Updated every Thursday
Holly English is the legal workplace guru. An employment lawyer, she answers your questions about how to deal with your boss and your colleagues, and how to balance your professional and private lives. Questions about finding a better law firm job or changing career direction should be directed to our other experts.
This Week's Topic:
I am a mentor in my firm to a couple of younger lawyers. My problem is that one talks to me too much about personal issues.
A very powerful client is coming on to me. I�ve mentioned this to people in my firm, but I think they�re afraid to alienate him.
I only put work that I have actually done on my time sheet, and I've gotten some heat about my billable hours.
I work with a Jekyll-and-Hyde partner -- nice until pressure hits, then a control freak.
I have a real personality clash with a colleague.
As a male associate, I'm told that I don't project enough assertiveness and aggressiveness.
I hit "reply all," not "reply," when e-mailing criticism of a senior partner.
I've been assigned a new junior associate who is much older than I am.
I�m too involved in the gossip at my firm, like who�s having an affair with whom.
Recently I made a big mistake, and the partner who pointed it out was not happy.
My boss let me cut back my work schedule when I had children, but I'm bored with my job.
As a first-year Biglaw associate in my 40's, have I got a shot at making partner?
Expecting a rave review, I was blindsided by some unexpected criticisms and became angry and defensive.
I'm stuck handling a dog of a case by myself.
A lawyer at my firm charms his peers then treats the staff poorly when partners aren�t around.
I work with a partner who everyone loves and who just took credit for my ideas.
I'm a young associate doing well. Should I tell anyone that I'm starting chemotherapy?
I'm not wild about taking on a pro bono case during my summer associateship.
I'm an assistant with a new master's. My office manager suddenly faults my work.
I've been approached by a colleague to go behind an obnoxious rainmaker's back.
I'm an Ivy League, Biglaw associate now off the partner track and diagnosed with a learning disability.
After leaving Biglaw for in-house, I'm having a hard time adjusting to my "less intense" new colleagues.
Constant flirtation from a senior partner drove me out of a top NY firm.
Co-workers believe I'm having an affair with a partner to get ahead.
One of our partners is such a blowhard. He ... just drives us crazy.
I often begin to cry when someone is being critical of me, at my review for instance.
I loathe cursing and sexual jokes. Can an interview reveal "office culture?"
After one drink, I look drunk. How should I handle my firm's social events?
I find it hard to tell a partner when he is making a mistake, even a serious one.
What do I need to do to prepare for a BigLaw summmer job. Should I buy a new wardrobe?
Holly addresses feedback about last week's question from a female associate concerning sexual tension between herself and a married male partner.
I am a third-year and a woman working with a male partner (married, of course -- but always at the office) who really seems interested in me. And I am attracted to him.
Work is mighty slo-o-o-o-o-wwww right now.
What can you do when people won't give you honest feedback, even when directly asked?
I have an employee, an average performer, who regularly complains about co-workers' behavior.
Last year my secretary gave me an embarrassingly nice Christmas present.
I'm a young, attractive and flirty female associate. What can I do to be taken seriously?
I am a low-key person, modest and self-effacing, but, at my review, I was told I lack confidence.
I'm the only one in my team with kids and my boss switches schedules at the last minute.
I am a soft-spoken individual who is always getting "talked over" at meetings.
As an associate, how do I handle going from extremely busy to nothing to do?
How can junior associates remain sane without knowing if partners really like them?
A reader asks if a firm can be right for you if you don't want to socialize with co-workers.
A senior partner is always voicing political opinions as if everyone agrees with him.
Should I go back to the firm I worked in before law school? I liked it there, but I worry people will still see me as a legal secretary.
I'm doing well at my firm and mostly like my job, but there is a partner who is out to get me.
An associate I know has made a couple of blunders. What can she do to get back on track?
I want to work from home one day a week. What is the best way to propose this?
I am leaving my firm because one partner is a bully. Should I say anything before I go?
My boss "shoots the messenger" over bad news, and I am fed up with his tantrums.
My firm is letting me go, and I think that I am being blamed for errors by the support staff.
I took a year off after my first year of law school to have a baby.
What can I do about working for a blowhard partner? This pompous jerk drives me nuts.
I plan to have a baby after I've been at my new firm for a reasonable time. What's "reasonable?"
Partners in our firm can�t make a decision to save their lives.
I can't wait to finish my first year of practice so I can change jobs. Why? My boss is terrible.
I supervise a secretary and paralegal who are at each other�s throats.
I am a Biglaw staff attorney contemplating taking a paycut as an associate at a smaller firm.
