Homogeny

...replace the ruler with a symbol of the law, and the army with a law firm recruiter, and this image accurately represents the biglaw experience.

Yes, BigLaw Associates like homogeny. It’s not so much that WE like it, but the procrustean man likes it. While we’re all freaking out about losing our jobs (but for some reason we the authors still have jobs and still have time to post on this blog–life is unfair. suck it) let’s examine the BigLaw structure.

Not that I know anything about philosophy except that I throw it out there to impress the girls (but let’s be honest, as soon as I say I’m a BigLaw lawyer and I make X amount of money with SIX digits, I don’t need to say much else), but let’s take a look at Nietzsche and his Ennoblement through degeneration passage in Human All Too Human.

“History teaches that the best preserved tribe among a people is the one in which most men have a living communal sense as a consequence of sharing their customary and indisputable principles….The danger to these strong communities founded on homogeneous individuals who have character is growing stupidity, which is graduatlly increased by heredity, and which, in an case, collows all stability like a shadow. It is the individuals who have fewer ties and are mjuch more uncertain and morall weaker upon whom spriritual progress depends in such communities, they are the men who make new and manifold experiements. Innumerable men of this sort perish because of their weaknes without any very visible effect, but in general, especially if they have descendents, they loosen up and from time to time inflict a would on the stable element of the community….those who degenerate are of the highest importance whereve progress is to take place; every great progress must be preceded by a partial weakining. The strongest natures hold fast to the type; the weaker ones help to develop it further.”

Ok, I know your natural response to this is:

1. If you’re a woman, you want to jump my rich and philosophical bones and
2. what the hell are you talking about.

You see, the Man is the homogenous community. The old white fat men who hire young soon to be fat white men, or the sons of clients, or the ones who gufaw and golf even if they aren’t the smartest or the most progressive. law firms are, as we all know, risk averse, but this risk averse has made them incestual where they hire only their “own kind” and like Brittish royalty that used to marry sisters to brothers or first cousins or uncles and nieces to keep it in the family, the product has been a bunch of intellectually hunchbacked six fingered men (seriously, whenever I think of six fingers, I have to think of Christopher Guest in Princess Bride and then that makes me think of This is Spinal Tap and that makes me think of a an amp that goes to eleven and then I giggle apparently for no reason and my office mate thinks I do drugs, which I might do but drugs have nothing to do with my giggling in said siutation). So, now, back to Nietzsche.

The structure of BigLaw has been to hire the same old damn people that look like the same old damn people in charge. As as Nietzsche said, homogeny breeds stupidity (and six fingered people (insert giggle)) because in this world where the whole damn world is suffering from this economic crisis, we need to think outside the box. If law firms are going to survive, they are going to have to hire the weird black girl with a fro, or the (gasp) non-nerdy outspoken Asian girl, or the white guy who likes other guys if they have the law degree/grades to back it up. you can’t keep hiring the same second tier b.s. attorneys who tuck in their polo shirts into their khakis even on a saturday night. Got it?

Homogeny breeds stupidity. And that takes us to the state of BigLaw.

So if you find yourself one of the “weaker” ones that got the axe, well, you fought the good fight because changes were needed. And Nietzsche meant “weak” in the sense that you are outliers without a mob army to follow you, not that you are weak in the plain meaning of the word (yes, shut up, I am a corporate attorney, that had to be thrown in there).

Now, monkeys, hump other monkeys outside of your circle and diversify your genetic code and fuck the Man while you’re at it. Being different is a good thing, even if law firm don’t recognize it yet.

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Shameless Self-Promotion

Given the fact that we’re writing this blog, this post is definitely a situation of the proverbial pot calling the kettle black…or at least of the pot acknowledging that both it and the kettle are black. Either way, we feel it is a good time to talk about a Biglaw Associate’s favorite thing–self-promotion. We read a lot of blogs, both for content and because we’ll be laid off soon and have given up on billing hours (why oh why did we work so hard the last quarter of 2008 only to be betrayed this way???). There is one common thread amongst the commentors–they LOVE to talk about how they are better than the author of the blog and the other commentors on the blog (that they are reading and commenting on), and they also LOVE to regurgitate details of their resume in the posts. They either believe that their resume is a reason for their superiority, or they’re just jackasses who need to talk about themselves whenever possible. Both the former and the later can be true.

