My Boss is an Asshole and Other First-Year Associate Laments
Your supervising partner might look like Dumbledore, but he's much more likely to feel like Voldemort (photo and wikipedia entry right).
That's why we're beginning the new legal year with . . .
WRITING THE LEGAL RESEARCH MEMO: ADVICE FOR FIRST YEAR ASSOCIATES
Forget everything you've ever learned about legal research and writing. Here's the answer to any question that begins with the words "can we . . . "
I once worked for a partner who asked every first year and new lateral associate whether our client could successfully plead a federal civil rights cause of action in case B, Q or X. Not only were these cases highly unlikely to support such a cause of action, this question was never posed in any case where the facts detailed might.
The research-question-posing lawyer was then the managing partner of an AmLaw 100 firm and a former Justice Department attorney who had worked under Robert Kennedy. Only this latter fact made any of us suspect that the question might conceivably be genuine and not simply a hazing ritual for the firm’s new young associates.
But what, you ask, if the answer is an unequivocal “no.”
Herewith are a few ways of surviving the mysterious to malicious legal research assignment posed by Lord . . . uh . . . I mean Mister Voldemort.
The best way to insure your ability to provide even an equivocal “yes” is to ask the supervising partner what s/he is trying to accomplish by alleging this cause of action before commencing your legal research.
Knowing the answer to this question will permit you to suggest an alternative means of accomplishing the same objective if you absolutely positively cannot say "yes."
Other acceptable alternatives to “yes” or “here’s another great way of accomplishing the same goal” include:
- It would be a stretch, but there are several cases suggesting that we might survive a demurrer.
- It will be tough to survive a demurrer but if we argue x, y and z, I believe we can avoid sanctions if our opponent seeks them.
- All of the American case law says we cannot allege this cause of action based on the facts you provided to me, but I checked the British authorities (or recent law review articles) and we can argue that the X line of case authority should be abandoned in favor of the British Rule (or Professor Tribe’s new theory of recovery).
- I took the liberty of ordering the file and reading all of the pre-litigation correspondence between the parties. There are some additional facts [that you didn’t tell me about] contained there that would allow us to bring this cause of action.
- If x, y or z, happened, we would be able to assert this cause of action. Have you asked the client whether any of these events occurred? Would you like me to make the call?
There are hundreds of ways to skin your partner’s cat and only one way to irritate, annoy, frustrate or – in extreme but not unheard of circumstances – enrage him. What is that one way? To say, "no, I'm sorry, but you cannot do what you want to do and here are the 25 reasons why.”
What does this have to do with negotiation? If you want your BATNA (Better Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) to be better than finding other employment, you'll become expert at resolving the seemingly impossible problems posed to you by your superiors this year.
Don't worry, it won't be all that long before you're the new Voldemort on the block. In the meantime, welcome to the profession. Mostly, it's challenging, rewarding and very often just plain fun.
FOR THE BOSSES AMONG YOU HERE'S AN HILARIOUS DOWNLOADABLE .PDF MUST READ MEMO FROM "CREATIVE" TO "THE SUITS" ON WHY THEY QUIT THEIR JOBS courtesy of the Bullshit Observer's post Dear Bosses, Here's Why We Quit Our Jobs.