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‘You are online 24/7’: Paul Hastings associate goes viral with list of ‘non-negotiable expectations’

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US firm says presentation slide, which surfaced online, does ‘not reflect the views of the firm or its partners’

A Paul Hastings associate has gone viral for sharing a list of “non-negotiable expectations” of junior colleagues, which include “you are ‘online’ 24/7” and “you’re in the big leagues” so “act like it”.

The senior associate is understood to have been delivering a presentation to junior colleagues on what they can expect in their dealings with clients. One of the slides (pictured below), however, has captured the attention of an audience perhaps wider than intended, surfacing on forum Reddit as well as popular law meme accounts.

In a statement Paul Hastings said the list was “prepared by an associate and the views expressed do not reflect the views of the firm or its partners”.

The slide produced by the associate at Paul Hastings

The slide has got lawyers talking, however, and prompted questions around law firm culture and the importance of tone in professional settings. Whilst few lawyers would argue with statements such as “the client always comes first”, “work product needs to be prompt, professional and polished” and “take ownership of everything you do”, there are messages on the slide that some may argue may have been better left unsaid. “You are ‘online’ 24/7. No exceptions, no excuses”, is one such example, along with, “you’re in the big leagues, which is a privilege, act like it” and “WFH is a privilege”.

The 2023 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

But whilst some may question the associate’s “non-negotiables”, they are likely not too dissimilar to those observed at other big paying law firms. Our own exclusive research shows that several junior lawyers are totting up 12-hour work days on average, with some finishing well past 11pm, so expectations such as being online around the clock seem to permeate commercial legal practice and can’t be said to be exclusive to a single firm.

One junior lawyer told Legal Cheek that the slide’s tone is indicative of “the no-nonsense, straight-talking culture we’ve come to expect within US law firms, particularly in transactional practice”, where this associate seems to work. It’s unclear which of the firm’s offices the associate who produced the slide is based, but references including “AMLaw 20 law firm”, which is an elite ranking of American law firms, and an $850 an hour billing rate, suggest they could work in one of the firm’s 12 US offices.

The lawyer we spoke to said that some of the expectations shared in the slide are not “unreasonable” and they’re expected to have “a full home setup” and to “figure something out for yourself”, for example. Plus, these associates are paid exceptionally well, so expectations on their time are inevitable. A newly qualified (NQ) solicitor in Paul Hastings’ London office earns over £140,000 a year plus bonuses, our Most List shows.

In 2021, Paul Hastings told its lawyers and staff, including those in London, that “by default”, they should work from the office.

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61 Comments

Sweaty PH Junior Associate

“In a statement Paul Hastings said the list was “prepared by an associate and the views expressed do not reflect the views of the firm or its partners”.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA they seriously expect anyone to believe that lmaoooo

*FARTS LOUDLY*

(254)(3)

Roadkill

Nope, but everyone sure as hell believes that they would hurtle the poor bastard under the bus as fast as they have. No loyalty from partners to their lapdog senior associates clearly…

(117)(0)

Lmaobantah

Agreed. Whoever did that is heading straight down the gimpshute.

(66)(1)

Ugh148

Someone in leadership isn’t taking ownership of their work……”fair or not” >D

(64)(0)

Crimbo (Selecta machine user)

Meh.

Same expectations at the Criminal Bar.

(0)(2)

Junior barrister

With £140k++ in your first year qualified?

(1)(0)

TOPKEK

“In a statement Paul Hastings said the list was “prepared by an associate and the views expressed do not reflect the views of the firm or its partners”.”

Pure, unadulterated comedy gold. 😀 😀 😀

(125)(3)

Anon

The response is the only thing worse than the list getting leaked for them. I would have more respect for the partnership if they’d owned it and said those are the realities of working for their firm.

(85)(2)

Regional Lawyer

In a statement Paul Hastings said the list was “prepared by an associate and the views expressed do not reflect the views of the firm or its partners”.

Ironically, not taking responsibility in line with Rule #6 on the PowerPoint.

