Q) “The rainmaker.” Every firm has one. This is a rare breed of lawyer: a unique cocktail of douchebag and perfectionist who is driven mostly by the need to keep referral sources in tact and deliver quality work product . . . until he passes the client off to another attorney to do the actual work. My firm has one, too. He is well-known in our niche as a difficult partner to work for, but he brings in so much business that partners look the other way as he is driving associates into the depths of hell.
Almost four years out of law school now, I have been at my current firm about a year and a half. Coincidentally, I thought about applying to this firm from my previous one when they were openly searching for associates. However, seeing as I was just a second year at the time, I decided I would be best served by waiting until I had more experience to apply to a firm of this stature. I have a lot of respect for the partners here, and always hoped I would end up here. About a year and a half ago, I was working with a partner at my previous firm on a case, and we were scheduled for a last-minute mediation. The court appointed “the rainmaker” at another firm (the firm I currently work for) to be an “evaluator,” i.e. try to scare the parties into settling to get the case off the docket.
The partner with whom I was working had a family emergency, and I, the second-year associate, had to handle the mediation. Somehow I did something to impress the rainmaker. Indeed, he interviewed me right there in his office, including asking how long I had been out of law school, where was I from, was I married, the standard fare. When I said I graduated from law school a couple of years ago, he seemed genuinely surprised. My inner law dork ego was at an all-time high.
It took about two weeks for the rainmaker to reel me in from my other firm, leaving the angry partners who had generously given me a job out of law school in the wake. I don’t know what I did to impress the rainmaker, but I was brought on to be his associate. He was notorious for scaring away associates. Lucky me.
Regardless, my first instincts about the firm were accurate—I did not have enough experience to be the rainmaker’s minion. The rainmaker needs an associate who can take a case and run with no supervision, because the rainmaker has no time to answer questions. The rainmaker cuts your time like a madman to make clients happy (that’s right, 70 hours the first month!!) The rainmaker is the Monday morning quarterback. He only likes to come in after-the-fact and slam your decision. It’s a lose-lose situation. You will never be as good as the rainmaker.
So I’ve heard. The other day, I walked to one of the partner’s offices to drop off some documents that she had asked me to review. I heard the rainmaker through the closed door, and unfortunately, within seconds realized he was talking about me.
“I brought her over here thinking she was really great . . . it turns out, she can’t really do anything.” He then cited a particularly difficult case he dumped on me, one which I begged him for help on because it had issues and facts outside my competency level. REALLY?? WTF. FML. In all fairness to me, I am going into my fourth year. Yes, I am not as capable as someone with twenty years of experience. I hardly think that qualifies me—even by rainmaker standards—as someone who needs to ride the short bus to work.
Here’s the dilemma. How do I assure myself that I have job security without blowing my cover? I can’t very well talk to the partner to whom the rainmaker was complaining, even though she is now my supervising partner. No way is anyone going to believe that snippet of the conversation was all I heard (although it’s the truth, as I ran away silently screaming out of fear they would suddenly open the door and see me).
However, at the same time, I fear my job is on the line. It’s not my fault the rainmaker thought I had the experience of a fifth or sixth year. I was very honest about my credentials when I interviewed. Now I’m faced with the decision of staying at a firm I love, knowing the rainmaker thinks I’m worthless (thus, I’ll probably never make partner), or hitting the road and settling for a job at a firm I don’t really care about.
A) How about this: I want readers to pipe in because, honestly, if they’ve read the whole thing—and I hope they have—then I think they should have some advice. And if the advice ends up being lame, overly snarky, or full of contempt, then I’ll weigh in more substantively. But my hunch is that you’ll get decent advice from readers in the comments. Am I punting? Sort of. But it’s a long question, full of good insight, and worth getting reader responses first. I rarely do this but we’ll see how it goes this time.