Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The One Man Show

You can run a one-man show. I know monkeys that prefer to do everything themselves, from setting up dial-ins, turning documents to negotiating and getting paid. The one man show. The one man show trusts no one; he's Mulder in the X-Files, he's gary busey in...gary busey's life. On the one hand, it's awesome for everyone else on the deal team - they don't have to do jack shit, but it's a double-edged penis, because you luck out with little work, but basically gain no penis-ing experience too, if you're into that only of course.  At the heart of this though is just delegation. I've written a lot about this, but it's important. Really important. I know it. Your boss monkeys know it. Tim Ferris knows it. Delegating is more than just about passing shit off, it's about the sinews that tie together the fabric that is a team -- your team. If you read fastco or techcrunch or entrepeneur you'll see a lot of articles geared towards young managers mobilizing their teams, incentivizing employees, building teamwork, efficiency, etc. Delegation is just a vertical embodiment of teamwork, which is an allocation of work. And you can't allocate work effectively if people in your team suck and you can't trust them to do anything. You can run a one man show always and ensure you won't have to redo anything, but then it's like watching the man show with JUST adam corrolla or jimmy kimmel without the other one to balance them out -- it's just too much dude.

So when you think about delegating, think about your team. Who you want on your team, who you want to keep, and who you want to leave. You can just dump people unfortunately but you can always try asking for what you want. You might get it. Once a team member has become scorned by your outrageous delegating though, it will be difficult to get them on board, they will just avoid you like the plague. So what's paramount is retaining good talent. It happens at all levels. Partners actually meet (!), and actually talk about retaining associates (! - no really i overheard it once), and at least in some firms, they actually do things to make sure people stick around - like give them work that they ask for or try not to overload them or respect their holidays shit like that. blew my mind (although really i still know what is at the 'end' of that monkey's just more monkey cage). But at other levels - you and your juniors, juniors and paralegals, even fucking you and your assistants who are critically important. When you find a one that is good, don't fuck with them; be nice; otherwise who knows they may just up and go and leave you with some brainless Siri wannabe that can't even understand what a "please print this" request means. If you have trouble remembering how to act, just remember that the relevant maxims basically all reiterate that timeless rule about golden showering...or something like that.

 Who do you want on your team?


  1. AnonymousMay 20, 2012

    CML how about a post dealing with billing. How do you make sure you are efficient during the day to make sure you meet your quota? Also, how do you describe your time so the client and the partner understand that your work is adding value to the case? Any other thoughts on the issue are welcome.

  2. Hey there - so for your first question, i think the question really goes to what you mean by 'quota'. My current firm doesn't have any annual targets or quotas (whether to meet any bonus requirement or otherwise), but i know some firms do. whether or not you have an express quote or target, i think the conventional wisdom is that if you don't get in a enough hours, you may want to think about how this looks. unless u r gunning for a target bonus, i think this is a crock o shit. if u work at a place where they care so much about facetime, i'd rec finding a new place. in terms of billables, if you are working, whether you are working efficiently or inefficiently or whatever, if you are busy, you will bill plenty of time. i've been slow for the past, oh, 6 months? but before that i averaged about 200-220 billables/month, meaning some months i was up to 300, some months down at 100. it's not like a tried to get more or less, it just happens, cuz ur busy. the past few months i've been billing about 30-50 hours a month, which is why i've been a bit slow to make put up new posts...haven't been at a computer that much. anyway, we do also have a daily 'quota' which is completely stupid. u have to 'bill' like x hours per day - i guess this is their equivalent of clocking in and out everyday. but for days i don't have shit to do, i just bill to our miscellaneous matter ID number, which i think is what most shops instruct lawyers to do, bc they know they'll be days/months like this. and, in the end, if it's a slow year, everyone will be billing the same way, so there's no cause for alarm unless there's such a huge recession and you're at one of those shops that grew too fast. even then, if you've got a shred o talent you're probably okay. does this address your first point? this can get nuanced depending on the state of affairs of course. e.g.: if, as is applicable to me now, your whole office is just twiddling their thumbs, it won't make a difference whether you are billing a lot of time or nothing - it would even look weird if you start massively inflating your time when even the partners are off gallavanting. however, if you are trying to dodge work when others are busy and you still haven't gotten caught, you just play it safe - hold off on putting in your time, stretch your current hours, play up your workload etc etc. if this isn't the case, i wouldn't worry about meeting any quota. if you have a real daily quota where you have to actually have client billables for x hours - which i've never heard of - id suggest lateral-ing - seriously, the major upside of working in private practice (as many peopel who have gone in house can tell you) is the flexibility in hours. right now, those who have left and are slow are pretty much chained to their desks. my 'desk' is chained to me, but i can go wherever the fuck i want with it.

  3. for your second question, i *think* u r getting at what you are supposed to put in your narrative when you r stretching ur hours but u r really naked and jackin it in san diego right? okay, so if ur not in the scenario above where u r just not doing anything and not planning to bill a bunch o time to ur miscellaneous matter, i typically try to make my narratives (as a general rule regardless), as extensively vague as possible, absent specific instructions otherwise. and by that, i mean to write a lot of stuff, but the stuff is somewhat vague. get the picture? have u ever read time logs? u can see people who are the busiest /most senior have the worst time entries. partners tend to just write 'emails'. so there is a bit of hypocrisy here that protects you. i've never gotten called out on shitty time narratives bc clients actually rarely ask for that and most partners dont have the time to read the narratives (in fact, they often ask associates to read them - i've had to read them quite a few times) so keep in mind your audience. for some concrete examples, let's say i'm working on a buy-side deal, and we are not that busy but sort of just in the prep phase. for a typical narrative for work that i've done during the day - let's say i billed four hours - i might say something like "due diligence; emails and calls regarding the same; review correspondence; review and revise due diligence requests; discuss with [mr. x] regarding the same" which is pretty heft and i think enough cya for anything. does that help?

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