Sweet Hot Justice

The Myth of the Cool Partner

sweet hot justice logo.jpg[Ed. note: The following piece was authored by The Legal Tease, of Sweet Hot Justice fame. Check out her other musings from Sweet Hot Justice here.]
It’s happened–after a few years and a few thousand billable hours, I’ve finally found him. Sure, there have been loads of false starts along the way, but I think this time it’s for real: I’ve finally met the worst partner in the entire firm. At first, I thought the winner might be Russ, the firm’s resident stone-faced robot and reigning Big Firm Savant. But no. Then, for obvious reasons involving hidden harnesses and coconut-flavored lube, I thought it could possibly be Ian, our favorite slave-driving Pervert, Esq. Wrong again. No, in the past few weeks, the true winner has revealed himself to be a creature far more insidious, more vile: the Cool Partner. And I’m here to warn you–he’s a type more dangerous than you’ve ever imagined.
As any Big Law victim can tell you, the Cool Partner, like any true predator, takes time to attract and distract his prey before he bares his polished little fangs and goes in for the kill. He may seduce you at first with hints of an actual personality, an apparent respect for your time, and possibly even a sense of humor. You’ll marvel at how comfortable you are around him, how energized you feel. You’ll smile and shake your head in disbelief as you sing his praises to fellow associates who ask why you look sunnier than usual. You might even find yourself–even just for one brief, indulgent little moment–wondering if you might’ve been wrong all those times you thought this job was nothing but a festering sewer of misery where dreams go to die at the hands of lunatic, unit-holding nerd sadists. Hell, you might even start waking up happy.
And then reality comes crashing back down.
Witness the carnage first-hand, after the jump.

My first exposure to the lure of the Cool Partner happened as most do–over the phone. A fifth-year corporate associate named Lauren and I had been staffed on a run-of-the-mill bond offering headed up by Kurt Henson, a forty-something equity partner in the corp fin group whom neither of us had ever met. From the very first status conference call, we were blown away by just how…well, cool Kurt seemed. He was more than affable, quick with a few inside jokes, super-responsive and blissfully laid-back. He apparently had a slew of new-ish kids at home and told us that he tried to work from home as often as he could–and stressed that he had no problem with us doing the same. And best of all, he really seemed to make an effort to get us out the door as early as possible–which he also took great pains to reiterate at every turn. As in: “My only goal tonight is to get you guys out of here,” or “I don’t want you two working on the weekend if it can be helped. That’s not how I roll.”
Now, we didn’t realize it at the time, but Lauren and I were already being smacked in the face with a few Canada-sized red flags. See, one of the hallmarks of the Cool Partner is a pathological need to be liked, which often manifests itself in a few stock routines. One is the “working from home” bit. Of course they work from home. You can’t be a true Cool Partner without being a super-dad-family-man-work-life-balancer-extraordinaire–the most common front for the Cool Partner’s characteristic categorical avoidance of (i) actual work, (ii) the office, and (iii) anyone who might notice the avoidance of (i) and (ii). What should have been even more telling, though, was Kurt’s “that’s not how I roll” act. One of the surest signs you’ve got a Cool Partner on your hands is a series of repeated, unsolicited self-assertions of just how not douchey he is. And, just like when your new girlfriend suddenly blurts out that she’s “never cheated on you, just so you know,” or when some wild-eyed man, say, pushes you into a van filled with hacksaws and severed feet and assures you, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you,” you can pretty much count on being royally screwed from that point forward.
Still, despite the red flags, within only a couple of days, Kurt’s easygoing, über-camaraderie shtick had lulled Lauren and me into trusting submission. We were loyal fans, willing subjects. And, more than anything, we couldn’t believe our luck that finally, finally, we were working with someone who felt more like a peer than a Partner.
And then Satan showed up.
After a week of long but sane days getting the bond offering up to speed, Lauren and I steadied ourselves on Friday for a weekend of work. Turns out, though, there was no need–Kurt called around 7 to tell us that we were free to go; he had just spoken with the client and they weren’t going to have the documents back in our hands until Tuesday at the earliest, so we were off the hook for the weekend. Nice! After a happily unexpected, last-minute night out with a few friends, I got home around midnight, tired but energized by my newfound good work-karma. I barely noticed when my Blackberry dinged with an email message from Lauren. Finally, I picked it up, nightcap in hand, and checked the email. All it said: “We’re fucked.” Huh?
Just then, my phone rang–my home phone, a number that I’m fairly sure I’ve only ever given out to my doorman and possibly my mother. Before I could even say hello–
“What? I’m– Kurt? How did you get this number?”
Decided to take the night off, did we?
“What? No, um, I’m– You told us we could go home.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Um… but you did. Just a few hours ago– ”
It suddenly occurred to me that this might be some sort of Big Law hazing. A secret joke, maybe? Because this didn’t sound at all like our Kurt–not cool Uncle Kurt. Unless Uncle Kurt was somehow…bipolar?
Like an ice cube in hell, Cool Partner continues to melt down back over at Sweet Hot Justice.

(hidden for your protection)

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