QI’m a midlevel associate at a big firm, thankfully not on the East Coast. Despite the tendencies of others around me, I consider myself pretty egalitarian. I abhor elitism and am finding out quickly I’m not often in the same company of people. One thing I do is eat lunch with the secretaries at the firm, in the pretty nondescript and boring break room. I enjoy it, loosen up a bit, and find myself gaining points with the support staff. But at least one partner and a few of my associate friends think it’s unbecoming, one even saying that I’m “suiciding” my upward movement at the firm. Thoughts?
AWait. You abhor elitism and you are at a big firm? Presumably (but not necessarily) you were an elite student in college, an elite student in law school, and now an elite lawyer among lawyers. And it’s now that you’re “finding out quickly I’m not often in the same company of people?” Wow. Where have you been? Did you hang out only with the janitors at law school? Did you slum around with the fourth quartile students? Let me guess. You sing Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” under your breath while researching the latest in securities law.
Abhoring elitism at a big firm is like abhoring the killing of animals but loving the hunt. But to each her own, I guess. Maybe that explains your odd rip on East Coast firms.
Here’s the deal. Eat with the secretaries. No one cares, and no one should (though it was less so in my day where there were separate lunch rooms for staff and for attorneys, and even a rumored “club room” for partners on an upper floor). But here are some things to consider. If any of these are true, stop eating in the break room and start going out to lunch with the partners and associates or, better yet, eating a tuna and rye at your desk while you work:
- You consciously think you are “one with the people;”
- You see it as a chance to get favorable treatment from the secretaries, a quid pro quo kinda deal;
- You’d rather be a secretary; or
- You think about it too much.
If you eat lunch with the secretaries at all (and that’s your choice), it has to be genuine, not some “back to nature” program where you think you are mixing with the commoners. But just make a choice and move on, taking what comes from it, even if it’s (unlikely) “suiciding” your chances at moving up.