Just like that old vaudeville routine, “slowly I turned, step-by-step, closer and closer” ... someone just had the misfortune of calling me “dear”.
Why does that get my hackles up? Well, for one thing I started my adult life in the 1970s. In those days, maybe, I say maybe, two or three students in a classroom of sixty in my graduate business classes were women. Upon graduating, I went to work in a management position for a construction firm.
I thought I was smart. I had done my homework. I even studied to get my California general building contractors license and passed the exam when all I had to do was “grandfather in” on my employer’s license. But, I was still a young woman in my late twenties and there is more to being taken seriously than being smart.
Believe me, you haven’t lived until you are trying to explain to an employee that something needs to be done and he asks to speak to someone you supervise, "the man in charge”, or you enter a meeting with a consultant you hired and someone says to him, “no girlfriends allowed”. It’s frustrating. If you act like a lady, you get trampled upon; if you act like a warrior, you get called all kinds of names that usually rhyme with “rich”. Just ask Kathryn G. Thompson.
Ms. Thompson was a very successful general building contractor in Orange County, California, in the 1980s and 1990s. She was also a Republican and contributed regularly to Republican causes. So much so that she was a member of “Team 100” which consisted of individuals who contributed $100,000 or more to the first President Bush’s reelection campaign. So, it came as quite a shock to her when she attended a GOP fundraiser and the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Clayton Yeutter, approached her and asked, “who do you belong to, little lady?”. Her response was that she left the party, went home, and wrote a check to Bill Clinton’s campaign in the amount of $100,000. Guess the “Little Lady” wasn’t happy with the Republican National Committee.
Granted, Clayton Yeutter was not the sharpest tool in the box, but when men (and some women) use condescending terminology like “dear” it has the tendency to really piss off a lot women who have worked hard all their lives to educate themselves and build a career. And, if the present GOP has its legislative way, a lot of young women today will understand what I am talking about.
No, not the POTUS, although OMG (Obama’s My Guy), but El Presidente of Wasilla, Alaska. Who? Where? ... Well, I guess we know the “where” since Sarah Palin got her start in politics in Wasilla, Alaska, but let’s not judge a location by everyone who ever lived there.
Frankly, I don’t know El Presidente's real name. It’s not important. What I do know is that he is a software developer who makes applications for RapidWeaver themes (this blog was created using a RapidWeaver theme as a template) and he calls his business El Stacko. If you go to his website you will find that his homepage is “Casa” and all his products are “El something or other”. Corny? You betcha!
It’s also been a very good marketing strategy. I’ve made numerous websites for myself and others. In the process I’ve purchased numerous applications as addons. Yet, whenever I want to go back to a vendor I have a heck of a time remembering the name of the software developer or his business. I usually end up googling a part of a name and location. For example “Henk RapidWeaver Netherlands” and I usually get the right guy. Do I have to to this for El Presidente and his website? Never. How could I forget El Stacko?!
Moreover, whenever I get a product update from El Presidente, I happily go to the email. For some reason, unlike other emails trying to sell me stuff, this marketing genius, El Presidente, makes me smile. In fact, I am smiling right now as I write this blog post.
So, I’ve been thinking, I am going to add to my legal practice this fall. I need another website besides the one I already have. Do I go the direction of every lawyer? Toss up the American flag, a gavel and a courtroom scene?
Since I am going to do tax appellate work, do I show a photo of a man clutching his heart with one hand and an IRS notice in the other?
Or, do I boast endlessly about my credentials, every paper or article I’ve ever written and the people I’ve help keep out of the slammer even though they have underreported their income on twenty years of tax returns because, of course, I am so very wonderful?
In other words, do I bore them to death, scare them to death or intimidate them to death?
I think, none of the above. Clearly, El Presidente has taught me the importance of branding. And, while I want to retain a little dignity because of my profession, I have no desire to be that fungible attorney with a generic website.
So again, what sort of website should I have? Recently, I spoke to a graphic artist about the art work. I told him that I wanted a southwest theme as I am going to move back to New Mexico. In my mind I was thinking of Route 66, neon signs, bright sunny skies and art deco buildings with an hispanic flair. Instead, he suggested cactus and bull head skeletons. Talk about clueless! This Lawyer-o almost reached for the tequila.
It’s a work in progress.
They say that politics is getting meaner, people in traffic are getting ruder, and comments in blog posts are getting out-of-hand. I don’t believe it.
