Time for another installment of Advice for the Lawlame, the closest thing that Above the Law has to an “advice column.” We take the questions submitted to NYLawyer.com’s popular advice columns, including “Advice for the Lawlorn,” and offer our own take on them.
(We’ve been at this for quite some time now. For the Advice for the Lawlame archives, click here, then scroll down.)
Here’s today’s query:
The partner I work with is seen as strange by the rest of the firm. How do I avoid being tarred by the same brush?
HA, tell us about it. Back when we were in private practice, we ended up as biatch to the weirdest partner in the whole damn place. So this is a question we’re well-equipped to answer.
More details from the query, plus our “advice,” after the jump (click on the “continue reading” link below).
Here is the full version of the letter seeking advice:
It’s taking me a long time to make partner. Recently a junior-ish partner clued me in that the senior partner I work with most closely is viewed as an out-there kind of guy, very strange, etc., who doesn’t politic and has made some enemies. This is despite the fact that he is universally regarded as brilliant and has some big clients.
I’m puzzled by this and really infuriated that by merely doing good work for this guy, I’m tarred by the same brush — one that I think is very unfair. Because of how this partner is perceived I’m not necessarily doomed but things aren’t going to go as quickly as they would otherwise, my junior partner source told me. To me this looks like pure politics. Why can’t the partners look beyond this and do what they ought to do, given that I’ve killed myself putting in hours for clients, I’ve brought in business, etc.?
Here’s what we have to say:
We feel your pain. Back when we were at a big firm, we wound up as the go-to guy for one of the, um, more eccentric partners. He unfortunately took a liking to us, perhaps because we — after spending so much time working for him — developed “Stockholm syndrome.” We would cater to his every need, no matter how bizarre. (Oh no, not that bizarre — get your mind out of the gutter!)
So maybe you’re more “strange” than you think. In any event, we have some advice for you. Here are our tips:
1. You need to stop working with Weirdo and start working with other people. When he calls, don’t pick up the phone. When you see him walking down the hall, duck behind the nearest secretarial station. And for the love of God, set your email account so that it doesn’t send return receipts. In a word: HIDE.
2. You need to distance yourself from Weirdo publicly. Your colleagues at the firm need to know that you’re “not with him.” Think of it this way. You go out to lunch with a fat friend of the opposite gender — and everybody thinks you’re an item!!! How bad is that? So just as you keep three feet between you and your fat friend as you walk down the street, you need to keep a healthy distance between you and “your” weird-ass partner.
3. The best way to do this is to make fun of Weirdo behind his back. Make clear to your fellow associates — as well as the partners — that you think this guy is a wack-job too! And you’re ideally situated to mock the daylights out of him. Because you work with him so closely, you have the best horror stories about the extent of his insanity.
(Like the time that he kept you in the office on New Year’s Eve, working on a 120-page privilege log, concerning documents from the 1970’s that were so faded, nobody could read them — but if anyone could read them, they’d be privileged, dammit!)
4. The best way to make fun of Weirdo is to develop a dead-on impersonation of him. Okay, so you’re not a comedian; but you can do it! Just think about how many times you’ve heard that annoying staccato voice, how many interminable voice-mails you’ve listened to, how many meetings you’ve sat through with him droning on and on… If anyone can do an impression of this guy, it’s you!
We hope this helps. Good luck!
Your Friends at Above the Law
Work/Life Wisdom [NYLawyer.com]