The Seven Habits of Highly (In)effective Partners

Law Firm 10 Columns, Law Firm 10, Lawyer 6 Comments

Earlier today, I was stuck at my dentist’s office for an intolerably long time. After flipping through the only magazines in the waiting room, i.e. two issues of Entertainment Weekly from 2008, I noticed a dog-eared copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People lying on a side table. I’ve never actually read any portion of The Seven Habits, so it seemed like a moderately acceptable way to amuse myself while awaiting the bloody torture of a thorough teeth-cleaning. But after I skimmed through the introduction and the basic description for each of the seven habits, I realized something hilarious– the “habits” of basically every partner I work for constitute the polar freaking opposite of the habits associated with highly effective people:

  1. Never be proactive. Only react to external forces once they cannot possibly be ignored. Thwart any and all efforts to strategically prevent a crisis before it happens. Instead, wait until a fire has been burning for several days before deciding it’s important enough to require your precious time and attention, then scream at the same associate whose warnings you ignored days earlier and force her to clean up every aspect of the mess. And for good measure, tell her you’re only billing the client for half the time she spends on the clean-up because the client shouldn’t have to pay for “her” mistakes.
  2. Begin with no end in mind. Rush into tasking your team with research, drafting, or motion practice without any thought for a definable end goal or long-term plan. Never waste your precious time on mundane trivialities like the big picture. Instead, run your cases moment-to-moment, keeping in mind that the only goal for each moment is you being seen as right.
  3. Put last things first and first things last. You’re in charge, so you get to decide whether or not something is a priority. Everyone else can go to hell. And don’t hesitate to cut off your nose to spite your face whenever necessary.
  4. Never worry about creating mutually beneficial or win/win outcomes. What matters is that you’re right and that you’ve won. Also, since it’s up to you to define winning in any given situation, make it a point to redefine the concept as needed to insure that you’re never the loser.
  5. Seek first (and only) to be understood. On second thought, screw the entire concept of understanding, since all that really matters is being right. Your overriding goal in every single interaction should be to force others to concede that you’re right, even if they don’t understand you or if you aren’t making any sense.
  6. Divide, criticize, pit the team against one another, and defeat any chance of trust and understanding. None of these idiots can really be trusted, nor do they deserve praise or empathy. Never waste time leveraging individual differences to come up with advantageous solutions. In fact, you should only focus on individual differences to the extent that they’re useful in apportioning blame.
  7. You’ve never had any time to sharpen your saw, so make sure that no one on your team has time for personal fulfillment or recharging their batteries—balance doesn’t exist, and anyone who makes even a feeble attempt to carve out a few minutes for herself should be blasted for it.

(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pshegubj/4347670295) 
(Featured image: Shutterstock)

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  • Alma Federer

    As someone who is eligible for MENSA, I have to respectfully disagree with LF10. She must not be having an optimal experience at her law firm. I too did not fit in at my first firm (where I summered after my first year), so I ventured out on my own.

    Admittedly it was initially a difficult thing to do, and I have had to take virtually everything that walks in the door, but I am fulfilled by being my own boss. I have no one but myself to thank (or blame) when things go well (bad).

    Not having to suck up to a group of male partners is a blessing, as many of them were interested more in figuring out how I looked without my clothes than anything else about me. No more of that, I said, as I gave my notice. I told the guys who were always trying to get me drunk that they would have to find some other person for their fun, because my body could not be used as their sexual pinata any more. I am so glad I went out on my own.

  • Susan

    I agree– working for oneself is both the best and the worst, but I know myself, and I know I’d rather take the pitfalls of working for myself than for anyone else, especially someone about whom I feel the way the author feels about her bosses!

  • Evil Lawyer

    Hilarious!!! Associates going nowhere, doing next to nothing, resentful of paying their dues, and among the least effective people alive wonder “why aren’t I coddled?”

    INITIATIVE: Young Associates (YA) can’t do anything competently in time that can be billed to anyone but Exxon. YA doesn’t lift his/her legs off their desk to go find some learning experiences. On their own!

    Do they ask to sit in on a deposition? Review a deal memo on their own time? OMG! No! That would interfere with surfing net/lunch/drinks/weekend. “Its not MY job to LEARN anything” says the graduate of a dysfunctional school system.

    So the YA pouts that “no one will train” him/her. YA gets older, and still is fit only for memo writing, if that. Wonders what the busier associates [like Evil Lawyer] are doing. The kiss asses. The ones that volunteer for work. And are there to do it.

    Because Evil Associates intend to be a partner, and not looking for some dead end job as a 12th year unemployable senior associate.

    CLUELESSNESS: YA wonders why Evil Partners (EP) are mad at YA for demanding salary increases while taking fifth consecutive Friday off to go to Cancun.

    LACK OF AWARENESS-THIS IS YOUR FUTURE: YA still regards law firm as “temp job.” But EP is in it for keeps. He intends to be employed 3 and 7 years from now–even as YA is laid off cluelessly wondering why. (“I came back 2 days after Cancun: why were they mad at me?” The deal got done without me. “) You said it Sherlock.

    BIG PICTURE: YA wonders why no one sees the “big picture”–meaning her lunch/brunch/workout/pilates/leave early Friday schedule. Why can’t everyone plan so I can do all those?

    Q: “Can’t I have a life?”

    A: ” Sure you can: but not at the expense of mine you moron! If I can’t leave, what makes you think its my job to stay here working while you leave early?”

    Q: But I am an associate, not a partner!

    A: And so you shall remain you clueless pile of sloth!

    UNDERSTANDING: YA wants “mutual trust and understanding,” usually referred to in trial court orders or jury verdicts as “malpractice.”

    Associates want the uncritical “warmth” and “trust” that existed in spades on December 7, 1941 at 730: less so after 800am. Why? They aren’t on the line for a malpractice verdict. They don’t see the job as permanent. They still think this is a “job” to treated like some one night stand that lasted a little longer.

    Q: where is the warmth?

    A: [former Heller Ehrman partner, a SF firm voted year in and out as the “MOST” liveable, tolerant etc] after going bankrupt being so “liveable” and being sued for back wages by a class of ungrateful associates who repaid all that “warmth” with a lawsuit to be paid out of partner hides]: “Yeah where was it?”

    [Evil Lawyer was not at Heller Ehrman–a firm that would have castigated Evil Lawyer for his intense work habits, and inherent male failing of looking at young women associates when he thinks they aren’t looking.]

    GET A CLUE: To paraphrase Gordon Gekko, “if you’re not inside your outside.” That’s where most associates are. They prefer it that way. They are C students , the bit players, the 5th flutes of the elgal profession. Some are not and will move up. But Evil Partners have no time to waste on the others.

  • Handsome Advocat

    It’s “you’re” — not “your.”

  • evil lawyer

    oh shut up Handsome, i got it right on the same line. Proofing my opus is something for some dull nebbish to do. why don’t you do something equally helpful, like critiquing shakespeare’s grammar, or verifying that all toilet seats at your firm are the same size. then get me a sandwhich.

  • TexJudge

    Well, what do you expect? The majority of Big Law partners are law review nerds with high IQs and lots of book smarts, but crappy people skills. They also tend to be lousy athletes (I played D-1 ball) and also not much to look at.