Their name should be first
Insecurity becomes absurdity in the game of law
It all feels like a game, right? Like you really don’t want me to do XYZ, you’re just telling me to do so because it shows that you are the king and I am just a pawn. It’s a power move on an imaginary chess board. Well, power to the king, insecure to the pawns and the rest of the pieces.
These kinds of moves are common in the legal industry. Are they always overt, like the shredding of work product in the face of a subordinate or a screaming match in front of peers? No. Sometimes they’re subtle, like when an associate is entitled to enter a Taxi Cab or Uber, or the organization of email addresses to a client or opposing counsel.
This tweet is a good example of what I’m talking about. At Cravath , an institution within the legal industry and top Big Law firm, associates were at some point provided “etiquette training.” The training included “how to list names on an email [carbon copy] line in order of seniority.” So, if you’re writing the client, the CC: line of that email better have the partner first, with the other associates on the file in descending seniority (senior → junior).
As a former in-house attorney and client of law firms, this is something I would have never noticed. Ever. And why would I? I’m paying a firm to handle a legal matter for me or to provide substantive advice, not to show me where an associate sits in the hierarchy.
But that’s the thing, it’s not about the client or the legal services provided. It’s insecurity pretending to be a power move. It’s to remind the associates that their partners and colleagues are above them. That they are just pawns to the king.
I’m not sure what the repercussions are for putting a partner below a senior associate and breaking the perfectly crafted legal chain, but I would guess its probably a lecture and a memory that management will not forget.
This isn’t some strange game we all want to play; it’s a job. A career. A way to make money, stimulate our brains, and support our families.
Don’t be the pawn, flip the board.
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