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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 06:57 AM   #21
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Re: $H!T

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I don't have an answer for you, Brewer. *Finding another job is an option, but may involve moving your family, job hunting in a poor job market, sacrificing benefits, etc. *It may be too costly to consider. *And it may take significant time.

Good luck. *
The job market is actually pretty good for me, and I pay a housing premium in return for access to a few very large, very deep labor markets without moving. Finding something new isn't likely to be that difficult, and I have turned down job offers within the past year because I wasn't ready to jump and I knew I could do better.

Frankly, I think that when the next person leaves, it will be time to put the hurt on. One more departure will put this team into crisis mode, and I know full well that they won't have hired anyone by then or put a contingency plan in place. That will be the time to squeeze management, and I'll be close enough to the point of departure that it won't make much difference if things don't go well.
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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 07:33 AM   #22
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Re: $H!T

A couple of tactics I've used in similar situations:

-I've seen it happen that bureaucratic and down-sizing companies sometimes make it easier for overworked departments to bring on non-permanent hires than might otherwise be the case. (I think that might also be a positive way for you to tell your boss that you're overworked but you're looking for solutions.)

-When understaffed/overworked to the breaking point, I've gotten the corporate audit group involved in the question. They always a "key risks" question, and one risk is "that company business suffers due to resource constraints."

But I agree with you; it sounds like your company's ripe for a short squeeze. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.
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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 07:41 AM   #23
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Re: $H!T

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Unfortunately in this world, loyalty is no longer a two way street with most people. For example, in my law firm, the associates are treated rather poorly from a work-reward perspective. There are others, like myself, who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, only to get the shaft later based on a "what have you done for me lately" attitude.
Loyalty has changed. I see associates as less loyal and less willing to work for less money today for the potential of partnership in the future. They want money in the pocket now and don't care about our partnership track. They feel free to leave on two weeks notice, dumping all their undone work on the partners. They don't want to hear about how all of us old lawyers worked hard for little pay as associates and had our rewards in partnership heaven. Both groups end up irritated at each other.

Sorry, associates are my gripe this week, which is not very helpful to Brewer.

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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 07:49 AM   #24
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Re: $H!T

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Loyalty has changed. *I see associates as less loyal and less willing to work for less money today for the potential of partnership in the future. *They want money in the pocket now and don't care about our partnership track. *They feel free to leave on two weeks notice, dumping all their undone work on the partners. *They don't want to hear about how all of us old lawyers worked hard for little pay as associates and had our rewards in partnership heaven. *Both groups end up irritated at each other. *

Sorry, associates are my gripe this week, which is not very helpful to Brewer.

Martha
Definately not inmterested in getting into a p!ssing contest, but let's just say I am more sympathetic to the associates. I think its something of a Boomer-GenX generation gap, personally. Boomers have time and again proven willing to sacrifice almost anything to get ahead. Personally, there is a very short list of things I will put up with for the sake of career, and I don't think I am unrepresentative of my age cohort (squarely GenX).

It has gotten uglier as time has gone on since companies have fewer and fewer problems chopping staff to meet the quarterly numbers and the younger employees typically have less job security in these situations.
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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 08:15 AM   #25
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Re: $H!T

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Definately not inmterested in getting into a p!ssing contest, but let's just say I am more sympathetic to the associates. *I think its something of a Boomer-GenX generation gap, personally. *Boomers have time and again proven willing to sacrifice almost anything to get ahead. *Personally, there is a very short list of things I will put up with for the sake of career, and I don't think I am unrepresentative of my age cohort (squarely GenX).

It has gotten uglier as time has gone on since companies have fewer and fewer problems chopping staff to meet the quarterly numbers and the younger employees typically have less job security in these situations.
Gotta agree with Brewer here, being GenX myself. Been "downsized" twice already by companies that treated their employees as being as expendable as copier paper. *You want me to work - show me the money. Don't talk to me about "long term rewards". Look at the United airline pensioners - what "long term reward" are they getting?

