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What the Paul Hastings Associate’s Performance Review Shows About Law Practice

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Not to draw further attention to the Paul Hastings associate, Shiyung Oh’s termination, but I’m fascinated by the new information about life at large firms that’s emerging as a result of the story.  For example,  the Wall Street Journal obtained a copy of Oh’s review, which showed that Oh excelled at her work, but which also contains some interesting tidbits about law firm life.

For example – Oh graduated law school in 1998, and worked as a litigator. However, on the last page of her review, there’s a comment that

Opportunities should be sought for her to become involved in an arbitration and she should get into court if at all possible.

(Oh’s bio says that she did assist in “preparing and arguing motions”)  Can you imagine working as a litigator for ten years and rarely making it into court?  Most solos are able to find an opportunity at a court room or a hearing within a year of starting a practice.

I also noticed that Oh was graded as “met expectations” for client development.  That’s not surprising; apparently, she was so overworked that she didn’t have time to go engage in more business development.  And that’s a problem for most lawyers, us solos included:  finding the time to always hunt for new business, even as we’re churning out work for paying clients.

However, most of us solos do find ways to do this – either by setting aside time for business development, outsourcing some marketing tasks or administrative tasks – because we realize that our firm depends upon  a constant flow of new business for our  livelihood.  I’m not sure that many large firm associates recognize the importance of business development.  But what’s worse is that  their superiors aren’t doing a very good job about helping them to build the business that is vital both to their own futures, and the future of their law firm.

Ironically, the one tangible suggestion to Oh in her review is that she check her record keeping accuracy to make sure that she’s not “unwittingly” cutting her time.  Which about says it all:  firms are more concerned about associates as “billing machines” than anything else.

To those associates who want to change biglaw, more power to them.  But maybe it’s about time that they consider starting their own.

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