Associate to Partners: Shut Up About Us Being 'Entitled'

BL1Y Columns, Lawyer 22 Comments

I’m tired of partners complaining about “entitled” associates.  We’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting into this profession, so when we are treated like crap by companies with supposed “one firm” and “open door” policies, we’re going to get pissed off.  Most of us want to become the above-average, intellectual, genius lawyer your TTT education has already proven you, our whiny, pussy bosses, will never be.  Sorry you’re bitter about having employees who are better educated than you, but you’re a grown up, so get over it and be thankful for the good fortune of having access to so much potential.

And shut up about the number of hours we’re billing.  We bill however many hours you give us to bill.  So if we’re not billing enough, it’s your own fault.  Sure, billing 1950 hours is considerably less than the 2300 hours you may have billed when you were in our position 40 years ago.  But in today’s world, it can take us 3000 hours in the office to bill 2000 hours.  And, for the most part, it’s the fault of the damn partners.

We can go all week with nothing to do, only to get an “urgent” assignment Friday afternoon that needs to be completed by Sunday night.  And by “urgent,” I mean “you forgot to assign it two weeks ago when it landed on your desk.” So even though we might have only billed 35 hours that week, we were in the office for 80.

Maybe you billed more hours than we did, but we put in more time and are getting less credit, and it’s all your fault, you no-talent hack.  Until you learn the fundamentals of management, you’re nothing more than a super-senior associate, no matter where your profile is on the firm website.

And yes, we know that law is a business, but it’s also a profession.  Once upon a time, it was profession first and a business second.  The only reason it’s a business first now is because you got jealous of your friends who went into finance and made your salary look like chump change and picked second wives from the cream of your daughter’s friends.  So, you decided to over-leverage your firm structure, relying on an army of associates to bring in the bucks, instead of finding ways to bring in clients or provide unique, quality services.

And now that the structure has collapsed, students from top law schools who took out massive loans to pay for their education are looking at massive pay cuts or unemployment.  Yet when we complain about finding ourselves in a shitty market that we had no hand in making, we’re told we’re “whiny, entitled pussies” and should be lucky that someone might pay us $18/hour for doc review.

Listen up, assholes.  We weren’t the ones who thought it’d be a good idea to hire six associates for every one partner.  The last time the legal market crashed, many of us had just received a free Gillette razor and a letter reminding us that if we didn’t register for the draft, we’d never be able to vote or get student loans.  At the same time, you were working at a freaking law firm, probably more than a little nervous about your job security.  But did you decide to learn from the economy then?  Not a chance.  And yet, we’re whiny, entitled pussies because we’ve failed in the first few years of our professional lives to make up for the mistakes you made over the last decade.

Are you seriously complaining that we’re pissed off about being stuck with the all the downside of your mismanagement?  Maybe we’re not entitled to six-figure jobs straight out of law school, but you’re not entitled to pass the costs of your mistakes on to us AND tell us to like it.  Even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked.

And to that barely-literate asshat William Urquhart at Quinn Emanuel, “etc.” is used for a list of things; “et al.” is used for a list of people.  Learn what the “save as draft” function is for and stop relying on junior associates to impress your clients.  That’s your responsibility.  Nut up, or shut up.

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  • Bloody Associate

    “We can go all week with nothing to do, only to get an “urgent” assignment Friday afternoon that needs to be completed by Sunday night.  And by “urgent,” I mean “you forgot to assign it two weeks ago when it landed on your desk.” So even though we might have only billed 35 hours that week, we were in the office for 80.”
    Hear, hear.
    PS: I doubt anyone used to work as hard as that 40 or 50 years ago – this is something which started in the 1980s when indeed lawyers began taking up after investment bankers (or succumb to every one of their unreasonable, hysteric whims). In fact, I am convinced the standards went downhill since the 1960s – drafting facility agreements between 02:00-03:00 a.m. does not promote quality.

  • KateLaw

    I like both sides of this argument.  It’s nice to see BL1Y submitting posts on here… he has plenty of valid points.

  • Guvment Cheese

    I love: “even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked.”

  • Craig

    Nice response … I’m liking the Partner vs Associate battles going on here.

  • Amused Bystander

    Weak rebuttal BL1Y.  Other than expressing your obvious rage and bitterness, you really didn’t make a valid point.  Sorry, dude.  I was rooting for you, but you struck out.  Asshole Partner 1, BL1Y 0.

