The idea a Big Firm is “one big family” is merely bulls#!t used to con Summers into selling their souls to our particular brand of sweatshop. To actually catch up with someone in a department other than “corporate stooges,” I have to plan time to get together off the clock and then figure out a way to expense it. Last week, I decided to hang with my buddy Brian who’s a litigator at my firm. It sounds strange, but M&A and litigation mix almost as frequently as Barney Frank and female strippers.
Brian and I used to be close in law school. We were both big movie buffs, and he liked to chase tail half as much as I did, which was good enough for me. But once we went our separate ways day one in BigLaw, we barely spoke because, at that point, the ugly truth was apparent that the only thing litigators and corporate lawyers have in common is maybe bankruptcy law. Otherwise, I have way more in common with my investment banker friends who live and breath deals. Litigators…well, I have no idea what they do. I assume it’s something like that movie a A Few Good Men, but with less shouting.
So, when we sat down for lunch, I figured I would at least pretend to feign interest in Brian’s work for the sake of friendship. But once he started droning on about how amazing it was to be assigned to take depositions at his level, I started daydreaming about Angie Harmon circa Law & Order. She and I were in the middle of making out when my dream was rudely interrupted by his ire.
“Hey, asshole, don’t ask if your not gonna listen. You think your life is so interesting?”
Um, yeah, I just closed a billion-dollar deal for a paper company!
“Sorry, go on—I’m listening. You were taking a deposition, and it’s a pretty big deal for someone your year to do that all alone…”
Out of the blue, he shocked me with his level of condescension toward my chosen part of the profession.
“So how’s the comma spotting? Crossing all those ‘t’s and redlining.”
“Do you even know what a redline is?”
“Let me guess, something to do with editing documents. Are you even admitted to the bar?”
Note to self: Double-check that.
But Brain wasn’t prepared to ease off the pedal.
“I bet you really get a lot of use out of that license.”
“Whatever, Brian. You get excited about the one time you got to talk to the CEO of a company for a deposition. I talk to CEOs every day.”
That was a blatant lie. Occasionally, during a closing, I will engage in some brief chitchat about the deal and maybe give a hearty handshake. Mostly I spend my time getting grief from analysts.
After a bit of back and forth, we kind of dropped it and finished our lunch.
“We should do this again sometime soon.”
What we really both felt like saying was, “No, we really shouldn’t…ever.”
I went back to my office with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. Did I have it wrong? Should litigators be looking down on us and not the other way around? I tried to be objective in my analysis.
My argument is that litigators aren’t real men because the following words mean nothing to them:
5. The Printer
If you are 30, and you work in the corporate world, you cannot be considered a man if you don’t know these five things.
Conversely, his argument probably goes something like this:
—Corporate lawyers are trained monkeys. (True.)
—If corporate lawyers were real men, they would work at banks or hedge funds. (Also true.)
—Litigators are hired to fix problems made by corporate lawyers. (100% debatable.)
—We don’t know the first thing about negotiating. (Totally false!)
Of those, the perception of our people skills was obviously my biggest bone to pick.
Litigators try to sell themselves to Summers by talking about interacting. But I contend that corporate lawyers, on the whole, do way more interacting with clients and opposing counsel than any litigator. I actually have no idea what they do, but I think 90% of their days are spent alone, sifting through boxes of useless case files.
More importantly, I think corporate lawyers are more socially normal than litigators. Sure, we’re all lawyers, which means we have way more weirdoes among us than other professions, but lawyer-against-lawyer, corporate guys are much easier to talk to. And at the associate-level, I’d say that corporate practice attracts 85% of the cool, new lawyers.
When I’m at a random gathering of men who work in various fields (golf outing, bachelor party, whatever), it seems to me that litigators have the least to add to the conversation. Hell, even doctors at least have a stock portfolio they want to comment on when they’re not busy playing God. But litigators—they are in this little shell that’s almost cultish. They’re so insular and nerdy they may as well be Harry Potter fans.
(If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you probably dress up in a cape, use weird terms like “muggles” and are totally oblivious to the fact that people think you’re weird. If you’re a litigator, you babble on about arcane rules of procedure and tell stories with no discernable narrative, totally unaware that your audience has fallen asleep. Same/same.)
After mentally wrapping up my fantasy with Ms. Harmon, my analysis concluded that corporate lawyers had every right—and possibly a duty—to look down on litigators. Regardless, I decided to keep my insights to myself and patch things up with Brian.
So, a few days later, I went up to his office. I walked in intending to shoot the breeze and talk about movies or something non-hostile. But he wasn’t alone. He was with two litigator pals—a first-year and a second-year (AKA socially retarded sycophants of the cult).
Litigator 1: “How are things going at the printer? I heard there was a toner issue.”
Apparently, he had filled them in on our conversation.
Litigator 2: “I heard someone messed up the TPS reports, you might want to go check on that.”
Was that? Wait. No one thinks Office Space humor still funny, right?
I was shocked to see that they actually busted out into what seemed to be authentic laughter for such an unoriginal insult.
“That’s genius. Anyone wanna do an Austin Powers impersonation for me? Seriously, George Carlin called, he wants his act back. Brian, I actually just stopped in to see if you wanted to leave work early, grab some margaritas and maybe hit a titty bar. But you guys can join.”
Litigator 1: “Seriously?”
“Why not? The markets are dead in summer, nobody is doing any deals.”
Litigator 1: “We have a big deposition to take in the morning.”
Litigator 2: “Yeah, otherwise we definitely would join. Definitely.”
I could see in Litigator 2’s eyes that he had never been to a strip club.
Unexpectedly, Brian told the litigation duo to handle it without him and have it ready by 9:30 the next day. He grabbed his jacket, and we left the stunned litigators to shout at each other about Code Reds for the rest of the day.
Hm. Brian had left the grunt work to his underlings—just like I do.
We proceeded to have a kick-ass afternoon filled with Patrón shots and silicone boobs. More importantly, we agreed to leave the bickering about our jobs at the office. But my competitive nature got the best of me, and I felt one last dig gurgling up.
“Brian, do you really think litigators are better than corporate lawyers?”
“I really do. No offense.”
“I have an idea for how to settle this once and for all.”
“Go for it.”
I called over two of the Hustler Club’s finest—Chastity and Destiny. (Obviously, their given names).
“I have a question for you two beautiful ladies. Which job sounds sexier: A litigator or a corporate lawyer? Shhh, now wait. I want you both to answer at the same time. On the count of three. One, two…three.
Chastity and Destiny: “What’s a litigator?”
And that was all the affirmation I needed.