Legal Cheerleader

Bitter and Abused Columns, Lawyer 17 Comments

I’m a first year at a Big Firm, and I’m close to going nuts. I know I’m supposed to be thrilled to even have a job these days and all that, but I’m still pissed.  For the past week, I’ve been working with this Partner on some sort of loan/revolving credit-facility modification thing. (Whatever. It’s billable time.) He’s a pretty good guy, but he never really gives me anything to do. It’s like he just wants me to hang out in his office while he works.

So I just sit here like an idiot watching this guy swill coffee, talk on the phone and mark up documents twelve hours a day. I keep asking him if there’s anything I can do to help, and he just says, “Not right now.” Then, when I start to leave, he says, “You should probably hang out here.” What can I do?!  I can’t say, “Go to hell!” So I just sit here, doing nothing. It’s so annoying I can’t even think about it. I’ve tried to sneak out a few times, but he always says something. I think this guy just doesn’t want to be alone. I’m like his legal muse or something. It’s so not cool. Then again, I’m not exactly in a position to make a big deal out of it right now. There are way too many associates who have no work, and layoffs are imminent, from what I hear. So, for now, I guess I’m just going to sit in this guy’s office and be his cute first-year cheerleader. But my insides are burning!

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  • Martha

    But is it billable for you?

  • William

    She said it was – quote “(Whatever. It’s billable time.)”

    I’d find it hard to believe that it actually was billable time though – and I think she should be wary that the partner will come out and say ‘Oh, but you didn’t do anything but sit there, how is that billable use of your time?’

    C’est la vie.

  • Right on.

    The other posters are right, you’d best make sure this is billable, but if it is, find some good Blackberry friendly web sites and surf away!  Download & play some games!  Whatever you, do, complaining about easy hours billed is just crazy.

  • Biller

    Or don’t ask the partner whether it’s billable or not. Just bill it, and when it comes for the partner to review the bill before sending to the client, leave it to him to write-off your time. You still get the billable hours credit (for bonus purposes), and he’ll (hopefully) get the message that he can’t just “have you around” for no reason. The client won’t stand for it.

  • Billable Billy

    Maybe that’s exactly what he’s trying to do: bill your hours…he had you sit in so he can bill the clients for more money..very unethical assumption but who knows…either way, it’s easy hours for u, shouldn’t complain..

  • Don

    If it is a modification, there are existing loan documents you can review. Learn the deal. Read each document. Not exciting but at least you will take something away from the project.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t complain.  You were probably hired because you didn’t look like a moose; not for your brains.  So enjoy the ride for a few years and maybe you’ll prove the firm wrong–that you can be both a good lawyer and a looker, and you’ll become a partner.  Otherwise, be prepared to move to a government job where they actually will make you work.

  • Al Dickman

    The poster below is right.  Face it, you are MEAT.  Bring a laptop so that you can surf the web while the lonely partner ogles you.  This way, you won’t have to watch him drooling.

  • Snively Whiplash

    You could document what is going on, by downloading Audacity to your laptop, and recording every session. The problem is, for you to bill this is definitely legal malpractice under the ABA code. You will be documenting evidence of your own unethical conduct, billing for hours not worked, while all this partner did was encourage you to stand-by for hours and hours that could not legally be billed, during a time that everyone knew work was lean. It would also be easy for this partner to say “of course I gavie her things to do, the idea that I would just have her sit and do nothing is ridiculous,” if asked about it. This partner’s actions are consistent with a conscious effort to assert inapropriate control over you.

    My advice to you would be to extricate yourself from this situation in a manner similar to what the associate who posted Sept 16th did (Mr. Procrastination). A partner who has no problem cheating a big client for hours, a move that could cost him his job and his license, and deliberately imprisoning a young associate in his office, even through the bonds of mere delicate suggestion, would have no problem asking a young associate to help him in the same way while he works from home or from his hotel room. This of course after he has established the paramerters of the work relationship: your not leaving.

