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During law school orientation, new students are told to look at the person sitting on their right, and then the one to their left. One of the three, they are informed, will fail to graduate from law school. A similar warning should be given to associates at The Firm’s orientation program concerning their chances of surviving long enough to be elected to partnership. The numbers, however, are far more discouraging. New lawyers should be told to look at a dozen associates on the left and another dozen on the right and realize it is likely only one or two of them will make it. With such long odds, most associates knock themselves out doing everything they can to succeed at The Firm. Many lawyers, however, make the mistake of focusing only on their own performance and fail to realize that they also have to deal with the competition. With so many associates vying for so few partnership positions, lawyers must not only do everything possible to excel as an attorney but, at the same time, sabotage the careers of their law firm peers. In today’s legal market, defeating one’s Hated Rival is as important to one’s success as defeating opposing counsel. The more rivals an associate does in, the better his or her chances of being elected partner. The lawyer left standing at the end of all this wins — i.e., gets elected partner. Each lawyer should select at least one other person at The Firm whose career he or she will set out to destroy. Even if an associate decides not to actively participate in a rivalry, all lawyers must be on guard against “colleagues” on the attack. It is usually pretty easy to identify your Hated Rival — it’s the person who always appears nicer and friendlier toward you than anyone else at The Firm. You may not actually hate this person but you will act as though you do. All law firms have their tales of career sabotage by hated rivals. At my own law firm, a second-year associate received flowers from his girlfriend. Unfortunately for this associate, he was out of the office the day the flowers were delivered and they sat on his desk for all to see. This associate’s Hated Rival removed the card accompanying the flowers and replaced it with a card containing a very friendly message and the forged signature of the partner who was the head of the associate’s department. Imagine the embarrassment the birthday associate felt when he thanked the partner for sending him the flowers. Imagine the glee his Hated Rival felt! Law firm rivalries are not limited to the associate ranks. Old habits die hard and rivalries often survive through the partnership years. At a major New York law firm, for instance, it was reported in a book about the firm that one partner drafted a memo under another partner’s name. The memo announced that the latter partner was resigning from the firm. The victim had to write another memo revoking the first. I don’t often compliment law firm partners but this sort of activity deserves The Rodent’s highest praise. The above examples are innovative approaches to doing in a Hated Rival. Some of the more standard approaches that have proven effective over the years are described below. � Spreading rumors of sexual escapades. The spreading of vicious false rumors about sexual relations between a Hated Rival and partners’ bedmates is usually the quickest and most effective way to hasten the Hated Rival’s termination. When accused of such deeds, one should be prepared not only with a denial but also a vicious rumor in response. One good response is: “You have misinformation; he/she is sleeping with [fill in name of Hated Rival].” � Tampering with a Hated Rival’s documents. One time-tested way to beat a Hated Rival is through document tampering. The complete deletion of computer files or destruction of documents minutes before deadlines is always a good way to bring down adversaries. Also effective is adding language to documents likely to be sent to the client without the Hated Rival knowing. Take a paragraph or two from the sports page or a nursery rhyme and place them in the middle of a pleading or a contract. � Whistle-blowing. When the rivalry enters its most intense stage, usually during the fifth or sixth year of practice, some lawyers resort to reporting other lawyers’ improprieties to the state Bar. Caution: This could backfire and set off an investigation of the entire firm — including you. � Distribution of bogus correspondence. Try sending a letter under your Hated Rival’s signature to The Firm’s clients. State that due to its imminent collapse, The Firm will accept 30 cents on the dollar as full payment for all outstanding bills. � Advertisements. Place an advertisement in the local legal newspaper saying The Firm will hire the first 100 associates who show up at the Hated Rival’s office on Monday morning. So what happens if all this works and you manage to force your Hated Rival out of The Firm? That means it’s time to move on to the next Hated Rival. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected]

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