  • Magic Circle Jerk

    “it can take us 3000 hours in the office to bill 2000 hours. “
    Preach on brother, preach on

  • HGR

    Some great shouts here.

  • Robert Smith

    Pardon me while I gag at this latest from the self-important, self-annointed Paris Hilton’s of the legal profession.  They are as sure as unionized desk clerks working 9:45-4:00 that they grace us with their mere presence.  Like high school football captains flipping burgers while dreaming of the good old days, their useful time is over:  they want to rest on their law school days–unaware that it came from undemanding, self-indulgent, tenure-protected professors, often with with no more connection to the real world than the Duke 88, or Ward Churchill.  “We can go all week with nothing to do…” really says it all.  Like lazy secretaries that spend hours”waiting” for something to do, it has not occurred to them to act like adults.  To figure out what needs doing!  Gasp! Yes that might mean DOING something without being asked (!) and led by the hand.  Without turning on the billable hour clock: like reviewing the client documents or the deal memo in your down time, so you can get off your commodius rear and contribute something. Imagine going to a partner and saying “Do you think we ought to XYZ?” They’d love it!  They’d think (when the door closed) “my god! There’s one with a future!” But no! Far better to sit like some useless litcrit grad student destined for a cheap apartment, box wine, a one page tax return and bad haircuts “waiting” for something to do.  Aside from law, did Madame Curie, Beethoven, the lawyers that defended the lacrossse players, the two kids that just blew ACORN off the map, woodward and bernstein, (blew the lid off watergate, a scandal in the 70’s), “wait” for assignments?  Do defense lawyers facing trials “wait” for assignments?  Does it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, you might dig into the file and make yourself useful instead of sitting in your office whining about why you get no respect?  BL1Y’s comments are normally perceptive and worthwhile: I assume he has here responded to the bile from the prior article which indeed overdid it (I thank my staff profusely–they glow, just like I used to when the old school partners that trained me complimented my work).  But there is no denying the obvious: you owe it to yourself, your profession (and it is still that), your clients and your future kids if any, to advance as an adult. Unless you want to be one of those old geezers still practicing at age 75 with pads on the elbows of their sport jackets, croaking “I used to be in a big firm! Honest! I went to a great law school!” .  School’s out. Adult life is here. Among your peers there are many advancing as you sit.  Oh and PS: clients are looking to send as much legal work to India as they can: want it to be yours? No? Better get moving.

    • Tom Fernandez

      @Robert Smith. I know this post is really old and perhaps I’m kicking a dead-dog, but I have to agree w/ this post. I don’t even see this as a question of partner v. associate anymore. This is more of a child v. adult argument. To the whining child, welcome to the real world. Stop sitting around and waiting for Mom to tell you to clean your room. Clean up before she even asks. Better yet! Clean up as you go, i.e.,grow up. Great post Mr. Smith.

  • Anon Female

    Both sides do have a valid argument. Good rant BL1Y!

  • Guano Dubango

    I would like to add a comment. First, I congratulate BL1Y for posting here.  Maybe he will become a regular, and upgrade the posts of the other tools, which have fallen short lately.
    Second, I think partners bully us associates, but they own the firm and have some ability to do so.  Third:  Perhaps I should look into investment banking, because I would very much like to “pick a wive from the cream of your daughter’s friends.” Having young woman as a wife means she can bear me more children before she goes stale.  How can I arrange for a young nubile female to wed?  BL1Y, please have the tools preserve my comment for any potential responses.

  • phelge

    I can’t take anyone seriously once they use the term asshat

  • Brett

    If BL were located in AZ, I might give him an interview.  Maybe even give him a job…just to see if he can hack it with the TTT’s I’ve hired.  Of course, he’d have to learn how to sell a jury.  The one thing I will say for the TTT guys at my firm: they’re the best litigators I have.

  • ANOM10

    I do not think I want to go to India for a lawyer to handle my US tax problems.

    Will ligitation be handle through closed circuit TV?

  • Desi

    Kudos to BL1Y. normally he kind of annoys me, but I thought his piece was very good.

