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With Washington now run by Republicans, we’re seeing a revival of business wisdom, capitalist aphorisms, and can-do clich�s. Rather than quoting Madison and Hamilton, today’s ladder-climbers are spouting the bons mots of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose 154 eponymous “rules” have been posted on the Pentagon’s Web site (e.g., “Being vice president is difficult. Don’t make it tougher.”). As The Wall Street Journal reported, Secretary of State Colin Powell has his own 18-lesson “leadership primer.” And Treasury czar (and former Alcoa CEO) Paul O’Neill is known for his “three questions for employees of a sound organization.” I’m sure George W. has a list (e.g., “When in doubt, call Dick” and “Stay away from those mul-ti-syl-lab-ic words”). For all those law firm associates who don’t keep up with the latest management trends, I offer my own “Six Minute Rules,” derived from my not-so-many years in the profession. TIME IS MONEY “A lawyer’s opinion is worth nothing unless paid for.” — English proverb There is no better way to occupy young associates and manufacture hours than to ask for a memorandum summarizing the relevant case law in multiple jurisdictions. The larger the client, the larger the bill. Bonuses come to those with high billables, not to those who save the client money. When preparing similar pleadings for different clients, always bill for how long it would have taken you to prepare each document from scratch. In other words, don’t reinvent the wheel, just bill for it. Don’t stop the clock for bathroom breaks, Web surfing, soda runs, or walks around the block, because, of course, you’re always thinking about the client. Honest associates finish last. To avoid sticker shock and broken friendships, refer only your richest pals to the firm for their personal legal woes. Just be grateful that your mechanic’s hourly rate is less than yours. Remember that the purpose of “value billing” is to provide value to the firm. Always round up. No one ever gets prosecuted for overbilling — unless you’re Webster Hubbell or a character in a John Grisham novel. “I can think of no other business where you’re rewarded for inefficiency … the more time you take, the more inefficient you are, the greater your profit.” — Alan Liebowitz, law firm auditor, as quoted in “Lawyer’s Wit and Wisdom” There’s no such thing as a pleading that can’t be edited again. The tortoise bills more than the hare. GETTING AHEAD Never admit that work is not the most important thing in your life. Always be looking for your next job. Never say anything in an e-mail message that you wouldn’t want the entire firm to read. Don’t open e-mail attachments from immature friends until all partners and tech staff have gone home. No one will remember the too many late nights you spent at the office, but everyone will recall, endlessly, the one time you overslept and were late for court. If the firm gives you a chance to anonymously evaluate the partners, resist the temptation to be honest. They will find out. There is no one less marketable than a senior associate without portable business. “Of counsel” is legalese for purgatory. Never cry during a performance review. Be grateful that you didn’t take that dot-com job. “If you can eat sawdust without butter, you can be a success in the law.” — Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Partnership is not the end of your struggle; it’s just the beginning. YOU VS. THE PARTNERS “Almost never does one partner in a law firm have any idea as to what demands another partner may be making on you. They operate in black boxes isolated from each other (and often the world).” — D. Robert White, “The Official Lawyer’s Handbook” At many firms, the partners are “partners” in name only. Approach pro bono projects and plaintiffs cases with extreme caution. When you get an assignment that’s a “good learning experience,” grab your shovel. Too many partners will spoil a good brief. Don’t be offended when a partner takes credit for your work. Your name will stick to your screw-ups. Don’t gape when a partner starts spouting wildly erroneous advice during a client conference call. It won’t be the first or last time. Make copies of every last e-mail, memo, letter, and other correspondence that you send or receive from partners and clients. You never know when you’ll have to CYA. Make sure the partner with the “emergency” knows what weekend plans you’re breaking as you break them. Don’t mention federal civil rights law when pressured to blow off religious observances. No good can come from firm cocktail parties. When a client complains about a bill, don’t be surprised when the partner cuts your time before his $375-an-hour wheel-spinning. When partners complain about associate salaries, remember that they’re making at least three or four times more. IT’S A LIFE SENTENCE Money can’t buy you happiness, but it does pay off law school loans. A $200-an-hour rate is not the only characteristic you share with prostitutes. Hard as it may be to believe, not having enough to do can be even more stressful than having too much to do. Only at a law firm does working part time entail more than 40 hours a week. Sweat bonuses are rarely worth it. Like pro athletes, junior associates at large firms are overpaid and unlikely to be playing for the same team five years from now. If there’s a chance of inclement weather, don’t expect your support staff to make it in. At social events with nonlawyers, don’t talk about your work. If forced to describe it, fabricate and focus on pro bono. “Nothing could be more boring than an absolutely accurate movie about the law.” — Roger Ebert, film critic Work long hours on those bleak winter weekends if you want to play in the summer sun. You may have four weeks of vacation on paper — but not in practice. Making $125,000 a year is not bad for a 25-year-old. No matter how much money they pay you, it will never be enough. The work will still be there tomorrow. And the next day. Ted Allen is a legal news editor with Bloomberg News in Washington, D.C.

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