Red carpet

How to greet a client, the Paul Hastings way.


A Paul Hastings senior associate has told junior lawyers in the firm that they should be available at all hours, move mountains for clients, and act like a concierge at the Four Seasons in a draconian manifesto. The firm has distanced itself from the "views expressed".

The list, which has been doing the rounds online, came from a presentation by a Paul Hastings senior associate in the US to junior associates. Stopping short of telling junior associates to bow and crawl on all fours whenever a client enters the room, the instructions take a strict tone under a heading of "Non-negotiable expectations". 

While some of the advice may reflect the reality of working at a US firm for megabucks, many of the points would likely cause even the keenest, forelock-tugging junior to have a mild panic attack; such as the order to be "online 24/7, no exceptions, no excuses." And never being able to say "I don't know" to a question. Here is the scary list in full:


Non-Negotiable Expectations

1) PH is an AmLaw 20 law firm. You're in the big leagues, which is a privilege, act like it.

2) We are in the business of client service - you are the concierge at the Four Seasons, a waiter at Alinea. The client always comes first and is always right. If a client wants a mountain moved, we move it. No questions.

- As a junior, your "clients" are the associates and partners on the deal team. 

3) You are "online" 24/7. No exceptions, no excuses.

4) Timelines/Quality: clients expect everything to be done perfectly and delivered yesterday.

5) Someone is paying $850+ for one hour of your time.  Think about that in everything you do. All communication and work product needs to be prompt, professional and polished. 

6) Take ownership of everything you do. Once you touch a document/work stream, you own every mistake in it - fair or not.

7) WFH is a luxury. Don't take advantage of it. Buy a full home setup (2 monitors, docking station, keyboard/mouse and a working phone) or come into the office. No poor connections. No excuses. See #3 and #5.

8) No questions until you've tried to figure something out for yourself (Google unfamiliar concepts, search the DMS, read statutes, read the instructions, etc). Still can't figure out the answer? Talk to your classmates.

9) "I don't know" is never an acceptable answer. See #6 and #8.

10) This is YOUR career. Embrace that reality and always put your best foot forward. If not, for the Firm or your deal team, for yourself. At the end of the day, it's your reputation that will carry you - whether that's here or in-house or elsewhere. Make it count. 


Point 2 defines internal "clients" as including "associates and partners on the deal team"; hinting that the author would expect the same attentive treatment from any juniors attending the talk, should they be lucky enough to work together.

Some of the stern points may have shocked fresh-faced juniors, although the suggestion that working from home is a "luxury", should not have come as a surprise, given that the firm has given a big hint against remote working, in the past. 

Paul Hastings distanced itself from the document; a spokeswoman for the firm told RollOnFriday: “The material was prepared by an associate and the views expressed do not reflect the views of the firm or its partners.”

This is the slide as presented to nervous juniors, although it could be improved with a final bullet point warning associates to never (bold/underlined for emphasis) produce a PowerPoint doc with the firm's initials, which ends up going viral: 

Paul Hastings memo

Some of the largest City firms are struggling to get the work/life balance right - last year Slaughter and May sought to address concerns by setting out a code.  


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Tip Off ROF

Comments

Jack 14 April 23 08:57

Absolutely appalling to hear this - modern day slavery

Anonymous 14 April 23 09:05

1. Hello fellow intelligent insecure people. I used to be you, now I have made it and you should envy me.  

2. Didn't realise what you had signed up for?  I'm here to make it clear to you, while also demonstrating to the partners that I can't get enough of the kool-aid.  

3. Even though I may not realise it yet, I hate my life.  And you will soon hate yours too. 

Disappointed 14 April 23 09:22

Someone in “the big leagues” should be able to write well enough to avoid that ugly comma splice in point 1. Haven’t even read the rest yet. 

Realist 14 April 23 09:32

It’s all true and excellent advice to those who want to work at that level in that firm (and similar firms). 
 

It’s their club and their rules and these are the rules. 
 

If you don’t fancy it, don’t work there or for those clients. Simples.
 