What types of things are employers looking for in a summer associate?
I am a NY lawyer making less than $40,000 a year. Help!
Two older lawyers take exception to the way that associates, and women in particular, dress.
Readers talk back about how much a male, first-year Biglaw associate should spend on his suits.
How much should a male first-year associate at a Biglaw firm be spending on his suits?
Will partners resent it if I start a new job and am pregnant shortly thereafter?
I've been practicing law for 12 unhappy years, and I'd like to find a new profession.
In response to your column last week, I think you missed a couple of possibilities.
Younger male associates often bristle at getting criticism from senior women.
I work with a couple of people who are incessant gossips.
What can minority attorneys do to cope with the "extra scrutiny" to which they are subjected?
How is it possible that law continues to be one of the most segregated industries in the nation?
I'm a government lawyer who loves my job except for one thing: politicians.
What can a young female lawyer do to get more business other than taking male clients out to dinner?
As a woman lawyer, it irks me when men tone down the obscenities because "there's a lady present."
A senior partner is angry with me and has begun spreading false rumors about my personal life.
How should I deal with a backstabber?
How do billable hours translate into real hours worked?
What can you do about a colleague who is constantly complaining?
What's the best way to address missing my billable hours target for the year?
At my review, I got some unfair criticisms, and I didn't know what to say.
After failing the bar twice, I lost a great job. I'm still unemployed and becoming depressed.
I�m always getting interrupted in meetings or in conferences.
A male associate offers his perspective on the gender-salary gap.
A study found young women lawyers earn less $14,000 than their male counterparts. Why?
As a 2L, is it too soon to be thinking about a practice specialty?
I have an important male client who I think "likes" me. Any tips on heading him off?
I have a colleague who is trying to recruit co-workers into a cult.
I'm in a position with a small firm that's going nowhere, but the hours are great.
I have a senior co-worker who is always talking. I mean this woman can talk.
I�ve been criticized by those who report to me for being harsh, but I just want work done well.
What can associates do about partners who provide no feedback?
I now supervise an associate I've been friendly with for years, and I realize his work isn't very good.
I am a new partner with an older colleague who has been a great mentor to me. But I feel I need to establish a more separate identity.
Is facial hair acceptable? I look eighteen years old clean-shaven.
Readers' comments about the difficulty of being a "nice" senior associate.
I feel that I am too nice.
What can an associate do to make management realize they undervalue the importance of support staff?
I'm a second-year at an AmLaw 100 firm who's thinking of quitting to pursue an MBA.
I'm a young associate, and I can't seem to get the "real world answer" about billable hours.
Should I bypass an overwhelmed assigning partner to work for a broader number of partners?
How can a laid-off associate handle "off the record" slurs by former co-workers?
When firms lay off associates who received good reviews, are they risking lawsuits?
I agonize over minor setbacks at work.
I work with another partner who is always one-upping me, and it gets on my nerves.
Why can't older workers manage the interviewing process better in terms of their appearance?
I'm a summer associate at a large NY firm who has displeased some attorneys.
A colleague and I are identified too much with each other.
I've been told, "Don�t hang around with support staff so much if you want to make partner."
BigLaw is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Can sensitive people survive at New York's notoriously aggressive top firms?
I'm a first-year associate, the first lawyer in my family. How do I become a rainmaker?
I am a female associate who vastly prefers to work for male rather than female attorneys.
I'm a very young female attorney, 23 to be exact, and I need to wear braces.
As my firm's only female associate, how can I make professional contacts?
I am sometimes asked whether my firm has women or minorities who can work on the matter because the client is concerned about diversity.
I�m an African American female, and I strongly suspect that I�m being brought along on client meetings for my color and not my ability.
I am getting set to relocate to New York, and I despair over my credentials!
Two of my firm's top money makers are always late for meetings, wasting everyone else's time.
I recently changed jobs, and at my new firm it feels like I can't do anything right.
It's absurd for a guy billing what my boss charges per hour to be poring over the tiniest details.
I am inhouse with a major insurance company, but the work is the most unfulfilling I have.
I am clerking for an abusive judge who is not providing a decent learning experience.
What do you think of "kissing up"?
I and other "contract attorneys" are treated very rudely by partners and associates.
The employees at my midsized Manhattan firm weren't invited to the holiday party -- only clients.
At our holiday party, lawyers got very drunk and/or were seen in compromising positions.
I'm a partner and associates at my firm get to give reviews of their bosses.
I�m having trouble managing on a day-to-day basis with the uncertainty of a shaky job market.
