Everything Wrong with Legal Hiring: Searching for Dick Awesome, Esq.

It seems like every now and again Keith over at Associate’s Mind, the father of LawyerSmack, and I end up focusing on the same topics for a few days in a row. This time it all comes about out of an ad for an attorney and the ridiculous requirements and pay expectations that the firm wanted met in order to hire a lawyer to assist.  I’m not going to do a lot of talking to describe the ad, because you can watch the bullshit flow over on the LawyerSmack website about the anger and frustration of the attorneys that gather around the virtual water cooler (Keith has cleaned the joint up a bit from the days when it was more of a dive bar, and even insisted that sentient whiskey glasses identify themselves in the chat by their real names and everything).  But here’s the gist of the ad’s requirements:

  1. 5-7 years of experience;
  2. 20 cases tried to a verdict, unless you’re a former prosecutor, then at least 80 cases tried to a verdict;
  3. Answers to an attorney with 30 years of experience, and;
  4. Pay is $55,000 to $90,000.

While they’re at it, they’d like to find an attorney that owns his own rainbow-shitting unicorn, lives in a castle made of gingerbread, and can melt the faces of opposing counsel by singing eldritch verses in court. I mean, if we’re going to go all out on this shit, let’s go balls to the goddamn wall crazy with it.

Because the lawyer these guys are looking for?  It doesn’t fucking exist.

The firm may have a desire to hire sasquatch and bring them into the fold, assuming that Bigfoot when to somewhere that isn’t Cooley, but frankly these requirements are the best evidence you’ll find that the legal market is a) flooded with attorneys at the present time; and b) obviously suffering from some substance abuse issues.  Because whoever wrote those requirements had to be smoking something.

You need experience. But we’ll treat you like you have none.

First, they want a lawyer with 5-7 years experience, and they are very fucking definite on that timeframe.  4 years? Go fuck yourself, kiddo, no paycheck for you! 8 years? Get lost, old man, we need you to buy into our firm culture! Besides, there is an older attorney, according to the ad, that’s willing to mentor you!

…Let’s break that down real quick, okay?

Any attorney with 5-7 years of experience is not goddamn baby lawyer just out of law school who needs hand-holding and direction on everything from any senior attorney.  That’s just not how things go.  People with 5-7 years of experience are being made goddamn partners at other places, they are competent attorneys with the ability to practice law without someone telling them what to do, what i to dot, what t to cross, and how to file a complaint.  Especially when you look at the other requirements which are clearly asking for an attorney with significant trial experience.  Hey, how would you feel about taking a number of cases not only to trial, but to a goddamn verdict, successfully, walking into a new firm, and then being told “Great, great, but Hank over there? The senior partner, Hank? He has thirty years of experience, and he thinks you’re a fucking moron so….that doesn’t mean shit.  Get to kissing his wrinkled ass, buddy boy, if you want that payday.”

Any attorney with 5-7 years experience and the trial experience they’re asking for can open his own goddamn office and do pretty fucking well if they keep their head on straight.  No ass-kissing required.  Okay, maybe a little ass-kissing, but then it’s only completely optional and as you wipe the brown mustache from your upper lip you can almost certainly call the recipient “Your Honor.”

Which, hold on, let’s talk about the trial experience portion of this.

As a Five Year Civil Attorney, If You’re Trying 4 Cases to Verdict A Year You Suck At Your Job.

No, this is not hyperbole.  If you’re a civil litigation attorney, which is what they’re basing their “20 cases to verdict” number off of (they want 80 cases to verdict if you were a prosecutor!), then you sir or madam, are the worst fucking attorney on the face of the goddamn planet.

Somewhere in the area of 95% of all civil cases will settle well before a verdict.  We’re talking well before a fucking verdict. Like, trial won’t even open before the fucking case is settled.  That’s how this shit works, and frankly, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Your job as an attorney, and especially as a Plaintiff’s counsel, is to weigh the benefit and risk of a trial and, against that backdrop, secure the best position possible for your client.  Most of the time, that means you reach a reasonable settlement at some point during the discovery process or after everyone’s filed (and had denied) their motions for summary judgement in the matter.  It does not mean you scream “Damn the torpedoes, we’re taking this baby onto the rocky shores of trial and going down with all hands screaming and crying for a better lawyer if that may be the case!”

Guys, the scariest fucking thing in the world can be a jury.  It’s a fucking risk that isn’t the best solution to a client’s case in the vast majority of incidents when weighed against the opportunity to settle a case, get a satisfactory payment, and get the fuck out of court.  And don’t get me wrong, I fucking love trials.  I have a bit of a showman in me.  That shit doesn’t get to come out in some stuffy ass conference room taking depositions…but to take a case, especially a civil case, to trial is like telling a client to stick their head in the lion’s mouth.  If you’re going to do it, you better have a reasonable belief there’s a diamond in the lion’s throat big enough to make up for the rubies you just told them to pass by.

So, for a five year attorney, these guys want them to have taken, on average, four cases to trial every fucking year of practice. That’s four cases that the attorney could not reach a reasonable settlement on. Four cases that the lawyer said “Yeah, fuck their offers, let’s move forward.”  Either the lawyer sucks at picking cases, or they can’t build a case theory that brings the other side to the table sooner rather than later.  That, to me, does not scream “This is a guy we want to hire!” considering that most cases, just by the nature of the beast, settle.

But, but, there are likely some good reasons for this.  Maybe the firm only takes on highly contested, high dollar matters that are necessarily going to trial, they don’t care about the win/loss ratio, and what they’re looking for is someone who isn’t going to freeze up in front of a judge and knows how to present their argument in a compelling manner.

But Jesus Tapdancing Christ, can I point out that one of Tennessee’s most prolific trial lawyer from 2005-2015 only tried 26 fucking cases over eleven years?

…Which makes me wonder what the fuck is wrong with their pay scale.

You Can Kiss My Ass For $55,000, and that’s about as much as I’ll let you do.

Seriously.  $55,000 is like “first year associate” pay.  Not “highly experienced trial attorney with over 20 verdicts and five years of practice under his or her belt” pay.  Let me list other jobs, with less stress than working under a “senior litigation associate with 30+ years of experience” who will try to dictate your every move, that pay the same or similar amounts.

What the fuck are they thinking?  That they’re going to rope in some brain damaged associate from somewhere else with the offer of $55,000, a “chance to learn,” and some vague offer of a partnership at some point in the future?  That’s horeshit, and they know it.

What they want is a person who’s already a partner, guys.  They want a partner in everything but name, but they don’t want to offer a pay or equity share that would entice a fucking partner to lateral over to their new firm.  It’s that fucking simple.

And it’s some serious goddamn bullshit.

I’ll freely say:  I have less experience than this mythical moronic litigator they’re seeking to hire, and I get paid more than their “low number.”  Anyone considering this offer is an idiot.

And it’s a damn good thing they didn’t reveal the firm name, or lawyers all over the country would be pointedly telling them what a bunch of fucking morons they are for even putting an insult like this out into the wild.

 

Or, you know, they’d actually rope in that rainbow-riding, face-melting attorney we talked about earlier.

Dick Awesome, Esq.

 

-BB