What many youngsters need to realise is that the firm and the clients are not going to change for them. Get on board or do one. 

The above will get loads of thumbs down from people who expect the world to revolve around them. Realists will agree that these comments reflect real life. The presenter is spot on. 
 

 

ShootyOriginal 14 April 23 09:32

Willing to bet actual money that whoever wrote this has roman numerals at the end of their name.

(i.e. Chadington Buckminster III)

Lololololol 14 April 23 09:37

OMFG whoever wrote this is an absolute gimp and I guarantee that everyone in their life thinks they're tedious as fuck. Hilarious!

nick 14 April 23 09:41

We have all read this earlier in the week, but well done to ROF for getting this:

Paul Hastings distanced itself from the document; a spokeswoman for the firm told RollOnFriday: “The material was prepared by an associate and the views expressed do not reflect the views of the firm or its partners.”

They asked the associate to give the presentation - you can add "hanging you out to dry" to the list of things you can expect if you join them. 

Anon 14 April 23 09:42

How does this fit in with the SRA’s Guidance and rules on ensuring mental well being in the workplace?

Anon 14 April 23 09:45

@Jack - the word slavery is doing a lot of heavy lifting there when the lowest paid people receiving this talk would be earning £153k per year plus bonuses (as 23/24 year olds) - but yes, this is exactly the same as forcing people to work for free against their will.

Don't get me wrong, the author and the attitude is awful and is why I have been able to resist the  absolutely obscene amounts of money that US firms offer associates at all levels (amazingly I think the gap actually gets wider in percentage terms at the more senior associate level) but if you sign up to that kind of money you know what you are letting yourself in for.

Anonymous Anonymous 14 April 23 09:55

Robot lawyers are available 24/7. No need for so many law firms with expensive staff.

Me 14 April 23 10:02

Some years ago I had a job interview with Paul Hastings. The only one ever, I just stood up and left. 

Fook them!

Anon 14 April 23 10:05

in fairness though, most of these seem fine if you look past the actual words used... especially 1 and 5-10.

Sumoking 14 April 23 10:10

8) No questions until you've tried to figure something out for yourself (Google unfamiliar concepts, search the DMS, read statutes, read the instructions, etc). Still can't figure out the answer? Talk to your classmates.

9) "I don't know" is never an acceptable answer. See #6 and #8.

__________________________________________________________

the level of abject retardation in this

8 = the client is always the main event....... unless we can bill them for you spending 16 hours googling bullshit when you could have spent 5 minutes asking an 8 year pqe what the answer is

9 = "I don't know" might not be a great answer but it is a bluddy better answer than "here is some guestimate bullshittery that I just made up", "I'll doubte check that" is a perfectly acceptable answer

ffs, and firms still have the gall to bleat about their 'commercial awareness' when they believe this shitt 

Anon 14 April 23 10:17

Some poor advice in here.  Just a few examples: 

The client isn’t always right - they might not pay a bill, or complain unfairly, or sue the firm.  Any associate who accepts liability to the client because they have been told the client is always right will be causing a massive issue for insurers. 
 

If you don’t know the answer, having tried to get it, then asking for input from a senior colleague is called SUPERVISION  which is a regulatory requirement.   Telling juniors they have to know everything and can’t seek help from seniors is a bad bad idea.   Often “I don’t know” is the right and honest answer subject to the complexity of the issues.  It’s why solicitors use the Bar regularly.   A culture where juniors can’t be supported or show any lack of knowledge is not a good culture and leads to risk issues. 
 

Being online 24/7 isn’t actually physically possible and goes against the SRA’s heightened focus on a safe and inclusive work environment.  I suspect it also goes against the Firm’s own policies   
 

I fear this individual was trying to show off and grandstand to juniors and it is remarkable that they didn’t think to have the content checked first.   

 

 

 

 

Anonymous 14 April 23 10:24

@Anon. 10:17

Not knowing how to deal with complex issues is not why solicitors use the Bar regularly.  

UK Top 70 medium league partner 14 April 23 10:41

Some of this isn't too bad, once you strip away the stuff about clients paying $850/hr for an NQ to use google.

