The Eighth-Year Associate - By Jane Genova
That was how the eighth-year associate took in the gestalt. Actually, the higher up informing him he was not making partner had presented the tragic news with compassion. And hope. “I want you to talk to the managing partner of a firm trying to establish a branch in Russia.” The partner added, “And you can stay here as long as you need.”
But, Boris, like so many lawyers, had never been programmed with the software to feel what others were. For him the gap came not from preferring the cerebral. Or from innate arrogance.
His childhood and teenage years in America had been totally isolated after his family migrated from Russia. No Fyodor Dostoyevsky type emerged, with a deep understanding of the human heart. His more outgoing sister, Natasha, had become a famous crime novelist. The niche was murders of passion.
Directly from the partner’s office, he went to the elevator bank, left the building and took the “L” back to his Chicago neighborhood.
“You can leave me if you want” was the way Boris announced this development to his Russian wife, Anna. Actually, that had been on her to-do list since he had begun compulsively studying in law school, then working at a major law firm. For the past two years she had been getting it on with Polish scientist at the University of Chicago. I will have to wait six or eight months, she thought to herself. Otherwise, right now, Boris will kill us.
For 56 days straight Boris clicked on the law firm’s website. He gawked for hours where his name had been removed. Anna didn’t dare ask what he planned to do next.
That next did arrive. It seemed to rally him. He organized an alumni group among all the other lawyers at that firm who hadn't made partner. Weekly they met in the Loop. There were major celebrations when someone else was canned, a case was lost or PPP was down.
Through that network, Boris landed a plum document review contract. It paid higher than average because it required his Russian. No one liked him there. He bossed his peers around. Some suspected he was a snitch. But his linguistic ability was needed. He stayed.
If he could label emotions, he probably would have said he experienced relief when Anna divorced him. The alumni group had warned him this would happen. Few marriages could weather the associate’s not making partner. Peter, the alumni group wise man, continually commented, “Catastrophe changes everything. For everyone.”
When recruited for a lawyer job in an American firm expanding in Russia, Boris went. He demanded an accelerated review for partner. Weekly he kept in touch by SKYPE with the alumni group. Gently, Peter inserted tips on how Boris could begin to read social situations. Likely they weren’t heard. He bossed everyone around, including superiors. He ratted out mistakes to headquarters in America.
Boris was turned down for partner.
“Hurt people hurt,” mused Peter at an alumni meeting that wasn’t transmitted on SKYPE. He added, “Maybe that’s why none of us made partner. And why all of us became lawyers.”