Everyone’s talking about this leaked Paul Hastings presentation. A senior associate put together a deck to instruct juniors on Biglaw best practices and included “You are online 24/7” as a bullet point.
And, yeah, that’s off-putting to everyone unwilling to admit that this is exactly how law firms work and how they’ve worked for decades, but for all the furor surrounding the hours, folks are sleeping on just how terrible the rest of this advice is.
Law.com published this slide the other day:
“The client always comes first and is always right. If a client wants a mountain moved, we move it. No questions.”
This is exactly how Skadden handled Elon Musk’s Twitter deal and look how that turned out. In fairness, most Biglaw clients are accomplished attorneys themselves and not a billionaire man-child, so most requests won’t suggest waiving due diligence and setting the valuation based on a weed joke. But outside counsel are there to counsel not to rubber stamp. Juniors aren’t going to tell a client no, though they juniors should understand that they work for the firm and that means sometimes they have to help the partners tell the client that the client is stupid.
Gently and deferentially of course.
“Someone is paying $850+ for one hour of your time. Think about that in everything you do” and “No questions until you’ve tried to figure something out for yourself.” Yes, the client is definitely excited about the prospect of paying $850 so a junior attorney can screw around on Google when they could just call the mid-level and get an answer. No one wants a junior incapable of figuring out the answers eventually, but one of the most important skills they can learn is to gauge the price of pride f**king with you. If it’s a question that’s going to take more than 6 minutes — .1 in law firm lingo — then ask someone else.
The presentation does suggest “talk to your classmates” as a last resort, which reeks of a lazy senior. Why would some random other junior be in a better position than the mid-level working on the same matter?
“‘I don’t know’ is never an acceptable answer.” If that’s the only answer, then this is fair. But “I don’t know… and I’m going to find out” is a very acceptable answer. Attorneys should know what they don’t know and no one is served by making stuff up. Breeding a culture of fear around the idea of admitting a lack of knowledge is how ChatGPT ends up defaming people.
In a statement, Paul Hastings said the material was prepared by an associate “and the views expressed do not reflect the views of the firm or its partners.”
Yeah… maybe the author should have called a senior before running with this training. You know, because it’s all right to ask questions when you don’t really know something.
BigLaw associate’s admonition to be available 24/7 with ‘no exceptions, no excuses’ goes viral [ABA Journal]
‘You Are Online 24/7’: Why a Paul Hastings Presentation Went Viral and What It Says About Law Firm Culture [American Lawyer]
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.