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The Mentality and Attitudes of Lawyers

Translations From Lawyer Talk: Part Three

Due to popular demand (I have now asked myself to do this ten times) and as a continued public service, I am providing some more translations from Legal Talk to Plain English.

In deference to my highly intelligent wife who has told me that these are getting pretty cynical, even for me, I do want to acknowledge that there are some great lawyers out there to whom this does not apply. Once again, it may simply be a case of 99% of us giving the other 1% a bad name.

Legal Talk Plain English
Your billable hours target is 1600 hours.  We have put you in the budget for 1400 hours because we know that is as much as you can do, but we won’t tell you that because we want you to try to reach 1600. Every month we will tell you that you are failing.  
You have a non-billable hour target of 300 hours.  We don’t care if you reach it or not. In fact, we know that you can’t reach it if you are going to have a hope in hell of reaching your billable hours target. But from time to time we will tell you that you are failing.  
We will provide you with support to learn how to market your practice.  You are on your own.  
We will provide you with expert support to learn how to market your practice.  We will have our consultant tell you what you have to do and leave it to you to figure out how the hell you are supposed to fit that in and still meet your billable hours target.  
It is important to learn how to set boundaries and say no (first definition).Tell your family that your time is spoken for at the firm and that they have to get things done without you.  
It is important to learn how to set boundaries and say no (second definition).Now that we have gone on record as saying that boundaries are important, feel free to ignore this and continue to devote all of your time to the firm.
It is important to learn how to set boundaries and say no (third definition).You can say no to everyone else, but not to me.
You are not required to work on weekends unless there is an emergency.  We define an emergency as any time that a partner wants you to work on the weekend.  
You are really not required to work on weekends unless there is an emergency.  We consider it an emergency if you are not going to meet your billable hours target.  
Categories
Work/Life Balance

Always Failing at Something

When I practiced law, I was fairly good at doing the many things that a lawyer has to do in order to deliver great client service. I always offered to meet at the client’s office. I listened carefully to the clients to ascertain their goals and concerns. I insisted that I work to a deadline and if the client did not volunteer a deadline, I prompted them to set one. I frequently made the deadline on Monday so if I got overwhelmed with work, I could finish the project up on the weekend. I almost always met my deadline, and on the rare occasion that I was having difficulty doing so, I would call and explain the situation and give the client options, such as having me work all night to meet the original deadline, extending the deadline or having an associate take over the project.

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The Mentality and Attitudes of Lawyers

Where Have All The Bullies Gone?

We lawyers like to use definitions in our writing.  It makes the substance of the document easier to read because it allows the drafter to avoid repeating things or using terms in an inconsistent manner.  I am going to try that here, knowing that I may offend someone or other.

In this article, ‘marriage’ means a romantic relationship (whether or not having a sexual component) between any two or more people of any genders or without a gender, whether or not sanctified by a religious or civil ceremony of any type, and ‘spouse’ means any of the human beings who are involved in such a relationship.  I hope that I have included everyone, but I will not be surprised if I have not.  Frankly, I am having trouble keeping up.

Categories
Work/Life Balance

Game Over

I met Maria when she landed her first job as an associate at a medium sized law firm in the Toronto area.  She was capable, intelligent, and eager to learn.  However, just how hard lawyers work in law firms seemed to catch her by surprise. I guess that they don’t tell you about that in law school.

There is a steep learning curve in the area of law in which Maria commenced her practice.  A great deal of training takes place in the first year or two, after which a good associate will hit their stride and become downright useful.  Maria was a good associate.  She persevered and right on schedule as she approached her second anniversary at the firm, Maria was becoming downright productive.

As often seems to happen, just as she was becoming valuable to her firm, Maria chose to leave. She departed for greener pastures just shy of her third anniversary at the firm.

Categories
Work/Life Balance

Billings First, Babies Later

Some forty years ago, I knew a young lawyer in her third year of practice. My acquaintance had just given birth to her first child.  She took what was then considered to be a lengthy maternity leave of 6 months (3 months being standard) before returning to work at a mid-sized downtown Toronto law firm, where she was the only female associate in her department and one of only three female lawyers in the firm.  Having taken such a long maternity leave, the firm looked at her as a slacker.

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The Mentality and Attitudes of Lawyers

Desperately Seeking More (Billable Hours)

“Let me have men about me that are fat; Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’nights: Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.   

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar                                           

I used to think too much.  About my files.  About my billable hours.  About marketing. About how to run the firm better.  And mostly, about how much in common I had with Cassandra.

Categories
Work/Life Balance

A Long Night’s Journey Into Day

I used to be the type of lawyer who woke up early and headed into the office.  On my commute, my head would be full of ideas about my files, firm management, and marketing.  I would call and leave messages for my staff and associates or call clients and referral sources to say hello and stay ‘top of mind.’  My commute was part of my workday, and I tried to make it as productive as possible.  When the calls were about files, I would be sure to remember to docket the time when I got back to the office.  I would do the same on the way home and put my dockets in remotely when I arrived.  

Categories
The Mentality and Attitudes of Lawyers

Bullies in the Boardroom

In my 6th year of practice, I represented an insolvent client in his negotiations with his Bank.  The retainer came upon me suddenly as the client was summoned to a meeting with the Bank and its lawyers on virtually no notice and told to bring counsel. 

I met the client for the first time just before the meeting, and off we headed downtown to meet with the Bank’s representatives and a senior insolvency lawyer at a large Toronto firm. I will call this lawyer Tom since I want to make it clear that he was an asshole, but I really do not want to be sued for writing this article. (Although I suppose that the risk of a successful lawsuit would be low since truth is a complete defense). 

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The Mentality and Attitudes of Lawyers

What, Me Worry?

In my first four years of practicing law, I learned how to be a lawyer through the “sink or swim” approach.  I did this by working 12 hours a day and 6 ½ days a week, without supervision, mentoring or training.  I was also worrying 24 days a day, 7 days a week, and waking up screaming at night. I do not recommend this approach to learning the practice of law.

Categories
Law Students and Young Lawyers

When it Comes to Mentoring, Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

Some years ago, there was an automobile manufacturer whose products had developed a reputation for breaking down. Rather than re-engineer the products, it launched a major advertising campaign touting the quality of its vehicles.