Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

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Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Apr 19, 2020 2:55 pm

I'm a mid-level associate who has gotten great reviews. I am thinking of spending 1-2 more years at my firm, but I have a reliable fallback option I can rely if need be.

About 6 weeks ago, I was asked if I could provide "some help" to a partner in a different city in a different group (with whom I had never communicated) on a project related to the coronavirus. I said I can "help."

Apparently, the partner's expectation was that I drop everything for this project and bill 50+ hours on it. I said on the second day I could not do that (was billing around ~40 hours a week beforehand). The partner said I was now an "integral" member of the team and other arrangements would have to be made on my other projects. When I said I had a call for another project, I was asked (1) if that project was actually "billable" and (2) if I could continue working on the new project while on the phone for the one I had been working on a for a year.

I've had my other partners go to bat for me multiple times, and I have done good work and kept a good attitude. But other partners going to bat for me only results in temporary relief, and things go right back to normal on this new project after a few days / after I finish the other old project I've ignored for a month.

I'm thinking the diplomatic approach has run its course, and I might need to try something else. What would happen if I flat out said "No" to what I perceive as an unreasonable request, or if I copped a little bit of an attitude? How much weight would a partner with whom I'll never work again have? The partners in my group all love my work and will give great reviews.

Thanks for reading.

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Apr 19, 2020 3:10 pm

I’ve had success strategically burning bridges with partners like this on one or two occasions. When you get assignments from the demanding new guy, you can say things like “I apologize but I’m unavailable today/tomorrow to work on this because of billable work on another matter” or wait several hours before responding to emails. (Don’t pick up your phone if they call.) And try not to mention who else you’re working for or what you’re working on, because the other partner might interfere.

All of this assumes you’re well-regarded by the people you usually work with, have a decent workstream from them, and the demanding partner isn’t a huge rainmaker or high up in management. If that’s correct, IMO nothing wrong with burning bridges if you don’t like this person (that’s how it sounds.)

giggaman1228

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by giggaman1228 » Sun Apr 19, 2020 3:59 pm

you shouldn't ever piss anyone off or 'cop an attitude' to a partner -- what the hell?

tell your group's partners about this and have them deal with it if necessary, after politely informing this new guy of the situation.

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Apr 19, 2020 4:26 pm

I don’t necessarily recommend this, but I’ve taken the following route before:

The partner I said I could help threw piles of work on my desk for the weekend. After a while (a month I’m of working for this person), I wanted off the matter, so I just wrote the shittiest internal memo and they haven’t asked for work since. Minor hit to my review later on, but it was worth it. This partner was a junior partner, which obviously mattered.

But, as a person above mentioned, it really depends who the partner is. Even if he isn’t in your practice, if he’s high up, he can give you problems if you give him an attitude. Given that you’ve been at your firm for a few years, I’m assuming you’ve determined this person is in no position of power, so go burn that bridge.

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by Moneytrees » Sun Apr 19, 2020 7:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I don’t necessarily recommend this, but I’ve taken the following route before:

The partner I said I could help threw piles of work on my desk for the weekend. After a while (a month I’m of working for this person), I wanted off the matter, so I just wrote the shittiest internal memo and they haven’t asked for work since. Minor hit to my review later on, but it was worth it. This partner was a junior partner, which obviously mattered.

But, as a person above mentioned, it really depends who the partner is. Even if he isn’t in your practice, if he’s high up, he can give you problems if you give him an attitude. Given that you’ve been at your firm for a few years, I’m assuming you’ve determined this person is in no position of power, so go burn that bridge.
This sounds like a horrible approach. No offense.

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ghostoftraynor

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by ghostoftraynor » Sun Apr 19, 2020 8:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a mid-level associate who has gotten great reviews. I am thinking of spending 1-2 more years at my firm, but I have a reliable fallback option I can rely if need be.

About 6 weeks ago, I was asked if I could provide "some help" to a partner in a different city in a different group (with whom I had never communicated) on a project related to the coronavirus. I said I can "help."

