There is an ongoing CLE lecture series I have made it a point to show up to whenever possible. It is the most amazing CLEs I have come across. The series is sponsored by one of the big law firms, and they don’t mess around. They hold it in one of the best venues in the city, valet parking, hors d’oeuvres, wine and a limited bar, then the lecture followed by a dinner (and more wine). Did I mention it was free? All of it. It is fabulous. (you know how much of a fan I am of free food…) I fear the secret might be out however. The first lecture I showed up to several months ago probably had half as many attorneys as showed up at the most recent one. I hope this trend doesn’t continue because they might start limiting who is invited. Anyway, on with the stories.
The lecture series is partially linked with a local law school, and as such there are always the handful of professors in attendance who also bring along a few interested law students to mingle with the crowd. Being linked to a law school also means there must be the various notables who parade by the podium to issue congratulatory proclamations upon whomsoever has gifted the most money recently. Probably the more amusing personage is the dean of the law school. I’ve shown up to several CLEs sponsored by the law school and they always manage to show up, smartly dressed for about 3 minutes to welcome everyone and then invariably makes some statement such as “I’m so sorry I can’t stay for the lecture, but…” I guess that’s what they are paid for. To show up and show their face to the money, but after seeing them bail on every single event put on by the law school — I seriously begin to wonder. You have to shake hands and pump the guests for money at some point, you can’t just thank everyone for showing up and then run. Maybe I am expecting too much from the position, I don’t know.
Anyway, one of the talking heads during the congratulatory circlejerk introduced the general counsel of a huge company. While introducing him, they gleeful remarked that this managing attorney held 6 intern positions only for students of their university and primarily hired from that singular law school when hiring corporate counsels. The lovely concept of nepotism just got a nice round of applause from the audience. I was a bit unhappy that I now knew a strong primary reason why I never heard back from any of my applications to that company. Awesome. I was already in a bit of a foul mood because I had missed all the hors d’oeuvres because the parking garage entrance was damn near camouflaged, and this was just making my mood darker.
The lecture itself was pretty basic, which seemed a little out of place considering the prior lecture in the series was on a topic so specific to minutiae within the specialty as to be nearly incomprehensible to anyone not already an expert in the field. The lecture ended with more self-congratulatory remarks to various individuals and we were finally ushered in to the dinner.
All of these types of events have one thing in common. A near absence of tables. No doubt some sociological study somewhere made some proclamation that providing actual sit down tables during a professional / networky dinner was a big mistake. So now we are all consigned to hover around the handful of tiny standing tables with a plate of food in one hand and a drink in the other, wishing you had somewhere to put it down so you could eat. The theory is that you will flit from group to group talking and not become inured to sitting and never moving from one table, and thus only conversing with one small group of people. Think of it as enforced networking maybe. I was one of the lucky few who got in early and I took a spot at one of the tiny standing tables.
The first group to flit about the table were some big corporation counsels. They seemed rather disinterested in talking and eventually wandered off. The second group was a more mixed bag. There was one attorney who was a recent empty nest mother who had not been practicing and had decided that now was a good time to rejoin the legal community; As a solo. No one said word one, but I am nearly sure everyone else at the table thought she was insane too.
There was an associate from a small firm of half a dozen who offered to send overflow work / one-off cases to me if I was interested. I thanked them and said absolutely (and although I appreciated the sentiment, it is a horrible idea to actually follow through on because the only cases you will get from a small firm are the ones they trying to get rid of… no money, crazy client, malpractice magnet, etc.) It was a nice offer, but one that is taken up only by the desperate… and there are a fair number out there who are. It was made a bit more difficult to swallow because this attorney was supposed to be a soft-IP attorney and they asked the table if anyone had ever heard of website XX (basically a site on similar par as The Pirate Bay) as they had some recent case issues related to it. The way they referred to the site pretty much conveyed they had no idea what they were talking about nor what they were in for if trying to accomplish anything against it, which also conveyed that they were a really crappy copyright attorney. I’m always surprised by how technologically inept some people who practice IP actually are.
The last at the table with me was someone from a real firm, and we struck up a pretty decent conversation which ended with an actual offer to try to get me an interview at their firm. I truly hope something comes of it, but I no longer count on such things.
Eventually, group 2 started to leave and I decided to mingle in the remaining pockets of attorneys scattered around. I ended up at a table with a law student who had some very enviable offers by law firms. I was talking with them about random things and a bit of the bitterness from the other side of our degree. As we are talking, a guy who looks just like Jamie from Mythbusters (completely bald, mustache with a soul patch, AND a flat hat) saunters up to the table and puts his manpurse down on the table. He’s drinking tea from a teacup and alternately putting it down onto the saucer he is holding. Something was off. The law student and I were talking, but Mr. Mustache was just standing there silently watching without introducing himself. The law student is shooting me a glance, and I take the cue to introduce myself to the guy. He is a solo (uh oh), and he starts talking about the lecture and how he was showing up only because he needed one more credit to be CLE compliant and this wasn’t his area of law at all. But he’s also slurring. quite. a. bit… Yup, he’s really drunk. Which in and of itself was a feat — the hors d’oeuvres only went on for half an hour, then an hour and a bit long lecture plus all the functionaries talking. It would have taken some serious drinking during that half hour to get to a point where you would still be drunk almost 2 hours later. Granted, he could have hit a few more glasses after the lecture, but damn… it would require some doing.
In a most uncomfortable 3 minutes, Mr. Mustache went from introducing himself in a normal tone, to veritably yelling about how there was still no cure for baldness but they have a cure for erectile dysfunction. He made a point of saying erectile dysfunction at least 3 times quite loudly. The law student had a slightly wild look about his eyes and obviously wanted to bolt. Both of us were now standing a good 2 feet away from the table increasingly trying to back away, as behavioral avoidance started to kick in and we tried to put as much real distance between us as possible. Mr. Mustache seemed to realize the lack of conversation and took this as a cue to say it was late and he was going. (yes… he was going down to the parking garage to drive home.. fucking awesome.) I gave the drunk about 10 minutes to get far enough away from where I might be driving to also decide the night had come to an end. While waiting for the valet to bring my car, the law student came down. I laughed and said somewhat rhetorically “Why do the drunks always find me at these things…” The law student said he thought the drunk was attracted to us because we didn’t have a protective buffer of a larger group of people to ward him away.
He’s probably right. I need to experiment at the next lecture to test the theory.