abovethelawFrom Above the Law
By Elie Mystal

Last month, we profiled Steven Pesner, a partner at Akin Gump who sounded like an egomaniac while threatening associates who did not promptly enter in their time.

Prior to Pesner, Simpson Thacher threatened to dock the pay of timekeepers who are delinquent.

Entering time is important, but sometimes you can get more flies with honey than with douches. At least at Brown Rudnick, the firm is trying to reward dutiful time keepers instead of threatening those who fall behind…

Here’s a radical thought, instead of penalizing people, you could incentivize people. Brown Rudnick is offering its people a fun reason to get their time in:

We are giving away 24 iPads! All you (partners, associates, counsel and paralegals alike) have to do to become eligible to win one is:

1. Attend the Effective Billing Practices training on Monday, December 6th at 12:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m.GMT;

2. Follow “best practices” for all timekeeping entries (as described in the December 6th training session); and

3. Submit your time daily from December 6th – January 31st in accordance with our timekeeping policy.

[Redacted] and his team of experts will determine whether timekeepers are following “best practices” (including submission of detailed, informative descriptions of the individual tasks performed and the amount of time spent on each). All eligible timekeepers will be included in a raffle. Winners will be announced no later than February 7th.

There are a couple of great things about this program. First of all, it’s great that Brown Rudnick included partners in its missive about time-keeping. Partners are just as susceptible to falling behind on their paperwork as anybody else. How nice of Brown Rudnick to look at the whole problem instead of just singling out the people in the weakest power position at the firm.

And offering prizes is a great idea. I mean sure, it’s an iPad (quick question: what, precisely, is the iPad for? It’s not a phone, it’s not a laptop, you can’t have sex with it, if I got an iPad, what other thing in my life would I no longer need?). What Brown Rudnick is doing is trying to create a sense of community among everybody who works at the firm. Instead of using fear and intimidation, it’s telling people that if they do what Brown Rudnick wants them to do, they might get something in the bargain.

Does anybody remember this mentality? It’s what we used to see before the recession. It’s what we used to see before employers starting acting like they were doing some kind of magnanimous favor merely by allowing people to work for them. Having a job is not a “perk,” having a job is not a “bonus.” Having a job… is work.

Sure, as Steven Pesner so eloquently reminded us, the job market is tough. People can’t easily leave one job and land another one. People need their jobs. But that’s no excuse for taking emotional advantage of the people “trapped” in your employ.

I applaud Brown Rudnick here. They didn’t have to do it this way. The could have just told people to enter their time and punish the delinquents. Doing nice things when you don’t have to is the definition of being “nice.” At a time when seemingly all of America is stressed out and terrified of becoming a victim of the recession, Brown Rudnick did this little small thing, and it’ll make people feel a little less economically depressed as they struggle through the “recovery.”

Management has paid very little attention to firm morale since the start of the recession. Let’s hope Brown Rudnick starts the ball rolling in the other direction.