(183)(0)

MC Insider

Partners scrambling – we love to see it. I can confirm this is exactly how most elite US law firms work as I moved from one. Everybody working in the industry should know this by now or they’re not paying attention.

(112)(1)

Nonsense and crooked talker

‘ One junior lawyer told Legal Cheek that the slide’s tone is indicative of “the no-nonsense, straight-talking culture we’ve come to expect within US law firms, particularly in transactional practice”…’

Anyone, firm or individual, who advertises a culture of working as ‘no-nonsense’ and ‘straight talking’ is just dog whistling about an abhorrent culture of bullying and abuse.

Transparency and honesty are good. No nonsense and straight talking are not.

(110)(6)

Bob

Sad reality is people go in to these jobs with their eyes wide open. Everyone knows what the culture and expectations are like in these places but people are queuing up for these jobs because of the pay.

(52)(1)

Sweaty

When people say PH is going to be the next K&E, I don’t think they mean it like THAT

(54)(4)

US Associate

This is a juicy one. For all you bright-eyed freshers out there, let me do a bit of translation for you:

(1) “the client always comes first” = No matter how insane/ridiculous a request, you will do it. If you fail, you get binned.

(2) “work product needs to be prompt, professional and polished” = Work is dumped on you left right and centre, and you get zero support from the overworked senior associate and absentee partners. Good luck. See (1) above.

(3) “take ownership of everything you do” = Any cock-up down the line or supposed mistake, it’s all your fault. See (1) above.

(4) “You are ‘online’ 24/7. No exceptions, no excuses” = Self-explanatory. Expect screeching emails and, increasingly, WhatsApp messages from psychopath partners at any time of the day, Saturday/Sunday/your nan’s funeral for which you took bereavement leave included. See (1) above.

(5) “you’re in the big leagues, which is a privilege, act like it” = Be grateful we hired you. now STFU, bill 2,000+ hours per year and have serious nervous breakdown within 12-24 months of joining. See (1) above.

(6) “WFH is a privilege” = Ignore our glossy graduate recruitment brochures, you will be sat in the office like a gimp everyday even though the partner is working from their ski chalet in Gstaad.

HTH.

(209)(2)

Anon

Where are all the US firm fanboys who say working at a US firm is exactly the same as an English firm just for more money? I work for a top English firm and certainly don’t have expectations from the partners to be online 24/7 or that wfh is a luxury afforded to me (as long as I’m billing the same amounts as I would in the office).

(84)(4)

Elite US peon

Not saying you are wrong. But as someone who came from an MC two years ago to Elite US, I can honestly say it’s just team dependent. Not at all going to bull****–I definitely put in more hours (200/300), but can honestly say the partner/group are all approachable and respectful of time (e.g. apologising for sending late emails etc). Again, just speaking from my team experience only.

(49)(13)

BLB Enjoyer

This got leaked on BLB ages ago… Come on LC. You can do better than recycling content like that.

(19)(2)

Lawyergirl006

What is BLB

(9)(1)

BLB

I think it’s a porn site

(59)(2)

Anonymous

What’s BLB?

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Biglawbois

Anonymous

Having worked at a few different firms, these attitudes are pretty much ubiquitous in the City and (especially) NYC. Paul Hastings are just the unfortunate sods who got caught out.

Culture is set by the people at the top. And the people at the top of commercial law are a self-selecting group who combine Machiavellian determination, Herculean stamina, and a genuine obsession with work. They will always think like this, and to be fair they also hold themselves to these standards. As long as there are a small number of juniors who also think like this (and there are), the partnership will continue. And as long as there is a much larger number of juniors who are willing to put up with the abuse for a few years (and there are), those partners will have adequate resource to execute deals. That’s commercial law. That’s how it works. None of this is a bug; it’s all a feature.

(92)(4)

Nonsense and crooked talker

I’m sorry, what outfits have you been at to have such a view? Sure, going into commercial law means that inherently the 9-5 is disapplied, but also absentee partners that do not adhere to their own standards are very much a common occurrence in the City.