There has always been a certain element out there who are, for lack of better words, “not nice”. Maybe their mommies and daddies did not know enough about Miss Manners to teach them etiquette, maybe they simply lack self-control, or maybe they are former school yard bullies all grow’d up. But, they’ve been out there.
Often times, opportunity begets vitriol. What could be easier than slamming a blogger with a comment? It only takes a few minutes and you can remain anonymous. You feel important because your words are now published on the Internet. And, there can be no retribution by the blogger because s/he doesn’t know who you are. It’s almost like hacking a website. You’ve ruined someone else’s day.
The same can be said about the driving experience. I’ve driven in lots of cities; Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Tijuana, and lots of places in between. My story is the same wherever I’ve driven:
I do my best to let others into traffic. For some reason it makes me feel good that I’ve made someone else’s day a little easier. Yet, believe it or not, there are people out there who do not feel that way. To them, a turn signal by the guy in the next lane is an invitation to speed up and block that car. I mean, who in their right mind would let a stranger get ahead of you? Not me!
Then, there is the political arena. It certainly seems more hostile this year. And, I find it somewhat amusing that GOP operatives have never been able to produce that video they claimed they had in 2008 of Michelle Obama “screaming her fool head off about ‘whitey’” when today we are being bombarded by Donald Trump screaming his fool head off about Kenyan births. There will always be fools.
In the late 1970s, Gov. Jerry Brown was running for reelection. My father, a California general building contractor and Democrat, helped host a fund raiser for “The Gov” in one of his model homes. Anyone could attend if they were willing to pay the price of admission which was a campaign contribution. It was at this event that I got my first real lesson in politics.
Several people paid to attend the event and, in fact, did attend. They were not fans of Jerry Brown, nor for that matter were they fans of Democrats. No, the reason that they paid good money to attend a party was for the opportunity to get in the face of Jerry Brown and tell him off. It was fun for them, it made them feel important, and it gave them future bragging rights.
And what did Jerry Brown do while some lunatic was screaming in his face? Nothing. He pretended to listen, thanked them for their interest and then cashed their check. End of story.
As a blogger or someone cut off in traffic, there are no checks to be cashed, but there are dividends. Just knowing that that other guy has just raised his or her blood pressure to a dangerous level is enough, as is knowing no one with this type of M.O. ever gets ahead for very long. Karma can be a bitch.
Not too long ago, I received an email blast from an acquaintance, a young, inexperienced attorney. The purpose of the email was to announce that she had landed an associate position with a small law firm in the Atlanta area. I have known this young woman for more than a year. She is very smart and very sincere. I was happy for her as this has been her goal since the day I first met her. On the other hand, the tone of her email took me aback for a number of reasons, not the least of which I could not figure out if I, and about half of the other recipients, had just been insulted.
You see, I met this woman working on a document review project when I first arrived in Atlanta the beginning of 2011. Other than document review, her only legal experience consists of a short stint working at a Federal agency. Yet, in her email to me (us) she explained how very happy she was to finally get a position as an associate after “enduring the humbling experience of working as a contract attorney doing electronic discovery”. Say what?!
When I asked another recipient, also someone this young women met on a document review project, if she, too, was taken aback, she shrugged and said, “well, now she can find out what it’s like enduring the humbling experience of being an associate; been there, done that”.
All of this got me thinking. Do newbie attorneys really understand what the practice of law is all about? Do they think that when they land an associate position in any law firm, not just Big Law (as Carolyn Elefant aptly refers to the mammoth law firms), that they will be part of strategy meetings with senior partners, spectacular cross examinations, and one-on-one counseling sessions with the client? Uh, I think it is time to turn off the television and get with the real world.
Presently, I am working at Atlanta’s largest law firm as a project (contract) attorney. I started out in September 2011 working as a first line document reviewer, then went over to quality control and other projects on the same case in December 2011. Not to be vague, but since the discovery deadline is approaching soon, there are days that are so hectic that I do not know or care what my task is called just as long as I get it completed. That’s the nature of litigation.
My point? Some of the work I do is the same work that staff attorneys and associates are doing. In other words, the “humbling experience of ... doing electronic discovery”.
When I worked at a smaller law firm years ago, I did write motions, briefs and appeals for two of the firm's senior partners. But, I still took my marching orders from someone else. Simply put, a law degree and a ticket to practice law does not parachute you in to the corner office of someone else’s law firm, so if that is what you crave, go solo. .... And, if you don’t know how to go solo, do yourself a favor and sign up for Susan Cartier Liebel’s Solo Practice University® Just stop with the whining. As a lawyer, you’ve chosen a profession which can be brutal. Get use to it.