Akin Gump, Biglaw, Billable Hours, Email Scandals, Partner Issues, Rudeness

Akin Gump Partner Pens Email Fantasy About Firing Delinquent Time Keepers

Nothing says “Biglaw” quite like an old-fashioned partner threat. Biglaw partners, a self-important bunch if there ever was one, generally do little to mask their huge egos. But when those egos express themselves in the form of threats against underlings, well, that’s when you learn why people get paid $160,000 right out of school.

You see, in most situations you just can’t treat highly educated people like naughty schoolchildren and expect them to take it. Not if you are paying them $50,000 a year for some average, middle-class lifestyle. They’ll quit. They’ll tell you to take your BS job and shove it down your condescending throat. But when you pay people $160,000 (or more), then you can talk to them however you please. They’ll take it (and apparently thank you for it). Biglaw partners know that their associates are being paid more money than they can make nearly anywhere else, and so they have little incentive to consider how they speak to their associate colleagues.

Now most partners threaten or belittle people on an individual, face-to-face basis. But sometimes these communications are disseminated to a broader group, and on the rarest of occasions these partner meltdowns are captured over email and sent to Above the Law. And those are the best.

Yes, Steven Pesner of Akin Gump, we’re about to make you a star….

Steven Pesner

Mr. Pesner joins an esteemed line of partners who have used law firm emails to teach associates how they’d like things to be done at their firms. Charles Kerr of Morrison & Foerster springs to mind, with his lovely face-time directive to associates who weren’t dutifully sitting at their desks — despite the remote conveniences of the modern age. And you can’t talk about remote conveniences without mentioning William Urquhart of Quinn Emanuel — and “CHECK YOU EMAIL” fame. But neither of those guys actually fantasized about firing random associates to make an example out of them.

Steven Pesner did. He’s on a crusade to make sure that associates at Akin Gump New York enter their time on a daily basis. Not weekly or monthly, but daily. He sent out an email with 11 bullet points towards that goal.

Fair enough; we’ve mentioned that timekeeping is critically important to partners in an environment where some clients can be sketchy about paying bills. Simpson Thacher threatened to dock people’s pay if their time is delinquent. Granted, given how shockingly cheap Cravath (and Skadden) wants everybody to be, I can’t imagine Biglaw associates are in the mood to help the partners out. But in Biglaw partner world, associates are supposed to help out the firm even if the firm screws over associates.

The first eight points in Pesner’s email are all about the importance of daily timekeeping. You can read the full email below; it’s condescending, but not out of the ordinary if you’ve held one of these Biglaw jobs for ten minutes.

But by point nine, Pesner’s ego starts to take over:

9. For those of you who think you are exempt from doing time sheets on a daily basis, I’d suggest that you re-evaluate your importance and get ready to prove that (a) you are busier than I am on legal work, (b) you are busier than I am on client development work, (c) you are busier than I am on firm work and (d) [redacted] and I do not have better things to do with our time than beg you to be responsible;

“Re-evaluate your importance”? Mr. Pesner, I think you need to examine your motives. Nobody (besides you) is looking for a fight here. There’s no need for you to drop your gloves and march towards the Client Development Coliseum. Some people in your office got behind on their paperwork; they didn’t threaten your manly dominance.

Pesner continues:

10. Candidly, I’d put every future material violator’s name in a hat, randomly pick out a name, and publicly fire the person on the spot—to demonstrate that time sheet compliance is serious business. And incidentally, it is my understanding that the job market is not so good right now in case you did not know;

Candidly, you seem like a horrible person. Yes, the job market “is not so good right now.” So, way to be a tool and bring that up in the context of theoretically firing somebody whose name you picked out of a hat. Did you think that sharing your sick little fantasy involving your own power over the careers and livelihoods of the people who work for you would sound funny? Or would better express the seriousness of your concerns? A petty despot can have a man hanged to set an example for his people; it doesn’t make him any less odious.

(And other Akin Gump partners, where are you on this? I’ve met some of you. You’re not like this guy. Is this really the impression you want people to have about your firm? Is this really how you want your own associates to feel — like the partners really wish they could randomly fire them to prove a point?)

Of course, Pesner won’t (or can’t) pick names out of a hat and indulge his public stoning fantasies. But he can do this:

11. Also, please remember that I have a long and excellent memory.

If you have any questions, think long and hard before asking them—this simply is not very complicated.

So Pesner the Elephant is above even being questioned by the people he works with. Initially I thought that he had been a partner for so long he had simply forgotten how to act like a human, but since he is incapable of forgetting anything, I suppose he was never taught how to act decently in the first place.

Let’s end where Pesner does in this little postscript:

P.S. This email is not being sent only in anger; it also is being sent to demonstrate my deep and personal disappointment in the irresponsible people.

I can only hope that the rest of the Akin Gump partnership is feeling some “deep and personal disappointment” right now too.


MEMORANDOM FROM STEVEN PESNER REGARDING TIME KEEPING

Subject: Read Carefully!

To All NY Litigation Attorneys, Paralegals and Secretaries:

First, I want to thank those of you who do your time sheets on a daily basis. We should respect, recognize and thank those people who play by the rules.

Now for the rest of you, let’s make sure we understand what the real story is on time sheets, in my view:

1. Every time keeper is required to do a 100% accurate time sheet every single day;

2. That time sheet is required to be completed on the same day as the work you do on the various matters. That is the only real way, in my view, to accurately record your time;

3. The consequences of failing to accurately record your time range from “having to make up” your time entries (a potential fraud on our clients) to under-recording your time (a detriment to your law firm);

4. Your daily time sheet should be given to your secretary BEFORE you leave for the day or first thing the next morning for those us us who also work after leaving the office;

5. Your secretary should input and release your time sheet the morning after your work has been done;

6. It is the timekeeper’s responsibility to complete her/his time sheet as set forth above;

7. It is the secretary’s responsibility to make sure that the timekeeper does so and to input and release the time sheet daily;

8. The concept that time sheets are not due until the last day of the month, last day of a week or some time other than daily simply is wrong; they are due at the end of every day or first thing the following morning for those of us who also work after leaving the office;

9. For those of you who think you are exempt from doing time sheets on a daily basis, I’d suggest that you re-evaluate your importance and get ready to prove that (a) you are busier than I am on legal work, (b) you are busier than I am on client development work, (c) you are busier than I am on firm work and (d) [Redacted] and I do not have better things to do with our time than beg you to be responsible;

10. Candidly, I’d put every future material violator’s name in a hat, randomly pick out a name, and publicly fire the person on the spot—to demonstrate that time sheet compliance is serious business. And incidentally, it is my understanding that the job market is not so good right now in case you did not know; and

11. Also, please remember that I have a long and excellent memory.

If you have any questions, think long and hard before asking them—this simply is not very complicated.

Thx

Steve

P.S. This email is not being sent only in anger; it also is being sent to demonstrate my deep and personal disappointment in the irresponsible people.

Earlier: MoFo Associates, Are You At Work Yet? You So Better Be At Work Already!
Quinn Emanuel Believes in ‘C.B.A.’ (Check BlackBerry Always)
Simpson Thacher Threatens to Withhold Salary For Delinquent Time Keepers

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