Apparently, the partner's expectation was that I drop everything for this project and bill 50+ hours on it. I said on the second day I could not do that (was billing around ~40 hours a week beforehand). The partner said I was now an "integral" member of the team and other arrangements would have to be made on my other projects. When I said I had a call for another project, I was asked (1) if that project was actually "billable" and (2) if I could continue working on the new project while on the phone for the one I had been working on a for a year.

I've had my other partners go to bat for me multiple times, and I have done good work and kept a good attitude. But other partners going to bat for me only results in temporary relief, and things go right back to normal on this new project after a few days / after I finish the other old project I've ignored for a month.

I'm thinking the diplomatic approach has run its course, and I might need to try something else. What would happen if I flat out said "No" to what I perceive as an unreasonable request, or if I copped a little bit of an attitude? How much weight would a partner with whom I'll never work again have? The partners in my group all love my work and will give great reviews.

Thanks for reading.
Pretty common as a mid-level to get assigned some random thing that people expect you to focus on. Unfortunately, for this line of work, 40 hours a week is not a lot. I'm assuming the 50 hours isn't expected to be done in one week? For this type of thing, I'd just add hours in the morning or night. Calls are obviously hard to do at the same time, but that's where you need to be clear (e.g., sorry in advance, I have a call at that time with [client/partner/multiple parties] that can't be pushed. Happy to catch up after.]

As a mid-level, you start getting loaned out to other groups frequently. Treat those partners as clients because they absolutely will report to your partners.

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Apr 19, 2020 10:33 pm

OP here, thanks for the comments everyone.

In my frustration earlier, I wasn't quite clear with details. It's been ~50+ hours per week on this new project, plus my other obligations. Almost all assignments on this new project are "urgent" (mostly internal deadlines) that require me to drop whatever else I'm doing. I had one 70 hour week on this project alone, which equated to a 90 hour week overall with my other matters. I've also clocked 80 and 75 hour hour weeks recently. I'm so far ahead on hours I don't even care anymore.

I've asked my other partners several times to talk to the new partner, and this always is a temporary stopgap. But when I tell the new project partner myself that I have other obligations, he always gives some kind of passive aggressive response (I guess I'll just have to do it myself) or questions my judgment ("Is that really urgent? Can't someone else do it?"). That's what offends me the most.

I've said multiple times to the other partner that we need to bring more people in, but the partner always responds that "the client doesn't want more people on this." I've never been one to complaint about working hard, but working 80-90 hour weeks back to back when there are associates billing less than 20 is getting old, especially when my word that I have other obligations is never good enough.

By "cop an attitude," I meant say something along the lines of "Well, you know, I did have other obligations before you came into my life 5 weeks ago" or "Well, the client is going to have to get over not wanting more people on this."

But for now maybe, the best bet is to get the head partner of my group on the phone and have a conversation about how this is becoming unsustainable.

jarofsoup

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by jarofsoup » Sun Apr 19, 2020 11:21 pm

Tell the partners in your group that you don’t have availability until you finish his project.

s1m4

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by s1m4 » Sun Apr 19, 2020 11:32 pm

You are billing 90 hour weeks? Unless you are closing a megadeal, IPO or in trial, thats straight abuse, but you have noone to blame but yourself. Work 8-10 or whatever your max working day is, and do whatever is not done the following day. You arent a slave. There are only so many hours in a day. They will work you as hard as you will work. Tell the partner each day "I did this and that today but couldnt do X, will continue working on this".

Things will get done the next day. Other people will be pulled in. You will be respected as a person. Otherwise you are only sacrificing your own health.

What do you think is the worst that will happen if you take this approach? Why havent you been doing this thus far, especially if you plan to stay only 1 or 2 years more?

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objctnyrhnr

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Mon Apr 20, 2020 9:01 am

To answer the question straight-up, it’s not good to tick off anybody. Obviously worse to tick off partners.

That being said, partners in your office/group should absolutely be the priority, relative to outside partners. My understanding is that what another partner elsewhere thinks does not matter unless 1. You solicit his evaluation if you did good work that you want recognition for, or 2. You’re up for partnership consideration (in which case he’d probably be able to weigh in if he wanted).

