Two separate stories from different sides of the ocean about associates perhaps being encouraged to engage in unethical behavior does make one wonder whether reliance on the efficacy of the traditional partner-associate mentoring is always well-placed. Above the Law recounts the story from Texas of an associate sent to hang out with potential jurors in a room forbidden to lawyers, because, says ATL, "if someone is going to get in trouble, let it be an associate." Meanwhile, a post from the UK blog Lawyer Watch comments on a "depressing case" involving allegations of interrelated dishonesty by a partner and the partner's assistant:
The problems faced by an assistant in this position are manifold. They are compromised by their own culpability or contribution to any mistakes or (if there were any) prior dishonesty. My sense from talking to lawyers in difficult ethical positions is that responsibility is shifted implicitly or overtly to the partner. The dangers are obvious, but as an assistant in a law firm the economic and social need is to serve the partner. The client (and their case) is theirs. They get to take the tricky decisions.
It's hard enough being an associate these days without being bumped off the straight and narrow by someone who's supposed to be guiding you to professional success.