How did this love of self begin? Many blame the moxy of Generation Y (or whatever the hell they’re calling junior associates these days) on 80’s and 90’s style parenting that encouraged every child to believe they are special and that their shit is golden. We however think that the Biglaw’s self promotion stems from a situation that is exactly the opposite–somewhere in childhood they were told they weren’t good enough and now they must spend every waking moment proving to the world (even anonymously through blog comments) that they are good enough. The Biglaw associate is the kid who looked forward to those mandatory guidance counselor sessions in high school, not because they needed guidance, but because they needed an adult to give a shit about what they had to say. And then, just like now, usually that adult doesn’t really give a shit, they’re just paid to pretend. High school self-promotion reached it’s penacle at the moment which many a student dreads but which the Biglaw associate adored–the personal statement. Ask any Biglaw associate and they will tell you that they are so fucking awesome that it took them weeks to edit down their personal statement. How could their bounty be contained in a mere few pages of double spaced text?

How college played out for the typical Biglaw associate largely depends on what type of school they went to, and if they were able to fit into some fringe group on campus that would recognize their awesomeness. In college many Biglaw associates were in student government, did volunteer work that somehow got them noteriety, or they were emo slackers who nobody understood. Eventually they saw an opportunity to promote themselves once again without much work. Unlike Med School, which requires interviews, actual knowledge of something useful, and that you think about it in advance and take prerequisites, law school only requires the LSAT, an essay, and a GPA. And in the recent past there was also a potential future of a job with a big salary and “perks” that the future biglaw associate could brag about at reunions.

The economic woes of our recent past has left the self-loving Biglaw associate with limited options. If the biglaw associate hasn’t been fired yet, they can’t really brag about their job because everyone just assumes they’ll be fired next week so that their firm doesn’t have to share headlines with Pilsbury or Latham. So both the fired and the un-fired Biglaw associate are left with one venue…the legal blog. The fired associate can talk about how awesome they are and how their firm is now TTT since they won’t be there anymore. The still employed associate can say the fired associate was never cut out for the BigLaw in the first place and that’s why they were fired. Everybody can be happy because the blog gives them the opportunity to anonymously promote themselves and saves them the embarassment/ridicule of doing it publicly.

…Wait a minute…did we self-promoting biglaw associates just write an entire blog about self-promotion that actually promotes our blog? See! The behavior cannot be unlearned.

We just cant seem to get past the passion for your work and taking the initiative parts...

We just can't seem to get past the passion for your work and taking the initiative parts...

BigLaw Associates Like Goodbye Emails

Why They Really Laid Your Ass Off

Why They Really Laid Your Ass Off

BigLaw Associates like Goodbye emails. In light of the current economy, we here at Stuff BigLaw Associates Like, have been drafting goodbye emails in anticipation of being laid off (or, for those who have already been laid off, feel free to use our emails):

Dear [Random Ass BigLaw Firm]:

After [x] years at the Firm, I have finally faced the truth: law students are just a bunch of socially awkward pompous students and BigLaw lawyers are just a big fat bunch of socially awkward pompous assholes and when I couldn’t stand the former, I should have know the latter was even more unbearable. While I would like to stay at the Firm just purely for comedic purposes hearing about which junior associate slept with which senior partner who is already on his third wife or the stories about the attorney employment director who is sleeping with a senior partner or the hundreds of racial slurs that at which even the unreconstructed South would be impressed, I have to return to Earth and real society filled with real people and not just a bunch of walking archetypal discontent malcontent bastards right out of a B movie where the screenwriter lacked creativity. So, hasta luego suckers (but I don’t really want to see you later.)

Dear [Random Ass BigLaw Firm]:

I came to this Firm thinking that it I had the opportunity of a life time. I, however, cannot in good conscience thank the firm for such “opportunity” as I’m shoved out the door. The firm is filled wih disloyal backstabbers (before BigLaw, I thought that might have been a redundant description but you have taken both disloyalty and backstabbing to a higher art form that respect must be paid to both), shit talkers, and women who are only rebels from the waist down like they were straight out of the novel 1984. I learned nothing at this firm except that in the toilet of BigLaw, shit floats to the top when gold sinks to the bottom. I hope everyone achieves their goal of being the best BigLaw associate they can be: i.e. padding your hours with no ethical remorse; stealing work from your fellow coworkers; feeling up the summer associates; and just being general incompetent a-holes.