If I want to participate in sports talk in the workplace, what are some practical tips?
I am seeing a Manhattan attorney who hardly seems to have time for me. Can I get some advice?
I switched firms to work in new practice areas, but one partner overloads me with his work.
What do you think of the idea that women "opt out" of top jobs to spend time with family?
I'm a second-year at a NY firm marked by ego and an "old boys' school" atmosphere.
Can I be disbarred for downloading music from Napster-type Web sites?
I just had a very positive review that gave me no help in planning my career.
There is an associate in my group who pads her hours. Am I obligated to turn her in?
I work for a senior associate who makes stupid mistakes and takes credit for my work.
I am a Republican associate at a Democrat firm. I'm screwed, aren't I?
I told an interviewer I was reading Harry Potter in French. She wasn't impressed.
I had an affair a few years back and I just found out my "ex" will be lead counsel on my next deal.
I work for a firm that has an unusually strict dress code.
Is your second year too early to leave a law firm for in-house?
I'm graduating from a top five school with good grades, and I don't have a job lined up.
I am looking to switch firms and have a baby. Should I do my resume or the baby's room first?
I am a married attorney who recently slept with a client while on a businees trip.
The partners at my firm are not supportive of my second career as a competitive ballroom dancer.
I used to secretly date a senior associate at my firm, and it ended badly. Now I am being laid off and I think he is why.
Knowing how unlikely it is to make partner in a large NY law firm, why should any associate sacrifice their personal life to be rewarded only with more sacrifices?
I am a third-year with no interest in making partner: I have a social life and am out the door at five. Why do the other associates hate me?
I am a married associate working with another associate who is interested in me sexually.
I am a man who has been very successful. But I am often shut out by sports talk.
I am a woman who has been very successful. But I am often shut out by sports talk.
I work with another associate who always begs for help at the last minute.
Given the dire economy, how can a minority attorney find an opening, much less a mentor?
A new associate here botched his first assignment and has gotten almost no work since.
I have a buddy who I realize does lousy work. What should I do?
I am a grossly overworked legal secretary, sick of taking work home to keep up. What should I do?
The male attorneys at my small firm socialize constantly, excluding the female associates. What should I do?
My firm has a rainmaker with a reputation for shoddy lawyering, dishonesty and making associates do things that could get them disbarred.
I am a third-year associate and the partners I report to tell me I do great work. Other associates criticize me about petty details, but I think they're just being jackasses. What can I do about them?
I am a recently married mid-level associate in my firm having an affair with one of the firm's partners, who is also recently married. Should I be looking for a new job?
One of my partners is sharing confidential financial information about our firm with associates. What should I do?
How is age a limiting factor in being hired and promoted in big law firms?
How can I deal with an overly chatty co-worker with too much time on her hands?
All law firms seem to think short-term, hiring lots of people during good times and firing lots during bad times. Boom or bust, associates are overworked until they burn out. Help!
I have been receiving overtures from a male partner with a reputation for preying sexually on female associates. What should I do?
I work under a partner who can't write. Am I crossing the line if I correct his work?
I work with a partner who reads the "Harry Potter" books. Should I be worried?
How can I deal with a colleague who dominates meetings and denigrates others?
I have been told that I came across badly in a recent hearing.
Our firm just drove out a lateral with a terrific book of business.
I look very young for my age. How can I establish my credibility?
Aren't there other ways than layoffs to deal with a slow economy?
My firm is big on playing team sports. I stink at all of them. Can I still make partner?
I really would like to become a public interest lawyer but have no idea where to start.
What do you think of e-mail as a vehicle for criticism?
How is it reasonable for any large firm to expect associates to "generate business"?
I work with a partner who makes a big deal about asking for advice he never takes.
I'm a female who is criticized by women I supervise for not showing enough "sisterhood."
I'm about to be reviewed by a partner I have had no contact with at all. What should I do?
I work long hours, but because I am a father, I put in some of those hours from home after I put the kids to bed. A partner has told me I don't spend enough time in the office and questioned whether I can "cut it." What should I do?
I am an underpaid, overworked and stressed out attorney and mom. Help!
Okay, I've had it. I just finished three weeks working morning, noon and night on a huge matter, and at the end of it, there was not even a simple thank you from the partner in charge. What is wrong with people?
Morale at my firm is nil with everyone anxious about layoffs. It's brought out a nasty level of competitveness -- everyone tries to make coworkers look bad while casting themselves as indispensable. What can be done?
One of my partners has a way of getting associates to confide in him and then using it against them. What can I do?
