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Dear ATL —
I work for two partners at my firm – a senior one and a junior one. The senior partner routinely assigns me less urgent work, but he expects his projects to be handled immediately. The junior partner assigns me more urgent deal work, which also must be done immediately. Both partners hound me to attend to their projects, and if I do the senior partner’s work before the junior partner’s, the senior partner is pissed off, and vice versa. I’ve sent an email asking them how I should prioritize the projects, and neither has responded. I feel like I’m screwed either way. What would you recommend I do?
Rock and a Hard Place
Dear Rock and a Hard Place –
Advances in sheep cloning give associates hope that they will soon be able to be in two places at once, double bill and send themselves for coffee. Alas, that glorious day is not yet upon us. For now, you have to pick one of the projects, tackle it first and piss a partner off. Thus the question becomes, which partner is it better to enrage?
Most people would probably tell you to do the senior partner’s project first, because while his work may be less pressing, he has more clout at partner meetings and owns two Ferraris. Prioritizing memoranda to files may keep the senior partner momentarily happy, but in doing so you’ll look like a slacker to the rest of the deal team. And when purchase agreements go out the door with brackets around Section 9.2.1 stating “pending IP review,” you’ll look like an asshat in front of the client.
Believe it or not, you were not primarily hired to preserve your own job, but rather to advise firm clients. The senior partner may have more hiring/firing power over you than the junior partner, but it’s your duty to convey to the senior partner that the deal team, the junior partner and the client cumulatively outweigh him, even if he is obese. Telling him “not right now” won’t be easy, but it’s nothing that his wife and lady friend haven’t done before.
Read Elie’s take after the jump.
Your only good option is to force a partner cockfight. Whenever two men are fighting over you, it’s always best to appeal to the man’s desire for alpha-dominance while you sit back and wait for the strongest shaft to emerge. It works in love, and it works in law.
The way you accomplish this is simple: CC both partners on anything you send to either one of them. Soon enough both partners will realize that somebody else is pissing on their tree (you = tree) and they will grow the sack for the needed showdown. Often enough, the junior partner will back down, unless the senior partner is already too old to hunt for himself anymore. You likely won’t be around when the titanic clash is carried out on the open plains of Winged Foot, but the losing contender will eventually start saying things like “get this done when you have the time.”
This will work even if one or both of the partners are women. You don’t get to that position in Biglaw without being able to strap it on every now and again.
Your Big Game Hunter,
Elie – great idea, except that whoever loses the battle will take it out on you. And his pillow. The only thing worse than a partner storm a brewin’ is a perfect storm that you created. Spare yourself the eye of the tiger and do the junior partner’s assignment first. Worse comes to worst, you can always schill for Tom James.
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