ED (That Can’t Be Cured by the Little Blue Pill)

Bitter Contributor Columns, Lawyer 9 Comments

There’s one prick every lawyer tries to avoid, and I know of very few firms (and very few groups within large firms) that don’t have at least one partner who is a total egotistical dick—an “ED.” EDs are impossible with associates.  Any given ED knows exactly how he’s perceived, and all the partners and associates see him coming from a mile away.

Your average ED is in his 50s and believes he is the primary authority in his area of the law.  (He makes it a point to explain that a lot.) When he’s not in the office, he’s working at home til all hours solving important, “critical” client matters.  (He drops that fact a lot too.) Not only that, but your most basic ED also tends to have a side obsession: Something intense, like training for marathons or collecting international real estate. 

Yet somehow, an ED also has time to be both a star husband and father-of-the-year.  Self-professed, of course.  Because, in reality, we all know that he only brings his wife and kids into the office to prove to everyone that women and children are not afraid of him.  (If you can get passed that terrified gleam in his daughter’s eye.)

As an associate, I once foolishly believed that if an ED ever tagged me for an assignment, I would simply somehow figure out a way to work harmoniously with said ED, even though no associate before me had ever been able to do so.  Also, I vowed that I would write any ED who asked a memo that would be so good that I would forever earn a free pass from his wrath.

Of course, every associate believes he/she will do the same thing when his/her time comes.

Then your time comes.

The ominous day for me finally came when an ED summoned me to his office.  I waited patiently at the ED’s side table while he took a few calls, but after sitting there just listening for a while, I got up to leave.  Immediately, he signaled for me to sit back down.  (In need of a Legal Cheerleader, as best I figure.) After the ED finally got off the phone, he used another hour and a half of my time to explain explicitly how important he was before finally handing over the assignment.

The assignment was relatively easy, and when I was done, I felt like I nailed it.  I even spent extra un-billable hours making sure that I didn’t just nail it but that I “nailed it, nailed it.” I proofread it over…and over…and over, and then I asked my assistant to proofread it. 

Finally, I attached the final version of the memo to an email, and even though I felt like it was a really good memo, I couldn’t help but cringe when I hit “Send.”

Later, my ED called me back into to his office to discuss my work for him.  By the look on his face when I walked in, I wondered if I had misstated the law so badly that I was unfit to practice.  After he unintelligibly sputtered for a while, $h!thead ED eventually settled down enough to move passed his angry to actually speak.  And he dismissively mentioned that I added an extra period at the end of a sentence. 

Oh. The. Horror.. 

The ED complained that he was too concerned about whether or not he could trust my work (a classic ED maneuver).  After all, he pointed out, I had just demonstrated that I was capable of being sloppy.  My ED never commented on whether my legal work was acceptable, but I knew with absolute certainty that I made him livid by errantly double-punctuating. 

I concluded that I must have done something right in the memo because the ED kept giving me projects.  I tried to avoid him so he’d stop assigning me work because the process was always the same.  I would write a solid memo, ED would find something that made him outrageously angry, I’d correct it, rinse, repeat.

I never spent too little time on the memo.  I always spent too much time on the memo. 

“You didn’t underline your headings, so how in the hell could the client be expected to understand your memo?”

In addition to this ridiculousness, there were also more serious issues at hand.  Mainly, the ED would rarely bill my hours.  And the ED also verbally questioned whether I could handle being a lawyer and a mother, a question that has bit some major players in the ass.

My particular ED often commented that my future at the firm depended upon publishing articles and client alerts, on top of everything else I was doing.  Yet, as expected, he never got around to approving any of them. 

Although I felt like I was going crazy, there was comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone.  One associate was so frustrated with his ED that he switched over to a completely different department in the firm so there was no chance the ED would be supervising him.  Another associate was so overwhelmed by an ED that she sought employment at another firm.  Another associate was praised by an ED only to later be fired, leaving the other associates bewildered and shocked. 

EDs make practicing law unnecessarily unpleasant for everyone.  I finally got out from under my ED’s radar by begging other partners for work and telling the ED that I was too busy to provide his projects with the attention they deserved. 

