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“William Melater” is a young associate who’s agreed to blog from time to time about life on the lower rungs of the legal profession as “The Dis-Associate,” including—occasionally—what irritates him. Welcome, Bill!
The TV was still on when I rolled over to see my sleeping wife curled up with our puppy. She’s a Malti-Poo (the dog, not the wife), and despite weighing only three pounds, usually controls 80 percent of our queen-size bed. The clock says it’s 1:30 a.m., and I have to get up in five hours. It’s been a slow month, I’m behind on my billable hours and running out of workdays. Despite the hour, my eyes are drawn to my cell phone, charging and set on silent. It’s lit up. That can only mean one thing: An email.
Where’s that damn controller? I can never find it. Seconds after putting one down, it disappears into a black hole. I should invent leashes for TV controllers. Strap them to your wrist and never lose them at night! I’d make millions.
Just like nothing good happens after midnight, no good email comes after hours. With reluctance, I reach for the phone and pull up email. It’s from my boss, the senior partner. The subject is “Your pleadings,” and the email simply reads: “The motion you prepared is unacceptable and lazy.”
My mind plays back an old tape: “I should have gone to medical school.” First, I have no idea what he is talking about —it’s been at least two weeks since I’ve prepared a motion. Second, this is one of many emails I’ve received well after midnight from my not-so-emotionally-stable boss. More thoughts race through my head: “Why is my boss up at 1:30 a.m.?” “What motion does he think I prepared?” “How can a motion be lazy?” “What medication is he on?” “Why am I awake?” “Where is that damn controller?”
But the one question my foggy brain keeps returning to is this: Why does my boss email me at 1:30 a.m. rather than wait to speak to me, in person, at 8:30 a.m.?
And it’s not just him. Coworkers email questions from an office next door. The paralegal emails me information from 10 feet away from my desk. Opposing counsels send emails threatening sanctions and motions, yet when I call back immediately they are dependably “out of the office.” Business, especially the business of law, is about communication. Sure, I may be all new school with my iPhone, and iPad and personal Internet cloud—but I am forever old school with communication. I prefer handshake meetings and will settle for telephone conversations. If you shoot me an email, expect a phone call in return. We may work in different offices, but not on different planets.
There’s always a lot of talk about why the different generations can’t to see eye-to-eye—or why senior partners can’t seem to connect with those of us on the lower rungs. The way I see it, it’s just not that hard. There are three simple—and I stress simple—rules when communicating with younger associates:
I may not know what I am talking about, but I think you understand.
William Melater, or “Bill” to his close friends, is a young associate attorney working at a firm focused on commercial litigation and transactional work. A self-described legal hunter and gatherer, Bill has accumulated a plethora of legal certificates and diplomas—all of which have been appropriately framed and hung behind his desk. Bill has a distaste for emails, suspenders, fake tans, paralegals who cry, sea urchins and attorneys who repeat the phrase “this is my bottom-line offer.” When irked, Bill blogs about his experiences at Attorney at Work.
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