Evan Schaeffer links to a blog written by law firm partners about their associates. (Evan suggests that too many links over there will make them realize they're no longer writing in obscurity and they'll stop -- so I'll refrain from a direct link, but googling any of the excerpts I post here should do the trick if you want to read more. I'm also not completely convinced this isn't all being done in humor and not completely seriously.) Evan finds the whole thing evil, but I find it pretty thought provoking. A few excerpts that maybe I'll write some thoughts about later, but for now just the excerpts:
"Please re-write this-- the point we are trying to make seems buried," is apparently heard as an insulting tirade attacking the associate's intelligence, mother, and ethnic background. "Your hours are a little light this month-- perhaps you could come in this Saturday," is heard as a Simon Legree-like threat to break up the associate's family by sending a member down river... Get out of the firm that makes you work harder than you want to. Get out of the practice area that you've just realized is like a trip to the dentist every day you go to work. Get out of law all together, if it's not what suits you. All of us get into this profession because we are fairly bright, and very determined. I'd be the last to say that doggedness isn't a valuable personality trait, but very often I see lawyers who are miserable in their work, and are doing only because they are determined to hang on. That is a terrible way to feel about your profession-- if you hate it, there is no way you can be getting paid enough to keep doing this work, and the sooner you figure that out, the better.
the big firm experience was oddly lonely much of the time. Nobody talked much about what they were doing-- except to complain-- because nobody wanted to give anybody else a leg up. You never wanted to go to someone with a question, because to do so might suggest weakness, and put you behind in the race for the prize. Once a year some were chosen to become partners, and some were not. The ones who were not were damaged goods-- like crippled beggars that you tried not to look at. For all the talk of the place being "like a family" what it was really like was a pack of wolves. The cripples were culled from the pack pretty ruthlessly, and you tried not look when it was happening.
Thinking about it, one of the reasons we have never made the same mistake with an associate twice is the endless variety of associates that are out there. Each has a fatal personality flaw; typically it is exactly that flaw that we focus on and base our hiring decision on. This one places family life above all; we decide that he will be highly motivated and are surprised when his mornings are consumed with pediatric appointments and school plays. Another is single, but spends her time searching for the person that will make her life complete, rather than billing. One is smart-- and second guesses everything we try to tell her. Another is hard working, but lacks the confidence in his own judgment to do anything without first being reassured repeatedly that it is what needs to be done.