What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

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What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:37 pm

Corporate junior here. Working with a mid level for the first time and I've run into a problem a couple times now where they tell me to do something then the partner calls me up asking WTF. What's my role here? Take the heat? Saying "so and so told me to" strikes me as weak sauce.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby tyroneslothrop1 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:24 pm

In a matter of fact way say that you did X because [mid level associate] instructed you to do so. There's no sense in repeatedly getting chewed out b/c a mid level is giving you instruction that is contrary to the way the partner overseeing the file wants things handled.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby lolwat » Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:44 pm

The partners here are approachable so I would just go talk to them about it. Not so much blaming the mid-level but more asking the partner how they'd like things done. But that might not be true everywhere. I think your role in some circumstances might be to take the heat, but your bigger overall role is to get shit done, and get shit done in a way that the partner (not the mid-level) wants it done, so you can't just keep doing the wrong thing just because the mid-level is telling you to do it.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby Lincoln » Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:40 pm

Referring to "we" a lot -- "we decided that doing X was best" -- while avoiding blaming or being defensive, can be a good way to signal that you are not throwing your senior under the bus, but this wasn't your idea.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:12 pm

Lincoln wrote:Referring to "we" a lot -- "we decided that doing X was best" -- while avoiding blaming or being defensive, can be a good way to signal that you are not throwing your senior under the bus, but this wasn't your idea.


OP here. I already use the royal we so I guess I'm good.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby unlicensedpotato » Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:43 pm

I think it's ultimately a balancing act. You probably just take the heat if it's a one time thing, but if it's multiple issues then you can hint that it wasn't your call (like the royal we or "it was decided" or a non-verbal gesture). Ultimately you may need to just go around the mid-level and ask the partner if it's something critical or where you think the mid-level is wrong (just ask the partner, don't mention the mid-level's response if you do this). It's hard though because part of the setup is that the partner isn't supposed to have to spend time addressing questions from the junior so you need to be very judicious. If you have a mid to senior associate that you're on friendlier terms with you can go to them and ask them as a hypothetical without specifics.

Honestly, this is ultimately part of what you're getting paid for so you'll also just eat some shit at this job.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby rpupkin » Fri Oct 20, 2017 7:47 pm

Lincoln wrote:Referring to "we" a lot -- "we decided that doing X was best" -- while avoiding blaming or being defensive, can be a good way to signal that you are not throwing your senior under the bus, but this wasn't your idea.

I was going to suggest this as well.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:21 am

unlicensedpotato wrote:Honestly, this is ultimately part of what you're getting paid for so you'll also just eat some shit at this job.


This is accurate and also sad.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby oblig.lawl.ref » Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:43 am

Also think it matters how much you want to work with that associate. If you're a stub/1st year and think you may want to work for that midlevel, may want to err on taking the heat. If that midlevel is dubious/may be an asshole, I would err more on the side of throwing them under the bus. It definitely matters how good you think you are, how much social capital you think you have and how decent your office is, but if things break your way on the foregoing, I disagree with the idea that it's your job, or smart, to eat shit.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:01 pm

This happened to me twice on a deal. The partner said to not do x again, it didn't make sense. I didn't say shit but in retrospect I should have. The senior was an asshole, I'm sure he didn't have a good reputation (he's gone now).

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby run26.2 » Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
unlicensedpotato wrote:Honestly, this is ultimately part of what you're getting paid for so you'll also just eat some shit at this job.


This is accurate and also sad.

Yes and no. We're in an industry where smart people often disagree. I just wrote an opp to a motion and the partner's response was it was very good, very well written, and then he proceeded to change certain parts that I thought made it weaker. But so what? I think some of our job involves diplomatically handling and synthesizing competing views. People that do that well tend to succeed.

Tangentially, related, what I think is sad about the industry is how infrequently peers look out and promote each others' interests.

The only thing I will add to the responses to OP is that if this person is your senior and is going to be there for awhile, whatever your course of action should account for the fact that if it appears you threw him/her under the bus, it may come back to bite you. On the other hand, if it is apparent that the mistake was his or hers and you covered for it, that person will probably be thankful.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:34 pm

Related to this. Has anyone ever felt like a senior wants the junior to send something across so that if there's a mistake it's not on them?

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby LaLiLuLeLo » Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Related to this. Has anyone ever felt like a senior wants the junior to send something across so that if there's a mistake it's not on them?


Absolutely this happens.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby Pokemon » Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:58 pm

A surprisingly high amount of midlevels have no idea what they are doing. Training is bad in law firms, some midlevels might have been quiet early in their career so might be behind on their skill set, other have lateraled and even if same umbrella practice they might have focused on something different in their previousfirm so not where they should be.

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Re: What's the appropriate response when you get in trouble for following a senior attorney's directions?

Postby surrealfx » Sun Oct 22, 2017 4:40 am

Pokemon wrote:A surprisingly high amount of midlevels have no idea what they are doing. Training is bad in law firms, some midlevels might have been quiet early in their career so might be behind on their skill set, other have lateraled and even if same umbrella practice they might have focused on something different in their previousfirm so not where they should be.


I agree. Also, mid-level and senior associates are "senior" to (supervisors of) junior associates by virtue of years on the job only, not quality of work or knowledge. I've had to teach several "supervisors" things, yet they still order me around and don't listen to what I have to say. So, consider whether it's worth it to you to ignore what they say when you know it's wrong.



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