Big Law firm draws ire for leaked list of 'non-negotiable expectations' for associates — including being online 24/7 'no exceptions, no excuses'

  • A leaked list of “non-negotiable expectations” at the law firm Paul Hastings is sparking debate. 
  • Some call the list “horrible,” but others say it represents realistic expectations in the industry. 
  • The firm told Insider “the views expressed do not reflect the views of the firm or its partners.”

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A leaked list of “non-negotiable expectations” for junior associates at the law firm Paul Hastings is spurring debate as some call the demands “disgusting” and others counter that the job requirements “really shouldn’t surprise anyone.”

The list, which was part of an internal presentation created and delivered by an associate to junior colleagues, included expectations like being online 24/7, “no exceptions, no excuses,” and likened associates to waiters or “a concierge at the Four Seasons” who will drop everything to cater to the client, “who comes first and is always right.” 

“You’re in the big leagues, which is a privilege, act like it,” the slide reads. 

In a statement to Insider, the firm confirmed “the material was prepared by an associate,” but noted, “the views expressed do not reflect the views of the firm or its partners.”

The list quickly went viral on social-media platforms including Reddit and Twitter, prompting discussion over whether the demands are exploitative or realistic within the industry. 

Lee Edwards, a general partner at Root Ventures, an investment firm focused on tech, wrote in a tweet on Friday that he found the expectations “horrible.” 

“This is disgusting,” he wrote. “This is horrible. These poor lawyers are working their asses off to please their entitled clients. Who the hell is this firm? What’s their best point of contact for new business? Are they taking new venture and startup clients?”

Others, such as Benedict Evans, an independent analyst and consultant, said the list seemed to include standard asks.

“Good and helpful description of working in any top-tier profession services firm at any point in the last 30 (50?) years,” he wrote in a tweet. “Yes, some people hate it and some people burn out, and some of it is performative, but this really shouldn’t surprise anyone.”

Regardless of the view, the slide is shedding light on wider discourse on burnout within the law industry, which has long been notorious for hefty workloads, especially among junior associates at large firms.

In recent years, the profession has seen an uptick in resignations, and studies point to growing discontent in the field: A Journal of Addiction Medicine survey of nearly 13,000 lawyers found that nearly half of the survey’s respondents had experienced depression during their careers. 

Former and current Big Law associates speaking to Insider in 2021 said that while the pandemic has exacerbated stress and mental-health challenges at work, the nature of the industry lends itself to a grueling environment and a lack of work-life balance. 

“Everyone is stretched beyond capacity,” one employee said. “Any semblance of separation between work and personal life has been obliterated.”

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