Remember: when there are partner discussions about the associates (and believe me they occur), it is the partners in your office talking. It is not the others, barring some crazy situation. These discussions don’t take place on like National all-partner calls; they occur in the monthly lunch meetings or random office walk-ins between partners.

I’ve gotten assignments from partners in other offices (large scale cases in fact) where client has been resistant to bringing in another biller and I’ve told the partner that this is what needs to happen if he wants this done right because I simply lack the bandwidth and I also have ideas for significant delegation which would lower the overall price tag. Yes, he put up a ton of resistance, but also subsequently agreed after going back to the client.

Maybe this is a bad read of your sitch but here’s what it sounds like: You seem like a relatively successful associate with whom people want to work, but it also sounds like you haven’t quite grasped when/how/why to really push back on partners (maybe that goes for senior associates too who knows). This is an art admittedly, but it’s an important skill that will help with your longevity at the firm and correspondingly your own mental health. It will be scary at first, but I promise you’ll be better for it.

This all being said, if you’re in an area where work is generally drying up across the industry, my alternative idea for you is to just suck it up and work the hours because you might want some cushion if things in your group go south in the coming months. Just a thought.

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DoveBodyWash

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by DoveBodyWash » Mon Apr 20, 2020 9:32 am

Different group in different city? Partner has enough of his/her own associates to be pissed at. Just nudge a partner you have a good relationship with and get them to rescue you.

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by Anon-non-anon » Mon Apr 20, 2020 9:39 am

s1m4 wrote:You are billing 90 hour weeks? Unless you are closing a megadeal, IPO or in trial, thats straight abuse, but you have noone to blame but yourself. Work 8-10 or whatever your max working day is, and do whatever is not done the following day. You arent a slave. There are only so many hours in a day. They will work you as hard as you will work. Tell the partner each day "I did this and that today but couldnt do X, will continue working on this".

Things will get done the next day. Other people will be pulled in. You will be respected as a person. Otherwise you are only sacrificing your own health.

What do you think is the worst that will happen if you take this approach? Why havent you been doing this thus far, especially if you plan to stay only 1 or 2 years more?

I agree it's wild you're billing 90 hours/week atm when there's definitely lots of ppl not billing much. But I would not call it "straight abuse" absent IPO/trial/megadeal. Working 8-10 is NOT a max working day in big law. Even for weeks at a time. Not forever, but still, atm I would be very hesitant to try to say you're working too much. Couch everything in quality of work / efficiency.

That said, it's crazy not to spread this work a little bit. I haven't had experience with multiple offices as much, but I'd caution you that it might not be as separated as others have said in this thread, especially if you really piss someone off.

I do think you can start to be more direct about how it will not get done as well/fast as if you just brought in someone else. What I would do is find an associate you know is good and willing to help (I bet there are lots that need hours), and say this person is interested, we're willing to chat to get him/her all caught up (and perhaps say we won't bill part of the time/partner can write off), and I'll stay on emails and chime in if need be, but you'll get a better product this way.

Orrr, do that for your older projects. Even if it's more painful to work for new guy, I think you'll come out looking golden if you coordinate the staffing changes needed yourself, and all they have to say is okay or sorry no, but then they'd be on the spot to justify again and you can push back.

Taking ownership not only of the work, but staffing management, as you're rising through the ranks and billing mega hours despite coronavirus seems like a great place to be. And you'll earn one hell of a vacation.

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by trebekismyhero » Mon Apr 20, 2020 10:25 am

Anon-non-anon wrote:
s1m4 wrote:You are billing 90 hour weeks? Unless you are closing a megadeal, IPO or in trial, thats straight abuse, but you have noone to blame but yourself. Work 8-10 or whatever your max working day is, and do whatever is not done the following day. You arent a slave. There are only so many hours in a day. They will work you as hard as you will work. Tell the partner each day "I did this and that today but couldnt do X, will continue working on this".

Things will get done the next day. Other people will be pulled in. You will be respected as a person. Otherwise you are only sacrificing your own health.

