QI’m a fourth year associate at a large firm. I work with a great partner. He’s friendly, engaged, a good mentor, and provides terrific feedback on my work. He’s also a “bra-checker.” That is, he’s a warm and outgoing lawyer who likes to touch people.
I noticed it during my first year working with him. Typically, we’d be in the hall and we’d chit chat about a matter or talk briefly about our respective families and at some point he would put his hand on my back and pat or rub it with the palm of his hand. He may say something encouraging or affirming but often he would say nothing at all. Just a rub or pat on the back—it’s what’s become known as his bra-check, and I’ve seen him do it with other associates, male and female. It’s just that the female associates are the ones who seem most troubled by it.
I thought it was a little weird at first but I’ve chalked it up to him being a decent, sound, and nice guy who has somewhat of a weird habit (though I’ve also seen him straightening the framed photos along the walls of the office, making me wonder if he’s got a mild version of OCD).
He’s not creepy or pervy at all. At all. He’s just nice and one of the rare “touchy-feely” lawyers I’ve met, including most of the women who work here. I’m inclined not to say anything to him but I also think he deserves to know that he’s considered the firm’s resident bra-checker. Should I say something to him or just let it go?
AFirst of all, most big firms—most offices or workplaces even—-have their own versions of touchy-feely bra-checking partners. Some are pervy, like the one we call Dirty Old Man Partner, and some are just plain out touchy-feely dudes. I remember one partner at my firm who made a habit of rubbing up your arm when you shook his hand, to the point that you thought “if he lingers one second more I’ll take the fucker out.” But it was ultimately harmless. Then again, there was another partner who exposed himself to a summer associate and he was disappeared by the firm within an hour. Goes both ways, and I think you’ll need to go with your gut on this one.
For me, though, the dude’s clueless, or he may have some semblance of a clue but it’s part of his little OCD-infused world to touch people, pat their backs, and to straighten his pencils out on his desk. Honestly, in a world without lawyers, what’s the beef? Except we are in a world of lawyers, and one person’s bra-check can be another lawyer’s three-year $100,000 case.
If he’s such a great guy—and it sounds like he is—talk to him. Dollars to donuts he’s already heard about it, will say it’s ingrained in who who he is, and will tell you that. Or he’ll be shocked to know he’s the resident law firm bra-checker and that his bra—or bro—checking upsets some of the associates. To know that, he may be embarrassed but thankful.
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