Use Your Own Damn Office

I am a first-year associate at a medium-sized downtown Miami law firm. I am the affable, hard-working guy around the office that goofs around with all the secretaries and is generally making jokes. I wonder, however, if my easygoing, good-natured office persona has made me a pushover in the eyes of my fellow associates. Take this egregious display of disrespect (Keep in mind names have been changed to protect the innocent, mainly myself):

I was swamped in the office. I was working on one of my more pressing matters, which has a hearing coming up very soon. I’m in my office, and I get a page from the receptionist: “Anthony, is Michael in your office?”

Michael is a mid-level associate at my firm who’s the managing partner’s right-hand man, and I’m not exactly sure what Michael looks like, as his lips always appear to be surgically attached to the managing partner’s behind. I reply, “Ah, I see him outside the door.”

“Michael, you have the client on line 2.” He walks in my office and takes the call. I’m a little surprised. I mean, wouldn’t it be more practical to go to his own office, which is about 20 feet away and take the call? OK, fine whatever. I then get up to get a document from the printer and when I return, Michael is in my chair just chatting away with the client.

It’s not like Michael was on the phone for 2 minutes. Michael was on the phone in my office for over 20 minutes. A fucking .4, while I’m standing around my own office like a complete dip shit. I walked over to another associate and started complaining about it, and of course at that moment the managing partner busts in and tells me he needs something from me ASAP, which I can only get if I’m at my computer able to use my chair.

Of course Michael is on the phone for another .3, after which my managing partner comes to me again and re-demands of me what he asked before—only this time says something snide and condescending like “Did you think I was kidding?” I reply that Michael was using my office, which he conveniently vacated during my managing partner’s second rant, which of course made me look like a lazy sod.

So, for the record: Michael has shown such utter disdain for me he’s just used my office because whatever he was working on was more important than what I could be working on AND the managing partner thinks I’m a lazy bastard who was just standing around looking like a dip shit. I was fucking livid. I am still fucking livid about it (a week later). Who does that kind of thing?! It’s among the most inconsiderate things that anyone has ever done to me, certainly professionally.

Am I taking this thing too seriously? Is it just one of those things? I spoke to several associates at my firm, and they think I’m in my right to be upset. My thing is this: Have I done something to give the impression that I’ll take that kind of shit around the office? Or is it expected of me because I’m a first-year associate? Maybe a law firm is like prison? Maybe the first day you get in, you have to kick someone’s ass to establish your “realness.”

Either way, I got the business from this other associate, and I should make sure I don’t drop the soap in the shower.

Report your tales of Associate Abuse.  Email them to info@bitterlawyer.com.

  • second year hump

    been there, brother.

  • Another associate

    Help yourself to the other guy’s office.  And office supplies.  And stash of candy or liquor.  And spare suits, if the sizes aren’t too off.  Try to ensure that your feet are propped on his desk when he returns from his phone call.
    Alternately, just start invading his personal space to get at things on your own desk.  Sit on your desk edge uncomfortably close, read over his shoulder, rub ankles with him.
    Either of these should ward him off in the future, and can be turned into good stories later with co-workers who are not douchebags.

  • Anthony

    I got “got.”

  • Tommy Santos

    I have a fucking cubicle, and I don’t even get the luxury of an 1/8 of the privacy you have!!!
    Hilarious post.

  • Anthony

    He did it again!  I swear, not even 15 minutes ago!

  • J

    Where are your balls?  Tell the idiot to piss off out of your office…it is YOUR office.  You won’t get any respect if you keep allowing this jackass to shit on you!

  • Ph

    There’s a very easy solution—ask him to what client to bill your time waiting for him to finish up using your office. He won’t do it again.

  • Another Attorney

    If you let the little things like this build up and piss you off this much you won’t make it through your 5th year practicing.  The next time you get a page from his secretary tell him/her that he’s not in your office or if he is in your office that he will take the call in his own office.  Try not to make it a big deal because in the big picture it’s not.  Remember pick your battles wisely.  Good luck!

  • associette

    Seriously, you should have just tapped him on the shoulder and said all important-like, “I need to get something asap for Partner x.” Sheesh.
    Or, started typing away on your computer, standing in front of him with your butt in his face.
    It’s not you, it’s just some senior associate who’s too big for his pants.

  • prospective law student

    this website scares me into persueing law.all these things that are said about the world after law school scare me into hating the idea of practicing. should i be scared or just roll with the punches?

