Re: Ask The Mineshaft: Interview Inquiry Edition

1

Face it, job hunter: the work/life balance you enjoyed previously was a fluke.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:19 AM
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Asking about the company's corporate culture might give you some valuable clues and could provide material for follow-up questions that would be even more informative.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:20 AM
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You know, you can ask about it, but relying on the answers is not all that sensible. Better you should collect outside gossip somehow.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:21 AM
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Ask about the biggest challenges during the last couple of crunch times, whether those are deadline-driven or meeting/presentation driven. Ask about the support staff and their turnover. These would be questions for the people you'd be working with after they've expressed interest in you, of course.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:23 AM
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Is 19,000 times a year a lot?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:23 AM
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You can ask, if appropriate, how much of the job requires travel, and what the typical day in your position might look like.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:24 AM
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IME, this is not something that you can usefully discover through a direct question. Rather, it can be gleaned through observing the dynamics of the office, listening to how the interviewer talks about his/her colleagues, and asking indirect questions.

Consider asking: How do you approach deadlines? How is work shared among team members? What do you consider a successful project outcome? (make this last one industry-specific -- you can find out a lot based on whether their answer is "Michael was answering questions about the demand analysis right up until they wheeled his gurney in for the appendectomy"*).

Overall, though, I'd say that if you're really concerned about work-life balance you may need to consider a different job within the same field. Less money, less prestige, more pleasure and fun. Yes, there are differences between being a consultant for Big Company X versus Small Company Y, but IME those differences can often be dwarfed by the way the profession is set up.

*True story, fake name.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:30 AM
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I think the advice is simple here. Raise the red flag! You do not want to "stealth" your way into a job that you are specifically moving to in hopes of it having characteristic X, by not letting them know that you are interested in characteristic X.

One strategy might be to test by asking up front for some specific small accommodation. Maybe one that you won't even ultimately need to exercise.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:30 AM
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Oooh, yeah, lw's question about support staff is key. Even other questions about support staff can be enlightening -- if they get a lot of smart overqualified folks (Frowner!) it may be because the company is a good place to work.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:31 AM
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3 gets it right. I don't think asking about it will hurt you. You can just say "can you tell me about how your employees deal with work/life balance?" or whatever is the question you are looking to have answered.

However, if your field is anything like my field, they will just lie to you up and down.

Yesterday, my boyfriend was in a cab, and he was chatting with the cabbie. The cabbie was saying, "you know, I get a lot of people in my cab from this company...[name of my dude's old firm that he turned down a job offer from]. At 3 am, they tell me, can you just wait for me? I'm just going to go upstairs and get some clothes, and then you can take me back downtown."

That's the kind of information you need.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:32 AM
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One strategy might be to test by asking up front for some specific small accommodation.

"I need to look at pornography from my workplace computer 19,000 times a year. Is that ok?"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:33 AM
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Also, it might help to talk to someone else in the field, even if that person hasn't worked at the company you're interviewing for. The other day, I was talking to my friend who works at [fancy law firm], and I was telling him, "I want to work at [medium-sized midwestern firm]!" He was like "why?" I said "they did away with their billable hour requirement!"

He started laughing hysterically. Apparently, his firm doesn't have a "requirement" either. They just have a "requirement" where you will be fired if you don't meet it.

Shows what I know.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:37 AM
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"you know, I get a lot of people in my cab from this company...[name of my dude's old firm that he turned down a job offer from]. At 3 am, they tell me, can you just wait for me? I'm just going to go upstairs and get some clothes, and then you can take me back downtown."

You know, the life of an academic isn't that bad when you put it in context.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:38 AM
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Some quick math in my head suggests that's about 80 porn images a day viewed?


Posted by: Wry Cooter | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:39 AM
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pornography unfogged


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:41 AM
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If this were a philosophy department, I'd say "look at the number of women on the faculty in tenured or tenure-track positions" as a useful measure of work/life balance. Perhaps there is an equivalent in Inquiring Interviewer's field.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:42 AM
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||
Does anyone live in these states? Here are the senators of whom three need to be flipped on the FISA vote. Ganked from Kos:

Call the rest of the Senators and tell them to stand with their majority on Monday's cloture vote and vote no.

* Bayh (202) 224-5623
* Carper (202) 224-2441
* Inouye (202) 224-3934
* Johnson (202) 224-5842
* Landrieu (202)224-5824
* McCaskill (202) 224-6154
* Mikulski (202) 224-4654
* Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274
* Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551
* Pryor (202) 224-2353
* Salazar (202) 224-5852

|>


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:43 AM
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14: See, put in context 19,000 images is really quite moderate. Hardly anything, really. Only 10 per hour.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:44 AM
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(9: I am currently preparing a spreadsheet of catering options for a conference in 2009, and it's making me so hungry (the more so because we've actually gotten food from this place before and it's pretty decent). I suffer a lot here, you know.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:55 AM
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One indicator is how many employees have kids and employed spouses. It's a warning sign if people with significant family demands choose to work elsewhere.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:58 AM
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20 - While that's true, that can be an imprecise indicator. I've worked for companies where there seemed to be a double-standard, where employees with kids were given more latitude for work/life balance but the attitude towards singles was "it's not like you have a wife and kids to get home to".

(I'm not meaning this to derail the thread into a battle between marrieds and singles so please, um, don't.)


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:03 AM
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Kids don't tell you much. This place is crawling with middle-aged men with young children, whose offices are decorated with crayon drawings and misshapen clay artwork. They still don't work hours that allow for seeing their kids much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:04 AM
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I'd be really careful about asking too many questions about the work/life balance b/c I've seen that sort of thing torpedo a candidate (I was briefly a legal recruiter after I left the law to pursue writing). It just raised too many red flags.

I'd second LB in #3 - ask around.


Posted by: moira | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:06 AM
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d be really careful about asking too many questions about the work/life balance b/c I've seen that sort of thing torpedo a candidate

Then again, if that would torpedo you, would you want to work there?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:08 AM
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If this were a philosophy department, I'd say "look at the number of women on the faculty in tenured or tenure-track positions" as a useful measure of work/life balance.

A standard by which most philosophy departments would look pretty damn uninviting.

Actually, I think the real measure is "Women with children in powerful positions." Men with children is no measure, because men are allowed (in our society) to ignore their kids. Women without children is not a good measure either, because they are free to play male roles.

Its the mommies who are screwed over every time.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:10 AM
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What if, when they give you a chance to talk about why you're leaving your current job, you say that you're a bit frustrated with the slow, inefficient pace of work there, that you prefer to work really hard during the day and get a lot done so you can spend time with your family (or whatever else you spend time on), and you're looking for a more efficient work environment, where people care more about achievements than about hours spent behind a desk.

That might be a good way to let them know you'd be very unhappy with the latter kind of culture without sounding lazy. But of course, they will probably still lie.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:11 AM
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At my last job interview as a technical writer, I explained at the interview that while I was prepared to work long hours if there was a crunch on, I wouldn't want to do this on a regular basis: deadlines fine, not week in week out. Everyone reacted very positively to this, and I got the job.

Just over a year later, I was in the first group of people made redundant, and I'm damned sure one reason was because I was virtually the only person in my department who worked the hours they paid me for, no less but no more, unless there was a deadline.

People lie at interviews - on both sides of the table.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:11 AM
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I'd be really careful about asking too many questions about the work/life balance b/c I've seen that sort of thing torpedo a candidate (I was briefly a legal recruiter after I left the law to pursue writing). It just raised too many red flags.

I think this is dead right. But. I'm not sure if this is a crazy strategy (I haven't tried it) but what about asking too many questions, and if you get dinged for it, then that tells you it's not the place for you. I figure someone giving you satisfying answers about work-life balance, who also doesn't mind your being insistent about it, is probably a good place to work.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:12 AM
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Again, totally agree. You'd think that things like children or excessive devotion to hobbies would tell you something but I can think of scores of attorneys who were superstar billers and whose offices were homages to children (usually theirs) or stuff like Ducatis or indie music. My office was pretty bare and I could not wait to go inhouse so I could stop eating all 3 meals in my office.