Equally common are partners with a sense of decency and respect for their teams and associates who, at the very least would not throw you to the wolves like PH just did. It’s certainly not a ubiquitous feature of the City to have these exact attitudes and express them
In such toxic ways.

(41)(2)

CC Insider

I don’t agree at all. At least bereavement leave means bereavement leave at most of the English firms. It certainly doesn’t (from experience) in the elite US. I also had a colleague asked to come back to work 2 days into their honeymoon – they quit. Saying the cultures are the same is dangerously misleading and unfair to the younger readers who treat such comments as gospel.

(65)(2)

Anonymous

[Apr 6 2023 2:14pm commenter here]

I’ve worked at both UK and US firms, and I’ve encountered equally toxic attitudes from senior lawyers at both. Admittedly I work in a fairly hours-heavy niche of corporate law, but the bit which stuck out in those PH slides is the “You are online 24/7” line. I’ve heard those exact words from other associates (though never partners, interestingly; they prefer to leave it unsaid) at both firms and that’s pretty much the expectation; every single other aspect of your life is subordinated to the job.

(25)(2)

TC

So your MC shop has never asked you to work while on holidays? I would be surprised

(6)(5)

Dook

“ Paul Hastings said the list was “prepared by an associate and the views expressed do not reflect the views of the firm or its partners”.” The PH partners have dodged accountability about as well as the Tory party

(48)(1)

Anon

I wonder if the four seasons and alinea use PH as a shining example in their training slides…

(52)(0)

Gonzo

The use of Alinea gives it away, this slide must’ve been produced by some gimp in PH’s Chicago office.

(44)(0)

functional brain

On one hand, yeah it’s ridiculous. On the other hand, what did you expect a 24 year old was getting paid £150k+ for?

(57)(3)

The Captain

Someone at PH (28-29yo) bought a brand new Porsche with his bonus money lmao.

(15)(12)

KLAXON

ok . thx fresher .

(9)(5)

Anna

I hope they don’t fire the person who wrote this. Does anyone know whether this philosophy extends to their London office? I might want to check them out.

(1)(5)

Realist

Entry level Porsche is around 50k now (not worth it at all unless you can afford a 911 which is far pricier). In order to get that he would need a 100k bonus as around half is lost to tax (even more with a student loan). In order to be getting 100k bonus he would have to have worked crazy hours of at least 2400+ so won’t have any time to drive that Porsche. But still, this is how they seduce freshers with the promise of flash cars etc

(29)(1)

functional brain

Good idea! He’ll never have time to drive it so the mileage shouldn’t affect its value when his estate sells it.

(46)(0)

US associate

Precisely. Realistically, my legal knowledge is not worth £160k + bonus. I’m being paid to be available and to put the hours in when the client needs it. That being said, the partner I mainly work for is a genuinely nice guy and he’s usually respectful of weekends and evenings. When we need to put in the work we do, and the rest of the time we work hard but it’s not all consuming.

(20)(3)

Anon

I’ve worked within the home of someone who may or may not have been a PH or KE partner.

Whilst the interior of the home was very arriviste ‘industrial beige’, family life was absolutely chaotic. The kids did literally anything they wanted to without reproach.

I overheard a maid being told to go out and buy a new vacuum cleaner, because her employer did not like ‘the sound’ made by the current one.

(42)(0)

FERRETMAN

“I overheard a maid being told to go out and buy a new vacuum cleaner, because her employer did not like ‘the sound’ made by the current one.”

lmaoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo 😀

(26)(0)

Anna

Why is that funny? Auditory sensitivity is a thing. Especially if you haven’t slept in weeks.

(8)(19)

Observer

Awful spacing between paras 5 and 6. The associate needs to take his own advice

(15)(2)

US Mama

Spacing is fine, it’s just that (5) has two lines of text.

The real issue here is the bold (3) and the random bullet point in (2) (who makes a bullet point list with one bullet?)

(16)(1)

Observer

Still curious as to why PH refuses to take part in LC surveys/have a profile on here. Used to a while back with people moaning about IT problems.

