Graduation-879941_1280As Joan Rivers would say, “Oh, grow up!”

I mean, who’s really shocked that a Big Law firm would make exceptions to hire a client’s child?

I’m talking about how Paul Manafort’s daughter got hired as an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom after being initially rejected.

In case you missed it, here’s the backstory from Law.com: Andrea Manafort (now Shand) applied for a job at Skadden during her final year at Georgetown law school in 2012 just as Dewey & LeBoeuf, where she had accepted a position, was about to implode. Though Manafort was a Skadden client, his daughter got nixed. Enraged, Manafort forwarded the rejection to Skadden partner Gregory Craig with the subject line: “Thanks for your help,” adding, “I see Skadden knows how to show appreciation for a $4MILLION gift account.”

Before I go on, let’s give Manafort kudos for not holding back. Most clients probably would feel as miffed as Manafort under similar circumstances, but how many would express it so succinctly?

Naturally, Craig got into action, reminding his partners that hiring Manafort’s daughter has “potential for significant future business.” The upshot: Baby Girl got the job. (I reached out to Shand, whose LinkedIn page identifies her as associate general counsel at Fort L.P. in Washington, for comment, but I haven’t heard back.)

All this came out when Craig’s lawyers asked the judge in his upcoming trial for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act to exclude the facts of Shand’s hiring from evidence. Craig’s lawyers argued that prosecutors are trying to prejudice the jury: “The government hopes that jurors, who are not familiar with law firm hiring practices and protocols, will find something improper or tawdry in Mr. Craig’s acts, and thereby be more apt to find that he did something unlawful in his interaction with FARA.”

First, what a curious use of the word “tawdry”? Doesn’t “tawdry” carry a sexual connotation, as in a cheap affair? I don’t think anything that involves $4 million qualifies as cheap, and I certainly don’t think working at Skadden is sexy.

Putting aside this strange word choice, I generally agree there’s nothing outrageous or shocking about what transpired. Sure, Manafort threw his weight around and acted entitled. But of all things he’s been accused of doing, pressuring Skadden to hire his daughter seems pretty harmless. And yeah, Craig and his fellow partners acted like hungry rats when it dawned on them they had offended a client who could cost them millions in potential fees. But isn’t that how most partners would react?

Frankly, I can’t think of any firm that’s above doing what Skadden did. And as quid-pro-quo goes, trading a junior associate position for a continuous stream of revenue makes business sense.

But unveiling how a firm accommodates clients and their families is stirring controversy. Some of the headlines seem to suggest a cover-up or something sinister: “Skadden Keeps Mum Over Claims It Bowed to Pressure to Hire Manafort’s Daughter” or “ Helping Manafort’s Kid Get Skadden Gig No Crime, Craig Says.”

Above the Law’s headline declares, “Skadden’s Hiring Practices Under Scrutiny,” railing that hiring Shand violates fundamental notions of fairness: “Let’s not forget Shand was hired in 2012—during one of the biggest downturns the legal industry has ever seen. The 2012 downturn derailed a lot of young lawyers’ Big Law dreams, well, those that didn’t have an influential father go to bat for them.”

You bet it’s unfair, but this can’t be news. As anyone who’s ever set foot in a law firm knows: Clients rule, and if clients want their kids or pets to get a job as an associate, paralegal or whatever, firms will find a place for them.

Yet, we somehow want to believe that getting into Big Law or other coveted spots (care to talk about college admissions, anyone?) is based on objective qualifications, that at the core, there is or should be a meritocracy.

Get over it.

 

vchen@alm.com

Twitter: @lawcareerist.