Why has this scenario become a rite of passage?  Because associates are obviously not in a position to do much about EDs.  And EDs’ peers allow it all to happen because they usually make it rain. 

And not even an army of unhappy, abused associates can do a thing about the partner who makes it rain.

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There’s one prick every lawyer tries to avoid, and I know of very few firms (and very few groups within large firms) that don’t have at least one partner who is a total egotistical dick—an “ED.” EDs are impossible with associates.  Any given ED knows exactly how he’s perceived, and all the partners and associates see him coming from a mile away.

Your average ED is in his 50s and believes he is the primary authority in his area of the law.  (He makes it a point to explain that a lot.)

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  • Guano Dubango

    It seems, to me, that this partner may well suffer from some sort of Erectile Eisfunction in his home life.  When I was a child, there was an older boy who always got beat up by the children of his age, yet he took upon himself to beating up the younger children, including me.  My Aunt Ooona found out about it, and had his parents banished to the veldt, where the ED bully was chased on many occasion by rhinocerous and by gazelle.  Here, I believe this ED partner needs for his homelife to get straightened out.  His wife may be cheating on him, or at least looking at other men.  His children are afraid of him.  For all we know, his breath smells bad.  I recommend the man get a makeover, and he will be happier with himself.  I do not recommend the firm provide him with a woman to “calm him down”, because this would not be right for his wife.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all partners were nice, and normal, instead of dicks like this one?

  • Alma Federer

    For once, Guano is sensible.  I worked for a partner like this when I was summering in a large DC firm.  The man thought that he was the only person who ever knew anything about FTC procedure.  I had to do a memorandum for him about resale price maintenance, and I thought I did a good job.  He told me he did not like it.  He also was very interested in me socially.  I got an offer from that firm, but guess what?  When I was taking Antitrust in my 3rd year, I read an article he had written for the bar journal, and he had lifted substantial portions of my memo, including a citation I had misspelled the name of the defendent.  Talk about nerve.  I decided not to work for that firm, and wound up here in NEW York, where I am very happy.  Can you believe what a jerk that is?

  • Craig

    This is the classic guy, that the more he respects you, the more he is going to get on you.  If he is not insulting you, or criticizing you, that means you are no longer worthy of his critiques.  Hence why the person he complimented got fired.  He thinks he is Bobby Knight or something.  Best to try to avoid him if you can.  If you do good work, he will constantly get on you, and try to “help” you, by being a massive dick.  If you don’t do go work, he will not even waste his time being a dick to you.

  • Anon

    These guys don’t bother me much. I’ve seen much worse having spent a number of years on active duty in the military. And I make sure the ED partner knows I spent the better part of my adult life training to kill people. This tends to temper the ED’s attitude a little, though I’m sure it’s not helping my career any.

  • R Smith

    You keep thinking that your time and the partner’s time are of equal value: they weren’t and they aren’t.  Yes, “sitting while he’s on the phone” is always a pain.  I remember listening to so many partners puffing on the phone while I sat furious at the time draining away.  But its always easier for them to hold you than trying to find you again, something I really appreciate now.  Its a no brainer to take something to edit or read with you. Saves time. Looks good. Solves the problem. That is, if solving a problem is the goal.  I am not trying to excuse the bad practices of this ED partner, but you don’t seem to understand that the partner and you do not merit equal time.  Maybe he’ll use yor “client alert” in his own alert. Or an article like Alma’s tormentor did. That’s the point: the partner gets boosted, you help.  Or do you think acomplished directors and film stars allot equal trailers and time to support roles?  Oh, and if your proofing of this piece is any indication, you probably had more typos than one extra period (see line 1 and the “terrified glean”).

  • Schadenfreude

    R Smith – 1, Ranter – 0.

  • NY10



  • amanda

    Should have had your assistant proofread this too.  “Passed” instead of “past”—twice?  Sad…
    And where I come from, they are “non-billable” hours, not “un-billable” hours.

  • Annoying Guy

    You say you proofread the thing over and over, even had your assistant proofread it, yet you both managed to miss a double period? Most spellcheckers will catch that for you – MS Word will even underline it in green. Sure, it’s a trivial mistake, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t have caught it.