I suspect I’m dating myself, but does anyone else remember the Peanuts cartoons? Specifically that endlessly repeated gag (more like heart-wrenching tragedy) of Lucy offering to hold the football for poor, hapless Charlie Brown so he can kick it? Of course, she winds up pulling it away just in time for him to miss the kick and fly through the air screaming, then land in a heap, bruised and miserable, furious at himself for placing his trust once again in a faithless so-called friend.
Law firms do that. I mean, they do the Lucy bit, with the football.
“So…when you say he promised you’d be elevated to partner,” I asked one client just the other day, “Do you mean, as in, he actually promise promised to make you partner…or just sort of implied strongly it would happen?”
My client’s response was unequivocal: “He promised.”
I fumbled for wiggle room. “But can he do that? How much capital does this guy have at the firm to burn on elevating one of his own?”
My client wasn’t taking wiggle for an answer: “He’s the managing partner of a smallish firm. He can elevate whomever he wants.”
Wait. Hang on…one more question: “Did he specify when he’d make you partner?”
Now I had him. Because the unfailing law firm answer to any question regarding something good that’s going to happen to you (i.e., not to them) is: Not now…but soon.
Promising stuff to you (not now, but soon) is actually a key law firm technique for getting what they want from you (immediately.)
The looming temporal gulf between what they offer to you and what they demand from you is acute. It is stark. It is striking.
Compare and contrast:
The stuff they offer to you will arrive whenever they please, which seldom means anytime remotely contemporaneous with the current era. (And, no, don’t bother them about it, or they might change their minds.)
The stuff they require from you, on the other hand, will happen immediately. This very minute. As in, I’m aware it’s Saturday night, and no, I don’t care. I’m not asking – that’s me being polite. I’ll have it Monday morning or you’re fired.
That kind of right now. Law firm right now.
Returning for a moment to those lovely, tasty things that they’re promising to you… It’s worth asking just how long a period of time not now, but soon can be drawn out to occupy, at least in the minds of those who run law firms.