So, I would like to spend some time in our posts focusing on these issues. HP spent many years at a solid AM LAW 200 firm. During the time HP was growing up there, HP will say that HP did have great mentors who taught HP these important professionalism traits. I don't think these same lessons are necessarily being taught there now, and I am concerned they are not taught at other firms. So, maybe I can pass along some here.
First, you are bright, diligent people. Don't become a Stepford Attorney. Let's say a partner wants to keep his or her group hours up and tells you to record time in a way that you are not sure sounds right. Do you just follow his or her instructions? If you've got a concern or actually feel it is unethical ...i.e. billing for work not done.. then do something about it. The partner is putting you, himself, and the firm at risk. Someone once told a group of associates "our clients may go to jail, we are not going to jail for them." Similar story here. Do not do something you think is unethical or illegal just because someone is telling you to do it. Go consult a department chair, an office managing partner, someone to ask their advice. I know this is risky but it is better than getting involved in shady timekeeping or other unethical issues. Do not sacrifice your ethical obligations and professionalism for someone's profit.
Second, when I was a first year associate, I had an orientation program. I still remember one important line from that program: "everyone here, at some point, will make a mistake. Do not attempt to hide it, don't think it will go away, and don't have a heart attack. Tell someone." I think of that to this day. Once, it happened to me. I thought I forgot to do something in connection with a appellate brief. I fessed up to the senior associate, thinking I was about to die. I am sure I lost sleep. He said, oh, I remembered that and took care of it yesterday. Crisis averted! Remember, a lot of mistakes can be cured, but if you try to bury them -- like my brother used to do with his bad report cards in the front yard so our parents wouldn't find them -- sometimes the mistakes will become bigger and bigger problems.
More in a later post. Hope you are having a nice weekend.