Q I’ve got an interesting dilemma with a two part question. Here’s the background. I’m four years out of law school and am fully employed with a small suburban law firm. Big city, tony suburban setting, decent pay. The job is fine, work is pretty steady. The problem—or so I’m told—is that I drive an old rusty truck. Specifically, a blue 1990 Ford F150, which I love. It breaks down a times, but I feel it’s all I need and doesn’t have all the presumptions of any other car. It’s a truck. I drive it. It gets me there.
It also doesn’t fit in. Last fall I was in the firm conference room with another associate and pointed out the window and down to the parking lot. I said “which one of these is not like the others?” The associate looked down at the rows of cars in the lot—Lexus SUV, BMW, Lexus SUV, Lexus SUV—and then said “rusty truck at 2:00.”
So, it sticks out, but I rarely get seen in it nor have I ever needed to drive a client anywhere. Two weeks ago, though, I had to meet with a partner and a client over breakfast and, when I got there, they were outside the restaurant talking and waiting for me. They saw me when I pulled in, and I dutifully waved, parked, and proceeded as normal. For some odd reason, the fact that they didn’t say anything at all about the truck didn’t seem to bode well.
Later in the day, the partner came into my office and told me I had to get a new car. There wasn’t much more to it, just “[Name], it’s time you got a more appropriate car for your position. The truck doesn’t cut it.” That was it. My truck doesn’t cut it.
Now, my two questions. First, and honestly, what’s wrong with the truck? And, two, if I have to get a new car, what’s best for a youngish associate who thinks he’s moving up?
A Wait. Your truck doesn’t have “all the presumptions of any other car?” How about the presumption that you’re a wheat-chewing hick from Decatur? How about that you’re an upper middle-class suburban professional who is pissed about working in the suburbs and wearing a suit? That’s actually, honestly, what your question exudes, especially if you seem to think the partner and the client should at least have said something about your trusty rust bucket.
Lose the truck. Or at least leave it at home with ma and pa.
Don’t get me wrong. I love trucks. At my farmhouse I have one of the best trucks in the world—a beat up Ford F250. Keyword is “farmhouse.” As in hauling dirt, moving rocks, driving through fields. Not hauling CEOs, moving files, and driving through the parking lot at a Shaker Heights TGI Friday’s. It just doesn’t work, hombre, at least for a suburban lawyer in a world of Lexus SUVs.
Now, what car is best for a third or fourth-year associate in a small suburban firm? That’s a fascinating question. It’s also one of these questions that associates think about a lot. At least I did when I was in BigLaw. The common thought was practicality for the first few years, followed by status the following years. And a more common arrangement was to lease, not buy, though recently lawyers have been shedding high-end car leases like old skin.
Though I’m sure readers will pipe in about how dead wrong I am about this (who doesn’t like to argue about the right lawyer car), I’d try to lease or buy a used one of these: Honda Pilot, Mazda 3, or a Volkswagen Jetta. Not exactly a collection of gold Lexus SUVs but, honestly, you’re not there yet.
Post image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/birdnerd25/3787803342 on Flickr