  • YrNextBestAsst

    Alas, little old me, with no office, no window, no HVAC control switch, no personal office supplies, no personal space, no big old paycheck, no rank, no Jimmy Choos, no framed papers and ink….and i keep on trucking. WTF am i doing here???

  • It could have been worse

    When I was working at another firm, I had a client stop by and take over my office while I was out at morning hearings.

  • Lawyer

    I had a lawyer who used to do this kind of sh– to me all the time.  It was just territorial pissing.  You have to bare your teeth.  In my case, I bit the guy’s head off when he started talking to me while I was on the phone listening to instructions from the partner we both worked for.  Luckily, I work for a decent partner, who told the a-hole not to interrupt me when I’m on the phone.  If I had nipped it in the bud the first time he did it, it would not have come to that.
    Btw, YrNextBestAsst, I have never done this to an assistant.

  • Al Dickman

    At least the jerk didn’t fart up the office before he left.  He could have had Mexican food the nite before and then you’d be sunk (and stunk).  Then you’d have even more to rant about.  The partner would come in and think you’ve done nothing but stink up the office.  That REALLY doesn’t score any brownie points.

  • Big Country

    I feel for, Anthony. 
    I used your prison anology on many occassions to describe my old firm–you either kicked someone’s ass early in your tenure there, or you became everyone’s bitch.  Hopefully, at your firm, Michael is the exception rather than the rule.  But, at my old firm, an associate needed to be like Michael to get ahead.  Every interaction with anyone needed to be treated as a way to establish hierarchy.  Asking a question of someone was the equivalent to grabbing your ankles–you were acknowledging your subordinance and forever establishing yourself as inferior to the person of whom you asked the question.  Of course, self-serving questions were fine.  So you might send out an email, “One of my clients just asked me about [insert obscure topic.] Of course, I referred him to my award winning article in the XYZ journal.  But, I was wondering whether anyone else had researched the topic since my article was published and could help me update my research.” A partner even told me when I left that, at my new firm, I should make junior associates jump through some needless hoops so that the partners would notice that I could “manage” people.
    Anyway, you need to determine whether the episode with Michael is endemic to your firm.  If it is, then you need to decide whether you want to try to succeed in your career through superficial self promotion and underhanded backstabbing maneuvers or whether you want to succeed on the basis of your skill as a lawyer.
    I switched firms recently, and my new firm, so far, seems infinitely more collaborative and genuine.  I hope you find that your firm, aside from Michael, is like my new firm or that you find another firm that is.

  • next time that happens

    make a quiet “excuse me” gesture and scoot him out of the way even if you have to roll michael’s lazy butt away from the desk just far enough from the computer to use it, print your document, then roll his lazy butt back, , smile, make a thank you gesture (no, not the middle finger) and maybe he will get the point. I think a few of these and he will get the message that if he wants to be left alone to use the phone he needs to get to his OWN office. the point of this is to show people that people in YOUR office do not get left alone. IF they wish to talk on YOUR phone or use YOUR computer they run the risk of being moved around. and that it is for YOUR use primarily.

  • Working For Myself (HA – Suckers!)

    I don’t know what this is like since I am a criminal defense attorney and work for myself. My field is generally solos because the wild west anything go atmosphere tends to draw sociopaths who can’t work together. That said, I would have pushed the chair aside (however you wanted but in a skirt suit and heels, probably I would have done it with my back turned and the heels digging into his leg while acting like I hadn’t noticed he was there) and done my job. Even if he is surgically attached to a partner, what is he going to do? Snivel to the partner that he thinks you pushed him? It isn’t grade school and, even if it feels like it is, you need to pony up some cojones.

  • legally blonde

    Walk into Mikeys office, delete a few key files off his computer, come back, hit the mute button on your phone and tell the weasel to get the F out of your office.

  • John G

    I am pretty sure this happens to everyone at some point or another.  I am also not surprised that you are upset.  However, it seems to me that you should have simply passed him a note, particularly after you had contact with the partner, indicating your “push” and need for your office.  You are a lawyer after all, being assertive, but polite should come easier.  I DO understand the office politics aspect, but I didn’t get the impression that you were considering that at the time.  I think it more likely he was just “thoughtless”, and a polite “GET OUT” would have sufficed without creating any hard feelings or political impact.  My experience is that the best way to counter being dubbed a pushover is stop being a pushover.