Lawyers are in client service, junior lawyers should treat senior colleagues as clients until they get external clients of their own, and trying figure something out first before checking is a good way to learn. But the bits about taking ownership of everything you touch and your reputation carrying you are spot on. It's a shame PH didn't pay attention to those rather than pretending this slide is nothing to do with them.

Old codger 14 April 23 11:05

If I were a client I'd be asking why I'm paying $850 hourly for a newly qualified who has to Google what he doesn't know.  Why should someone spend an hour researching what a senior lawyer can answer in ten seconds? More generally, from the clients' point of view what value are lawyers at this level adding at that price?

Paper cuts 14 April 23 12:02

Required reading for any starry-eyed twit wanting to work in big law

Someone who has been about a while 14 April 23 12:04

The most concerning on that list is "I don't know is not an acceptable answer".  I've worked in big firms and big banks.  Law and business is complicated.  No-one can know all the answers.  

In meetings with the biggest people in business, it is the most confident, highest achieving and cleverest person in the room who puts their hand up and says I don't understand or I don't know.  

People pretending to know everything got us into the last financial crash.  Everyone pretended to know what they were holding but when the clever people drilled down into the detail they were found to complying with the guidance above.

@ Me at 10:02 14 April 23 13:08

why’d you leave the interview? what happened?!

Realist 2 14 April 23 13:33

People know what they sign up for and the firm is perfectly entitled to set its own rules. If you don't like them, don't play. It's that simple and completely agree with Realist above. There is a massive "entitlement factor" amongst a lot of 20 -30 year olds who work in professional services (not just law firms) who complain about unrealistic expectations yet are paid extremely well compared to the average Joe. They need to get real and understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I worked in a magic circle law firm and a top US law firm and I decided there was more to life than being a slave so I got out. If you stay, you have no grounds for complaint.

While the point about not knowing the answer being unacceptable is a bit OTT, I think the underlying point behind it is to encourage self-reliance and instill a "try and find out the answer yourself, do some analysis and research and come to a reasoned conclusion" approach rather than expecting someone else to come up with the answer (and ultimately do the work). 

Anon 14 April 23 14:22

I am a client. I am right most of the time, but not all the time. I want to be told when I am not right and then have a discussion around why, that is why I pay external counsel.

Secondly, if external counsel doesn't know the answer, I would also like to know that. What's the alternative, they feed you some BS advice? 

Hairy Jones 14 April 23 15:53

Considering to apply for a role at PH London. What is it like working at the firm post expansion? From what I have gathered (through a few recruiters) the firm has good culture and pays well despite the long hours 

Anonymous 14 April 23 16:28

you take his money - you dance with the devil, and he calls the tune.

We went axe throwing for our team social 14 April 23 16:32

anyone who doesn’t like this is a shit lawyer, no exceptions 

Anon 15 April 23 07:45

@anon 1024 

If solicitors know the answer and are capable of giving the same advice, then why on Earth are they causing the client to incur the costs of getting advice from counsel?    I don’t think you understand the system.  

White-shoe lawyer 15 April 23 10:53

Don’t like it? Go work to British law firms and get your miserable 5 digit payment each month.

Anonymous 15 April 23 11:40

He might have been better off trying to encourage enthusiasm and excitement about the job rather than intimidation and fear of failure - or maybe that's just me.

Is this is one of those things (along with gun control, religion and abortion) shows just how different Brits are from the septics?  If he said this in the UK everyone in the room would be sniggering as they left and there would probably be a sweepstake on whether or not he is still a virgin.

I don't know 15 April 23 13:59

What's wrong with this manifesto? You work a lot, earn a lot and do what you're told. That's all. You can leave of course.

Boston PI Lawyer 15 April 23 15:37

Big leagues? The average associate at any Big Law firm will not see the inside of a court room, unless they are carrying bags. They don't conduct trials, take depositions, or argue motions. They are worker bees who are chained to a desk.

I make more on one good personal injury settlement than these jokers make in a year. If you want to make real money in the US, then own. Don't work for someone else. 

