The Mentality and Attitudes of Lawyers

Cowboys and Aliens

In the movie Cowboys and Aliens, the cowboys band together to vanquish the big, bad, powerful aliens.

When I retired, I moved to the country and tried to fit in with the country folks after having spent a lifetime in the Big City. 

I soon met Jack, who told me that winter was his favourite season because in the summer the tourists from the Big City came flooding into our small hamlet, taking up parking, creating lines in the supermarket and at the local pizza joint, and generally hanging around, looking impatient, and creating an anxious vibe.

I had stumbled upon a source of conflict between the cowboys and the aliens and I was dead set upon letting everyone know that I now considered myself to be a cowboy. Around then I gave all of my custom suits and shirts to charity, bought a pick-up truck, and started listening to country music.

I thought about how I had bought into the notion that people who lived in the Big City were more fortunate and sophisticated than people who lived in the country. I was surprised when someone in the country expressed genuine sadness that I was so unfortunate as to have had to spend many years in the Big City.  

For those of you who have not figured out where I am headed with this yet, it is a metaphor for the way lawyers who work in Big Law and lawyers who work in smaller firms or on their own tend to think about each other. 

For many Big Law lawyers, it is indisputable that practicing in that environment is better than practicing in a smaller setting. Fancier offices. More sophisticated clients. Larger deals. More income. Smarter lawyers.  For them, it is axiomatic that bigger is better.

I have to tell you that I have met some pretty successful people out here in the country. Many of them have good careers or businesses, beautiful houses, very happy personal lives (oh, and really nice boats and other toys). Traffic is minimal. Parking is free. Generally speaking, they strike me as calmer and happier than people who work in the Big City.

And to continue my metaphor, I can also tell you that I have met some very smart and successful lawyers working in medium-sized and boutique law firms, who do not envy their Big Law peers even one tiny little bit, and sometimes mock their apparent arrogance. (How many of us have looked at a Big Law firm’s roster only to see the name of someone we know to be a complete idiot or scoundrel?)

Lawyers in smaller firms often report that Big Law lawyers look down on them and try to get away with crap that they would never even attempt with a lawyer from another Big Law firm.

Surely the legal profession can see that Big Law lawyers and the rest of us are not actually from different galaxies and treat each other with more respect.

If not, the “cowboys” at the smaller firms should perhaps find a Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, and Olivia Wilde from among their numbers and see what they can do to change the order of things.

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