Posted by: moira | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:13 AM
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I like AWB's 26.

Y'all apparently endure much more adversarial and mistrustful interviews than I am used to, though, so take my opinions with a large spoonful of salt.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:14 AM
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I'm with 8 and 24. There are jobs that give you the balance, and jobs that don't. Those that do (and it seems to depend on your boss and the immediate team environment as much as the company) know it, and they're almost certainly going to pay you less or short you in some other way to even out for the lower stress. So they'll push the balance argument and be ok with someone who is looking for more free time, since that's what they rely on to attract employees.

For my current workplace, I was pretty upfront in early interviews with HR that I really don't want to consistently be in the office for more than 45-50 hours a week. It's not worth it to me, and this company understood. I'm certainly going to look for the same anywhere else I apply in the future.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:16 AM
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25: I know, I'm totally hosed. But it's still useful to know whether or not "we are family friendly" means "all our male junior faculty have stay-at-home wives and beautiful children."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:16 AM
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Re 28, this really depends - in my experience on both sides of the interview - at how well the interviewer and interviewee are hitting it off. If it's gone from a straight Q&A to what feels like a conversation, I would probably feel comfortable asking a highly qualified question about it, and as the interviewer, I don't think my hackles would go up - much. But so much depends on context and, it seems to me, an interview that's going so well that the interviewer already feels some sort of investment in the candidate.


Posted by: moira | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:18 AM
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Would you really want to work somewhere where asking a question about work/life balance in the job interview merits a red flag?


Posted by: dob | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:24 AM
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that you prefer to work really hard during the day on keeping up with Unfogged threads.


Posted by: tj | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:25 AM
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35: Dual monitors, baby. I'm doing this and homework!!!

I've budgeted in some time for actual paying work on Tuesday afternoon.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:27 AM
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I wonder if it's possible to tell your employer that when you say, "Please, no night classes, because I live two hours away," that you actually mean, "Really, I actually need to avoid night classes, for my health and sanity." Because, apparently, they'll still give you night classes.

Grumble, grumble. I won't be home from work until 11:30pm, and I teach in the morning tomorrow at a different school.

NO I AM STILL GRATEFUL NOT TO BE A LAWYER THX.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:31 AM
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I think you should raise the red flag and wave it around. You have a job already. Yes, you want to leave it, but you are not currently unemployed and desperate for work. That gives you a lot of latitude to be picky about where you go and you should use that to your full advantage. Ask directly about work/life balance. When they make happy noises, push. Ask how much time they get to spend with their kids. Don't be rude, just be honest: "I know these are personal questions but my experiences with other employers have made it hard for me to trust the sales pitch. I need to feel confident that I'm getting an honest assessment of what my life would be like in return for the strengths I would bring to this organization."

If they feel you're trying to signal laziness, that's their problem and their loss, not yours. When I interviewed for this job I raised red flags left and right by being very direct about the reasons why I was leaving Ma Bell. Yes, some of the answers I got were happy sales pitch talk but I do feel that by forcing a fairly open discussion in the interview that I (a) got a more honest set of answers which more or less hold up to my experience here in the year since and (b) balanced those red flags by indicating that I do think about my work, what it should be like and how to improve the situations in which I find myself.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:32 AM
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34: Yes that is the crux of it to me. Now all of the usual standard caveats apply on how to bring it up, but at the end of the interview it should be clear what you are looking for in that aspect of the job.

Now that being said, they may well lie, or more likely they don't "lie", but as PMP mentions in 28, it can be contingent on current situation, boss etc. All bets are off in the medium term. This is where the basic blocking and tackling of checking the general integrity of the organization comes in to play, and which youwould need to do independently work/life questions. (And of course all of that can go out the window through a change in ownership or other significant event at the very top.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:35 AM
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When I was still in industry I had an interesting time with this one during an interview where I'd already pretty much decided not to take the job (I was getting a bad feel from the place). We were talking about deadlines etc. and I made a comment to the effect that if greater than 70h weeks were going to be the norm, my expectations went up another 40-50k or so. I though (naive me) this was outrageous and I was signaling an unwillingness to play that game. His reply was that he was authorized to go 25k on that interview, but he'd have to talk to someone about more. He thought we could probably arrange something after a year.

After thinking about it, I suspected his computation on that was: this guy is willing to work like a dog, if we pay him a bit more. It's way cheaper than another employee.... and if I had signed under those conditions, I could hardly complain about hours.

Yeah, that would have been fun.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:37 AM
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There is a twelve-year-old somewhere in Inda who would gladly put in twice as many hours as you currently do for a quarter of your pay, you lazy bum.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:39 AM
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41: Oh, there are 47,322 of them. Which is why, in the long run, they'll level things out.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:40 AM
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And I do think that there are occupational environments where work/life will never really fly. I have a relative who has been a single mom as an attorney in Manhattan for about 15 years now spanning several firms. She has survived, but no matter what the mutually acknowledged "understanding" was going in, significant tensions arose, especially as her experience level rose—the environment does not seem to accept that combination. (This is anecdotal, personality may be part of it.) That may be an extreme case, but have seen similar in some software development and computer support environments.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:52 AM
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43: Any job where you are paid a salary but your time is billed out hourly will be anathema to work/life balance. It's pretty easy to see why: your employers need to get enough physical hours out of you to cover their costs, then every additional hour they can get you to work is their gravy (minus whatever bonus they toss your way, which I doubt is massively material).

When you ask for work/life balance from one of those firms, you are pretty much directly telling them "You know that sole source of your profits? I don't intend on providing that." I think that also explains why Moira, doing HR for a legal firm, had to be particularly on guard for anyone aching to spend less than 60 hours a week at work.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:01 AM
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If you combine this thread about work dominating family with the other one about neatly-dressed accountants singing punk and metal songs in karaoke bars, you get a really clear idea of what America is all about.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:05 AM
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you get a really clear idea of what America Japan is all about.

we do work more annual hours than the Japanese do (though I would guess much of this is due to greater female labor force participation). But I think they still do more karaoke.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:10 AM
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43: Any job where you are paid a salary but your time is billed out hourly will be anathema to work/life balance.

Yep. And I'm running for the hills.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:11 AM
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But no Japanese looks at 10 porn units per hour while on the job! America rules!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:16 AM
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44 seems obviously right, and has me questioning whether moving to another private corporate law firm will really improve my work/life balance as dramatically as I've been anticipating/hoping.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:19 AM
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My sense, from the three firms I've been at, and other stuff I've heard, is that nine out of ten it won't. Oh, there's mean firms and nicer firms, but the forces in 44 operate unless there's some structural reason for them not to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:21 AM
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With regard to law firms, at least, I'm sure some places do lie about work-life balance, but I think it's more effective, and safer, to give the kind of answer that allows candidates to lie to themselves about what they're getting into.

The "no minimum hour requirement" line is a crude example of this. Stating that, except in emergencies, attorneys are free to turn down work is another. ("Free" is a lovely word that way.)

I do think there are some differences between firms, but it's not clear to me that (in the current DC large-firm market, which I know) the differences are between "good" and "bad" so much as between "bad" and "worse."


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:24 AM
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Why is no one paid by the hour?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:27 AM
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That would be low class.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:31 AM
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52 - I am, John! Of course, I only work 5 hours a week, but it's probably the best hourly rate I've ever made.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:37 AM
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Would you really want to work somewhere where asking a question about work/life balance in the job interview merits a red flag?

Seriously. I suppose that the various advice about asking around for the real story is good, but I'm a huge advocate of being very upfront. Architecture is notorious for long hours - especially in school. Some firms take 50 hour workweeks as a given. But many don't. I was always very upfront in interviews - I'll happily work a 16 hour day for a deadline a couple-few times a year, but I expect to work 40 hour weeks. My feeling was that, if this was a problem for the employer to hear at the interview, it was also going to be a problem to hear after I'd been hired.