Anonymous 15 April 23 15:40

It looks like he meant well but he threaded it through with a load of gung-ho bullshit to make it memorable.

If they're good enough and smart enough to be taken on the bullshit probably wasn't necessary.  But macho men are always drama queens.

Boston PI lawyer 15 April 23 15:40

The client is always right? Interesting. 

So when the client asks you to destroy incriminating business records or forge a document, you just do it? Thanks for the laugh. 

Lesley T 16 April 23 23:56

My 1st response was, well, I chuckled, as I reflected on all the kids who heard their parents’ rule: “my house; my rules; if you don’t like it, leave.”

Okay; good to know. I thank you for reminding me that I have a choice. A music band named The Clash did a song called, “should I stay or should I go?”.

Keep in mind that no job is without its own set of issues but remember your “why” you got into law. Helping people obtain some form of justice tends to come to mind.

Are you choosing to be a hypocrite by allowing an injustice to yourself? If it’s not okay for your client to be bullied, it’s certainly not okay for you to be bullied either. You’re an advocate for your client so I would encourage you to advocate for yourself by making a choice more in line with your integrity and personality style.

I’m sure you caught the irony. The PH firm asserts that its employees need to take full responsibility yet there’s a different set of rules for them. Paul allegedly “distanced himself from the document” yet he’s a senior legal rep for the firm. Interesting.

There are other points I could address but I must say there’s a few with which I agree. For instance, I agree reputation is important, but that also includes the corporate culture to which you’re aligned. Keep that in mind.

Regardless of your profession, you are a human being not a robot. Work life balance is important. Be realistic. It won’t be in a perfect balance but keep it in a reasonably negotiable balance. If you don’t take care of yourself, i.e., proper diet, exercise, some time with family & friends, etc., you will burn out. And when you do, you won’t be good to anyone, including yourself.

Think of it like this. What kind of car do you want to be? Think fancy and expensive. You are that fancy, expensive quality car. Regardless of the make and model, the car will need fuel and maintenance otherwise it will come to a point where it won’t move. So you can speed down that race track but without the pit stops, there’s a good likelihood you’ll blow a tire and hit a wall. Or you can drive down another, more reasonable track.  The choice is yours.

One last thought.

I wonder if I hired PH, and recall his statement that the client is always right, if I asked him to abolish his ultimatums, drop the bullying, and work on a healthier work culture where teamwork and communication is encouraged and rewarded, how do you think he’d respond? Who knows? He might have to Google that unfamiliar concept.

Anonymous 17 April 23 08:52

It’s fine to say “I don’t know”. 
 

Although I’d expect any lawyer (including a solicitor in a high street firm) to add “but I’ll find out and get back to you”.

As for this particular individual it looks as if his gung-ho attitude, and the adverse publicity he’s attracted, has damaged his career prospects at PH. 

Hopefully he owns his rhetoric and takes it like an Alpha. 

Nick 17 April 23 19:37

Earning £153,000 might sound impressive but if you're required to be available 24/7 that equates to an average base salary hourly wage of less than £17.50 p/h...

 

 

Anonymous 18 April 23 23:05

A worrying number of literalists commenting here. 
 

The person that wrote this is clearly not saying the lawyer should blindly agree with everything the client wants or that they shouldn’t give proper legal advice just to not upset the client. However, they are saying that if the client wants something done sooner or in a specific (and still legal) way then that is their prerogative. In the same way “the customer is always right” in the service industry doesn’t mean staff are expected to let the customer just not pay for their meal. 
 

Similarly, “I don’t know” *isn’t* an acceptable answer. As a junior I might have said, “I don’t know but I’ll look it up” or, “I’ve done some research into [problem] and I’m sorry but I don’t know what the best thing to do is here” but, if asked a question by a partner I’d have *never* just gone, “I don’t know.” 
 

Being accessible 24/7 is dumb though. Screw that… 

Proboner. 20 April 23 22:01

If you’re “online” 24/7 this means either that you have to be online in your sleep, or you are not allowed to sleep.

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