The Travails of a Law Firm Associate?


A former first year law associate filed a fourteen count complaint against his former firm seeking $77 million. Some thoughts.

In the law suit, the associate claims that: “[The firm] had told [him] it eschews artificial hierarchical structure, then refused [him] an assignment because it would be ‘unfair to the other associates.’ It told [him] it valued intelligence and creativity, then reprimanded and ultimately fired him for exhibiting those traits. It claimed that the amount of responsibility an associate shoulders is dependent only on his willingness and ability, then reprimanded and ultimately fired him for demonstrating that willingness and ability to shoulder more responsibility.”

The complaint then goes on to detail an e-mail sent by the associate to various firm members stating:

“I am writing to see if you have any small cases I could manage for you. It has become clear that the only limiting factor on how much value I am to a case is how much responsibility I am given: the more responsibility I am given, the better the outcome. I am in kind of an uncomfortable position at the firm because although I am a ‘first year,’ I have 15 years business and real world experience, as much as many senior associates. When I first got here I did not know what to expect, but after working here for several months now it has become clear that I have as much experience and ability as an associate many years my senior, as much skill writing, and a superior legal mind to most I have met. There is a natural skepticism that someone without a lot of formal legal apprenticeship can do the job of a senior associate, but the truth is much of the learning and experience an associate acquires is parallel to any business experience — negotiating contracts, negotiating settlements, writing, analysis. If you will allow me to manage some cases for you I can guarantee without reservation that you will get a better result than you get now with many of the official resources you have available to you.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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