Figure out what you're willing to accept in terms of hours/time demands, and insist on that. If you suspect they're lying to you, ask around, but I think most employers would rather not hire someone like that than trick her into working more hours than she wants to (taking as a given a 10% margin of dishonesty).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:37 AM
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I think some of it really depends on how valuable your skill-set is within a given profession. Someone who can do something that many employers need done but few people can do can ask this question pretty bluntly: "I'm looking for a healthier work/life balance" and get a straightforward answer. Someone who might be a really valuable employee but who on the surface just looks like one more person who has an appropriate skill set in a market with quite a few such people can't ask this directly--they'll have to just observe and listen and make a good guess.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:44 AM
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In my limited experience, some parts of the software industry are even worse than legal; it chews up young people by acculturing them to an insane work/life balance before they've really had a chance to imagine anything else --- then spits them out when they're burned out.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:47 AM
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I have to say, I occasionally complain about my salary, but my work life balance is quite good -- particularly considering that my personality gets in the way sometimes.

Most of the time I'm fighting my own self-imposed pressure to devote more energy to work, not pressure from my employers.

There are benefits to being on the fringe of one's industry.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:49 AM
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Asilon, Ben says you're low-class. As a friend I just thought I should tell you.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:54 AM
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49: Brock, Your firm has a particularly harsh reputation. Have you considered real estate? The person I know who works at a real estate firm is very happy. They even have a good chef.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 10:59 AM
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They even have a good chef.

And you know how hard it is to find good help these days.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 11:11 AM
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Thanks John. I think I've managed to stop crying now.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 11:22 AM
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[software industry] chews up young people by acculturing them to an insane work/life balance before they've really had a chance to imagine anything else

This has included some of the leaders in "progressive" workplaces. "They make it like home, so you won't go home." Some thrive.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 11:23 AM
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Any time, Asilon. I'm really good about getting hurtful gossip to the right person.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 11:25 AM
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Have you considered real estate?

At this point in the economic cycle?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 11:30 AM
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Hey, I have a slightly off-topic interview-related question with a bonus academia angle, so it should be right up the Mineshaft's alley, so to speak.

My department is interviewing for a new faculty member, and they've asked students to show up at each candidate's presentation and to come to a question/interview time afterwards. I showed up for the first one (free food!) and as one of three people nerds who did, I've now been asked to come to the next one. Fine, except the next candidate is a current post-doc here who happens to be teaching one of the classes I'm taking.

Does it have to be horrifically awkward to job-interview my professor? Or does this kind of thing happen all the time?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 11:55 AM
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60: I think you're talking about the firm across the street, right? I have a good friend there and they do sound like a friendlier place. But if I make a change it's likely to be in the context of a geographic relocation. Probably to a much smaller market in the South.

The troubling aspect about all of it is, my firm's "harsh reputation" aside (and, as an aside, I didn't really know that, and am a bit surprised to hear it...), I don't honestly work all that much. I piddle away a good part of most days, so my annual billables are usually somewhat anemic. I'm thinking that moving to a different market may end up putting me in a postition where something like my current hours are actually what's expected, rather than a bit under. But the kiicker is that I want to work much less. I think the truth is that I'm just extremely lazy. I'm not sure how best to sell that quality to an employer.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 11:56 AM
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With law firms, you can look at the NALP statistics on average billable hours. We've been under 1900, firm-wide, for years.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 11:57 AM
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Does it have to be horrifically awkward to job-interview my professor?

Don't you talk to your professors about their research and ideas and whatnot anyway?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:00 PM
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And if iti s horribly awkward, just sit in the corner and nosh.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:01 PM
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But the kiicker is that I want to work much less. I think the truth is that I'm just extremely lazy. I'm not sure how best to sell that quality to an employer.

Try getting hired as a volunteer. They don't have much to lose by doing that.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:02 PM
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Volunteer?? Perhaps I should have mentioned that I need to maintain a very high level of compensation to finance my lavish lifestyle. I just don't want to work very hard to get it. Life's so unfair!


Posted by: Bock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:06 PM
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The troubling aspect about all of it is, my firm's "harsh reputation" aside (and, as an aside, I didn't really know that, and am a bit surprised to hear it...), I don't honestly work all that much. I piddle away a good part of most days, so my annual billables are usually somewhat anemic.

Yep. I think, for me, the high expectations of hours worked are a large part of making my worklife unpleasant, even though I'm not meeting them -- I can't simply do the amount of work I do, and then wander blithely home. I'm not envisioning being significantly (or at all) less actually productive in my next job, just spending less time in the office.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:07 PM
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Don't you talk to your professors about their research and ideas and whatnot anyway?

Brown-noser.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:08 PM
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66: A little weird, but definitely go, and just view it as a chat about the guy's work, which as ben says, you probably do anyway.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:10 PM
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LB, I haven't been reading many threads recently--do you have something lined up? If so, congratulations!


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:12 PM
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I'm not sure how best to sell that quality to an employer.

If you get really, really good at time card/timesheet fraud, should you put it on your résumé?

Does it have to be horrifically awkward to job-interview my professor?

If your input carries any weight in the hiring decision, I'd think so. Then again, if s/he gets the job, you could hint strongly that it's payback time. That said, if s/he didn't get the job, s/he could hint strongly that it's payback time.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:13 PM
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It's the same goddam job whose process I've been creeping through for more than six months now. I've now gotten to the 'conditional offer' stage, which means 'don't give notice yet, the elected official at the head of the agency hasn't been bothered with your file yet. Now that everyone else wants to hire you, he's going to weigh in. Don't hold your breath, this could take weeks.' But I have now officially counted my chickens, unhatched though they are.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:14 PM
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You can get burned relying on NALP data, though, just as easily as on verbal assurances. Years ago, we had a guy take a big pay cut to join us, in another city, from that city's office of a NY firm whose name rhymes with Badden Carps. As it turned out, just when he got here, we had a big and fast-moving case appear in that very city, and he notched 3 250 hour months in a row. The fellow was very definitely not gruntled.

And he made no secret of it. Which made him no friends, I can tell you.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:15 PM
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41 to 72


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:16 PM
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66: What I'd be most worried about is if they expect you to have any feedback for the hiring process after the interviews. In that case, I would probably excuse myself, because otherwise the temptation for the TA to ask you about what's going on behind the scenes would be excrutiating and could cause friction. If you just show up for the questions and answers and are given food, and that's the fullest extent of your participation, and (crucially) the TA knows all this, then it won't be an issue.

And Brock, just because you're one of the few people on Earth who looks good in seersucker doesn't mean it's a sign from god and your destiny is to open a small law office in the Deep South.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:17 PM
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I look good in searsucker? Noted.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:19 PM
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You would, actually -- seersucker works on the skinny.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:21 PM
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You would, actually -- seersucker works on the skinny.

OH THE HYPOCRISY.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:24 PM
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78: sounds like congratulations are in order. Hope you're happier.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:24 PM
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81: At my institution, they'd welcome feedback from grad students and it would be weird to go to an interview and not have anything (positive or negative) to say afterwards. But our input in the decision process is limited to that; we don't get the final call. (Not that we can't scuttle you if we think you're an asshole.) There'd be nothing for the post-doc to ask about.

mrh, is this just the usual job talk/q & a/dinner afterward set-up?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:26 PM
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I haven't been reading many threads recently

Geez, that is lazy. Your employer has every right to be dissatisfied with your work ethic.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:27 PM
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because otherwise the temptation for the TA to ask you about what's going on behind the scenes would be excrutiating and could cause friction

Boy, I would never EVER be tempted to ask any such thing. The TA is already in the position of working with the members of his or her hiring committee. The addition of one grad student to the mix is as nothing by comparison.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:28 PM
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You could also consider running for the US Senate. They're looking for a new ringleader of the whole seersucker operation now that Trent Lott has decided to retire.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:28 PM
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88 is true. Local candidates are always in a bit of an odd position (but have the advantage of actually knowing what they're getting into)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:30 PM
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Taking a momentary break from billing...

