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Top 10 Annoying Clichés Lawyers Love

Vivia Chen

April 15, 2013

Every now and then I get grumpy. I know some of you might find it hard to believe that someone as effervescent as I could be in that state. But it happens. And when it does, I start making a mental list of things that annoy me (Suri Cruise's wardrobe, Cialis ads, the Kardashians—to name just a very few).

Rope Climber © Margarita Khannanova - Fotolia.comI won't bore you with all of my pet peeves. Let's just focus on the ones relevant to my Careerist mission. Here's my list of business phrases that lawyers, consultants, and marketing folks love to throw around, but that few people actually understand:

1. "Climb the lattice, not the ladder."

Translation: You will never make it to the top anyway, so go crazy and keep yourself busy!

2. "Forget mentors. What women and minorities really need are sponsors."

Translation: We never got the mentoring thing down, so let's move on to something else we don't really understand.

3. "You should be a thought leader."

Translation: You are bereft of any original ideas, but with the right hairdo, makeup, and media training, you can be a real force in the industry.

4. "We focus on best practices."

Translation: The firm is getting failing grades in diversity, women, etc., and has no idea what to do about the problem.

5. "You will get real-world experience."

Translation: You will be doing document reviews in Trenton for the next 15 months.

6. "There is a paradigm shift in the industry."

Translation: You have no chance in hell of becoming an equity partner—even though you've been billing over 3,000 hours a year in the last decade.

7. "We have management buy-in."

Translation: It was the managing partner/CEO's idea in the first place.

8. "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

Translation: If you don't agree with me, you are (by definition) a problem.

9. "We want team players."

Translation: You will be working with an egomaniacal partner, so if you can't shut up and put up, you are lacking team spirit.

10. "Follow your passion."

Mercifully, you don't hear that advice too much in the legal world, unless we're talking about lawyers who've dropped out to become sheepherders or basket weavers. Frankly, if you are practicing law, you've probably given up on your passion. Or—more likely— you never had one in the first place.

 

Note: Parts of this post appeared in "Stop the Drivel."

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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.

Comments

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arbindc: I can translate that entire paragraph (which sounds like stuff I've been hearing my whole career) to one sentence:

"Shut up and bill more hours, peon, because you're never making partner anyway."

Isn't that generally what partners are always saying, in one way or another?

Mine is "trial by fire" which when translated means "I don't have time to train you; figure it out yourself."

Ha, yes, this is used at my firm a lot! "We focus on best practices."

I especially hate "best practices", which is constantly and incorrectly used to mean tips, guidelines or recommendations. And I love arbindc's comment, which combines these horrible expressions into one tidy paragraph. The only one s/he left out was "on the same page"; that one always creates (for me, at least) an image of people standing on a huge piece of paper, which makes me want to laugh.

It makes me thankful that I am a sole practitioner and do not need to put up with the corporate drivel of large law firms. I am the "senior partner," "managing partner" and sole "equity partner" in my firm. Life is good without the corporate speak, even if the money is not. Believe it or not, there is life outside the corporate "box" . . . a very happy life, and after 34 years as a sole practitioner, I have no regrets for not marching to the drumbeat of the big firm. Now go out there and "knock'em dead" . . . .

Hi, Vivia ~ Just ran across this via my email from Corporate Counsel Daily (who turned their monthly email to me into a daily e-newsletter blast once I didn't renew my 'free' subscription to their monthly). This post has not only put a smile on my face, today [Colorado is smack in the middle of a really-late Spring Snowstorm'13, a pain for school closures & the fact that snow removal equipment has been stored till winter, but infinitely better than our truly devastating spring-summer 2012 fires -- we are embracing the moisture), but I've now forgiven Corporate Counsel for filling-up my junk email box over the past few years. Thank you!!

@ RE, How many lawyers are in the professional because they love being lawyers? 5% maybe? Believe it or not, there are a fair number of people that do things for a living that really love it. Very, very few of those people are lawyers.

What do you mean by this statement? "Frankly, if you are practicing law, you've probably given up on your passion. Or—more likely— you never had one in the first place."

Buzz words and phrases have always annoyed me but a friend said, "Rather than "push back", I think you should "embrace" and be "laser focused" on "best practices" so you can "fast track" any "game changers" in "real time" and "push the envelope" for "value added" "synergy's" that buzz words can "cultivate""

Somehow and someway, we need to add to that list the: We want you to be creative and provide input but we really would rather you be a corporate drone.

A few additional gems: This is the new normal. We want to see you take ownership of your projects. You need to think outside the box; see the big picture; not get bogged down in details; and pay attention to the details. We want someone who has the intellectual candlepower for this role. We want you see your full commitment to the firm and its clients. There needs to be a business case for elevation to partnership.

These are very spot on cliches and many are still used even today. Almost sad but true.

Ha. Good ones.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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