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Old 12-06-2009, 05:33 PM   #41
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If someone is negotiating with a rival, it's in the best interests of the firm to keep an eye on him. That is what senior partner was doing, by checking up on a rumor, etc.

The SIL is immature in business operations, and doesn't realize that he has given senior partner a reason to distrust him.

So, he made a mistake. Does that disqualify him as SIL? You should discuss this with him privately, and let him know how it could retard his own career.
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Old 12-06-2009, 05:43 PM   #42
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Hmm, as someone who has gone through a legal responsibility class, and has worked in a large law firm before, I will give my impressions too of the situation, this may help explain why the senior partner reacted positively. This is honestly a scenario straight out of an example question from a legal responsibility class, that illustrates some of the...difficulties of the current firm structure.

Some law firms, particularly the large ones, which are usually in or very near large cities, have something called an "up or out" system. Essentially, only a small number of associates will make it to partner. Many of the associates could be quite capable, and can do the required work necessary of a partner at that firm, but, there can only be so many partners made each year (this essentially is because the partners need to protect their share of the equity). As such, any major non-quality of work reason for denying partnership is considered important in making the decision. Something like an associate considering leaving the firm early is the most important one, it is extremely common, because the associates essentially have to look for other positions because of how precarious the "up or out" system is, but at the same time, any associate that made it up to the level of being considered for partnership, would want to know how loyal they are to the firm. This is why the partner would want to know.

Why the associate would do it, should be obvious, there is nothing complicated about it, and knowing about the "up or out" system doesn't really change the reasoning, it just provides a much greater incentive to do it. He did it so he can improve his chances at the firm, at the expense of one of his fellow associates, who he most likely constantly shares information and advice with on a very regular basis. Outing someone just for the sake of personal gain, rather than some ethical reason, is unethical. It appears that is the case here, because the son certainly did not seem to have any reason for it, other than to impress the senior partner. Perhaps there are other facts missing though.

Not going to comment on the legal questions, but I think you should give the SIL a second chance to prove his integrity, unless there has been other evidence in the past of a serious lack of integrity.
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Old 12-06-2009, 05:56 PM   #43
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By way of background, I am a partner in a law firm.

If a rumour that an associate was leaving reached me, and I valued the associate, I would make inquiries to try and retain the associate. This would include making inquiries of other people in the firm that the person concerned was known to be close to after I had spoken to the valued associate directly. I would need to be carefully not to turn my inquiries into a push factor.

If I did not value the associate, I would simply start looking for a replacement (which is not difficult in the current market).

If people preferred not to tell me anything they knew, I would respect that. How would I view someone who did disclose something? It would depend on circumstances. A senior associate who is being groomed for partnership would already be involved in selected management discussions and staffing is one of the things which we will get senior associates actively involved in. In that context, their involvement would be a natural thing but it would be a very fine line between a potential partner becoming involved in management and being viewed as a snitch who is not to be trusted.

To address the OP's situation, I would recognise that relationships with my family matter far far more than my views on the ethics of my SIL, keep my mouth firmly closed and attempt to move past the issue. Suggest some family events which include the SIL, male bonding session etc

Behind the scenes, if I had concluded that I could not trust SIL, I would change my will, enduring power of attorney etc to ensure that SIL could not get his hands on my money. As an example, instead of leaving money to my daughter, I might leave her with a smaller inheritance and the bulk of the money in trust for grandchildren.
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Old 12-06-2009, 07:44 PM   #44
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Zero, your title says you are "in the doghouse" with your wife and daughter, who are mad at you because your facial expression gave away your disapproval of something your SIL said. Though you haven't described just how the wife and daughter are behaving, "doghouse" implies, to me, an extended period of punishment by people either being nasty, or not speaking to you.

That being said, I guess I'd just up and leave a family that would put me in "the doghouse" for having an expression on my face! (Which, according to you, was quickly covered up with a bite of food, and was not followed with a spoken comment). It seems so ....controlling of them. Naturally, that is just my simplistic reaction and does not constitute a recommendation for you.

No matter how I try, I cannot keep everything I think and feel off my face, and neither can many people I know.

Since you probably don't want to up and leave your family, who seem to have excessively high standards for your face, I guess I can only second Freebird's advice to rise above the fray and let things die down. Best of luck.
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Old 12-06-2009, 08:09 PM   #45
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Thanks very much to all who responded and I appreciate every input. To those with law firm experience, the firm has about 30-40 people listed. Not sure how many senior partners but it has several names in the firm's name.

Lots of good advice and I have high hopes that by next Sunday this is totally forgotten by all parties. I have said nothing except to answer the wife's question about my frown. I'm torn between asking her if I embarrassed her and if so to apologize. And the same with the DD.

And the absolute last thing I would want is a rift with the SIL, I want my daughter to be happy.

I will move on with changing my Trust and POA and do that quietly without intimating the reason for the change. It's my prerogative.

Again thanks.
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Old 12-06-2009, 09:31 PM   #46
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If your SIL is being invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a senior partner's house and driving four to five hours from your house to get there, they must be pretty close. Is that typical?

Perhaps there is nothing sinister in his conversation with the senior partner; perhaps your SIL is already on the fast track ladder and it would be seen as traitorous to his firm if he had NOT told the senior partner what he had heard about the other person leaving.
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Old 12-06-2009, 09:55 PM   #47
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To me the weirdest part of the story is the invitation to the senior partner's house for Thanksgiving dinner.