I'm working because I'm not FI. I don't care about trying to make "more" money for the owners. I do my job - and I do it well ( which is maybe why they keep dumping sh!t on me). But - there are no illusions here. I know you (the company) will drop me in a heartbeat to make your quarterly numbers and you shouldn't expect anything less for me - if I can reach a better deal with some other company - see ya!
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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 08:18 AM   #26
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Re: $H!T

I too don't want to get into a pissing contest, especially since I am irritated at my employees this week and Brewer is irritated at his employers.

I understand the associates who say they don't want to bill 2500 hours a year and they want a life outside of work. I think some partners could use some of that attitude. However, those who work less hard should get less money. They don't understand the less money part.

To be a bit more crass, associates are leverage for us. We want a profit from their work. Some associates tell me that they are an investment for us. That is true as well. However, that investment has to pay off pretty quickly, especially if they feel free to use their experience to move to the big city for big city jobs in 3 to 5 years.

Sorry Brewer for using your thread for my particular rant. Your job sounds like one I would want to leave as well. You don't have to be sympathetic to the partners in our firm. After all, we do make good money for our hard work.

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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 08:36 AM   #27
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Re: $H!T

I have never laid a single lawyer off nor have my predecessors. If a lawyer is asked to leave, it is do to serious performance problems. We were so loyal to our lawyers that back in the early 70s, our partners didn't take a pay check for several months because things were so tight. But no one was laid off. That was loyalty.

Of course, this is old news to our associates and they don't care much about what happened before they were born.

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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 08:47 AM   #28
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Re: $H!T

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I too don't want to get into a pissing contest, especially since I am irritated at my employees this week and Brewer is irritated at his employers. *

I understand the associates who say they don't want to bill 2500 hours a year and they want a life outside of work. *I think some partners could use some of that attitude. *However, those who work less hard should get less money. *They don't understand the less money part.

To be a bit more crass, associates are leverage for us. *We want a profit from their work. *Some associates tell me that they are an investment for us. *That is true as well. *However, that investment has to pay off pretty quickly, especially if they feel free to use their experience to move to the big city for big city jobs in 3 to 5 years. *

Sorry Brewer for using your thread for my particular rant. *Your job sounds like one I would want to leave as well. *You don't have to be sympathetic to the partners in our firm. *After all, we do make good money for our hard work.

Martha


Actually, I don't mind shifting the subject a bit, since this is a subject near and dear to my heart.

The problem with many junior level professional jobs is that employers try to make the carrot of "pie tomorrow" a substantial portion of comp. The "pie" might be making partner, getting a promotion, stock options, a pension, or something else, but what all of these have in common is that A) you don't get it for a long time and B) the vast majority will not get the carrot due to moving on, being layed off, or whatever. The brighter junior folks have looked at the odds of getting to eat the the "pie" and decided that this is really "pie in the sky". Accordingly, they assign a very low value to the promise and then are often not thrilled with the total package. Those higher up in the food chain have mostly already started to eat the "pie tomorrow" and can't understand why the more junior people see things the way they do.

Then you mix the growing propensity for employers to chuck people out the door at the drop of the hat...
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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 09:06 AM   #29
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Re: $H!T

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Actually, I don't mind shifting the subject a bit, since this is a subject near and dear to my heart.

The problem with many junior level professional jobs is that employers try to make the carrot of "pie tomorrow" a substantial portion of comp. The "pie" might be making partner, getting a promotion, stock options, a pension, or something else, but what all of these have in common is that A) you don't get it for a long time and B) the vast majority will not get the carrot due to moving on, being layed off, or whatever. The brighter junior folks have looked at the odds of getting to eat the the "pie" and decided that this is really "pie in the sky". Accordingly, they assign a very low value to the promise and then are often not thrilled with the total package. Those higher up in the food chain have mostly already started to eat the "pie tomorrow" and can't understand why the more junior people see things the way they do.