1) CONGRATULATIONS (conditionally) LB!!!!

2) I really don't understand why law firms can't adapt to a more balanced way of life. Yeah, sure, every hour billed is a couple hundred bucks into the pot that the partnership shares. But every dollar of salary comes back out of that pot. So it seems deceptively easy to just, you know, offer a lower salary in exchange for fewer hours.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:32 PM
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I think, for me, the high expectations of hours worked are a large part of making my worklife unpleasant, even though I'm not meeting them -- I can't simply do the amount of work I do, and then wander blithely home.

This seems like yet another way of describing the reason to want jobs where there is a measurable output other than billable hours.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:32 PM
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66: What I'd be most worried about is if they expect you to have any feedback for the hiring process after the interviews.

This is easy to handle, actually. If the person asks you about this, you tell the hiring committee and they don't get the job.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:33 PM
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mrh, is this just the usual job talk/q & a/dinner afterward set-up?

I think so, yes, so they're going to ask us for our feedback, but we won't be involved in the decision, as you describe.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:34 PM
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Conditional congratulations to LB!

Also belated happy birthday to Bitch, Ph.D. !


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:34 PM
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offer a lower salary in exchange for fewer hours.

This is a maddeningly simple idea that doesn't really seem to work anywhere that you don't have a lot of leverage. I realized that benefits etc. make this more difficult than it should be, but that's partially a chicken and egg problem.

One guy I worked with briefly pulled this off by being really, really good at something fairly rare. His rules were than he worked at most 8 mo/year, and never in the proper winter (he was a fanatic snowboarder). It takes a certain strength of resume to show up and say `take it or leave it' like that, though.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:35 PM
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||
I don't want to get into a political thing - I actually skipped the last 2 primary threads - but:

Even though I got pretty turned off by the various uglinesses (esp., but not exclusively, from the Clintons) over the last few days in SC, I just read the transcript of Bill's "Jesse Jackson won SC" thing, and I gotta say that I don't see any there, there. It strikes me as exactly as "offensive" as pointing out that an Irish candidate would get a lot of votes in Boston. I'd seen the video clip, and felt ambivalent, but couldn't quite understand what the point was supposed to be. Having read the whole interview, it's pretty obvious (to me) that he was just saying that SC is a state where a black Dem can expect to do well in the primary. 100% in-bounds, IMO.

OK, now seriously, let's get back to giving Brock career/sartorial advice.

|>


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:36 PM
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whups, 96 should have italics on the first line.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:36 PM
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A devout friend of mine worked for an engineering firm that was a Company for Christ. The match was a good one for her, but the thing that appealed to me was that supporting families is an explicit part of their mission. They took work/family balance seriously, for all their employees. Whatever it takes, I say.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:37 PM
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94: Go for it, be a good colleague, enjoy the food, and ask questions about the guy's work and make small talk. Like you would with any other candidate. If he's a jerk about it afterwards, tell the chair, like ben says. But chances are you're going to come out of it with a full belly and a vaguely positive or negative impression and the hiring decision will be made for some other reason, so don't stress about it.

Other people's job talks are one of my favorite parts of grad school.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:41 PM
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In fact, marvey, this can be turned to your advantage. Just tell the TA that you expect a good grade in the course, or else you'll tell the committee that the TA told you to make happy noises about him/her.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:45 PM
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I have a friend who works at a law firm in the South. It's not NYC big firm money but it's good money and it sounds like the hours are far more stable.

A while back, she emailed me apologizing for dropping off the radar because she'd had to push something in before a deadline and had to work very-unusual-for-her long hours to get it done. She said she'd billed 14 hours in one day for the first time in her life.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:57 PM
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Hard to beat the hourly relationship, perhaps mixed with some contingent fee work, for upside.

Helps develop the new professional into a stand-alone economic unit, with a sort of client base.

On the down side, for the firm, the young professional can walk off with clients, once he/she learns to become an economic unit.

BigLaw tends to brainwash associates into thinking they cannot leave the firm by salary deals.


Posted by: cfw | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 12:58 PM
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She said she'd billed 14 hours in one day for the first time in her life.

This is surely just defensive/sour grapes, but I am inclined to think that anyone who routinely bills 14 hour days is likely engaging in some degree of timesheet-padding.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 1:02 PM
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What do you mean by "routinely", Di? I've done it for months at a time. On the other hand, I found those months nearly unbearable and can hardly imagine doing it for years at a time, which some people seem to do.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 1:08 PM
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I've never done it for more than a day or two in a row, barring one crazy trial a couple years back.

I think once you're the kind of person who consistently bills ten or more hours a day, that last four hours isn't that much of a difference. Your life is gone anyway.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 1:12 PM
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Where's Idealist these days? Didn't he claim to bill 3500+ hours a year, year in and year out, or some similarly insane number?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 1:15 PM
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107: I'd believe that -- before I met Ideal, he worked at Craven Swine, a firm with a reputation as a bit of a sweatshop. I ran into an acquaintance of his from CS at a bar association thing, and the instant reaction was "Ideal? He's crazy," in terms of the hours he put in. Put in crazy hours while we were working together as well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 1:21 PM
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Where's Idealist these days?

Lurking

Didn't he claim to bill 3500+ hours a year

Almost 4300 my first year as an associate. Life gets better as you progress. Now that I am a partner, I bill less than 3000--about 2300 two years ago and 2750 last year. On the other hand, all of my partners bill less than 2000--several around 1500-1600. So it's not the firm, it's me (plus, I have no clients, so I bring no value from client generation--it is all the work.) Thus is the business of the law.

I would note that LizardBreath billed about 2500 hours her last year with us (and that with a slow fall for the whole firm), so do not believe this garbage about her not being a brilliant and hard working lawyer in the right circumstances. She just works for idiots.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 1:31 PM
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105: I couldn't do it for much more than a week without literally dropping dead. I can imagine some people of sturdier stock could (like you) endure a couple of months. But there are those who bill 14 hours a day nearly every day all year through. And who never look at all stressed, and who have plenty of time to hang around the water cooler chatting, and I have to conclude that they are padding because otherwise I would be bitter, bitter, bitter that these people have such effortless stamina.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 1:45 PM
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Almost 4300 my first year as an associate.

This just reminds me how little I understand the cost/benefit analysis of corporate law types going into this.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 1:47 PM
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Almost 4300 my first year as an associate.

Yeah, see, that's easily more than twice what I bill. Easily. And I am exhausted. How on earth are you not dead?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 1:47 PM
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How on earth are you not dead?

The residual toughness from my prior career. And, I would never claim that what I do is healthy or smart. Indeed, it has adversely affected my health. Even though I work a lot less, I have been working pretty much non-stop since before Christmas and have made myself sick, so I am commenting from home, recuperating (but working, too).

Plus, I find ways to make more time for family by, for example, working at home more. Last year, I was only in the office a few weekend days, even though I often had to work on the weekend. A lot of weeks (more than half the time) I worked at home at least one weekday a week as well. So, at least my kids are now used to seeing me around.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:07 PM
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Idealist, I understand if you don't want to discuss this --- but was your primary pressure internal or external to move to these sort of life-eating hours?

Aside: is there are fairly standard multiplier from billable hours to total hour estimates?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:09 PM
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The residual toughness from my prior career.