What do you think is the worst that will happen if you take this approach? Why havent you been doing this thus far, especially if you plan to stay only 1 or 2 years more?

I agree it's wild you're billing 90 hours/week atm when there's definitely lots of ppl not billing much. But I would not call it "straight abuse" absent IPO/trial/megadeal. Working 8-10 is NOT a max working day in big law. Even for weeks at a time. Not forever, but still, atm I would be very hesitant to try to say you're working too much. Couch everything in quality of work / efficiency.

That said, it's crazy not to spread this work a little bit. I haven't had experience with multiple offices as much, but I'd caution you that it might not be as separated as others have said in this thread, especially if you really piss someone off.

I do think you can start to be more direct about how it will not get done as well/fast as if you just brought in someone else. What I would do is find an associate you know is good and willing to help (I bet there are lots that need hours), and say this person is interested, we're willing to chat to get him/her all caught up (and perhaps say we won't bill part of the time/partner can write off), and I'll stay on emails and chime in if need be, but you'll get a better product this way.

Orrr, do that for your older projects. Even if it's more painful to work for new guy, I think you'll come out looking golden if you coordinate the staffing changes needed yourself, and all they have to say is okay or sorry no, but then they'd be on the spot to justify again and you can push back.

Taking ownership not only of the work, but staffing management, as you're rising through the ranks and billing mega hours despite coronavirus seems like a great place to be. And you'll earn one hell of a vacation.
100%. I get it, working 80-90 hours back to back sucks, but it definitely is not abuse. Prioritize the work for partners in your group, ask them to have a real talk with the other partner to get you help, but if all else fails just get the work done as much as you can without completely burning the bridge.

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s1m4

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by s1m4 » Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:14 am

Billing 90 hours a week over 7 days is over 12 hours a day, billed, on projects without hard deadlines. Even in biglaw that is way above a normal workload. Why would someone work that much? Especially if not up for partnership?

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by trebekismyhero » Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:27 am

s1m4 wrote:Billing 90 hours a week over 7 days is over 12 hours a day, billed, on projects without hard deadlines. Even in biglaw that is way above a normal workload. Why would someone work that much? Especially if not up for partnership?
Maybe I accepted way too much when I was a junior associate, but I had a lot of 80+ hour weeks including multiple back to backs so I don't think of it has being so outside the ordinary. I agree that OP needs to engage partners in their group because it seems crazy to be working that much when so many other associates are slow.

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by bob311 » Mon Apr 20, 2020 12:54 pm

I look at it this way - op said he/she wants out in a year or two anyway, so no dreams of partnerships this firm. Further, this partner isn’t in his/her group in a different office. If it was me personally, I would burn the bridge and not think twice about it. Sure maybe your review next year isn’t great and you get some hints about exiting, but that’s within OP’s proposed exit timeline anyway. This partner sounds like a jerk and is just on a power trip. The next email that comes in I would just politely say you can’t turn to this for a day/2/3 days and then go quiet. If things are as urgent as this power trip partner thinks they are, staffing will get sorted. If not, then op bought space. If things don’t get better after that space, just say you are too busy on X and can no longer assist.

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Re: Tick Off Partner In Other Group?

Post by Bllljd115 » Mon Apr 20, 2020 2:04 pm

OP - this is part of the growing pains of biglaw, which is learning to manage your workflow while never confronting unreasonable people. There's a lot of different techniques for that which have already been talked about in this thread. Right now you should prioritize the assignments for your home office partners and try to do just enough to keep this partner off your back (i.e., shoot for 60 hours per week, not 90). That might mean you do mediocre work or you just can't meet the deadlines, but all they can do to you is bitch to your home office partners, who will likely have your back assuming you are doing good work for them and your hours are high, or ask for you to be removed from the project, which they won't because people like this are fundamentally lazy managers. But never confront them head on or walk off the assignment, especially since this project involves billable work.

One mental trick I use when dealing with these people is assigning a certain amount of time to their assignments (like 2 hours per day). They get whatever I can churn out in that time slot and no more.

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