  • R Smith

    anom10:  I’m not being facetious.  I wish I was.  Patent research and drafting is moving there now.  Is pre-trial re research, document analysis, and motion drafting immune?  If pre-trial work is done 90% abroad, can’t the “pre-packaged” case be tried here? By foreign lawyers admitted to practice here?  So much for the batallions of US trial lawyers.  If it starts with insured work, for example, will commercial work be pulled there to compete?  What will be the effect of those idled lawyers on salaries here?  Will there be more unemployed lawyers competing for your job?  I remember those big steel manufacturing plants and GM assembly lines. They looked impervious to change too. No one had any idea what a global economy meant.  They do now.  I seriously don’t think associates realize it either.

  • BL1Y

    Robert: Legal research and writing requires language skills that are difficult even for a lot of native speakers.  Most of our foreign associates required frequent help wording things correctly.  I wouldn’t trust them to pick up on nuances in the phrasing of opinions or statutes.  Also, if you look at how miserable the bar exam rates are for foreign LLMs, it definitely looks like the locals have the upper hand in understanding US law.  Part of it is just because they’ve been studying American law for two more years, but classes like Feminist Jurisprudence or The Trial of Jesus don’t really help too much.  A lot of what makes us better with American law is just knowledge we’ve absorbed living here, especially when any policy issues are involved.  What you might see is electronic document review being sent overseas.  You need only very basic legal training to know if an e-mail relates to XYZ Contract; they can flag it and send it back to the US for analysis.  Pretty much what contract attorneys are doing here.  In the end though, I think legal work isn’t something many execs will be comfortable shipping off to India.  The people who currently go straight to the white shoes aren’t going to be too keen on having their cases handled by a random chai wallah filling in while a friend watches knock offs of American TV shows.

  • Anom10

    Mr. Smith, I am somewhat aware of the global economy.  But I still am frustrated when I speak to someone about my credit card and end up calling the company requesting someone in the US to handle my problem.  I do respect the skills of the Indian professionals.  I have worked with engineers, MD’s, and parents/children in the US. Many many jobs before I became an attorney/lawyer.  But I still need great support with my cases and requesting India for help at this time does not make me feel comfortable or my clients.  Maybe later.

  • R Smith

    Anom and BL1Y: I like the regular comments you both post, and I do not mean to echo the bile belching of the partner that started all this. What you both say on this topic has a great deal of validity-now. So did GM’s wishful dismissal of foreign cars-in 1966 (“scratch a japanese car and there’s a coke can underneath.”). Zenith’s diss of foreign electronics manufacturers-in 1964 (“they can’t even make vacuum tubes.”) Today, travelling abroad for surgery at greatly reduced cost is catching on because its so inexpensive. Boeing used to manufacture entirely in the US, but has outsourced the manufacture of the 787. In house GC’s are being presssured to cut costs too. Expensive US law firms are a big cost. Not a profit center. The GC’s moved first to use contract lawyers (remember what a big deal that was in big firms? To have two “classes” of lawyers? Today its accepted). Electronic document review and patent drafting abroad is just a whiff of what’s in the works as more data goes on line and foreign lawyers get better at US law. As telephone appearances and electronic filing of litigation documents take hold beyond the federal courts where it is the norm now.  US firms with offices abroad will pitch the ability to do cheaper work there. US baby boomer lawyers will likely move abroad to cut their taxes and cost of living and be your competitors.  Even if its necessary to keep a US lawyer on for flavor and nuance, it won’t be entire teams.  My point? Complaining about “mean “partners ignores your own situation; your duty to yourself, your family or likely family.  Like UAW auto workers in the 1970’s, too many associates think they have a god-given right to highly paid jobs as lawyers, whether the firm is doing well or not. Your competitors abroad do not and they are far hungrier and more anxious to work. The UAW had a chance in 1970 to keep US manufacturing competitive: it and GM’s management failed; they took customers for granted. In the 1970’s and early 80’s, clients paid their law firms without question, in response to short “for services rendered” bills. I was there for it. The high water mark I think.  The changes since then- bill auditing, contract lawyers, off shore work- are drifting only one way.  You can connect the dots for our own legal profession.  All the best.

  • Guano Dubango

    I work for a big firm, and I think that all partners make money so that I want to become one.  But since I am not from USA, I am not likely to become partner.  So I spend my days looking for a female lawyer who will bear me children who eventually will support me in Ghana.

  • anon

    You are an awful, awful, AWFUL, writer. Wow was it hard to follow that pos you call an article.

  • EngineerdLawyer

    @R Smith:
    Great comment.