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Posts Tagged ‘law firm’

This is getting predictable.

I suspect I’m dating myself, but does anyone else remember the Peanuts cartoons? Specifically that endlessly repeated gag (more like heart-wrenching tragedy) of Lucy offering to hold the football for poor, hapless Charlie Brown so he can kick it? Of course, she winds up pulling it away just in time for him to miss the kick and fly through the air screaming, then land in a heap, bruised and miserable, furious at himself for placing his trust once again in a faithless so-called friend. 

Law firms do that. I mean, they do the Lucy bit, with the football. 

“So…when you say he promised you’d be elevated to partner,” I asked one client just the other day, “Do you mean, as in, he actually promise promised to make you partner…or just sort of implied strongly it would happen?” 

My client’s response was unequivocal: “He promised.” 

I fumbled for wiggle room. “But can he do that? How much capital does this guy have at the firm to burn on elevating one of his own?”

My client wasn’t taking wiggle for an answer: “He’s the managing partner of a smallish firm. He can elevate whomever he wants.”

Wait. Hang on…one more question: “Did he specify when he’d make you partner?”

Now I had him.  Because the unfailing law firm answer to any question regarding something good that’s going to happen to you (i.e., not to them) is: Not now…but soon. 

Promising stuff to you (not now, but soon) is actually a key law firm technique for getting what they want from you (immediately.)

The looming temporal gulf between what they offer to you and what they demand from you is acute. It is stark. It is striking. 

Compare and contrast:

The stuff they offer to you will arrive whenever they please, which seldom means anytime remotely contemporaneous with the current era. (And, no, don’t bother them about it, or they might change their minds.)

The stuff they require from you, on the other hand, will happen immediately. This very minute.  As in, I’m aware it’s Saturday night, and no, I don’t care. I’m not asking – that’s me being polite.  I’ll have it Monday morning or you’re fired. 

That kind of right now. Law firm right now. 

Returning for a moment to those lovely, tasty things that they’re promising to you… It’s worth asking just how long a period of time not now, but soon can be drawn out to occupy, at least in the minds of those who run law firms. 

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b775975a44e3d7a4395cfdebcc7db7cdI just turned fifty, so I can tell you about old. Old isn’t merely the words “Mission: Impossible” conjuring memories of a show you watched as a kid in 1973 on a “color console tv set” the size of a freezer chest. Old transcends. Old abides. Old pushes through to not caring if everyone else’s memories zip directly to a movie with Tom Cruise hanging off a cliff. Old concedes Jean-Luc Picard a place in the pantheon beside Kirk and Spock, but remains firm in its belief Peter Graves and the miniature reel-to-reel tape player that self-destructed after five seconds were the height of awesome, Tom Cruise or no Tom Cruise. Old is about “values.” Old doesn’t haggle over this stuff.

What made the original Mission: Impossible show so much fun (other than its co-starring Martin Landau, which already made it fun) was the bizarrely improbable nature of the missions. They were supposed to be “impossible” to carry out, but in reality that was the least of the issues. The “mission” generally took place in some made-up Eastern European country with a name like “Vladistan” with a grey, oppressive capital city (“Vodkagrad” sounds good) and there was always an evil dictator holding a good, democratic leader guy captive in Vodkagrad (not that I remember details – I was seven years old, chomping a peanut butter and jelly sandwich during much of the action.) I mostly recall that a couple of the IMF (“Impossible Mission Force”) agents hung out in equipment rooms tapping phone lines and fiddling with electronic gadgets, glancing nervously at their watches, while the others (including Martin Landau!) wore disguises so convincing you only realized who they were when they peeled off plastic masks. How cool was that?

But my point – and I do (despite advancing age) have a point – is that I’ve recently, in my role of psychotherapist to the lawyers, been assigned “missions” by biglaw firms, requests for my services, that leave me feeling like Mr. Phelps watching wisps of smoke rise from the little reel-to-reel. I’m a publicity whore, like any author who ever sold a book (or tried to) and yes, I might be termed a whore-whore as well, in some respects, like any public speaker who ever pocketed a fee. Points conceded. But on those occasions when I’ve managed to get hired to speak at conferences and panels and industry events and even at law schools, everything has come off if not without a hitch, then at least without a major conflagration. Invite me over, serve me lunch, treat me nice, and I’m a total pro, no trouble at all.

Yet, somehow, when it’s a biglaw firm that comes calling for my services, everything goes all pear-shaped. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and be your own Mr. Phelps – check out a couple “impossible missions” that came my way recently, and decide for yourself whether you’d “choose to accept” them. I’m still scratching my head, long after the tape self-destructed. To wit:

Impossible Mission #1: Death 

(more…)

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After Steve Spierer invited me to be a guest on his radio show on Talk Radio One, he told me we’d probably do a 30-minute segment.  Then he added a caveat:  “If we’re really on fire, we could go the full forty-five.”

Apparently we achieved ignition, because we ran the full forty-five.  Steve’s a terrific host, and kept things moving with perceptive, challenging questions.  He also arranged  for a caller – Matt, a young first-year lawyer at a top-100 firm.  It was a first – the People’s Therapist live on the air with one of the sort of people he’s always writing about, talking about what he’s always writing about.  A moment of truth.

To hear the show, click here.

For the show’s website, click here.

Steve’s a fascinating guy – a real estate lawyer with decades of experience, who also hosts a radio show about books and authors, issues of personal growth and – sound like the People’s Therapist? – the law.  I couldn’t have asked for a better match between interviewer and interviewee.

For more information on Steve and his show, click here.

I’m on for the first forty-five minutes, but stick around for the final fifteen, where Steve provides his listeners a savvy take on trends in the real estate market. His opinions might not be what you’re expecting, but he knows what he’s talking about and he leaves you thinking.

Thanks for having me on the show, Steve – and thank you, Matt, for calling in and keeping The People’s Therapist on his toes.

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If you enjoy The People’s Therapist, check out his new book!

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“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:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist!

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