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Sunday, April 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Partnership Track

If a law firm were smart (and, yeah, I know firms can't think, but play along with me here), how would it choose its partners?

Think about that for a moment while I pose another question: how much does your quality of life really improve if you're not making tons of money?

The two questions are related because we keep reading and hearing about lawyers who think they're faced with a terrible dilemma because they have to choose between working 80 hours a week because they want to be a partner someday if they can avoid death or relaxing a bit and giving up dreams of plush offices and associates as personal slaves.

There are people who are so concerned about this issue that there's even a group (and website) devoted to working "to stem unwanted attrition among lawyers a benefit for both legal employers and the lawyers themselves by promoting work/life balance and the advancement of women in the legal profession."

Soon there will be telethons.

I don't want to sound unsympathetic to hardworking lawyers who want to work less - I, myself, try to work as little as possible - but at least a few of the lawyers who complain about hours make a good bit of money. If you want free time, give up a few bucks.

Still, some of you thinking firms might want to consider my first question. Does it make sense to choose partners out of the guys who were dumb enough to work 80 hours a week? Shouldn't you be picking the smart ones who still possess a shred of sanity?

I recommend taking the following into account:

Vows of poverty. OK, maybe not poverty, but a certain lack of greed. After all, in the long run, if you don't have to pay a lawyer a lot, isn't he/she, in effect, making money for the firm?

Let them work 10 hours a week for seven years and then make them partners. They'll be happy, healthy, and eager to make up for lost wages.

Children. The more, the better. If they can handle two-year-olds, just think how they'll handle litigators.

You need stern, imposing presences in court.

Imagination. Oh sure, you can bill a lot for hours worked, but isn't it better to have someone who can come up with creative solutions that don't take so much time and effort? That's the sort of person who can draft a billing statement that makes it seems that lots of hours were spent on the case.

A good name. You've got to have partners whose names make the firm's name sound impressive and authoritative. Names like Wise, Stern, Justice, and Badass should improve a lawyer's partnership chances.

Some of you would-be partners should be thinking name-change right now.

STAY ALERT. The following is from a New York Supreme Court appellate division ruling called People v. Ricketts. See if this sounds like a Catch-22 to you:

"Here, as the record fails to disclose when and for what duration, if at all, the defendant was asleep during the jury selection process, meaningful appellate review of this issue is precluded."

Of course he might have been a bit clearer on the timing if he hadn't been asleep.

The real question, though, is why didn't anyone else notice the defendant was snoozing? What was the lawyer sitting next to him doing? Why didn't the snoring bother the judge?

I'm guessing there may have been more than one person sleeping in this courtroom.

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