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Dear Above The Law,
I am a summer associate at a BigLaw firm in New York. I have no work and I spend my day surfing the net. My assignment coordinator forbade me from getting work from anyone else, but won’t give me any either. The partners and associates ignore me. I feel like they’re creating an impossible situation where they’re setting me up to be no-offered. What should I do?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Dear Who Framed Roger Rabbit,
If you’ve seen Intervention, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew seasons 1-3 or Sober House, you’re no doubt familiar with the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity:
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Here’s some wisdom: your quandary is of the “things I cannot change” type. If you’re not getting any work and everyone’s avoiding you it’s either because you smell or they didn’t want the ATL press associated with rescinding your summer offer and now they’re just humoring you for 10 weeks. Assuming that they are humoring you, your no-offer destiny is written in the stars and it doesn’t make sense for you to fret about it and beg for work. Puritanism died out because people eventually realized that there was no point in being righteous if their fate was predestined.
God The firm has predestined you to find a job elsewhere, so grab a scarlet letter and party like it’s 1647. You also might want to look into the smell thing just in case because it’s good to be able to cross things like that off the list.
Your situation is pretty ideal, because now that you know that you’ll be no-offered you can kick back and enjoy the rest of summer without the nagging uncertainty. Take your $2,500 a week and buy a Margaritaville DM1000 Frozen Concoction Maker and sip daquiris from a Nalgene bottle at your desk. Go on a Sex and the City tour and crap your pants when you get to Magnolia Bakery. Walk into a Starbucks at 2 pm and demand to know, “Don’t you people have jobs?” Whatever you do, don’t waste your time worrying about an offer that is never going to happen.
I wish I could tell you that Roger Rabbit fought the good fight, and the Sisters let him be. I wish I could tell you that – but Biglaw is no fairy-tale world. He never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile – Biglaw life consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Roger Rabbit would show up with fresh bruises. The Sisters kept at him – sometimes he was able to fight ‘em off, sometimes not. And that’s how it went for Roger Rabbit – that was his routine. I do believe that first summer was the worst for him, and I also believe that if things had gone on that way, this place would have got the best of him.
Put another way: “welcome to the suck.”
You have correctly identified the set-up, so what are you going to do about it? Listen to the “assignment coordinator?” Allow the partners and associates to ignore you?
If I were you, I’d quickly make a list of all the active matters in your department that you know anything about or are interested in knowing anything about. Then, I’d just start working on them. I’d casually ask associates and partners what they were working on and then just start doing it too.
Is there a big doc review going on? Show up in the conference room and start pitching in. You can’t bill for it, but you’re not billing for anything anyway. I’d start researching case law using free resources and books so you are not costing the firm any money for your work. I’d make myself useful, for free, to anybody and everybody.
If they are going to no-offer you — and they are going to no-offer you — I’d make it as hard as possible for them to do it, and maybe make some good impressions on your way out of the door.
Get busy living, or get busy dying
If exhaust yourself trying to figure out how to use these so-called “books” in the “library,” they’ll no-offer you just as easily as they would if you had spent your days refreshing Google Street View. Running yourself ragged for “good impressions” will not make their no-offer speech tougher to give, but it will certainly make it “as hard as possible” for you to digest.