Archive for April 27th, 2011

I raced downstairs to break the news: I’m leaving. I got a new, non-legal job at a major online book-seller.

The reception at the firm gym wasn’t what I expected. My favorite trainer looked pensive, mumbled “good for you, man,” then gave me a half-hearted fist bump. The other two trainers, both women, exchanged looks. One grimaced, and quipped to the other, “see, I told you – the nice ones always leave.” She caught my glance, and turned serious. “Hey, it’s good news. We’ll miss you, that’s all.”

The nice ones always leave.

My client ran into this phenomenon recently. She’s a first year, assigned to a major case with two senior associates. The partner’s missing in action, so she and the two seniors are running the show.

The good news is the seniors are great guys – and, as a result, she’s been one of the few not-unhappy lawyers I’ve seen all year.

“They’re just plain nice,” she told me. “The hours suck, the work itself is kind of boring, but nothing’s that bad if you’re working with people you like. Sometimes, we even have fun.”

One guy was super thoughtful, and bent over backwards to take time to explain things and create a sense of teamwork. The other was a bit of a kook, with a goofy sense of humor and a light-hearted way of defusing crises.

Then, Monday last week, the firm distributed bonuses. On Tuesday the first senior associate gave his notice. On Wednesday the other said he’s leaving, too.

Neither of the seniors said why they were taking off. Maybe it was the demanding, ungrateful client – maybe the partner, who never acknowledged their hard work. Maybe they were just burnt out in general.

As a result of their departure, an office that used to be fun has turned grim. It’s like watching a friendly college dorm turn overnight into der Führerbunker. The partner is melting down. He pulled in another senior associate, an anal-retentive who doesn’t know what he’s doing. People are hiding in their offices. The atmosphere among the paralegals is funereal. Even the contract attorneys look more depressed than usual, if that’s possible.

“It’s a shit storm,” my client said. “And from my perspective, a lose-lose proposition. The partner’s overwhelmed, the new senior is clueless and I don’t know whether to try to help – and get yelled at – or lay low and hide – and get yelled at.”

There’s no winning, and it’s no fun.



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