Wednesday Advice Column: Early Ending

Dear BigLaw Associate:

I am a third year associate in BigLaw. I don’t bill as much as my colleagues but I think I have something they don’t. I am a networking machine. I know everyone. I know everyone who is anyone. I also know clients and the kids of clients. I spend half the day just talking to people. The other quarter I spend looking for work (and schmoozing with important partners), and the last quarter I might spend actually doing work or online extending my friend network on facebook. I think networking is more important than just doing work. It shows that you are a team player and that you might someday bring in business. I disagree with having to bill that much. Yeah, it’s important to bill but we’re an investment to the firm so it’s okay if we don’t bill that much now so long as we are spending our time getting to know people. Some people are hard workers, but I’m a people person. You always stress rain making in your column and how else do you rain make without networking and getting to know people? And you can’t be locked up in your office the whole time or else you’ll never meet anyone. I’m just getting an early start on networking.

Dear Early Ending:

I don’t know where to begin. One, you should know that networkers are the type of people we here at SBigLawAL want to cut and cut deep and go to jail for . I’m guessing you’re the really annoying type that emails the person right after you meet them, probably spells their name wrong, and then tell people that you know them. You went from annoying to obnoxious. Those are the type of people we want to cut first.
In the words of Santogold :

If you see me keep going/ be a pass by waver/ Build me up, bring me down/ just leave me out you name dropper/ Stop tryin to catch my eye/ I see you good you forced faker/ Just make it easy/ You’re my enemy you fast talker.

Second, nothing shows that you are a team player more than money. And how do you bring in money? with billables. Yes, at some point you need to make the transition from being a billing machine and generating a lot of revenue to being not only a partner but the Originating Partner that rain makes and feeds the little associates billable work that eventually feeds the Machine money. I am surprised time and time again that attorneys are in either the Bill Until My Eyes Bleed camp or the Network Until Everyone Else Wants to Cut Me camp. but you need to be somewhere in the middle. In the words of Johnny Cash: “walk the line.” Alas, it’s a fine line, and unfortunately, as a BigLaw associate with no intuition on how to survive functionally in society, it is not a line you will be able to walk well or with finesse. True, to make partner you need to be a rainmaker, but to make partner, you also need to make it until your 7th or 8th year (or whenever you go up for partner at your firm). And if you are wasting time being a “people person” now as a third year, you won’t make it until your 7th or 8th year. Thus, your early start on networking will be an early ending for your career.

And you’re not an investment. Whoever said that was a liar. Firms know that you are nothing more than a tadpole when you get out of law school and are incapable of making them any money. Firms are not “investing” in you out of good will and to cultivate you but because you are so cheap and fungible and they know that not all of you are going to make it, that they are willing to shell out the money for your first few years. In the words of Eerie Von “an investment in blood, such a small price to pay.” An actual investment is something you believe in. Firms don’t believe in you. They just don’t expect you to make any money your first two years because you are a slimy blind squirmy thing that can’t survive out of the water. But as soon as you grow legs, you better learn how to jump when the firm says jump or bill when the firm says bill. you might think partners like you now, but they don’t like you that much. There are few things people like more than money, and among those things, piddly little networking low billing associates are not included. So nope! You’re still fungible! (and you may know everyone, but they probably don’t like you so you better learn how to jump and jump high, sucka!)

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