Dumpster Fire

One time I was in a board meeting and the Company's CEO was explaining how difficult times were financially for the Company such that they might have to close their doors soon. I thought it would be a good time to add some value rather than simply surfing the Internet, so I said, "This sounds like a real dumpster fire."  It's that ability to really sense the right time to assert yourself that will help you achieve greatness in the law.

 

Friendly Reminders

To me, “friendly reminders” aren’t friendly at all in the context of legal practice. In fact, friendly reminders are often somewhat hostile in intent. When a client sends you a friendly reminder, for example, it conveys annoyance at you for something they think you should have already done. One time, around 9 PM on a Wednesday, I sent a friendly reminder to a client for a file he promised to send me that day so I could complete a project for him by the following morning. He said, “I told you I would send it today and, last I checked, the day isn’t over for another three hours.” I thought that was pretty neat so tried using it myself when a client sent me a friendly reminder.  Next thing I knew, I received a friendly reminder from my partner supervisor to be more friendly to my clients.

The Dab

Lawyers should celebrate their achievements more. I wish we lived in a world where lawyers everywhere did the dab after successfully completing a transaction or even after sending what they believe to be a helpful email. I suppose one could also attempt to leap into the arms of his or her cheering colleagues, but that seems like overkill and potential grounds for a harassment complaint. 

Firmwide Email

It’s always a little daunting when you are about to send a firm-wide email to what may be hundreds of lawyers. Protip: the “Recall Message” feature on Outlook doesn’t actually work that well. So, when you send out an email to all firm lawyers seeking guidance on an issue for an initial pubic offering, go ahead and just sit on it and hope that nobody notices.  The attempted recall will only draw attention to the matter. 

Underwater

Lawyers quickly become familiar with the use of the term “underwater” as a descriptor for their hectic workdays. The term truly becomes comprehensible, however, only when you actually feel like you are drowning due to the volume of emails, calls and drafting you have to get done in the time allotted. And a discovery I have made recently is that the feeling is even more acute when you also have decided to write a daily humorous tip related to your field of work.

 

Politics

You will find that, once you become a lawyer, clients, family members and friends expect you to be knowledgeable about politics, which they view as related to the law. When asked a question about anything political, it’s usually best to just quote a few lines from the most recent Sarah Palin speech. It’s amazing how sprinkling in phrases like “holy rollers” and “rock the cradle” to your conversations makes you seem like you are very much on top of the political landscape.

 

NTDs

On more adversarial transactions, thoughtful lawyers should always make a point to include somewhat nastily worded “note to draft” footnotes in the document mark-ups they send to opposing counsel (e.g., “This provision has no practical value and is nonsensical. Please consult with your client on the business terms of this transaction before wasting our time with another draft” or “In violation of your duties as a member of the state bar, you appear to be unaware of recent changes in the applicable law. Please update your knowledge of the statute and revise this section accordingly.”). Usually your counterpart, annoyed by the needlessly confrontational NTD, will respond with their own, which gives you another opening to include one.  Ultimately, you want to get to a place where everyone anxiously awaits the next draft to see who will come up with the sickest legal burn.  

Email Delegation

One way to delegate something to another associate with a sense of urgency that will keep them on their toes is to get a clear picture of what the given task will entail and the steps to get to the end result. Then, send that request in a series of hurried one line emails such as "check the schedule" and then, a moment later, "draft an email summary once you've checked the schedule" and then “note that the client doesn’t like wordiness” and so on. If you have trouble remembering this strategy, just remember it's like having a live conversation with someone while vomiting.

 

Off the Hook

It’s pretty stressful when clients email you asking where something is. Luckily, there is a strategy to deal with this email induced stress. Whenever a client requests something of you, simply copy a colleague into the email and say, “My colleague will send.”  It’s generally helpful if the copied colleague knows the client, but copying anyone who will make some attempt to handle the request should ease the burden on you.  When you think about it, the ultimate goal of legal practice should be to get to the point where all you do is spend no more than a couple hours per day copying people into emails.

Transparency

I worked for a while at a firm that had offices with transparent glass walls. The idea was that the glass would encourage a feeling of openness and collaboration at the firm. Occasionally, one of the newer lawyers would walk straight into a glass wall at full speed, which made a really great sound and would sometimes leave a little skin oil spot at the point of contact. And every once in a while, the force of the impact would cause the glass panel to shatter, covering the hallway with shards. Those were some of my favorite days. 

Pump-Ups

Sometimes when I have a long night of work ahead of me, I’ll watch montages from Rocky movies to get psyched up. There’s something about seeing Sylvester Stallone get into peak physical condition that makes subsequently sitting in a chair drafting documents and eating take-out way more epic.

 

Funny Emails

Sometimes you have to be careful when you are attempting to send a funny email. For example, one time I was working on a big transaction at around 2:00 AM.  I was really ready to go home and go to bed and all I needed to do that was to receive a PDF signature page from these lawyers at another firm. When I asked to see the signature page, this young lawyer replied, "I will not release the signature page." I thought that was a little rude but saw this as a chance to score some points with and boost the morale of my own colleagues who were next to me in a conference room also waiting for the stupid signature page. I downloaded a picture of the rude young lawyer and each of his colleagues from the firm's website, copied each of them into the body of an email and wrote underneath the lineup of pictures, "We will not release the signature page". I read it a few times to myself and had a good laugh about it as it made it seem like they were really trying to defend that signature page. I sent the email and then looked at the faces of my colleagues awaiting their amusement at my clever email. Turns out, I accidentally replied all to the whole group including the lawyers I was making fun of. They didn't send over that signature page for a few more hours.