Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Legal Ombudsman: Aspiring Hardcore Lawyers
Res ipsa loquitur.
Apparently April 14 was National Be Kind To Lawyers Day. TWO apologizes for not being au courant with lawyer holidays, but feels better knowing that his favorite legal blog, Above The Law, nearly forgot as well.
TWO has been lucky enough to befriend many young lawyers in New York who are normal, cool, friendly people. However, the very existence of National Be Kind To Lawyers Day implies that most lawyers aren't normal, cool or friendly. And that's correct. Socially awkward, insecure and, at times, angry people - what we will call hardcore lawyers - make up a majority of the profession, at least among big law firms. Therefore, for aspiring young associates, particularly those in Big Law - TWO presents the following tips for becoming a hardcore lawyer:
1) Your background. Its best if your background makes others feel inferior, but it must at least illustrate that you are on par with your colleagues. If you went to a top 10 or 20 law school there's no problem. Casually bring up your law school when you tell hilarious stories about drinking with your "Columbia Law friends" in Harlem. Harlem!!! If you went to a lower tier law school, always provide some sort of disclaimer, implying that you could have gone to nearly any other law school were it not for this particular circumstance. "Oh - Harvard? Yeah a ton of my friends went to law school there. I got a scholarship at Northeastern though, so...." Specialization is also a good trick: "I went to Brooklyn Law. Yeah, I was really interested in maritime law when I was looking at schools, and they have a great program there. I love the seas."
2) Your appearance. If you're a male, it is crucial that you pay a custom clothier, probably the one who wanders around your office from time to time, to make you a couple of outfits. That way, when someone asks you about where you got something you can interrupt them and say "Oh, I have a guy." This implies that the Thomas Pink, Jos. A. Bank or Brooks Brothers ensemble thrown together by the questioner just doesn't measure up to your discriminating tastes in style and fit. Also, cufflinks. Always. On every shirt. Even pajama tops.
If you're a female, always wear flats. Heels are for the hot lawyer girls who aren't as hardcore as you are, and also you hate them. An important sartorial move that says "I'm a chick lawyer making in the mid $200s" is to develop some special niche area where you will spend an inordinate amount of money. Two prominent examples are handbags and shoes. While you may not be able to wear the shoes you buy to the office, talk openly about what a huge problem you have spending way too much on shoes and then laugh, faux-self-disparagingly, at your own lack of discipline - HAHAHA. And then walk away feeling good because now other people know you have serious money from being a hardcore lawyer.
3)Your workload. You're incredibly busy. And the people should know. Accomplish this by remarking to everyone who happens into your office that you are totally exhausted from last night's due diligence/waiting for the client's mark up/seamless web mishap, whatever. You can never be well-rested. Tell law clerks and first year associates that you hate your job. This will give them the impression that you're just a normal guy or girl who doesn't like staying up late. But you know, and they probably do too, that you love it because it makes you feel serious. Finally - and this is an important step - regularly update your facebook status if you're in the office on a weekend or after 11pm on a weekday: "Sam Sweet is drafting an intercreditor agreement [1:31 am-Comment-Like]" and "Blossom Russo is document requests [11:04 pm-Comment-Like]" and "Jan Hammer hates working on a Sunday but is looking forward to his reunion w law school friends from Temple (where he got a scholarship)!!! [3:24pm-Comment-Like]"
4) Your expertise. By the time you're a third year associate, start playing up your expertise. When a deal you've been assigned to closes, take full credit. Say things like "I just closed a 1.1 billion dollar deal" even though in reality you were sent to a closing room somewhere and made to sit in an office with signature pages until a partner or senior associate, who actually closed the deal, called you and told you that you could return. Another move is to begin offering financial commentary. Despite the fact that your first few years as a lawyer have consisted primarily of word processing, quickly looking over organizational documents and avoiding pro bono assignments, you should give the impression that you have somehow acquired nuanced insights into financial markets unavailable to the layman. Tell people you're "bearish on equities" and bullish on something something. It can be anything. People will nod, look at your cufflinks, and think "This guy is a serious businessman!"
5) Your superiority. One thing the hardcore lawyer does is to furiously vent to other lawyers about other law firms and law schools, either in person, over email or by leaving angry comments on legal blogs. Here is a quick guide. Every law school or law firm that is ranked behind yours in the Vault Rankings, whether by one spot or 100 spots, should be referred to as TTT - third tier toilet. This can be done outright or by cleverly inserting it into the name of the institution you wish to denigrate: "Ha! I would never work for CovingTTTon!" This uproarious rhetorical device never gets old and will be absolutely hilarious to other hardcore lawyers. Any law firm ranked better than yours should be treated with unfettered, undiluted hatred. If you can find a story about a case they ruined, bring it up constantly and sound amazed that they could be considered better than your shop. That reminds me - sometimes you should refer to law firms as "shops." Shhh shhh shhh don't ask why just do it. Finally, if all else fails on a legal blog, try to find a typo in an earlier post.
Follow these steps and you'll be on your way to shedding your useless traits and acquiring the important ones. Once you've done that, invite me to a summer lunch at Gramercy Tavern.
In conclusion, Marc Dreier and I are taking out some clients this weekend if anyone wants to join.