Then you mix the growing propensity for employers to chuck people out the door at the drop of the hat...
So what do we do to bring the Baby Boomers and Generation X together? This is also a subject near and dear to my heart. On the baby boomer end, they worked hard and sacrificed and now want the rewards. On the Gen X side, they feel far more mobile and see the odds of receiving the pie in the sky as slim. I doubt I am going to convince them otherwise.

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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 09:06 AM   #30
 
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Re: $H!T

Martha,

Not to continue to hijack Brewer's thread, but it sounds like you and I are two sides of the same coin. I'm not quite as extreme as the associates you've described, but I firmly believe that becaus competition in the legal industry has increased in the past 20 years or so, there is less and less room for more partners at most firms.

Accordingly, I hope you can understand how the idea of working hard (and sacrificing some of the best years of one's life -- late 20s and early 30s) for low(er) pay now, accompanied by an ever-decreasing chance for making partner in the future, is a less than optimal bargain from an associate's perspective.

Associates are well aware that they are leverage for the partners to make money. The problem is that once an associate reaches 6-8 years out of law school, that associate's ability to be leveraged is priced out of the market by an ever-increasing billable hour rate. At the same time, partners know that once associates reach their early-30s, those associates are thinking more along the lines of having families, and therefore won't want to work as hard as they once did. The partners will therefore replace the older associates with newer, cheaper (by billable hour rate), and younger models, who are willing to work hard, and thereby preserve the leverage they represent. There are numerous partners in my office who have been in practice 20+ years that have leveraged 5-6 "generations" of associates, and have no qualms about continuing to replace them to preserve or increase their take home pay.

In sum, if the promise of partnership is decreasing, can you blame associates for wanting their reward at a time far closer in proximity to their efforts?
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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 09:19 AM   #31
 
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Re: $H!T

One more thing.

I think the root problem may be a lack of a willingness to "think like an owner" mentality on the part of associates. Most associates I know are willing to work hard and bill the time, but want someone else to "feed" them the work. Yet I'm not so sure that associates are entirely to blame for being so passive. Associates are bombarded with the "bill, bill, bill" or "billable hours" mantra by the partners from the first day they join a firm.

By years 3-4, the partners in a firm should begin to teach their associates how to "fish," that is, bring in new business. The vast majority of partners won't do so, simply because it will shift an associate's focus from billing time on the partner's files (and thereby make the partner money), and more towards the associate's desire to bring in business. It's a matter of competing leverages. If the associate is billing on a partner's file, the partner has the leverage. If the associate has his/her own book of business, and is billing on the associate's files, the partner isn't making as much money and the associate can demand a percentage of the fees billed on the business s/he brought into the firm. If the associate isn't happy with the terms of that financial arrangement, the associate leaves the firm.

It might be an easier deal for firms to tell associates the "magic number," namely, you bring in $250k-300k worth of collectible business per year, you'll make partner. That way, all of the cards are on the table.
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Old 10-07-2004, 09:26 AM   #32
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Re: $H!T

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In sum, if the promise of partnership is decreasing, can you blame associates for wanting their reward at a time far closer in proximity to their efforts?
But then the problem is that the 50 year olds feel screwed twice. Once when they were associates and again when associates take more of the pie.

What I have done is try to get associates involved in long range planning. I talk to lawyers about how we can increase revenues short of simply working more hours, for example, through better use of technology and staff. I am paying associates more. However, I still want them to generate a profit. This means that I may give underperformers less of a chance to solve their problems before letting them go. I told the associates that and they were fine with firing underperformers. We shall see. I am worried that this solution may feed into the feeling of no job security.

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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 09:31 AM   #33
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Re: $H!T

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One more thing.

By years 3-4, the partners in a firm should begin to teach their associates how to "fish," that is, bring in new business. The vast majority of partners won't do so, simply because it will shift an associate's focus from billing time on the partner's files (and thereby make the partner money), and more towards the associate's desire to bring in business. It's a matter of competing leverages. If the associate is billing on a partner's file, the partner has the leverage. If the associate has his/her own book of business, and is billing on the associate's files, the partner isn't making as much money and the associate can demand a percentage of the fees billed on the business s/he brought into the firm. If the associate isn't happy with the terms of that financial arrangement, the associate leaves the firm.

