I did not plan to write an anniversary column this week. But since I try and write about the things that are on my mind, I have no choice.
A year ago, my first column appeared. I did not know what to expect. All I hoped was that it would be an interesting experience. And that I would be able to contribute to the discussion about what it means to be a partner in Biglaw. The Biglaw of today — not the Biglaw of yore, with its WASP firms and its Jewish ones, white-shoes and Wall Street, single offices and “friendly competition.” Because that world has died, and anyone reading this has an interest in thriving in the current one….
The nature of anniversaries is that they are weird. On one level, you are celebrating the unlimited potential of adding something new to your life. That can be disappointing, especially if things did not turn out the way you hoped. Marriage, employment, graduation — all can give rise to bittersweet anniversaries. If you are lucky, you nail the big ones and your anniversary disappointments are limited to high-school breakups. This anniversary is not disappointing to me, but neither is it occasion for too much back-patting. There is still work to be done, and the price of the opportunity this column has given me is the responsibility I have to constantly try and improve it.
On another level, anniversaries are about reflecting on the person you were before an event, and the changed person you are now. Writing this column has made me more productive professionally — in a number of ways.
First, I have been fortunate to have explored many facets of the Biglaw experience with everyone from leading current and former partners, to top-shelf recruiters, to excellent lawyers who were passed over for partnership for reasons outside of their control. I have learned from everyone who has taken the time to share their Biglaw experiences with me through this column. I hope you have as well, and I continue to invite anyone who has something to share to contact me.
Second, I have learned to appreciate the enormous value that comes from transitioning from being a consumer to a creator. I have read ATL for many years, and as much as it has helped my career by providing competitive intelligence (and a diversion), I was always internalizing, and never contributing. Even if my greatest contribution so far has been to give a platform to others to share their thoughts via this column, it has been worthwhile. But more importantly for me, writing this column has generated creative ideas in other aspects of my life, from business development strategies to personal interactions to legal writing. On the latter point, I have somehow manage to write more articles this past year on legal issues than in the prior few combined. So while Lat may not have a need for a column based on your life as an associate who also happens to be an authority on casino buffet food, by all means start writing about it somewhere. You never know what adventures that writing may lead to.
Third, writing this column has forced me to confront just how demanding an audience of lawyers can be. And why they need to be that way. For example, I was warned, with good reason, about how tough the commenters could be. Yes, they are ruthless, but in the best way possible. Even when they are dead wrong about something, the fault is almost always in my writing, or in my anonymity — not with their read of a situation. So I encourage everyone to read the comments, and learn from them. If I really were the kind of father who never sees his kids and pacifies their need for attention with expensive toys, I would be critical of myself too. And deservedly so. Maybe someone reading those comments and seeing someone else being attacked in that way would realize their own failings and become motivated to improve. That would be a good result.
We all know that an expensive education and well-paying job are no guarantees of making someone a decent human being. But when we work in a profession where we let our clients get charged a hell of a lot of money for our judgment, it is very fair to expect that we exercise proper judgment — at home, at the office, and everywhere else. ATL, and its commenters, are the cacophonous reminder of that need to exercise judgment, because for the first time in Biglaw’s history, there are public and immediate consequences of neglecting that responsibility. We need to have high standards, for our behavior and work product. Even if we can’t always meet them.
So I am proud to be part of this endeavor, and very interested in continuing to improve this column. In the process, maybe I can improve myself — but that would be a side benefit. What is more important is that this column continue to provide a perspective that really is not found anywhere else. Hopefully that perspective can help people, no matter their relationship with Biglaw. All I know is that I have already said more that I ever imagined I would be able to say. And I remain humbled by how much more work there is to do, regarding improving on what I have already said, and addressing the as-yet undiscussed topics that deserve to be discussed.
On this one-year anniversary, it is appropriate to conclude with some thanks. Thanks to Lat for choosing me, and supporting my need to remain anonymous. (Have I avoided getting fired by staying anonymous? Maybe. But maybe I am missing out on some opportunities too. I don’t know.) But more importantly for recognizing the need for a column by a Biglaw partner. Thanks to my clients, for giving me the chance to do what I enjoy doing for a living. And to my firm for not going all NSA and reading my Google Drive. I also want to thank my family, less for the time it takes to write this column, and more for giving me the confidence to try something like this. And finally to the contributors and readers. Thanks for helping out. On to year two.
Any ideas for improving this column, or care to share if this column has helped you out in some way? Let me know by email or in the comments.
Anonymous Partner is a partner at a major law firm. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.