Back in the day, I would have an Associate join a client meeting with instructions to speak up if they thought I was getting something wrong. Of course, they would only do so occasionally because I was not wrong all that often. When they did, if their point was not so great, I would respectfully acknowledge it and move on, but if it was valuable, I would say so and say to the client something like, “that’s why I had her sit in.”
I spoke to a young lawyer the other day who hails from another country. I will call her Natalie. Natalie explained to me that where she comes from, the culture is such that self-promotion is frowned upon. In her country, people do not think much of braggarts and blowhards. They respect people who are humble.
Now that I have been retired for a few years, I sometimes wonder whether my experience as to how law firms work remains valid. Also, since I spent my days with medium-sized firms and not in Big Law, I occasionally worry that my view of what goes on in Big Law is not correct.
But then I speak to lawyers working in Big Law and they invariably confirm that Big Law is exactly what I always thought it was (which is just Medium Law on steroids, with worse side effects), and nothing has changed, and likely never will.
Keep it Stupid, Simple
Back in 1996 my sister became a doctor. No, not the type that the cabin crew calls for desperately at 35,000 feet when some overworked lawyer has a heart attack. One of the other kinds. In my sister’s case, she holds a Doctorate in Psychology, which is often quite useful given the level of crazy in my family.
For her doctoral thesis, my sister designed an experiment which examined, among other things, the effect of gender on the diagnostic process. She sent a questionnaire to medical doctors and psychologists describing the symptoms of a patient and asking them to suggest a diagnosis. The description of the symptoms received by each clinician was the same, except for one tiny discrepancy. In some cases the patient was described as a woman with certain symptoms typically associated with premenstrual syndrome and which she reported experiencing over several days before the commencement of menstruation. In the others, the patient was described as a man who experienced the same symptoms every four or five weeks.
Long ago I used to work with a great lawyer named Ed. Ed was calm, at least compared to me. When I was freaking out about my files and my workload and certain that I was going to get myself sued for something or other, Ed just did his work, calmly and professionally, no matter how much pressure he was under. We used to call Ed the Iceman because we were sure that he had ice water in his veins. I envied Ed. I never did find out if his insides were any different from his outsides.
Act Your Wage
Veronica is my Gen Z stepdaughter. She knows a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff and is not shy to educate me on just about everything.
Most recently Veronica taught me the expression ‘Act Your Wage’ and then explained to me what it means.
Musings on Trust Funds and Ethics
If you are not in that part of the legal business which involves representing Banks on lending matters, you may not know that Banks love trust deposits. They pay a ridiculously low amount of interest on them, and while the firm’s mixed trust account (the “General Trust Account”) requires some managing, it does not take much effort to service the individual interest-bearing investment accounts for specific clients (the “Individual Accounts”). It is good business to have.
On the other hand, law firms like bank lending work. Less now than back in the days when it was more profitable, but still.
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.
There is an old story about a fellow who was searching for his lost keys under a streetlight. Various people came over to him, asked what he was looking for, and joined in the search. Eventually a lawyer came by and asked the same question but then followed up and asked him where he had lost his keys. The fellow pointed to a dark corner. When the lawyer asked why he was looking for his keys over here if he had lost them over there, the fellow explained that it was too dark to find anything where he lost them.
Adapt or Perish
Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” – H. G. Wells
I can mount a persuasive argument that I had a successful career practicing law.
Although it is unlikely that in a hundred years anyone will be writing about my contributions to the Law, some of my clients likely have fond memories about how I provided sound advice, got them out of a jam, or helped them achieve their goals.