Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Little Black Book

The “firm directory” is a little book that shows pictures of all the firm’s attorneys along with their contact info, their degrees and institutions, and the names of their spouses. The photos are yearbook-style. I imagine there’s a photographer that comes to the office once a year and sets up his lights and reflectors and marbled-paper background in one of the conference rooms. Some of the more senior partners have clearly become exempt from the annual photo update (although the year of their undergraduate degree belies their true age). One of the oldest-looking guys managed to avoid listing his undergraduate degree altogether – or maybe he’s so ancient that he went to law school back in the day when you could go straight out of high school.

Perusing the directory never gets old to me. At first I used to just look for the attorneys on my floor so that I could start to match names with faces (faces that look the other way while they wait for the elevator). I learned that Edgar is the name of one of my floor favorites – an old, eccentric partner who wears a bow-tie and a pink seer-sucker suit about three times a week. At first I thought maybe he was traveling and living out of a suitcase for longer than he had anticipated. But I later realized that he just owns several of these pink suits.

Recently I’ve used the directory to set my sights on a handful of first year associates that I want to meet so that I can pump them for law school and firm life advice. There’s Judy (Harvard, 2004), who I've seen in the elevator and is much shorter in person than I would have guessed from her photo. Then there’s Barry (Georgetown, 2004) who works on my floor and who (in my head) I always call “Crazy Hair” because of the cowlicks in his directory photo. In real life his hair is neater, although still a bit long and wild for a buttoned-up law firm (think, Manu Ginobili, but without the sweat). The biggest coup would be to meet Diane (My School, 2004) – not just because she went to the school I’m going to, but because she works on the 19th floor, which is in a separate elevator bank (greatly diminishing my shot at a chance encounter).

This morning, as I was stirring my hot chocolate in the kitchenette, I finally got my opportunity with Crazy Hair Barry. He’s one of the few attorneys who sometimes smiles at me, so I didn’t feel too nervous approaching him. “You’re Barry, right?” (I considered adding, “Georgetown, 2004, right?” but worried that might scare him off a bit.) He shook my hand and asked my name. I told him I was starting law school in the fall and he enthusiastically talked to me about school and his experience at Acewell so far. Turns out he’s also from New York, so we chatted about how funny Texans are and how neither of us realized there are folks who still display Confederate flags.

Back at my desk, I felt an almost giddy enthusiasm, not uncommon for me after successful social encounters. But there was something extra good about this post-chat high that I didn't quite put my finger on until later. I guess I’m hoping that Barry will tell all the other attorneys that the receptionist is a delightful young lady who’s going to law school in the fall.


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