It might be an easier deal for firms to tell associates the "magic number," namely, you bring in $250k-300k worth of collectible business per year, you'll make partner. That way, all of the cards are on the table.

Our firm doesn't compensate through origination credits, so this really isn't a problem for us. We really encourage development of their own clients and work. I also share financial information with associates. They see what we all bring in.
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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 09:38 AM   #34
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Re: $H!T

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So what do we do to bring the Baby Boomers and Generation X together? This is also a subject near and dear to my heart. On the baby boomer end, they worked hard and sacrificed and now want the rewards. On the Gen X side, they feel far more mobile and see the odds of receiving the pie in the sky as slim. I doubt I am going to convince them otherwise.
I think the problem is more basic and culturally rooted - GenX (which I'm squarely in) saw what the Boomers did - sacrifice health, life, morals, familt time, etc in exchange for money, and stuff, all in a time when loyalty, both ways, went to hell. GenX, as a whole, doesn't want "stuff" to the degree the boomers do, and to a lesser degree, money (for those Doubting Thomases out there - ask any Gen X if they'd accept a 25% pay cut to work 32 hours a week with every Friday off - nearly every one of them would take in a heartbeat).

Also, GenX isn't thrilled with the "pay your dues" mentality prevalent in business - far to often you can work as hard and as long as you want, only to get "rightsized", or still get a crummy raise. GenX wants more instantaneous rewards.

Ultimately, though, we learned that money doesn't necessarily happy, and we are trying to avoid that trap using the only frame of reference we have - our parents generation. But our parents, the Boomers, are still playing by the rules they helped create. I think those rules will change starting in 2010 with the Boomer retirements - Gen X isn't willing to work 60 hours a week to pick up the slack, and since we aren't "invested in the culture" of the companies, we don't care if the company gets hurt. I think that the companies that really need to find talent will be examining innovative ways to get it - part timers, outsourced, shared services, etc.

I don't need a lot of money. I need enough money. And once I'm making "enough" money, I'm not real excited about a job that offers 20% more pay for 30% more work and 50% more stress.

Since I'm blathering on, I will also state that I think GenX is far more interested in "not-work" then previous generations, and more interested in retiring earlier than the Boomers. All my people my age here (fortune 500)express horror at the thought of still working when over 60 for anything but fun.

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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 09:46 AM   #35
 
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Re: $H!T

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But then the problem is that the 50 year olds feel screwed twice. *Once when they were associates and again when associates take more of the pie. *

What I have done is try to get associates involved in long range planning. *I talk to lawyers about how we can increase revenues short of simply working more hours, for example, through better use of technology and staff. *I am paying associates more. *However, I still want them to generate a profit. *This means that I may give underperformers less of a chance to solve their problems before letting them go. *I told the associates that and they were fine with firing underperformers. *We shall see. *I am worried that this solution may *feed into the feeling of no job security. *

Martha

Fair enough. The 50-year old+ partners didn't get the "great raise" 1999-2000 when they were associates. That, of course, was triggered by the business explosion of the dot-com era. Unlike you, most of the 50-year old+ partners in my office are rooted in the "me partner, you associate" model. There is very little sharing of information or teamwork.

I'd like to know what you mean by underperformers. Do you mean associates who aren't billing at least 1900 hours a year or whose time is constantly being cut for being inefficient? If so, that would present an objective standard of performance, and wouldn't create a sense of job insecurity among those who remain if there is work to be done. On the other hand, associates can't create work out of thin air, so an associate should not be blamed for not meeting a billable hours target if the partners for whom s/he works are not bringing in the business.
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Old 10-07-2004, 09:47 AM   #36
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Re: $H!T

I will take a 25% cut in pay to work 32 hours a week. Needless to say, our baseline is pretty high and a full time week is not 40 hours. Next year, when I plan to work part time, I am cutting back to what will be about 2/3 time. I expect to earn 1/2 of what I currently make. However, I will get full benefits.