Also how you avoid the cannabilism so common in most law firms. Tender lawyers are at terrible risk.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:11 PM
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The United States is ruled by crazy people, and they're too hard-working to defeat.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:12 PM
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Slow cooker 'll sort that out, LB.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:12 PM
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On Di's question, there are people who bill a lot of hanging out and bullshitting time as time when they were 'thinking', which makes the 14 hours a lot easier to get through.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:15 PM
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Given what people say about law firms, I really thought the response was going to be "I sneeze at 14 billable hours". Glad to hear that it isn't.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:18 PM
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I was always kind of the opposite. When I was really pushing hard I'd lose track of when I'd been working on what and discover at the end of an 18-20 hour day of busting my ass that I could only account for maybe 12-14.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:20 PM
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was your primary pressure internal or external to move to these sort of life-eating hours

Internal. I have only worked at two law firms in my career, and neither had a billable hour requirement. As LizardBreath noted above, the firm I started at has a reputation for being a place where people worked very hard, but that was a consequence of the amount of work to be done, not any pressue to bill a certain number of hours (although obviously, one could not say that the two were not related). At my current firm, there was only one lawyer other than me who billed more than 2000 hours last year, and he billed only a little bit more than that.

standard multiplier from billable hours to total hour estimates

This varies a great deal by lawyer and circumstances. As a big firm associate, I usually worked from 9 AM to midnight on the weekdays and usually had over 14 hours of that time billable because I could focus all day on the same thing.

Now, I have to switch gears between multiple cases and, even more, worry about businees development, none of which is billable. So I often have lots of unbillable time during the day.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:20 PM
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Yeah, stories like the 'going home to change clothes and coming right back' are unusual anyplace -- no one does that a whole lot. I pulled an allnighter a couple of weeks ago, but even that was a "go home at 6 am, nap for a couple of hours, and get back in at 10" allnighter, and that's very unusual for me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:21 PM
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Fuck changing clothes. This is why tech is better: you sleep at the office, and everybody accepts the smell!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:21 PM
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9 AM to midnight on the weekdays

I've known you for long enough that this shouldn't horrify me, but what is wrong with you?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:22 PM
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In tech, people sleeping under their desks isn't mythical, but usually is associated with a process that has a nominal end. Of course people play all sorts of psychological games with themselves about how things will change, but nobody really goes into that sort of thing with an expectation of keeping it up indefinitely.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:24 PM
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'going home to change clothes and coming right back' are unusual anyplace

I don't know about that. I've had a few friends who lived that life for long periods of time. They weren't at law firms though.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:25 PM
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I've slept on the floor of my office several times in the last few months, because I was exhausted and the extra 2-2.5 hours of sleep (which was likely just about my only sleep) was a lot more valuable to me that the commute home for the change of clothes.

We do have a shower in the library though, so there's no need to stink.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:26 PM
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That must be murder on the law books.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:27 PM
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4300 hours per year? Did that include a material amount of double and/or triple billing (i.e. you fly coast to coast for meetings with two clients, bill both clients for the travel time, and then work on the plane for a third client)? If not, I can't imagine how a pace of 14 hours per day 6 days per week is sustainable for more than a month or two. Did idealist make some kind of bargain with Satan?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:27 PM
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As a big firm associate, I usually worked from 9 AM to midnight on the weekdays

My first reaction to that is what could possibly make that worthwhile? But then again, you did say you were unusual in the field. Also, I realize it's important that I clearly don't understand the motivations ; for me most law, and particularly corporate law would fall into the well-paid-because-its-mostly-horrible bin. I don't expect that to generalize of course.

I sort of understand why people get onto these treadmills in tech, and in medicine. I don't understand it in law --- but I fully accept I'm pretty ignorant about it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:28 PM
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I lived that life for a year and it took a big toll on my health, both physical and mental, that took a long time to get over. I'm terrified of that happening again.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:28 PM
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When I said unusual anyplace, I didn't quite mean 'unusual for anyone' -- there are people like Ideal at some firms who do that sort of thing a fair amount. I don't think there's anyplace where most lawyers live like that most of the time.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:29 PM
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127: You know it's bad when you actually buy a cot.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:29 PM
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Here's a pre-hour chart.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:30 PM
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4300/year works out to just under 12 hours/day -- working 365 days/year. Or 16.5 hours/day if you work every weekday but no weekends.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:31 PM
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133: yeah, my wife has encouraged me to take a blanket and pillow, but I'd actually prefer not to make advance accomodations for sleeping on the floor of my office, thank you very much.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:31 PM
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there are people who bill a lot of hanging out and bullshitting time

As an outsider to the legal profession, looking at the way the incentives are set up, it seems almost necessary that there's a lot of padding, a lot of rationalization, and a lot of outright fraud regarding billable hours. I have no knowledge of this stuff at all, but given the structure of the situation, it seems that's necessarily how it would be.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:36 PM
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133, 136: Part of Ideal's legend, as recounted by his fellow Craven Swine associate, was the futon in his office.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:38 PM
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Did that include a material amount of double and/or triple billing

That included zero hours of such billing.

It's all good to make fun of lawyers and call us cheats and leeches etc.--I laugh at lawyer jokes myself--but this is something most lawyers actually take very seriously.

Maybe I'm a bit touchy on this subject because of the e-mail I got today from the head of my old firm announcing the death of the former head of the litigation department. I think what he wrote, part of which I have excerpted below, is how many of us would llike to be remembered as professionals. So lawyer jokes are all good, but do not make the mistake of thinking that they really tell the tale:

Over the course of his career, Tom was recognized as one of the country's most skilled courtroom advocates. For those of us who were fortunate enough to work with him, he was simply the best. He was a teacher and mentor. He taught more than the skills necessary to cross examine, or to open or close to a jury. To be sure, he excelled at all of those. But more importantly, he taught us to play by the rules, to tell the truth, even when it hurt and was far easier to avoid; he taught us that, as important as it was to win, it was more important to do your best. He always viewed our victories as belonging to the team and our defeats as his alone.

Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:43 PM
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Idealist!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:45 PM
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It's all good to make fun of lawyers and call us cheats and leeches etc

No offense intended. The type of triple billing I described in my post is neither fraudulent nor unethical, as I understand the norms of the legal profession.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:45 PM
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The type of triple billing I described in my post is neither fraudulent nor unethical, as I understand the norms of the legal profession.

Yow. I've never worked anyplace I wouldn't have explicitly gotten fired for that. I have to admit that I never went past firm policy to consider if a policy that allowed it would have violated the relevant ethical standards, but I figured you were kidding.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:48 PM
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No offense intended. The type of triple billing I described in my post is neither fraudulent nor unethical, as I understand the norms of the legal profession

It's OK. I would be interested in hearing from the other lawyers here, but I think billing two clients for the same time is completely unethical. If you fly on business for two clients, you prorate the time between them (or bill it all to the client that is the main reason for the travel) and if you work on the plane for a third client, you bill that client only for that time.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:48 PM
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Maybe the people I know in the legal profession are especially unscrupulous. Actually, in a couple of cases, I'm pretty sure that's true. Nevertheless, they didn't treat it like some deep dark secret. Every client got what they paid for.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:50 PM
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Come to think of it, 'explicitly' isn't true for the small firm where I worked with Ideal, but that's just because they didn't have a lot of explicit policies dealing with everything. But the two big firms I've been at, you certainly couldn't double bill, and even the small firm I'd be very surprised if anyone thought that were okay.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:51 PM
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The type of triple billing I described in my post is neither fraudulent nor unethical, as I understand the norms of the legal profession

That type of billing was specifically given as an example of an illegal practice in my Professional Responsibility class.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:52 PM
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I've never worked anyplace I wouldn't have explicitly gotten fired for that.

How do you implicitly get fired? Is that like what happened to Milton in Office Space?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:52 PM
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Nevertheless, they didn't treat it like some deep dark secret.

Black humor 'I'm so sleazy' kidding around? I can imagine joking about that. And I'm sure that there are people who do it for real, just not any who wouldn't deny it if the managing partner asked.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:53 PM
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Double billing as described by Knecht is probably the most prototypical billing fraud imaginable, and I'd be stunned if it weren't grounds for disbarment in every state. It's an absolutely crystal clear no-no.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 2:57 PM
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God, I love my non-profit job. I roll in somewhere between 9 and 10:30, and roll out somewhere between 5:30 and 7. Once, I stayed until 9.

And you know, the money's not bad. If I lived with my boyfriend instead of having a giant apartment all to myself, I'd be doing positively fine. As it is, I'm paycheck-to-paycheck, saving a little bit every month.

