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The Lazy Lawyer Lets Us Down

, , , , , | Working | April 28, 2022

I’m a molecular biologist, and my team is excited about a new collaboration with a lab at a university. Basically, we can make a material that no one else can, and the university lab has a certain machine and the expertise to use it, and there are very promising reasons why we’d like to put our material through their machine.

But first, lawyers have to agree that we can do this. I understand the necessity of having unambiguous agreements in place between the two entities, but the level of roadblock is getting absurd. We’ve been having a teleconference with the university scientists every two weeks, preparing for the glorious day when we can see how our material reacts to their machine. As soon as the lawyers say, “Go,” we can ship our material that day and get results the next.

Yet the process drags on for weeks and then months. And the biggest part of the problem is my company’s lawyer. We only have one — it’s a small company — and he’s the CEO’s son. He became the company’s lawyer the moment he graduated law school, and while he’s a reasonably nice guy, he’s also not especially motivated to expedite anything. Oh, and criticizing him in front of his father is a quick trip to unemployment.

All we need him to do is sign a document. He needs to read the document and sign it, and then we can begin our research. The university’s lawyers finished this ages ago. But every time we ask our lawyer, he’s too busy, or he’ll get to it later, or some other excuse. My favorite:

Me: “So, is there anything else you need from us in order to sign the agreement? Anything we can help with?”

Lawyer: “Nah. I just have to do it.”


After about nine months, the university lawyers gave up, and the project never started. One of my motivating factors for leaving that company was seeing a spreadsheet I wasn’t meant to see and learning that [Lawyer] made a higher salary than any of the scientists, including department heads thirty years older than him.

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