Dear [Random Ass BigLaw Firm]:

I have decided to leave this job to save my soul. When I started at [random ass firm], I was an atheist but after [x] years here, I believe there is a Hell as I reported to said Hell 6 days a week for 70-80 hours a week, billing my time in said Hell in 6 minute increments. I used to think that if there was a Hell, there must be a God but after working here, I think God has abandoned us. Like the albatross around the Mariner’s neck, so hung the stench of the unethical b.s. and incompetence around this Firm. No amount of xanax and alcohol will allow me to overcome the trauma of working at this Firm.

Dear [Random Ass BigLaw Firm]:

Fuck you.

The Man

 

Why do BigLaw Associates like The Man?  Why drink the koolaid? Why believe The Man when he tells you you have nothing to worry about in this market? The Man doesn’t give a shit about you, why else do you think they give you a 6 figure number to keep track of your billing, when you come and go, what documents you create or check out, etc.? What is this fucking unbased devotion to The Man you monkeys have? Do you even know who The Man is?

No, you don’t.

You think it’s the managing partner of the Firm? that fucker was so good at playing politics that he was elected but that also means he doesn’t have the balls to piss anyone off beause he knows once he does, there will be a coup and he will be toppled faster than we pulled down the statue of Saddam  Hussein in Fardus Square.

Do you think The Man is the partner that you work for and gave you great reviews? Fuck no.

When shit hits the fan, nobody’s going to stick their neck out for you because even the partners, especially in this market, are afraid shitless that they will also get the boot (e.g. Cadwalader’s coup) or will be deequitized. Or these partners have had affairs or some other sort of drama/scandal that they are no longer respected by their peers and just want to fly below the radar.

You see, nobody knows who The Man is.

Nobody knows who makes the calls, which partners will roll over and not speak up when their favorite associate gets put on the chopping block, nobody knows who even puts the associates on the chopping block. It might even be that fucking whore in attorney employment who isn’t even a lawyer but has her nose in everybody’s fucking business.

So, quit loving the Man. You don’t even know who he or she is. But one thing is certain, The  Man will fuck you over no matter how many times whored yourself out to him.

So, get off your knees and get some respect.

