Associate Does No Legal Analysis

Bitter and Abused Columns, Lawyer 17 Comments

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!

Share this Post

  • Anonymous

    You got set up.  Sucks to be you….SERIOUSLY!

  • Anon

    I just spent the morning answering a “why did you do that e-mail…” I stopped short of cutting and pasting the instructive e-mails sent by the partner and just began each paragraph with “as per your instruction…” Associates at firms are scapegoats, they need us to cover their incompetence, missteps and oversights.

  • blogenfreude

    I got a similar review from a senior associate who told me to give a draft appellate brief a table of contents and a table of authorities “NOW” even though I’d only written 3 pages (of about 30). Later the dickhead gave me a terrible review (the only one I got that round) saying I should not merely guess at what “the law” was. He was rumored to have no shot at being a partner, but he eventually made it. I’m long gone from that firm, but I’m guessing he’s got no decent clients. Fucking douchebag.

  • TTT Associate

    It’s chumps like this that give Biglaw a bad name.  Douchebag senior associates worrying about teeing off, driving their Beemer, or wondering how they can be even more douchey.  Associates and young lawyers need mentors, and by this point, seniors should understand that the more facts given, the better legal advice provided.
    I like the set-up in my boutique firm.  We actually sit down and discuss a case, issue and facts before I run off and prepare a memo or brief.  It makes for better legal advice, and happier clients.  Also, I think boutiques do it this way because they have realized the failings of the BigLaw way of doing things, and implemented a better way.

  • giddy

    have worked for person like this. majorly frustrating.

  • Bigish Law

    Yep you were set up. Intentionally giving bad reviews are what the firms ar e doing now to cut people tin order o make room for new hires. Don’t take it personally but get ready to be unemployed and fighting off foreclosure.

  • Magic Circle Jerk

    You are

    A) getting set up to be stealthed,

    B) just getting screwed by a jerk
    sorry either way

  • JD3

    I had this problem, then left my first job.  In my second job, the bosses’ wife didn’t like me.  In my current job, I am OK.  So don’t worry. All will eventueally work out.

  • Ace in the Hole

    OP, why didn’t you ask for a chance to respond and then produce all the correspondence asking him for further information and detail the repeated requests for more info?  The posters here are right that it sounds like you are being set up.  Perhaps you could respond in a way that signals you are aware of this, and that you can substantiate that these are falsehoods that will back up a potential wrongful termination claim?  Actually, it sounds like you might have a libel claim against the reviewer personally as well for making abjectly false characterizations about your professional performance – why not get a little litigation experience and a few dollars from the firm to make this go away?

  • ihatemuseums

    Sucks.  But if I were you, I would have not even started the research project until I got more clarification on the instructions.  I also would have walked into dude’s office and insisted that he give me more guidance, face to face before I started the project.  If he was unreachable, I would have talked to somebody else on the project to try to understand what he was getting at.  Email, while good for creating a paper trail, is not the best way to get somebody’s attention.  You’ve just GOT to be more aggressive when working with busy people.
    And I hate to say it, but I do think you bear some responsibility here for what happened.  It’s probably fair to say that any research assignment is probably going to require application of facts to the law.  You didn’t have any facts—you should have gone out and gotten them any way you could, and added that section on your own.

  • AllLawyersSux

    You should have just gone to the Partner and told him what the SA was doing.  They think they are the second coming of Christ.  Little do they know, they’re going to be shown the door NEXT!

  • Puff, Puff, Puff

    1.  you should have followed him out the door to verify the assignment:  Waited outside the meeting if need be.  Sitting “flustered’ in your office was the act of a boob. sorry
    2.  Don’t be one of those “I emailed him and he didn’t get back to me” people.  GO AND SEE HIM! 
    3.  Now you’re in the positon of admitting you didn’t understand the assignment, did little except long distance ass covering to find out what you were expetced to do, and then didn’t do what was needed. 
    FYI: they emply you to be useful-not sit in your office flustered. No wonder it was so easy to make pertner when i did–I had people like you as competition.

  • Content Associate

    I agree with Puff Puff Puff.  I have been in that situation where I wasn’t quite sure what a partner wanted and sat flustered.  I eventually had to go back to the partner to get clarification.  At first I thought they would be angry and annoyed that I had to come back and ask them again, but usually they were happy I came back to get clarification before beginning the research, so as not to waste time or money.  If there is one thing I have learned it is don’t be afraid to ask. 
    And this senior associate sounds like a total tool.

  • Ranter77

    Puff, Puff, Puff – you’re an idiot.  No wonder you made partner because you’re just as arrogant and socially impaired as the rest of the morons that end up in the corner office working 20 hours a day to support their three ex-wives and four illegitimate children.  GRAB A BRAIN!  If you are to infantile and dare I say retarded? to provide proper human instructions to a hard working and committed COLLEAGUE, then the fault lies entirely with you.  Wake you, snort soime of your Columbian pure and join the rest of us while we attempt to have a civilization.

  • JD2

    been there.

  • Hoop Jumper

    Unfortunately, this story perfectly sum up why it sucks to practice law.  To any reasonable person, the Associate here did everything and more than what could be expected.  Contrary to the statement by Puff that the Associate only sent CYA emails, he did go talk to this Tool in an effort to get more information, and the Tool blew him off.  So, anywhere outside a law firm, the Associate proceeded exactly as he should have.  But, he works in a law firm.  As such, the Associate’s job is simply to make the person to whom he reports happy.  Lots of lawyers take pleasure in seeing subordinates scramble around and do unncessary work, and, as a subordinate lawyer, it is your job to make your superior happy by doing exactly what he or she wants.  Here, the Tool just thought it would be fun to make the Associate ask over and over again for the information, so it was the Associate’s job to do just that.  If the Tool had asked the Associate to do the research blindfolded while dribbling a basketball with his left hand, it would be the Associate’s job to comply.  So, this Associate is to blame, but only because he works in a f’ed up profession.  I wish there were a way out that wouldn’t involve me taking a 50K per year pay cut.

  • ExCrimLawyer

    You should print those e-mails and make them the subject of your pending lawsuit.  This is how firms lose cases.