Law Students and Young Lawyers

Lies We Tell Our Associates

My wife says that I am pathologically honest. I even have trouble bringing myself to tell little white lies (except when writing on LinkedIn where I may fib about the identity of some of the characters, and that one time I forgot to mention to my ex-wife that I had fallen in love with my Associate.)

Being too honest can be a real problem sometimes, especially when you are running a law firm.

At my law firm, we were scrupulously honest. But my friend Martin tells me that at his firm it was sometimes necessary to lie to the Associates.

So here are some of the lies that Martin and his Partners told their Associates:

  1. There is no such thing as a stupid question. (Actually, there is, and the Partners used to meet and laugh about some of those questions.)
  2. The firm values your non-billable work and will take it into account for compensation and promotion to partnership in the same way that it values your billable work and client origination credits. (Martin’s firm wanted to. It tried to. It just could not bring itself to actually do it.)
  3. The firm values your mental health and family life. (Except when there is a closing or a trial or a motion or the Partner wants to get away on vacation, or it is otherwise mildly inconvenient for them.)
  4. When it comes to time management, it is important to learn to say no. (To your family; not to the Partners.)
  5. We make our decisions about support staff allocation based on client needs, not internal hierarchy. (But of course, our clients need the Partners to have the best staff.)
  6. We are a family at this firm. (A sometimes deeply dysfunctional family in desperate need of counselling, and one which stops loving you when you stop billing.)
  7. We strive for work/life balance. (Ours, not yours. If you want work/life balance, become a Partner, which you can only do by not having work/life balance. Ironic, isn’t it?)
  8. Mental health is important to us. (We try to keep you sane enough to keep billing.)
  9. We will meet with you regularly to let you know where you stand on the partnership track. (Unless we get busy or the news is bad and we don’t want you to be so upset that your billing slows down.)
  10. It takes all types to have a successful law firm. (Except that in a recession the type that has no client base gets fired.)

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