I work for a partner who is always out of the office. Instructions come in haphazardly at all times of the day and night, and often they don’t make sense given they’re always fragmented and sent from his Blackberry while he’s “on tarmac waiting for plane to take off” or “getting out of taxi.”
I’m a second-year associate at a top-tier law firm, so I am in no position to criticize the way in which the partner runs the team or delegates work—especially when a handful of equally smart, competent people from my start year have already been shown the door. In fact, the partner knowing I existed, having occasionally emailed me “good pt.” and “you handle this so I know it gets don [sic] right” were my reassurance as to why I’ve been spared from downsizing.
However, in the partner’s (constant) absence, a senior associate has taken it upon himself to be the “leader” of the team. This involves constant racial and sexual slurs—often with loud, jocular impersonations of other lawyers (including partners), clients and members of our team.
I don’t do a lot of work for this senior associate, thankfully, but in the lead up to performance reviews, he gave me one piece of work so that he could contribute to my performance review (since the partner was away so much). In one of his pompous jaunts down the hall, he pointed his finger into my office and told me to look up a section of a statute, barely pausing as he rushed off to a meeting. I was left immediately flustered. What in the hell did he want me to do exactly in relation to this section of the statute?
I focused on being as proactive as possible. I researched the section, case law, and commentary and summarized my findings in a triple-proofread memo, to which I even attached the particular section of the statute he requested. In my covering email to the senior associate, I asked if he had more information to give me in relation to the client and the matter. I plainly asked to do further research on the topic if he could please give me more detail. I waited. And I never heard back.
I followed up with another two emails over the next week. Still nothing. I caught up with him personally at our team meeting and mentioned it to his pudgy, insulting face. He said he would speak to me about it later. When I hadn’t heard from or seen him in a reasonable amount of time, I followed up with another email. Nadda. Zilch. Nothing. Radio silence. Was I being filtered over to his junk mail? I called IT and asked.
Weeks later, he franticly bursts into my office one day asking for the advice I was supposed to have written for a client in relation to a land redevelopment deal. At first I had no idea what he was talking about. Who was this client and what was this land redevelopment deal? He helpfully jogged my memory by saying, “I specifically told you to look at and advise on a relevant section of that statute.”
Riiiiigght—that matter. I calmly explained that all this information he was spouting off was the first I was hearing about it and that I hadn’t prepared any advice. I handed him the memo I prepared, and he just stared me down like I was an idiot. That obviously was not what he wanted, and he turned in a huff and took off for the meeting with the client in a very bad mood. I felt like manure, despite the fact I had done absolutely everything I could, given the woeful lack of information he gave me.
Then my performance review came this week. It was there that I realized the full implications of the situation as he delivered absolutely scathing comments about me.
“Does no legal analysis.”
“Cannot apply facts to legal situations or offer sound advice.”
“Adds no value to the practice.”
“Cuts and pastes sections of statutes.”
I was seething. This was the only piece of work I had done for him all year. He gave me no facts, no instructions. I simply attached a copy of the particular statutory section he told me to look at so he didn’t have to go and look it up himself. I followed up an unusual number of times to see if there was more information or anything more I could do. And I had been ignored every time.
What made it even worse was that the absentee partner for whom I did most of my work and (I thought) knew the quality of my work was happy to go along with the senior associate’s outrageous comments and happy to back up the senior associate’s recommendations in relation to my remuneration.
So now I sit around waiting for a fate worse than being laid off. It’s hunting season, and I’m sitting like a duck in the middle of open water waiting to be fired for cause. Sweet. Can’t wait. BANG!