Zero, the firm name may not have much to do with who are the current senior partners. My old firm's name consists of the names of two deceased lawyers and two retired lawyers. The most senior partners in years at the firm are not even named. The price of a firm more than 100 years old.

Thirty/forty lawyers is a midsized firm and there is a good chance people know quite a bit about each other's business. And the non-lawyer staff likely knows everyone's business.
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Old 12-06-2009, 10:14 PM   #48
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SIL was pretty excited to be invited to dinner so I took it as a first invite but not gonna ever press for that info.

I suppose it can be justified many ways, but seeking out someone in the guise of a friend in order to get information for personal gain is not right.

Sorry for the old fashioned me, but it's not right.











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Originally Posted by Bestwifeever View Post
If your SIL is being invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a senior partner's house and driving four to five hours from your house to get there, they must be pretty close. Is that typical?

Perhaps there is nothing sinister in his conversation with the senior partner; perhaps your SIL is already on the fast track ladder and it would be seen as traitorous to his firm if he had NOT told the senior partner what he had heard about the other person leaving.
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Old 12-07-2009, 04:41 AM   #49
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I guess there is not really enough information here to judge...nor for you to have judged at the time. As senior management, I would want to know if a "key" person was about to leave so that appropriate action could be taken, whatever the form, such as a retention effort either directed towards the employee or towards the clients, or both. I am kind of feeling that SIL was acting more to protect the firm than to obtain favor in the boss's eyes. I suspect SIL was already trusted by the sr partner and had asked him if he knew anything...you did say that it was already rumoured. In that case, not filling the boss in with what he knew would display a "lack" of integrity, instead of the other way around. The customers, after all, do belong to the firm, not to the employee, since the firm was paying the employee to both gather clients and to cater to their needs.

That's my two cents, fwiw.

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Old 12-07-2009, 05:56 AM   #50
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As senior management, I would want to know if a "key" person was about to leave so that appropriate action could be taken, whatever the form, such as a retention effort either directed towards the employee or towards the clients, or both.
Indeed you would want to know, as would I. However, that does not end the matter for me. As a lawyer, one of the bedrock principles of my profession is that you do not betray the confidences of your clients. I know lawyers who have chosen to be jailed for contempt rather than violate that principle. Thus, if back in my law firm days one of my associates had come to me with such information, I would have appreciated having the information (for precisely the reasons you set forth) but I would question whether an associate who can betray the confidences of his colleague could be trusted with the confidences of a client.

(And on the other issue, in my old 400+ lawyer NYC firm, the question would not be why the associate was having Thanksgiving dinner at the partner's house but why they weren't both at the office)
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Old 12-07-2009, 07:41 AM   #51
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Zero, another lawyer speaking up...

I hear you, and you've been clear that this really bugs you, and you are right that it is your prerogative to make changes in your trust and POA.

But shouldn't you talk to your wife before making those changes?

I think you've heard some useful things about law firm culture, but I also want to suggest that maybe your SIL is uncomfortable too, and that the reason he voiced it was he wondered out loud about what he did and how it led to Thanksgiving dinner someplace else. I'd bet my money that he was questioning it, and trusting your family as a place to do that.

I'm thinking of my brother, who had an antsy/edgy job as an associate at a mid size firm, and bolted when he was offered a partnership, along with another associate who was not offered partnership (and opened a new firm). My brother used to voice a lot of issues, quietly, trusting us, and we'd ask why he was still there.

Be open to seeing it differently. It's worth it for your family.
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Old 12-07-2009, 08:24 AM   #52
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I am trying to go with the positive angle. And I'm holding off (as some advised) on any changes till after New Year and some time to be sure I have not misjudged his actions.

It may be that his announcement was intended to get feedback form the family to get a sense of whether he did the right thing. If he's feeling a bit of remorse then that's a plus to me.

So it's something to work towards and I'm struggling because his own description of the events were clearly that he deceived a friendly colleague into providing him information that he could pass on to the senior partner behind the colleague's back. And, also that he was trying to obtain email evidence also with the intent of supplying more detailed information/proof to the boss.

I know how I would feel if someone I trusted deliberately set me up, no matter what our relationship was, and I also know how, as a manager, how I felt when an employee came to me with "the goods" on another employee.

I'll shelve those feelings in favor of family.

Thank you one and all for the great comments and thoughts. I'm off to Vegas for a few days with the wife and maybe it will all pass.
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Old 12-07-2009, 05:28 PM   #53
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As so many others have voted, let it go. But someday he might bring it up to you in private and you will probably have to say how you feel. That is where the real damage gets done. The guy appears to be drifting through life with flawed ethics, and that is no small problem. What goes around, actually does come around. I have seen it.
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Old 12-07-2009, 08:30 PM   #54
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Wow, this forum is crawling with lawyers!
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Old 12-07-2009, 10:27 PM   #55
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Oh no! Here come the lawyer jokes!
If you google "lawyer jokes" you will get 783,000 hits.

Disclaimer: some of my best friends are lawyers. And that's not even counting Forum members!
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Old 12-07-2009, 10:31 PM   #56
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I've no particular beef with lawyers, but my favorite: lawyer, snake, skidmarks
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