Posts Tagged ‘exploitation’

“A” wrote in with the following question:

I wanted to know your thoughts on the imbalance in power relationships at law firms.

My boyfriend, J,works for a partner in a firm. They’ve worked together on and off for 5 years. The partner was an associate when J joined as a trainee. They’ve been ‘friends’ but the friendship is not balanced. There’s an increasing tendency for the personal and professional relationship to blend, and not in a good way.
The partner will abuse his ability to prevent certain social situations from happening by increasing J’s work load. If we don’t agree to socialize on the weekend with him and his wife then the partner can make life difficult as well. He has a very controlling and dominating nature, and will often send emails which are childish and aggressive to J if he doesn’t get his way.

My question is … Is it ever appropriate to have a personal relationship with anyone who is in a position of power over you?

I find that it is not, and as a by stander in this merry-go round of their relationship with one another find that I am a helpless player who gets dragged in from time to time, but is unable to stand up and defend herself because, according to J, ‘he’s a partner and it’ll make work more complicated for me if we upset him.’

Also how to extract ourselves from this? J is in the process of applying for a new position elsewhere, but he still intimates that in the future he’ll want to continue being friends with this partner. Is this some kind of negative symbiotic relationship, whose negative side he cannot recognize because he’s been in it for so long?

And here’s my answer:

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Office romances are endemic in the legal profession. I see them constantly with my patients.

Why is there so much fooling around at law firms?


A partner in a couple “triangulates” – looking to a third party to replace what’s missing in his relationship.

For lawyers, that boils down to time spent together.

One married lawyer told me she flirts with a junior associate at her office. She loves her husband, but never sees him. Flirting with the junior satisfies her craving for sexual attention. Lately, though, they’ve been going out for drinks, and she’s afraid something will happen she’ll regret.

Single lawyers experience the same romantic isolation. One said she hadn’t been to a bar or club – let alone a party – for over a year. She keeps canceling dates because of work, and her friends no longer ask her out because she always says no. This month she’s been working late nights with another associate at her firm and they’ve started hooking up.

Most people divide their days in three equal parts: You work. You play. And you sleep.

Lawyers sleep – sometimes. But they don’t play – they just work. Then they work some more.

When work replaces play, you find yourself playing at work: taking Facebook breaks, creating candy games to get through doc review…or letting things turn jiggy with co-workers.

Is there a problem with getting it on at the office?

If you’re married, or in a committed relationship, the answer is easy: yes. That’s because, if you’re sleeping around, you’re lying to someone.

There’s nothing sacred or holy about monogamy. But you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You wouldn’t want someone to lie to you, so you shouldn’t lie to him.

For single lawyers the issues are subtler, but the answer is still yes – there is a problem.

The dysfunction created by a law firm romance is epitomized by the archetypal hook-up between a 40-something male partner and a 20-something female associate.

I see it all the time, and yes, sometimes it’s a female partner and sometimes it’s between two men or two women. Doesn’t matter. It’s a train wreck.

The partner is riding out a power trip. He’s on his second or third wife, using status and money to avoid other issues like personal insecurities and fear of commitment.

The associate gets a rush of power, too. Suddenly she’s the center of attention for a guy earning seven figures – and he’s hinting that things are falling apart with the wife.

Two big problems…


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