Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Anonymous Lawyer

Associated Anxiety

I've been sensing some anxiety from associates over the year-end bonuses. We haven't announced yet. Whenever associates ask me about it, what I like to do is tell them I think they're going to find out later that day. It freaks them out. It's fun to watch.

Look, every year we match our peer firms. We shouldn't, but we do. There shouldn't be any suspense. We're going to match. They know we're going to match. But still, they worry. They hover around the partners when they see us talking in the hall, wondering if we're discussing the bonuses. We're not. We're talking about the inappropriate outfit the paralegal is wearing, or the rumor about the associate who got genital warts from the proofreader at the copy center.

I've consistently argued that we should announce that we're giving $5.00 less than our peers. Nothing substantial, but to put everyone on edge, a little bit, and motivate them to do better next year. "They didn't match," people would say. "It must mean we're not working hard enough." And then they would stay in the office just a little bit later, or do just one more profit-generating Lexis search. We'd light a fire under them.

It's amazing what $5.00 will do. We switched from store-brand cookies in the attorney lounge to real Oreos and we got e-mails praising the decision. Costs perhaps two dollars more per day. The profit on four photocopies. I'm willing to have my secretary make four extra photocopies to charge to clients every day if it means people will thank me for upgrading to brand-name cookies. It's a sacrifice I'm happy to make.

Follow-up on the judicious comments here.

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