Murray The Wannabe Feminist

Feminists – Honesty Is Not Always The Best Policy

I was speaking to a newbie lawyer the other day.  I am going to call her Sue, which is definitely not her real name.

Sue is an intelligent young woman, but like many of us when we are starting out, is perhaps just a tiny bit naïve.

Sue told me that she was applying to a firm in a community where she lives in eastern Canada. To prepare for the interview, she checked out the firm’s website. She was delighted to learn that the firm prides itself on recognizing the importance of work life balance.

Work/Life Balance

Figures Don’t Lie…

The following recent headline in Law360 caught my attention: “Law360 Canada Pulse survey shows strong satisfaction among lawyers with their jobs.”

Although I love Law360 and think very highly of their writers, the headline took me aback because it does not ring true with my lived experience or what I am hearing from the trenches.

Law Firm Management

Reap What You Sow

Hey law firms!  Have you given much thought to your partners approaching retirement, and calculated what their retirement may cost you? 



Click here:

Law Students and Young Lawyers

Show Me the Money

“Youth is always impatient, even though, ironically, youth alone has time for patience.”

Lucilla Andrews

In my new pastime as a cynical commentator on aspects of the legal profession which I whole-heartedly embraced and profited from for many years, I speak to quite a few folks at the early stages of their careers. I try to think back to when I shared their enthusiasm and optimism, but frankly it was way too long ago.

Law Firm Management

Reading Between The Lines

At my law firm, we had great human resources management. It was so good that information was hard to come by. In fact, it was just about impossible to get any really good gossip out of management until it had made its way down to the partners, after which it became more readily available.

Since we had some really smart people at our firm (as well as a few who were not so smart), it should not be surprising that we had to compensate for the lack of information flow by learning to read between the lines.

Firm Culture

How Strong Are Your Roots?

The image that accompanies this post is of a massive tree in the forest behind my house which came down in a storm, bringing down another tree, which brought down a third. As you can see, the root system was wide, but shallow.

These trees might have looked majestic, but when force was applied, their roots proved to be too weak to hold up their weight.


Users and Mentors

This is an abridged version of one of my first posts from several years ago.

Supervising lawyers fall into two groups. 

  1. Those who will devote no effort to training Associates beyond what is necessary to get their work done.  They may teach their Associates how to do things but will not take the time to teach them why they are being done or why they are being done differently in different situations. They will: (i)  mark up the Associate’s draft, but will not spend the time to explain why the changes are necessary; (ii) involve the Associate in a part of the file, but exclude them from meeting clients where the strategic considerations are being discussed; and (iii) have the Associate draft the agreement but not involve the Associate in the negotiation of the document with the other side.  Every decision is based solely on whether it advances the short-term interests of the senior lawyer. I call these senior lawyers the “Users.”
  2. At the opposite extreme, there are those who assist their Associates to develop to their full potential. They spend as much non-billable time as is required to achieve that goal, even if doing so is not profitable in the short-term. I call this group the “Mentors.”

The Users justify their approach in many ways.   They are too busy.  They do not believe in “hand-holding”.  The “sink or swim” approach is the best way to train someone.  At the end of the day, it is all nonsense – these lawyers simply do not want to earn less money by wasting billable time, and sometimes do not want to expose their Associates to their clients and risk losing the loyalty of the clients.

In my experience there are more Users than Mentors, and I believe that there is a historical reason for this.

In the old days, lawyers joined firms with a view to working their way up the ranks, becoming partners, and cashing in. Senior lawyers were willing to spend their time and effort in developing their Associates who would be their future partners and stay with their firms throughout their career. 

Then things changed. Salaries of Associates increased beyond their actual value to the firms.  In bad times, firms cut Associates loose.  In good times, Associates rewarded the lack of loyalty by jumping from firm to firm for more money.  Partners had to put in more hours to maintain the levels of profitability that they had come to expect, and gradually senior lawyers developed the attitude that they were not going to invest their time at personal cost in lost billings to train Associates who would likely not be with them that long anyway.

So here we are.  We now have Mentors who will sacrifice their time and short-term billable hours to help the next generation develop, and Users who will not.

The challenge for new Associates looking for jobs is to find out who is willing to work with them to help them reach their potential, and who just wants to use them.

Firm Culture

When The Time Comes, Get The Hell Out

The worst partners meeting that I ever attended ended with me storming out, telling one of my partners to fuddle-duddle off (not in those exact words), and threatening to leave the firm. I was the managing partner and highest earning partner at the time. You would think that I should have been happy.

Firm Culture

A Sweeter World?

I was speaking to a university student the other day who I will call Lara.  Lara told me that she occasionally has a super nice dinner at her friend Kim’s expense.

It seems that sometimes Kim meets a Sugar Daddy who treats her to a nice meal at a fine restaurant. Kim is just a little bit nervous about meeting strange men for dinner, so she has Lara come to the restaurant, sit at a nearby table, and keep an eye on her.