Not to gloat or anything.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:03 PM
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I hear lawyers "joking" about double-billing all the time. I am reasonably confident that plenty of it happens.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:03 PM
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Any job where you are paid a salary but your time is billed out hourly will be anathema to work/life balance. It's pretty easy to see why: your employers need to get enough physical hours out of you to cover their costs, then every additional hour they can get you to work is their gravy (minus whatever bonus they toss your way, which I doubt is massively material).

My line of work has a different, but equally perverse set of incentives. The partners typically sell an engagement with fixed deliverables for a fixed price. The associates' time gets booked against this budget in the internal accounting, but only up to 8 hours per day. Because competition puts downward pressure on the price, and the partners tend to overpromise on the deliverable, you end up with a limited number of days in which to get everything accomplished. Since there is no incremental cost to having the associates work, say, 14 hours as opposed to 8, this tends to become the norm. In effect, there is pressure on associates to minimize their chargeable time while maximizing their output (since any surplus in the engagement budget flows into the partners' pockets).


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:04 PM
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Oh, I wouldn't be surprised if it does. But that doesn't mean that anyone thinks it's okay.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:04 PM
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See, e.g., here (excerpted below). I'm actually a bit surprised by how ambivalent this is.

I. You are taking a two hour plane trip from Chicago to New York to conduct a deposition in a matter involving client A. While on the plane, you review materials for a brief you will be filing for client B the following week. You normally bill clients for your time spent traveling on their behalf.

Can you bill clients A and B for two hours each for a total of 4 hours?


In 1993, the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued Formal Opinion 93-379 [PDF] Billing for Professional Fees, Disbursements and Other Expenses (1979). This opinion discussed a number of billing related issues, including "double billing" and the appropriateness of adding surcharges on to out of pocket disbursements for services purchased on behalf of clients. With regard to the double billing issue, Opinion 93-379 stated:

...In addressing the hypotheticals regarding (a) simultaneous appearance on behalf of three clients, (b) the airplane flight on behalf of one client while working on another client's matters and (c) recycled work product, it is helpful to consider these questions, not from the perspective of what a client could be forced to pay, but rather from the perspective of what the lawyer actually earned. A lawyer who spends four hours of time on behalf of three clients has not earned twelve billable hours. A lawyer who flies for six hours for one client, while working for five hours on behalf of another, has not earned eleven billable hours. A lawyer who is able to reuse old work product has not re-earned the hours previously billed and compensated when the work product was first generated. Rather than looking to profit from the fortuity of coincidental scheduling, the desire to get work done rather than watch a movie, or the luck of being asked the identical question twice, the lawyer who has agreed to bill solely on the basis of time spent is obliged to pass the benefits of these economies on to the client. The practice of billing several clients for the same time or work product, since it results in the earning of an unreasonable fee, therefore is contrary to the mandate of the Model Rules. Model Rule 1.5. ABA Formal Opinion 93-379 at 7.


The Opinion noted that the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct provide guidance under these circumstances, citing to the Rule 1.5 FEES requirement that fees must be reasonable. The Rule lists a number of factors that go into making the determination of whether a legal fee is reasonable. Rule 1.5 states:


(a) A lawyer shall not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses. The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following:


(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;


(2) the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;


(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;


(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;


(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;


(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;


(7) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services; and


(8) whether the fee is fixed or contingent.


(Please note that in 2002 the ABA Model Rules underwent a substantial revision pursuant to the ABA Ethics 2000 Commission's (E2K) recommendations. The E2K's Web site is located here. The E2K's Official Reporter's explanation of changes memoranda for each Rule are available here.)


The "time and labor required" language in 1.5(a)(1) has been a standard in ABA ethics rules for nearly 100 years. It derives from DR 2-106(B)(1) of the ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility, which in turn derives from Canon 12 Fixing the Amount of the Fee from the 1908 ABA Canons of Professional Ethics. For a history of the development of ABA ethics standards, see the Preface to the 2004 edition of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which is located here.


There have been several state and local bar association ethics opinions issued on this topic. They are in general agreement with the ABA position. See , e.g., Oregon State Bar Legal Ethics Committee Op. 2005-170 [PDF] (2005), Alaska Ethics Op. 964 (1996), California Ethics Op. 1996-147 (1996), Nassau County (N.Y.) Ethics Ops. 95-4 (1995) and 95-10 (1995). See Also McClain, Anthony J., Opinions of the General Counsel of the Alabama State Bar, Billing Client For Attorney's Fees, Costs And Other Expenses, 67 Ala. Law. 212 (2006).


Both the Oregon and Alaska opinions recognize that clients can be billed on an other than hourly basis that might exceed the lawyer's normal hourly rate. The Oregon opinion made note of this, stating:


The answer to this question depends on the nature of the fee agreements between the firm and the clients. Some firms have fee agreements that allow for "value billing," flat fee billing or other arrangements. If so, it would be appropriate to bill the clients pursuant to those agreements rather than simply by the hour. Oregon State Bar Legal Ethics Committee Op. 2005-170 (2005) at page 1.


There is caselaw on point. See, e.g., Disciplinary Counsel v. Holland, 835 N.E.2d 361, 2005 and Disciplinary Counsel v. Johnson, 835 N.E. 2d 354 (2005) (Attorney's pattern of double-billing juvenile court for her time as appointed counsel, resulting in claims for compensation for as many as 33 and a half hours of work in single day, warranted one-year suspension from practice of law, with six months stayed on conditions.) The court stated:


"Padding client bills with hours not worked is tantamount to misappropriation. Toledo Bar Assn. v. Batt (1997), 78 Ohio St.3d 189, 677 N.E.2d 349. And when professional misconduct involves misappropriation, disbarment is the presumptive sanction..."


For further information and analysis of the ethical issues surrounding double billing See, William G. Ross, "The Ethics Of Double Billing", 17 NO. 4 Acct. & Fin. Plan. for L. Firms 1 (2004). See Also the following annotation from the 2003 edition of the ABA Annotated Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which states:


The practice of "padding" billing records and "double-billing" - that is, billing the same work or time to two or more clients - is clearly prohibited. See, e.g., People v. Espinoza, 35 P.3d 552 (Colo.2001) (lawyer inflated entries in billing statement and charged for "phantom time expenditures"); In re Inlow, 735 N.E.2d 240 (Ind.Ct.App.2000) (if participation of more than one lawyer unnecessary, court will allow reasonable compensation for one lawyer only; case remanded to determine if unnecessary duplication of effort led to double-billing); In re Dyer, 750 So.2d 942 (La.1999) (disbarring lawyer who overcharged client by "padding" legitimate expenses and charging for fictitious expenses; court rejected lawyer's suggestion that charges were "mistakes": "it defies belief that so many 'mistakes' could occur in favor of respondent, and none in favor of his client"); In re Haskell, 962 P.2d 813 (Wash.1998) (lawyer directed and knowingly participated in double-invoicing scheme to bill client for first-class air travel after client notified him it would pay only for coach; lawyer also directed staff to "bury" his personal expenses on client bills). See generally Hopkins, "Law Firms, Technology, and the Double-Billing Dilemma", 12 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 93 (1998) (discusses pressure to double-bill clients for "recycled" work.)


For an opposing view with regard to the specific instance of a lawyer billing for travel on behalf of client A while at the same time billing client B for work performed while en route, See, Douglass R. Richmond, PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF LAW FIRM ASSOCIATES, 45 Brandeis L.J. 199, (2007):

...Assuming that associates recognize the wrongfulness of deliberately falsifying their time, and understand the obvious, such as not being able to bill for time spent sleeping, [FN217] and not being able to double bill for time spent in court on behalf of multiple clients, [FN218] are there ways in which associates needing billable hours can artificially expand their time without committing ethics violations? There may be one. Consider the situation in which an associate is required to fly cross-country to take depositions for Client A. That trip takes six hours. While traveling, the associate spends four hours editing an appellate brief for Client B. In this case, each client is compensating the associate for very different tasks. Client A expects to compensate the associate for her time traveling to take depositions and Client B expects to compensate the associate for her time spent preparing an appellate brief. Assuming that her work on behalf of Client B is of acceptable quality, the associate has earned ten billable hours on this six-hour trip; six hours traveling for Client A, and four hours briefing for Client B. Although the law does not permit double billing this is not double billing. Working while traveling can be double billing only if the same client is billed for both, and that is not the case here. In this example, each client received independent value for the associate's time.



Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:04 PM
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The closest I have heard of to the rationale in 144 is where you do a lot of work researching a particular issue--charging the client for the work--and then on a subsequent case charging client number 2 more than the de minimus time it takes to copy the prior work for all the research. Myself, I would view that as wrong and would never tolerate anyone doing it, but I have heard of that being done on the theory that the second client is getting valuable work product and should pay for it. I think that is bullshit--indebed in one's rates are past experience and the ability to draw on it and prior work product. Still, this sort of double billing is at least colorable.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:08 PM
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153: Right, yeah, I wasn't suggesting it was okay. Just that it seems like something people do all the damn time and don't appear to be at all shy about bragging about.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:08 PM
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Idealist, the excerpt in 154 address your issue in 155. It's not okay.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:09 PM
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So the take-away from 154 is that, when traveling, you should always do work for a client other than the one you are traveling for while on the plane?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:11 PM
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Huh. I don't know anyone who talks about double billing except in a manner to make it totally clear that they are totally joking and would never do such a thing. I don't know if such an act would get you fired at my law firm -- I don't know of anyone who's gotten fired from my firm -- but I'm certain that everyone would be shocked and upset, and that time would be appropriately subtracted from the clients' bills.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:12 PM
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Who needs to double-bill when you can spend hours writing stuff that could easily be communicated in thirty seconds?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:12 PM
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The takeaway from most of this thread is that you shouldn't live by the billable hour.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:12 PM
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4300/year works out to just under 12 hours/day -- working 365 days/year. Or 16.5 hours/day if you work every weekday but no weekends.

Quoted for emphasis.

Everyone doesn't do this?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:12 PM
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The rule at my firm is that if you work for a second client while traveling for the first, you bill for the time worked for the second client, and bill the remainder of the travel time (the time not already billed to C2) to C1.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:13 PM
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Can I bill someone for reading Brock's 154?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:13 PM
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OK, lawyers have a strict, clearly defined code of ethics which they often follow. The stereotypes are wrong. Gotcha.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:13 PM
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Who needs to double-bill when you can spend hours writing stuff that could easily be communicated in thirty seconds?

Not sure exactly where you're going with this, but a written record of the analysis and conclusion is often a useful thing for lawyer and client both, and not just for ass-covering purposes.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:14 PM
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154 is the longest, least original comment ever, and stands the risk of pwning any future comment about lawyerin' ever.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:16 PM
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166: Pedant.

Reading these stories about sleeping at the office and suchlike makes me think that for smart people, y'all put up with a lot of ridiculous crap.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:17 PM
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155: On issues like that, I've been encouraged partners to do a good, thorough job of making certain there's no relevant new law. Which, you could argue is good practice, or you could argue is a way to get around the double billing problem by unnecessarily redoing work. (Although it's genuinely necessary surprisingly often. Other people's research memos suck.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:17 PM
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168: Not at all. Just someone who's had the experience of needing to go back a couple years after the fact and figure out what we did and why.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:18 PM
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168: Once you're in the system, getting out is non-trivial. I've got a very attractive resume for a litigator, but it's kind of shit for anything else. And most litigators are in firms, and most firms are pretty similar.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:18 PM
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Other people's research memos suck.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:19 PM
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170: Humorless.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:20 PM
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And how the hell did I miss this gem:

Reading these stories about sleeping at the office and suchlike makes me think that for smart people, y'all put up with a lot of ridiculous crap.

Umm, academics? Stones? Glass houses?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:21 PM
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155: Not from the lawyerly world, but this does seem to be the kind of thing where you could argue that a different billable rate should apply to that specific kind of work. Or I guess you go with flat rate - is that considered ethical? This is where I am adrift, the whole bill for hours and pay a salary is fraught with abusive potential. I understand the structure of law firms with partners et al is different than most other firms, but this was the basis for what the government ultimately decided was fraudulent practices by contractors. Recovering all salary + benefit costs from the gov't by charging for 40 hours work and then making additional profit, or getting extra internal project work for "free" since all salaried folk work > 40 hours.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:22 PM
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Lawyers sleep at the office because they are forced to work so many hours. Academics sleep at the office because their penury forces them to live in unheated garrets. It all evens out.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:22 PM
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OK, lawyers have a strict, clearly defined code of ethics which they often follow.

The problem with a strict, written-out, explicit code of ethics is that it allows for strategizing about corner cases and whatnot. Having an explicit code of ethics is toxic for actual ethical behavior.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:26 PM
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176: Except that most of the lawyers' offices aren't located at West Bumfuck State Teachers' College.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:27 PM
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Who needs to double-bill when you can spend hours writing stuff that could easily be communicated in thirty seconds?

Actually, good legal analysis does in fact take time. Good writing takes time. I'm actually a little offended by the devaluing of work I consider useful and important. But since I understand it is your b-day and that you quit smoking, I will let it slide. This once.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:29 PM
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177: I don't know that this is generally true, but I do, when I'm wearing my lawyer hat, hear the word 'ethical' as referring only to a technical interpretation of the relevant rules and caselaw with respect to professional responsibility -- the rules relating to advertising, or billing. If I wanted to talk about whether some conduct were right or wrong, I'd use those words, or 'moral', rather than 'ethical'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:30 PM
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And what I've learned from this thread is: Once someone's paying you to take a plane flight, don't push your luck. Just cozy up in a comfortable seat, grab that book you always meant to read, and watch a terrible movie or two while being happy you're not at work.

When I'm an hourly worker, but ethics stop me from being paid extra for doing marginally more work, those ethics seem a little crazy.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:31 PM
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180: I do the same thing -- I take it as proof that a sound legal education forever destroys our ability to communicate like ordinary human beings.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:31 PM
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179: Yesterday was my birthday.

It was a JOKE for fucks' sake, you humorless people. About Brock posting a REALLY LONG comment. Go be offended at 164 or 167, for a change.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:35 PM
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160 didn't seem to be referring to 154. For one thing, Brock didn't spend any time writing 154, he cut-and-pasted it.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:36 PM
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183: I totally missed that 160 was a response to 154. Now it makes sense.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:39 PM
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185 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:40 PM
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Wow, 134 is really depressing for those of us stuck working at the small college town microfirm, especially as I am fairly confident that I am more competent than 99% of those first-year associates. It will be 10 years before I make that much, and that's only if I bring in the business myself.


Posted by: PeaDub | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:42 PM
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185 does get it exactly right, and Jesus Christ, you thought I wrote that myself??


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:43 PM
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Must be these professor types just don't have lawyers' flair for written communication.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:46 PM
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Those law firms in 134 all have traditional-style names. When will we see just one high-profile firm follow the architectural trend and take a name like "Clairaudience International" or "SBP.work.group"?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:47 PM
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183: B, you have no sense of humor and don't make jokes. Everyone knows that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:47 PM
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Shorter 184-189: Do not mock teh legal profession. We will close ranks, and explain that your joke was not only not funny, but not even an identifiable joke. Then we will attach your car, and put a lien on your houseplants and koi.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:49 PM
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191: "don't" s/b "shouldn't"


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:49 PM
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Hey, less chatter from the non-lawyers. This is the legal profession closing ranks, not the rest of you hoi polloi.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:52 PM
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I believe that you'll find that it's "hoi rest of you polloi", my dear girl.


Posted by: OPINIONATED ACADEMIC | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:54 PM
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Closing ranks didn't much help the hoi oligoi.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:58 PM
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When will we see just one high-profile firm follow the architectural trend and take a name like "Clairaudience International" or "SBP.work.group"?

