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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Question from a blog follower:

In a comment to an earlier post, Anonymous said:

Any thoughts on how to handle unethical and/or unprofessional conduct by attorneys during a summer associate position? I don't feel lucky to have this position -- rather, I feel like I've made a mistake that will follow me around to future firms...

Our answer:  

hanks for your question, Anonymous. First question: do you have enough information to form an understanding about whether the conduct is in fact unethical? If so, does your firm have an ethics committee?

Here's what you might want to do:

1. IF you trust the mentor to whom you were assigned, raise the issue w/that mentor.
2. IF you don't trust that mentor (i.e., the mentor is the one behaving unprofessionally), what about the partner who interviewed you? Can you raise the issue with him or her?
3. If your firm has an ethics committee, you might consider raising it with that committee.
4. If there's no one at the firm whom you trust, then you know that you don't want to work there after graduation. If things are really, really bad and you can resign before the end of the summer--and do anything else to make money--consider doing that.

I'm so sorry that you're experiencing this problem.

BTW, there IS always the chance that you aren't seeing both sides of the matter. If there IS someone at the firm whom you trust, please do try to parse the issue with him or her. GOOD LUCK!


  1. Thanks for the suggestions. Unfortunately, there is no ethics committee and I'm really not comfortable with anyone yet. You are right -- I don't want to work there after graduation. The question is, do I see this through or quit? Money is an issue for me (I have a mortgage to pay), so I think I may need to stay. Should I be worried about being associated with this firm? I WISH there were a chance that I wasn't seeing both sides of things, however, I have a list about half a page long of things that have made me uncomfortable (i.e., that I believe of are questionable professional/ethical conduct). I have a hard time believing I'm missing the other side of all of those things (if it were just one or two, then maybe).

    As much as it pains me, I think I need to bite my tongue and ride out the remaining time there and then promptly run for the hills.

  2. Anonymous, we feel for you! You're not alone, though. Take a look at Lawrence Hellman's article on the summer job experiences of students enrolled in PR: The Effects of Law Office Work on the Formation of Law Students' Professional Values: Observation, Explanation, Optimization, 4 GEO. J. LEG. ETHICS 537 (1991). It's a real eye-opener.


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