … stop! Before you know it, the only people left hating you will be your clients.

1. Pick One — Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde

If you're going to be a jerk, be a jerk. We're okay with that. Actually, we expect it. The problems start when you pull the cool partner" act, treating us to happy hour cocktails and encouraging us to set personal boundaries one day — and then turning into a drooling bipolar lunatic the next day when we don't answer your 2 am email within 30 seconds. Just pick one emotional identity and stick with it. We may not like you for it, but at least we won't hate you … or try to have you committed.

2. Get Over Yourself and Give Out That "A"

Remember that professor you had in law school — the one who refused to give any grade higher than a B+ because he believed that no one (aside from himself, of course) was actually smart enough to deserve an "A"? Well, tuck that fond memory in the back of your mind the next time you fill out associate reviews.

In other words, don't be like the infamous IP litigation partner in my firm who refuses to give a top review score to any first-year associate, as a matter of self-proclaimed policy. Look, we get it. We're just lowly junior associates. Someday, if we work really, really, really hard, maybe we'll be as amazing as you are. But in the meanwhile, these reviews determine our bonuses. So, give credit if credit is due — or live with the results.

3. Pause Before Sending Us That Facebook "Friend" Request

Really? Do you really want to be "friends" with us, on a social networking Web site or otherwise? Why? You barely make eye contact with us, much less talk to us. If you actually want to be friends with us, start by … well, moving to a new firm. Or stopping by to say "hi" once in a while. And if you're just hoping to see drunk pictures of us, try buying us drinks and bringing a camera. Either way, leave our online alter egos alone.

4. Save the Teaching Points for Morning

Training is great. We love it! That's why we chose to work at a large law firm in the first place — those big, fat, biweekly … training sessions. We actually appreciate it when you take the time to explain the background behind a fine point of law or a general practice pointer to us — just not when you do it at 2 am from your vacation lake house in Tahoe while we're at the office closing a deal for you after a string of all-nighters. So, please, keep the practice pointers coming, but try to use some discretion when handing them down. At the very least, wait until daybreak.

5. Avoid the Blame Game

Who doesn't love a speeding bus? Associates, that's who — especially when you throw us under one. Look, we understand that we make mistakes now and then — big ones, sometimes. We don't expect you to cover for us in front of a client (though if you do I can assure you that you'll earn more fierce loyalty from us than you can imagine, no matter how much of a jerk you may otherwise be).

But nothing will prompt us to gather a figurative lynch mob outside your office faster than blaming us for your mistakes in front of a client. Not only is it vile and pathetic, it's a cop out. You're supposed to be a leader, right? When someone you supposedly supervise screws up, you're just as much to blame as they are. So suck it up, grow a backbone, and take one for your team once in a while.

And don't worry. You can always take it out on us later in private. This is biglaw after all. We wouldn't expect anything less.

Legal Tease has clocked more years than she cares to remember working in one of the world's largest law firms. She writes regularly at Sweet Hot Justice, which we encourage you to bookmark and read religiously.

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Topics: BiglawWorld | Law Office Management
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