Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An Inexcusable Effort At Humor?

Reader(s)™ who follow the legal news have probably heard about the infamous email unearthed in a fee dispute involving mega-firm DLA Piper. In short, some guy owes DLA Piper a bunch of fees, and when they sued him he countersued alleging over-billing, etc. (Protip: don't sue your clients.) Among the docs produced is an email from one grunt associate to another which contains the words "churn that bill, baby!" To churn, in Biglaw-speak, is to make work, or overstaff. In other words, to over-bill.

In context, the quote isn't quite as bad. It's not a direction from a partner to an associate to churn. It's rather some bullshitting between two powerless grunts about the behavior of a another lawyer (a partner, I believe) who had a reputation for running up big numbers. It is the kind of thing one grunt associate has said to another grunt associate a billion times at sweat shops like DLA Piper. Most of those grunts are smart enough not to put it in writing, though.

DLA Piper has responded to press coverage of the email with a statement that the email was an "inexcusable effort at humor." As mentioned, I think it's likely correct that the comment was said in jest, at least partially. But was it an "inexcusable" effort?

Well, some people say there are no dumb questions. I say there are no inexcusable efforts at humor, especially when you are toiling away at a two-million-lawyer law firm that I always thought was an accounting firm. But you have to know your media. Irreverence has a place in the law. Does it ever! But usually its place starts in the larynx and spews out through the mouth. What I'm saying is: don't write that shit down, bro.*

*Disclaimer notwithstanding, consider that some free all-purpose legal advice.

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