Blame

The only thing a biglaw associate enjoys more than taking credit for another associate’s work is blame.  Biglaw associates like blame so much that they will seek out an opportunity to blame someone else when they aren’t even being accused of doing anything wrong.  The most saavy biglaw associate will anticipate a crisis and immediately find a way to blame someone or something else.  There’s also the advance blame maneuver which can be used to soften the blow of the biglaw associate’s overwhelming incompetence.  Of course there is no self-respecting biglaw associate who will assume blame.  To do so shows the partners that you do not deserve to be a biglaw associate and may get you laid off.  This is because the partner got to be partner by being a superior blame artist.
As with anything involving biglaw associates, the blame game is quite intricate.  There are hierarchies, rules, exceptions, hybridizations and contingency plans.
The first line of defense is of course to blame someone outside of their firm, and if possible, to blame an inanimate object.  Common targets of this rule are court clerks, opposing counsel, electronic equipment, and software (e.g. Word didn’t save properly or the PDF didn’t image those signatures).  If an associate is female and a firm actually cares the biglaw associate will utilize any number of working mother defenses.  Examples include sick child, nanny problems, and “my baby ate my homework.”  The best thing about the working mother defenses is that they can also be used not-so-back-handedly to elicit some praise.  So, one might receive the email at 2 a.m. from the working mother who cranked out the drafts after she put the kids to bed, which elicits resounding praise from the partners about said associates work-ethic.  Of course this ignores the fact that the fathers and female associates without children were also working until 2 a.m. without a break to bathe the kids or eat dinner with the family.
The next line of defense is the “shit rolls downhill” defense.  Like all things involving shit this one gets very messy.  The biglaw associate will blame a classmate, junior associate, paralegal, secretary, reprographics, the mail room, the receptionist, custodian…anybody with a pulse.  When done well this move can get people fired.  This move works best when the associate can give the firm an excuse to get rid of someone they never liked in the first place, e.g. a minority, working mother, or homosexual.
And of course, the absolute last line of defense is the blame the superior defense.  This is more of a Kandinsky-esque, throw paint at the wall and hope some of it sticks and you can sell it as art move.  It takes great skill to pull the move off, and often it fails.  The move works best when a junior associate can blame a senior associate (especially one about to go up for partner in this economy), but it can also work when there are known partner fueds.  Here are some examples:
  • Partner X, let’s call her the Baren Barrister,  is a feminist who gave up everything in her life to make partner in the 80s and not only hates male partners but also junior female partners who have “work-life balance.”  Biglaw associate fucks up project for  Baren Barrister, but Partner Y, let’s call her Female Partner (because she’s the poster child for female partnership as long as those clients would like to see one), was supposed to review the project before it went to Baren Barrister.   The associate sees an opportunity to deflect and says, “sorry we missed that.  Female Partner was going to handle it, but her kids had a soccer game.  I don’t know how she does it all.”  This move is known as the reverse working mother–it only works with partners because if used on a fellow associate it just makes you look like a chauvanist or a future Baren Barrister.
  • Senior associate’s practice group has been hurting since the economy took a nose dive, so he’s diversifying into new practice areas.  Most of the partners who supported senior associate for partnership have left and he’s also trying to rebuild his reputation.  Junior associate has always worked in this area and made a very obvious mistake on a project in which senior associate was involved.  When partner calls junior associate on the problem, junior associate explains how difficult is to have to explain something to someone so senior–junior associate knows that he understands the project better, but he doesn’t want to disrespect senior associate.  Senior associate’s work suddenly dries up–but that was going to happen anyway because nobody’s making partner anytime soon.  Outside of confirming that junior associate is an asshole, not much is accomplished by this one. Of course if senior associate is a golden boy (and by golden boy we mean Aryan.  You know how firms love the Aryan boys.  They have to fill their white boy quota), this can backfire horribly.  It works best if junior associate is also a golden boy with the credentials to trump senior associate (e.g. father who is a partner at a competing firm; relative who is CEO of a company and client of the firm, etc…).
Given all the blame going around these days how does one avoid becoming the target?  Well the best defense is a good offense.  Go back to your desk right now and start thinking of scenarioes that allow you to throw a co-worker under the bus.  And as a closing note, when you’re going to throw a co-worker under the bus, it’s a great style move to say “I’m not trying to throw anybody under the bus or anything….”  The partner will know you’re throwing them under the bus, but it will alert them that they are supposed to supsend reality and believe your lie.

Dear Biglaw: am I safe?

We haven’t done an advice column in a while, but the recent economic developments have generated a few gems worth responding to.  Here’s our favorite:

Dear Biglaw:

Should I be worried about my job?  i got the best evaluation I’ve ever had in my life.  It was truly fucking awesome.   I’m on cloud 9 and think I really have a future at this place.  I feel like I’ve really found my calling.   There was not one negative comment.  Do you think I’m safe?

–Asswipe

Dear Asswipe:

Were there actually any details in your awesome evaluation?  Were you compared to your peers and told where you stand in the crowd of those left?  Were you given any targets for the next year or the next 6 months?  Did you get work from any new sources following your “fucking awesome” evaluation?  Are you billing 200+ hours a month?  Has anyone else in your class or section been fired recently?  I’m going to assume the answer to all these questions is no.  So guess what asswipe: what you’re in right now is law firm purgatory…not enough of a kiss ass to definitely keep, not competent or threatening enough to fire and too stupid to know the difference.   Given your stupidity, you could also just be really cheap labor and maybe it was easier to fire 100 secretaries and just have you take over answering the phones and printing documents for dinosaur partners.  

So you’re left with a couple of options: (1) make the full transition from a self-absorbed asswipe to a full fledged asshole and drink a hell of a lot more kool-aid (so far you’re only drinking your own,  not your law firm’s), which still won’t gaurantee your job; or (2) start seeing your career for what it really is–a big stinking pile of law firm bullshit.  I’m sure your mommy told you you were special, but guess what–she lied.  You’re fungible just like everybody else.

Don’t Settle!

