Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Every Elite Group Needs a Bit of Propaganda to Entice the Masses.

The National Law Journal is a bloody rag, but I read it from time to time to keep up with the propaganda machine, aka The Legal Industrial Complex.

So, I was combing through it on-line and I came upon this disgusting article--most likely written to pump up the egos of everyone in the Good Ole Boy's club and to snag OLs into the machine.  Oh yah, a third purpose is to make lawyers who haven't made it, such as myself, feel like shit.  My comments are in purple below, and they are mostly addressed to the Venable Associate that wrote this dirty diaper of an article.

"Oh no!" My wife and I were just beginning a two-week vacation when she remembered the juror questionnaire. She had recently received the notice and, naturally, the deadline to respond fell right in the middle of our vacation. Intending to submit the questionnaire before leaving, she had taken the forms to her office, but forgotten to complete and mail them.

"Call your people and have them take care of it," I said.

"My people?" she replied.

This got me about one of the benefits of working in a big firm that I had been taking for granted. After several years of practice, there are a few dozen attorneys that I know well enough to call friends. They are the kind of friends that I would trust with my assets and the well-being of my family, the kind of people I would trust to sign my name with all the attendant repercussions. 

What about the associates that will step on you on their way up the the partnership totem pole?  Yes, there are those that you can trust, but unless your wife is a solo, I don't see how your esteemed associates at Venable are any more trustworthy--especially when they are constantly looking for ways to distinguish themselves from the crowd.  In all likelihood, if they were to do something for you, it's because you are never assigned to a case by your lonesome.  Instead, every case is given a  team of attorneys--all equally responsible to make sure things are done correctly. And if things are not done correctly, i.e. one attorney forgets to file the juror questionnaire, all of you will feel the wrath of the senior partner on the case.  Stop kidding yourself.  They are all operating in CYA (cover your ass) mode.  This is not a quality that is unique to big law or successful attorneys.  People are people, wherever they end up in life. 

I started to think through the people in my firm that I know and trust. As I thought through the list, I realized that I had not known some of them for long. It was not the length of the friendships that made them reliable. It was that they were attorneys with three common qualities: they were meticulously honest, generous, and responsible.

Obviously, honesty is a trait expected of everyone, attorneys and non-attorneys alike. But for attorneys, honesty is more than a virtue; it is a professional qualification. There are professional rules of conduct addressing honesty, and all of the oaths of admission that I have taken have addressed it in one way or another. Perhaps then it is no surprise that the people I work with are meticulously honest. 

Oh yah, sure... attorneys are more honest than most.  That's why Mark Drier, founder of Drier LLP, and probably a millionaire several times over, created a Ponzi scheme that would have been the main news if Bernie Madoff didn't create a bigger one.  I'm not going to say that lawyers are more likely to be crooks than other people--but to say that you and your associates in BigLaw are MORE honest than most because of oaths and bullshit is just that, BULLSHIT.  I'm wondering if you're trying to fix our BAD reputation, or trying to distinguish the Good Ole Boys from the shyster solos.  Why would you even write this nonsense down and publish it, like it's fact. It's not.  BigLaw attorneys are just as conniving and greedy as the soloshit lawyers.  They just have the resources to not get caught.

So what about generosity?

Law firms are among the largest contributors to various charitable causes, and pro bono work is only one way in which attorneys are generous to society at large. Within the firm, there is also a wealth of generosity on an interpersonal level. Hardly a week goes by where one coworker or another does not offer to buy me lunch, or vice versa. Even more compelling is the overarching generosity with time. Despite high billing requirements and the pressures of large firm life, I have rarely been turned away when seeking help or advice from another. 

Haven't you heard of tax breaks based on charitable contribution?  Are you seriously trying to say that BigLaw gives out of the goodness of their hearts.  BULLSHIT.  Also, if you seek out advice and it is freely given, it's because all of the attorneys at the firm are responsible for getting this right.  If the firm doesn't, it won't get paid.

Which brings me to responsibility.

Naturally, it takes a certain level of responsibility to make it through college and law school with the level of performance required to get a job in a large firm. Meeting the demands of large firm clients requires even more responsibility – with time, money, and deadlines – if an attorney is simply to survive. This makes a big firm attorney the perfect friend to have when you need to be confident that something will get done – such as a fax response to a juror questionnaire.

Twice in the last week I have forgotten an important document related to personal business outside the office. Each time, I have been relieved to know that I had people I could trust to go through my personal documents, whom I knew would take the time to do it simply because I had asked them to, and whom I could rely on to send it to me quickly, just as they had promised. 

I think this little nugget was put in here to make all of the lemming think that those who don't succeed in law school are irresponsible people.  That's not true.  Most, if not all, of law students were always responsible good students and they falsely assume that this trend will continue in law school.  And the flunkies of law school don't change once they get there.  They are still responsible.  They are still attending class.  They are still doing the the assignments.  They are still studying.  However, they fail despite all of that.  It's a crap shoot.  I would argue, at least in my law school, that the best students weren't more responsible than the others.  Sometimes, they were more underhanded.  Books would be missing from the Library Shelf when you needed them for the ONE MEMO that you draft first semester.  These same Law School superstars would lie and say things like, "I haven't even opened a book yet" to throw off the others and make them think it's too early to be studying for finals.  I had an awful experience once where this BITCH frenemy called me and said she wanted to study with me at Borders. I told her that's fine, but I am studying Property and I'm not prepared to talk to her about Constitutional Law.  So, she could sit there and study ConLaw, but don't distract me by talking about it.  What did she do?  She sat there and quizzed me for hours on ConLaw to make herself feel better about all that she studied and to distract me from studying for my intended subject.  Is that responsible, or is that strategic??

It's easy to take something for granted when we have never known it to be any other way. For my part, I'm glad that my wife's comment prompted me to stop and take the time to appreciate how fortunate I am to be surrounded not only by professional colleagues, but also by trusted friends. 

Life must be great on top, huh?  My point is, after reading this article, don't think that you belong in big law if you are honest, generous and responsible.  It means nothing.  I am all of those things and I'm unemployed.


  1. I will give you that the article above is self-serving, pompous drivel. However, I think you are a bit hypersensative in your critique. I don't think the author intends any insults and I'm sure the plight of less fortunate lawyers is the furthest thing from his mind.

    Just enjoy that piece for what it is - poorly written blather from a guy who is just trying to raise his profile and that of his firm.

  2. I think he is not insulting lesser attorneys, but he is putting his cohorts on a pedestal.

  3. The most poignant piece of the article is where the author notes/concedes that biglaw associates and partners are every bit as shady as solo shysters. They simply have the vast resources not to get caught.

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