Legal Practice

Big Law is Horrible…Or is it? What the Latest Big Law Drama Can Teach Us

This week a slide from an alleged presentation by Paul Hastings dropped and boy…did people have a lot to say. Whether or not it was actually part of the presentation, the overall consensus was the Big Law is horrible and this is just another example. And I get it—seeing the slide by itself and how it prioritizes work above everything seems, at the very least, a little unhealthy while others may see it and think those expectations just come with the job.

There is a widening gap in the way people approach work with a younger generation being more attuned with their rights and pushing for a more tenable work/life balance, which I applaud. It is healthy to know your limits and to place boundaries. So I get why people were up in arms when the slide was leaked.

Yet, when I saw the slide I wasn’t as taken aback as others nor did I see it as a sign of how intense Big Law can be. More than anything I thought there were some good gems of advice but the medium and tone were bad. Side note: here is where I also emphasize that power point slides don’t tell the whole story—unless the presenter was just reading the slides word for word there is context that is missing. Which is why I hate using power points during presentations (they are a crutch! Just listen to me, you don’t need to look at something at the same time…) 

Anyway, ok, so how could I see that slide and not think it was horrible? Because what it tried to convey (but failed to do so) was the importance of taking responsibility for your work and career. What if instead of the Bro-speak it was presented this way:

  • Instead of saying “if a client says move a mountain-move it,” consider: Approach your work with an “anything is possible” attitude and when clients ask for the impossible think creatively to solve their issues.
  • Or rather than “you’re online 24/7,” say, take deadlines seriously.

You get the idea. The rest of the items can be summed up this way:

  • Every draft should be a final draft, especially when it goes out to review
  • Be professional in all correspondence with clients and colleagues
  • Feel accountable for all parts of the work stream—you are not a cog!
  • Be resourceful, proactive, and inquisitive when trying to figure out solutions or gathering information
  • You are responsible for your career and the reputation you cultivate as a new associate.

Now, does that seem so horrible? I think it’s actually valuable guidance, especially for new attorneys, on how to approach their work. And I don’t think it’s just a big law standard. When I was in public interest, I wanted the junior attorneys to do all the things listed above. And even now, working with many non-attorneys, I yearn—YEARN—for some standards in drafting (we would be so much better if people aimed to make each draft a final draft!).

I know it’s all the rage to quiet quit and to stick it to the man and if that’s your approach that’s cool. But, if you’re interested in truly developing a career that will last, that will be fruitful, and grow into something you enjoy, then the work product you produce; your approach to cases; and how you engage with others will all play a major role. So even if PH (allegedly) delivered this advice in frat bro way, consider taking it. Or at least take mine! 🙂