A biglaw associate that hasnt been laid off

A biglaw associate that hasn't been laid off

BigLaw Associates like to acquiese. We like to settle. We’re like those couples that you see that live together and are boring and bored of each other. They’ve been with each other for a year or two, they might have moved in with each other to save on rent, and are now in a cycle. They both deep down inside know that there is no spark, that the other isn’t who they want to spend the rest of their lives with but there is free sex, free somewhat regular sex, and someone to watch television with and eat microwave dinner or chinese take out with. There’s no reason to break up, pack up all your shit, shell out money on movers, deposits, and first and last month’s rent. Fuck, you might even marry this person. And have a fat baby. And spend your Saturday’s at Bed Bath & Beyond and Home Depot (if either are still around after this recession). You might then day dream about that hot chick in the coffee shop while you are stuffing your face with 1000 calorie doughnuts. You might day dream about having married a rich man who would whisk you away to some random ass tropical island. and through it all, you spent the better part of your time cutting coupons you never used or could find when you just happened to need to buy that item. But then you die of a series of small heart attacks. Not one is significant so not even your death will be tragic or memorable.

However, if the other person in the relationship cheats on you. Well, that’s the catalyst to action. You break up, maybe throw a few things, craddle your ego, shit talk the other person to all your friends, maybe do some libel as well on a blog (like this one–feel free to comment here!), and move your shit out. You’re lonely for six months, you’re edgy because you haven’t had sex in a while, and maybe you’ve gained a bit of weight and more hair than you should have on places that’s not your head. But then eventually, let’s hope, you pick yourself up, realize the other person was a boring sack of shit, and that you’re glad you’re out. Maybe you’ve found someone else (probably not if you’re a lawyer because you’re probably unattractive and short) that makes you more happy than you ever thought possible.

And such is the way with BigLaw. You are a midlevel bored out of your mind but you’ve gotta be crazy to leave a job that pays six figures when you don’t even know what else you would do with your life. You’ve been a monkey for so long, cranking out sheets of paper with little black words on them, meticulously measuring the margins of your pleadings, having no sex life or a really bad one, getting fat and miserable that you don’t even know what will make you happy. You’ve gotta be crazy to leave a cushy job when the average family of three makes $45,000 and you started at $160,000. But before you know it, you’re a seventh or eighth year. You’re fat. You’ve started guffawing because that’s what all the old white men do around you. You no longer think it is unethical to pad hours. You no longer think it is unethical to steal supplies even though you make a bizillion bucks. If you’re a minority, you’re confused as to why you aren’t the same color as all the white people because you feel white inside. But then you get fired for not making partner and you wonder where your youth went and your individuality and identity. And then you too, die of a series of small heart attacks on a pile of paper at 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon.

Or you make partner and find yourself laid off or de-equitized after your second divorce resulting from the fact that you are always at work or at networking events and never at home with your wife/husband and kids/dogs/pet gold fish. Or you find yourself close to retirement after screwing over countless associates and married to your homely looking third wife (when your second wife left you for your brother who “followed his dreams” and actually has time for her)  instead of a trophy wife in hopes that she will stick around to wipe the drool from your mouth after you suffer a heart attack or stroke from being an overweight stressed out fat bastard from neglecting your health for the sake of your “career”. Good job. Pat yourself on the back. That was a life well lived.

However, if the other person in the relationship cheats on you, and in this case, it would be BigLaw laying your ass off, that is the catalyst to action. You are forced to find something that actually, *gasp* makes you happy! you are allowed to take a year off and travel and learn portuguese because brazilian women are hot. Even if you go back to law after that year, it’s like a year you were able to relax and be happy. Yes, there are bills to pay but nobody but people who are still employed are paying their bills and guess what? you’re not employed! fuck your credit score. You and Madoff’s mom have shitty credit scores. Yeah, it will suck not having money but you’ve got that severance package and it’s time to re-establish your love with rice-a-roni and ramen and msg. Go ahead, throw things, cradle your hurt ego, and talk shit about your law firm on a blog (like this one–feel free to comment here!). But you’ll soon realize that it might have been the best thing for you. Not all of us were meant to be monkeys or tools. Not all of us, just because we’re smart and did well in law school, are meant to ignore parts of ourselves and waste our talent checking for commas and getting yelled at by short men with large heads. Hopefully soon you will find something else that will make you more happy than you ever thought possible.

Until then, screw the man!