(27)(1)

Anonz

Basically the quiet part was said out loud.

(20)(1)

SC Associate

I only wish that there was enough time in the day to “like” all of the above.

(16)(0)

Anonymous

This is the expectation at most big law firms tbh, only difference is they don’t openly say it – it’s usually just communicated in a more passive aggressive way.

(24)(1)

Nothing new - common in the City / Street

This! It is not like any of the rules in the article are novel to the elite US law firms in London (and a select few other law firms). It is simply the fact that PH are being absolutely direct about it. Other US law firms will just be quiet or passive aggressive about how the culture / working hours are. Personally, I would prefer to be told straight how it is. Also, cmon every person entering these firms knows exactly what is up.

As for what other law firms have the same / similar culture – it all depends on the team. Not always necessarily about the firm. I would guess FF PE and AO LF are similarly sweaty. In terms of US, STB and the like will all stand for such a culture.

Nothing new here, nothing new at all. LC just knows what will get people’s attention and posts the same thing about money and UK/US debate all day everyday.

Also – after all, how can one justify making 170k in their mid-late twenties?

Cheerio.

(19)(0)

Anon

Yes, except they’re not being very direct about it at all given the partnership have unequivocally disowned this at the first available opportunity.

(3)(0)

Client

9 is a terrible sign if I were a client. It takes guts to say “I don’t know” and sometimes it takes the best lawyer in the room to say exactly that.

Indeed the whole mentality evidenced by this slide should seriously make clients think about whether this firm is a good choice as a service provider.

(59)(0)

Anon

Also, why do they think that clients (who are generally speaking very sophisticated organisations at this level) are prepared to pay their hourly rates in the first place? I take it as read that almost by definition any legal analysis I am being asked to do is not something for which there is a readily available or straightforward answer, otherwise the client would know it (or find out) themselves. Plus, as you say, part of being a good lawyer is identifying and quantifying downside risks (including uncertainties) and being candid with clients about them.

(4)(0)

Genuine question

Any thoughts from PH associates about the PH London office post expansion?

(20)(1)

Edward

My family friend works there. The firm is incredibly busy and hard-working associates have been paid star bonuses (on top of the usual Cravath bonus) for billing over 2500 hours. The culture is very much 24/7.

PH are on expansion mode and poaching heavy hitters left right and centre. For the moment the firm isn’t on par with K&E or Latham but would be at least in the same league as Milbank/ Akin/ Skadden.

(31)(7)

Anna

How do they recruit their trainees? I’m assuming top schools only, some work experience/vac scheme/internship, etc?

(2)(1)

Milbanker

Nah, more like Shearman or Dechert.

(7)(11)

V for Vendetta

Sorry what does that mean? Only top universities or must have loads of legal experience?

(0)(4)

Anonymous

what are the sort of bonuses you can expect at a US firm?

(0)(0)

Law School

Patrick Bateman-esque Slide Deck.

(10)(1)

TL,DR -->

TL,DR – intent is somewhat appropriate (telling associates what they should expect / the standard), but the delivery is a shambles tbh.

(5)(0)

Ex US slave

Work at a U.S. for 3 years, save some dollar for a deposit on a house and move down to a cushty 1650 chargeables for £130k and no weekends.

(28)(1)

Anonymous

All jokes aside, what kind of life is this? I’ve met some future joiners of brutal firms like PH and honestly I don’t think they know what they’re in for (and this goes for a lot of LPC students).

Going from a few hours of lessons each week/ having your weekends off and being able to socialise whenever > to being in the office/online from 9am to 9pm every day is going to absolutely break some of them.

But ‘they get paid a lot’… So what if you have no time to spend it.

(37)(0)

Asking for a friend

Whoever wrote this should be struck off. If a client wants mountains moved we move it, no questions asked. Is dishonesty at the heart of the big law firms?

(6)(18)

Anonymous

To any trainees reading this list, if you don’t know the answer, the correct thing to say is “I don’t know the answer”,

(6)(0)

Comments are closed.

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