I have explored part time arrangements with associates and we have given them the message that we are willing to consider less that full time on a case by case basis. No one has expressed any real interest. They seem to want the money just as much as the boomers.

Of course, your mileage may vary.

Martha

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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 09:54 AM   #37
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Re: $H!T

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I'd like to know what you mean by underperformers. Do you mean associates who aren't billing at least 1900 hours a year or whose time is constantly being cut for being inefficient? If so, that would present an objective standard of performance, and wouldn't create a sense of job insecurity among those who remain if there is work to be done. On the other hand, associates can't create work out of thin air, so an associate should not be blamed for not meeting a billable hours target if the partners for whom s/he works are not bringing in the business.
I mean not billing at least 1800 hours, or doing poor quality work, or missing deadlines, or whose time is constantly being cut for being inefficient, or who can't play well with others.

I agree an associate should not be blamed for not meeting a billable hours target if the partners are not bringing in the business. However, if an associate is not meeting targets because no one wants to give them work anymore due to missed deadlines or poor quality work product, then the associate will have to go.

If I keep this up, both you and I are not going to meet our billable hours target today.
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Re: $H!T
Old 10-07-2004, 10:05 AM   #38
 
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I mean not billing at least 1800 hours, or doing poor quality work, or missing deadlines, or whose time is constantly being cut for being inefficient, or who can't play well with others. *

I agree an associate should not be blamed for not meeting a billable hours target if the partners are not bringing in the business. *However, if an associate is not meeting targets because no one wants to give them work anymore due to missed deadlines or *poor quality work product, then the associate will have to go.

If I keep this up, both you and I are not going to meet our billable hours target today. *
True true, but one more question, at least for today.

How do you separate out ego from the equation? It's been my personal experience that some partners feel threatened by an associate who takes the initiative, is well liked by the partner's clients, and is a rising star in his/her particular area of legal expertise. Partner insecurity can lead to hoarding of work, poor performance reviews, micromanagement, etc... Doesn't seem to fair to an associate who's only trying to do his/her job.

Then again, it's the partners who bring in the work, so if there's a choice between letting an associate go or alienating a partner with a book of business -- regardless of the reason -- guess who loses...
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Old 10-07-2004, 10:10 AM   #39
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Re: $H!T

You are dead on Sunrunner. *I grew up watching my dad work M-Sat 9-6pm, and also having to go to the store on sundays sometime when folks needed their medicine. *He was a slave to his job and rarely got time off. *Money... oh sure he made/makes a ton of it. *But he just hoardes most of it, and i guess i'll get it someday.

He asked me if i wanted to go to pharmacy school to take his place, but i said no thanks. *(hell no!). * I work a fed job 40hrs/week with killer leave and holidays off too, and even that feels like too much to me sometime. *

In no way do i envy him, collectively considering how much he works and how much he makes. * While he's counting pills on saturday, i'm kicked back at my pc playing the latest MMORPG (world of warcraft beta). *

A decent pc, a roof on your head, a pack of cokes and TV dinners really dont cost that much.

Azanon

PS: Since i get off this coming monday (columbus day), i said what the hell, and took off friday too. 210 annual leave hrs left, and if that isnt enough, i have another 350 sick leave hrs on top of that. Hmm... Is that the flu I feel coming on?
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Old 10-07-2004, 10:24 AM   #40
 
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Hey Brewer,
Do yourself a favor. Stop thinging about how 'they' are screwing up your job. Forget about the guy that's going to leave next. The place your're working at is poisonous, and from your tone, it's affecting you as well. Get out of there now. Forget about 'squeezing management'. It will do you only harm. Your next prospective employeer will pick up on it. The last person I'd hire is someone that is out to destroy my company. If you see no opportunity working at companies in your industry, then start your own, or switch industries, or careers.

Think about how you could have identified the ills in this organization before you joined. Treat it as a learning experience, and get out.

--JB
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