Do you really want to get into the ethics of naming law firms?


Posted by: PeaDub | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 3:59 PM
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Any truly committed lawfirm partner would be willing to have their name legally changed to LeXico, so that the firm could be named for them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 4:02 PM
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I knew someone who worked at what I thought (until I actually looked it up just now, I had only heard it spoken) was "Mound, Cotton, Woolen and Greengrass" which I found worthy of Dickens. Turns out that it is "Mound, Cotton, Wollan and Greengrass".


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 4:06 PM
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The marginal benefit, especially for an associate, of padding the bills (ie, nearly nothing) is dwarfed by the downside potential of getting fired, disbarred, and completely losing the ability to make a living.

At my firm, hours like Idealist's are considered serious cause for concern. We have an hours bonus program, but it tops out at 2,300. Because we don't consider further effort a positive.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 4:18 PM
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The marginal benefit, especially for an associate, of padding the bills (ie, nearly nothing) is dwarfed by the downside potential of getting fired, disbarred, and completely losing the ability to make a living.

This strikes me as naive. Padding is wrong, but a lot of it happens, and it hasn't been closely policed in any firm I've ever heard of. And the benefit to an associate can be percieved as substantial compared to the risk.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 4:20 PM
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'ever heard of' s/b 'ever had first hand experience of.'


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 4:21 PM
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Do you really want to get into the ethics of naming law firms?

I realized that I had grossly overprepared for my second bar exam when I found myself about three layers into that issue on an exam question.

willing to have their name legally changed to LeXico

I happen to know a lawyer named Lex.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 4:22 PM
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Splitting the difference between 200 and 201, it seems to me that padding is recognized as being wrong and a fireable offense. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to catch if done moderately and a firm, which profits by the hours, has little incentive to expend significant efforts catching padding. And, of course, since many firms, including even Napi's (which he appears to be holding out as a model for reasonableness and ethics)* base bonuses on hours billed, the incentive to fudge on the margins is strong. So yes it clearly is wrong and most firms have a culture where it is made clear that it is unacceptable and yes it happens.

*Unduly snarky, sure, but hours like Idealist's are considered serious cause for concern. Give me a break. Your disapproval is noted.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 4:36 PM
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188: No, I figured you cut and pasted it. But pretending you wrote it was part of the joke. See.

Hmph.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 4:40 PM
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This discussion of doublebilling has been beautifully lawyerly.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 4:40 PM
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204 -- See, that's the thing: you're working so hard, you missed the tone and import altogether.

I don't have any issue, or any disapproval, for your hours, your practice, or your life. You're obviously a grown-up, have been at it a damn long time, and have been able to make it work for you, your family, and your clients. Good for you. Really.

Very few people can maintain a pace like that. Nearly none. Obviously not none, but nearly none. As an employer, one can reasonably be concerned about people doing unsustainable things.

I don't advance my firm as a paradigm of anything. It's an anecdote, only.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:04 PM
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This discussion of doublebilling has been beautifully lawyerly.

So who's going to get billed for it?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:14 PM
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This discussion is making me so, so happy not to have billable time any more.

I am also shocked (as in surprised, not appalled) at LB and Di's definition of the word ethical. Of course it makes sense in context, but it is so far from the garden-variety use of the word that it would truly never have occurred to me to use that interpretation.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:18 PM
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When the word "ethical" is a technical term in your industry, then it becomes a technical term in your industry. No different from "good manufacturing practices" or "standard of care".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:20 PM
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If you're wondering who to blame for this, I bet John Emerson has some suggestions.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:20 PM
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210: Right, but it's odd when a word already had widespread acceptance and then is given a narrower, technical definition by a field. In some instances (not this one) it really seems calculatedly done as a way of being exclusive, and/or willfully oblivious to a pre-existing use in mainstream vocabulary.

Sometimes it goes the other way, as with quantum leap.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:24 PM
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Right, but it's odd when a word already had widespread acceptance and then is given a narrower, technical definition by a field

Like "we do not torture", for example.

Sometimes it goes the other way, as with quantum leap.

It's been a lonely personal mission of mine to persuade people to use "phase change" as a metaphor instead of "quantum leap", when what is meant is a qualitative change.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:34 PM
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213.4 That would be sublime if it worked.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:38 PM
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phase change

Ahem -- willfully oblivious to a pre-existing use in mainstream vocabulary? Don't worry, he's just going through a phase. The phases of the moon. Picasso's blue phase.

But I'm with ya on coming up with an alternative to quantum leap. You, me, and a few thousand physicists.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:38 PM
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212: We lawyers like to do our part for the language. That's why "gift" is now a verb.

(Someone will now produce an OED citation to show that "gift" has been a verb since the 14th century. I always enjoy that part.)


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:43 PM
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Phase change looks right to me. That's like water becoming ice, right?

That's Engel's example of the quantitative becoming qualitative, IIRC.

Also, Xunzi (Hsun Tzu): "Ice is water, but it's colder than water". (This is not necessarily true, since right at the phase change ice is the same temperature as water. But the point is generally good).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:46 PM
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Someone will now produce an OED citation to show that "gift" has been a verb since the 14th century.

Nope, 16th.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:47 PM
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216: I should have known. Dude, tell me you guys aren't responsible for "grow" too. We need to grow our economy. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

On the other hand, E.B. White didn't like "contact" as a verb. The pages of a hundred million websites have overridden you, Mr. White. Contact us!


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:48 PM
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And in German, it means "poison".

Germans are like that. Zyklon B was a gift. They meant no harm.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:49 PM
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You know, NPH, if you read my blog you would know that this kind of change is quite common and often well-motivated.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:53 PM
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(Now I just sit back and wait for the hits to roll in.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:53 PM
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I liked your post about South Carolina.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:55 PM
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We need to grow our economy.

Or a plant. We should grow a plant.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:56 PM
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Afghanistan seems to be growing its economy pretty well with plants. Nebraska and Kansas too, I think.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:57 PM
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219 - surely "grow" is only a verb?


Posted by: Wry Cooter | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 8:59 PM
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Only a verb, but not usually transitive.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:00 PM
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growing

This morning, Noah hollered from the bathroom: "Mommy, my penis is getting BIG! Mommy my penis is a GIANT!"


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:02 PM
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I liked your post about South Carolina.

Thanks.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:03 PM
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221: Shorter Teo: Verbing Services Language.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:04 PM
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Apo, my 3-y-o grandnephew said exactly the same thing a month or two ago.

In the old days, families did not have this frankness about sex, nor could they instantly tell everyone in the whole wide world what their 3-y-o just said about his penis.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:06 PM
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230: It also maintenances it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:07 PM
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it's odd when a word already had widespread acceptance and then is given a narrower, technical definition by a field

Of course, as the earlier discussion seems to have revealed, there is apparently a segment of the lawyer population (none of whom comment here) for whom the technical definition is broader than the meaning they would ascribe to it. Eg, "there's nothing morally wrong with double-billing, but the practice is unethical per In re Brock's Lengthy Cite."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:09 PM
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232: From your discussion I think it should be: Individual verbing events maintenance language.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:10 PM
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Lawyers ethicize morality.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:12 PM
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Lawyerings ethic moralizings.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:12 PM
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234: In that case, perhaps just: Verbing maintains language.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:14 PM
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||
Calasister, who is now maid of honor to a friend: You were not psycho. So I had no idea what to expect! (Friend is dictating the terms of her 130-person bridal shower.)

I sound my non-psycho barbaric yawp!
|>

apostropher's son is nearly as cute as apostropher's daughter.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:16 PM
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Verbing births new language?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:17 PM
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I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no languages.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:19 PM
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Racist.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:20 PM
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I suppose I brought that on myself.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:26 PM
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It also maintenances it.

No noun enverbment sticks in my craw quite like "to service" (except in its customary sense of "to inseminate").


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:38 PM
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243: Does it count if I pwned you days ago on another blog? I say yes.

(And I go to bed. Night, all.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-28-08 9:41 PM
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