06 August 2018
White & Case is sending its banking lawyers on coffee dates to make them talk to each other.

An internal document leaked to RollOnFriday reveals that HR is matching up partners with associates and sending them out for coffee. The "Bank Finance Coffee Meetings Associate Guidance" explains that associates have been complaining that there are "less opportunities [sic] to get to know a range of Partners", because White & Case's London banking team has grown. As a result, some lawyers have found themselves working for only one or two principals.

The 'favourites' trap is a common predicament in larger firms/anywhere there are socially-awkward partners. But White & Case is going to channel its inner Cilla to break the cycle. "Matches are made by HR", explains the document. The meetings "can take place either onsite or offsite".

Despite mentioning twice that the coffee meetings "are not designed to be formal or prescriptive", they will be logged and monitored. And timed. PAs "will track meeting dates and provide an update to HR on a regular basis". In what appears to be a sop to reassure the participants, meetings "will only be for a maximum of 60 minutes". And to prevent awkward silences, a list of "suggested questions" are provided "to think about prior to the meeting". 

  Just two human beings chatting naturally. 

A White & Case spokesman said, "It says something about the continuing growth of our successful bank finance team in London – which has 13 partners and more than 30 associates – that an element of formality is needed to implement this informal team building initiative!"  He added that the banking group "has a very strong team ethic and the coffee meetings are helping to further strengthen relationships and promote collaboration".

Here's the full doc in case you want to run a dating service for robots:

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Comments

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

This is a good thing, isn't it? Associates have concerns, organisation does something in response to those concerns.

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

I don’t have much sympathy for the associates. My team has roughly doubled in size over the past 4 years and we regularly have these new people turn up and hover round like nervous apparitions for 3 months.

If you’re new to a team, be a big boy and walk round and introduce yourself, including to the partners. If there’s somebody you want to work with but haven’t, go and tell them! Nobody has ever reacted badly to somebody saying “you know that thing you spend your life doing? It’s interesting to me and I’d like to help you with it”.

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

"less opportunities [sic]"

The 19th century called, they want their made-up grammatical rules back.

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

@anonymous user (8:54): you have doubled in size so there are now 4 of you now? This is not about new joiners. It is about associates having contact with partners they do not regularly work with....

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

I think this is a fab idea (and I don't work for them.) Big firms end up in massive silos between teams and even within the bigger teams. If you can spend 30 minutes building a bit of a relationship with someone so you can find out they like the cricket/horse racing/EastEnders then it allows you to have a little bit of social grease when you next bump into them. Firms spend vast amounts of time getting to know clients, why not a bit of time improving the links within the firm? (**insert wanky management training course comment here comparing the firm to a brain and it's not the number of neurons, it's the number of connections**)

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

Sad that some partners are so lacking in basic social skills (and an appreciation of who actually generates their income) that the firm has to put a structure in place to make them talk to associates, rather than treating most of them as they are invisible!

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

This simply will not happen. If the B&F associates, let alone partners, at W&C have time for these proposed meetings, they ain't busy enough.

Wtf has time to drop an hour, prior to consideration of "questions/topics", at W&C? As a former associate, I r8 the shop but good luck with HR's "initiative".

Who was it in Projects that had a pillow embroidered with sthg like "I attended Eton; you did not"?

I'm old and my ears are grey and crippled. My memory is even knobblier.

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

White & Case did something similar in their corporate team. When the team added a load of new partners and associates they matched associates with partner mentors - whether they wanted them or not - and made them go for meetings and coffees. It was all tracked and people who didn’t arrange a coffee were chased. No doubt it was a little bit awkward, but busy (and let’s face it, often socially dysfunctional City lawyers) sometimes need a bit of structure. I see it as much better than the alternative - some heinous “team building” event with a treasure hunt and an obstacle course at a location off the M4.

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

Most firms do things like this now - I'm surprised W&C have taken their time - mostly because fewer associates will get out there and introduce themselves in the way 8.54 says you should (I could sound old and say we took more responsibility in my young days, but I won't, oh no I just did). What tends to happen is that partners agree that the associates don't come and find them nowadays so they really should take time to talk to the ones they don't know, then get busy and don't do it, so they organise something like this that makes sure that they do (by being chased when they don't). Anyone who thinks this is a story has not seen the management of any law firm with over 30 people in it.

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

@anonymous user (8:54): I'm afraid you'll find that your assumption that everyone is exactly the same as you and has the same ability to deal with social/work situations is actually a product of your own limited thinking. Gee sorry measures are put in place to help people who are different to you, that must be tough.

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

Partners are scared of the "me too" hype atm. Used to be we'd all go out on the pi55 and what happened, happened; made the team stronger. Those who didn't fancy it were respected; those who did - likewise.

Good shop W&C, despite my not working there anymore.

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

@anonymous 10/08 10:39 Partners are scared that they might rape or sexually harass women so they can't go out drinking? If that truly is the attitude then the problem is worse than first anticipated.

Anonymous 10 Aug 18

@9.30 - The team has grown from around 25 to just shy of 50, so similar size to this W&C team. I just think it's a bit sad if you want to work with somebody who sits 100 yards from you and you can't find a way to chat to them. Even if you don't want to knock on their door, eventually you'll see them in the lift / making a cup of tea / at the printer / at drinks etc, so unless the person concerned is completely unapproachable, it really shouldn't be that hard to strike up a conversation.

@10.35 - Are you suggesting it's unreasonable to expect an associate at a City firm to be able to engage in 60 seconds of polite conversation with somebody more senior than them? Good luck working with clients if you can't "deal with" such stressful interactions.

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