    The reason I suggest rocking the boat a little in this particular case, is that if this fellow is as sinister as he could be, from your description of the situation, my experience has tells me that cooperating with these types does absolutely nothing to keep them from screwing you over in the endgame. This is because their mental framework is not driven by purely by a desire to ensure cooperation with their goals, but more so from a feeling of entitlement and innate superiority to others. Be careful!

  • Anonymous

    The partner is lonely, and is probabley thinking that if he has a pretty lawyer sitting there (I assume you are pretty–at least the picture of the cheerleader is) he will be more productive.  If you think he is keeping you there to ask you legal questions, think again.  You might put an end to it by going out for Mexican food, and eat a lot of beans.  I am sure he will make an exception after you start farting.

  • john

    So, I’ve been in the same position – as the partner, that is.  Here’s what he’s thinking – my associate doesn’t know enough to do anything above secretarial work at this point.  However, if she hangs out with me, she will learn something over the next year or two and, then, maybe, I can trust her to enough to assign her a meaningful task.  Find something to do.  Don’t wait to be told what to do.  Also, you should always stay later than your boss.  Get there earlier also.

  • Al Dickman

    Good point.  But why is it only the so called

    “pretty” associates (1 in a million or so) that get to sit with the hornbag partner?  You never see a fat one sitting there, nor a man.  They are generally relegated to doing legal research.  But the attractive ones are always sitting there.  Now I know why.

  • Anon Again

    I have my own small firm. We hired a new associate.  From my perspective, (1) we are looking for you to self start. Just because I tell you to sit there doesn’t mean you should.  You need to tell me, straight out, “look, I can’t just sit here all day doing nothing, please give me something meaningful to do, a doc to review, an issue to research.  You can get on that laptop or blackberry, can’t you?  Good. Force him to give you stuff to do.  Until you can at least clear your throat and speak up a little,you’re no good to anyone, which brings me to (2), yes, your work is worthless garbage we can’t bill for, but do it anyway.  We’ll clean it up, fix all the mistakes, do everything right, make the client happy, pay your pathetic ass, and then you can go on the internet and gripe about what worthless jerks we are, which only shows just how far away you are from having any fricking clue on earth how to do what it is your job title suggests you know how to do.

  • China Cat

    To all the partners out there who think they’re god’s gift to the legal profession: you would die if you heard what the judges I work with say about your briefs on appeal.  Rarely are they well written, rarely are they actually helpful.  Many judges have written law review articles on the poor quality of legal advocacy.  Justice Scalia just wrote a book about it.  Read and improve yourselves.

  • Annon Female Mid-Level Attorney

    Make the best out of a bad situation.  Start reading up on the partner’s industry, especially any current events that pertain to this assignment.  Also, get copies of any documents that your partner is working on.  Careful review of the deal documents can provide you with considerable instruction.
    The point of this is read anything you can and do anything you can to add value to the project, then you become much more than a pretty face.  Best of luck, I’ve been there.

  • Person with comon sense

    A good lawyer can tell if the suspect is lying because he asks the right questions. No one can possibly dig themselves out of a hole. The hole is that LITTLE piece of time that people don’t want to tell you about for some reason. In the case of legal matters it usually means they “dun” it. and THAT is the point of your research. that is what you are digging for. you need to find that hole and be able to produce concrete PROOF!  So spend this excessive amount of time you have searching for it. Instead of sitting there work on this. bring a laptop and a cell phone and get to work. If the boss says something to you cheerfully take on whatever he wants to give you.

  • BigLaw London

    I had this exact situation for 6 months, usually until midnight or later.  To those other posters, I am (and was) capable, and did have tasks of my own to complete, but my supervisor for some reason wouldn’t let me leave to do my own work, because he gleaned some kind of intellectual comfort from having someone else to chat to, run through his drafting with and talk things over with (heavily spaced by hours of silence as he worked and I watched).  It drove me completely mental. HOWEVER – good news is, I managed not to smash his face in with the hole punch and learned more in that time than I have during the rest of my training.  Hang in there, its frustrating, but its worth it.