I work as a legal assistant in a small (<10 assoc.) patent law firm; the firm is extremely profitable and well-managed. There is absolutely no room for pettiness; it is the most professional atmosphere I have worked in or even imagined. There is no backbiting by assistants or attorneys over anything, let alone about titles or who's job is better. The firm is most profitable when it runs like an oiled machine and there is no room for ego in that machine. If an associate started abusing the assistants to inflate their ego, they would be making the machine inefficient and they won't make partner and they know it. The assistants know that if they don't get along with the associates, then it is they who are slowing down the machine and if that happens, they're out too.
A lot of people on this forum seem to think that a "top" law firm is some V50 ranking. The truth is, a top firm is a profitable firm where the machine is well run and the atmosphere is enjoyable to work in. At our firm, the attorneys and the assistants talk about science, literature, art--there's no room for talking about who's job is better and bringing it up would be a huge, unimaginable faux pas. So there it is for you: if you find yourself in a firm where it is even imaginable to talk about or engage in some of the pettiness expressed in this thread, you don't work in a top firm and you should shop your resume.
Excellent analysis, I think I will print this off and hand it to one of my attorney boss mans . . . I work for a senior partner who treats me much better than my know it all associate. The associate is the one that actually makes me feel like a pee-on, which drives my desire for law school that much more. Not a power thing, but a "you know what I'm just as good as you and I have a love for this too" sort of thing.
I appreciate your analysis and I'm sure you will be an excellent attorney for it.