How can I deal with a client who is a nasty bully, always yelling and complaining and bitching?
How can a female associate develop client relationships without risking gossip or sexual harassment?
I have never had a formal performance review and could use the feedback.
The partner I work under won�t take the time to answer questions.
What can I do to address discrimination against African-American men, not women?
How should a partner deliver feedback to associates?
I work with someone who is always slipping in critical remarks as "jokes."
Two years ago my firm merged and it's still like two armed camps under one roof.
Is there a way to deal with my firm's disparagement of a quirky but brilliant lawyer?
What can be done about lack of support of practices that were once hot and now are not?
I am aware that an female associate is being harassed by a client. What should I do?
I'm a male lawyer working with a female attorney who is a flirt. What can I do?
I work with another partner who is always one-upping me, and it gets on my nerves.
Our managing partner is a great guy, but he ignores the tough questions. What can I do?
Do firms really credit pro bono work towards making partner?
Should I step in between two partners who clash constantly?
How can I approach a partner about his unproductive brother?
Should I sleep with my colleagues to get better assignments?
Will blowing off having drinks with my colleagues after work harm my career?
I am working for a major screamer. Am I being a masochist? Should I get out of here?
I'm a first-year associate; everyone else in my class has work to do, but I'm getting nothing. How can I get on the right track?
Since we've had layoffs, the relationships between partners and associates at my firm have turned into "us against them." What can be done about it?
Should anyone care about an associate-partner affair?
Is it worth pursuing a judicial clerkship if I only want to do corporate/transactional work?
I'm drowning in work! How can I turn down assignments without guilt?
In my firm, people wrangle about the stupidest things. Is there anything that can be done about this pettiness?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a lawyer?
An associate I work with gets off on being flippant and contrarian. How can I rein him in?
Which will be better for my career: A big firm in a big city, or a smaller firm in a medium-sized city?
How can I get my firm's executive committee to make decisions faster?
The partner I work with is pretty strange. How can I insure others in the firm don't think I'm just as out-there as he is?
My partners are arrogant, self-centered and pompous. Should I switch firms?
Female associates at my firm dress far too provocatively. How can I make them stop?
An African-American associate in my firm looks like he's ready to leave. How can I convince him to stay?
My firm is a "family" -- but one filled with incompetents. How can I convince my partners to cut the deadwood?
Is cheap, raspy toilet paper a sign my firm doesn't care about its associates?
My boss is a real bastard in negotiations; I'm more low-key. Which approach is better?
Associates say I don't listen to them; I disagree. Who's right?
How can I fight back against a backstabbing colleague?
Should I tell an associate that a colleague is constantly backstabbing him?
My friend just failed the bar exam. What should I say to him?
What can you do when people make stupid "joke" remarks that are offensive?
Should associates be compensated for clients they bring to the firm?
Should I date an associate from another department?
My firm trots me out to law students as a mother/partner Superwoman, but I feel like a hypocrite. What can I do?
Why do so many law firms view associates as expendable?
I hate big-firm life. How can I choose a new job that I'll like?
How can I help a colleague who lost several friends in the World Trade Center attack move on?
How do I deal with a headstrong associate?
How do I deal with the partner who only says "no"?
What matters more to making partner: who you know or what you know?
What can be done about a partner who manufacturers client "emergencies"?
Are the rules of legal grammar ironclad or subject to interpretation?
An associate we hired had great grades but a terrible work ethic. How can we avoid the same mistake again?
How can firms make lateral associates feel welcome?
Associates in my firm can�t write and can�t spell. How can I get them to improve without seeming like a pesky perfectionist?
I told my supervising partner that our client�s case was a loser; he upbraided me and hasn�t given me an assignment since. Was I wrong to speak frankly?
My first-year associate won�t work weekends. What�s wrong with these kids today?
Can whining about one�s job be a symptom of depression?
How can a small firm handle rapid growth without losing that "family" atmosphere?
An associate I supervise is loud and obnoxious � even for a lawyer. How can I give her a fair evaluation?
How do I fend off a partner who disparages me to others?
Should my firm have a written policy that sets criteria for allowing flex-time work arrangements?
Should I fire an associate just because he�s a major-league whiner?
I rejected joining a firm when I heard a partner loudly berating an associate. Was I too impulsive?
How much flirting is too much?
A male partner in my firm prefers to supervise female associates. Is something funny going on here?
Everyone treats me like the office den mother. How can I talk less and work more, without upsetting my colleagues?
How can I bill more hours without resorting to padding my bills?
Should we reject hiring a law student because she was snooty to the receptionist?