07 April 2009

Princes and Paupers

I’ve railed rather snidely against the "elite" lawyers here in the past. This is not one of those philipics. I still see the elite as somewhat of a stereotype. The men wear pinstripes and suspenders, in muted tones, Italian silk ties, Italian shoes, and for some odd reason have their shirts monogrammed. The women are equally well-dressed, which is even more expensive. They talk about millions of dollars the way others talk of thousands. They drop names and often are simply accurately describing relationships and not trying to impress anyone. (Oh, at other times, they are impressing upon the poor unwashed slobs with whom they are dealing that they are slumming that day. One woman I was dealing with kept talking about what "Lee" told her: "Lee told me this," "Lee told me that," and finally I asked, "Who the hell is Lee?" "Why, F. Lee Bailey, of course." Of course.) They drive nice cars, are paid big fees and bonuses, have titles like “general counsel,” come from “first tier” law schools, and Do Things That The Rest of Us Don’t Understand.

Well, for the first time, let me acknowledge that in our society and economy, somebody has to do million dollar deals. Someone has to be AIG’s general counsel, and have the stomach to negotiate bailouts with a straight face. Someone has to defend corporations against their own corporate greed and stupidity, just as somebody has to defend the lowest drug-addict-burglar. And while I can make moral conclusions and comparisons, for once I won’t. These are the Princes of the Bar.

Then there is the downmarket “working bar.” I would be considered a “curmudgeon” or a “character.” The former, I cultivate due to a peculiar affect. The latter is thrust upon you. I gravitate to rumpled khakis, black jackets, flag pins and L.L. Bean shoes. The closest my ties have gotten to Italy is I bet I’ve splashed some Chef Boy-Ar-Dee sauce on them once or twice. And I do hundred dollar deals and thousand dollar deals, and defend mere people against their stupidity or against the actions of others. I drive a 10 year old car.

Hmm - fees. Today, I did a case in Court. The people came in last week, and it took a good bit of work. I ended up making about $35 per hour for the time I put in it. The result was that, later this afternoon, my clients and their 3 year old child were reunited at my office.

My partner, God bless her, said she really didn't care if we made a fee on this one or not.

I do not begrudge the general counsel at AIG anything s/he makes or does. That is his/her way. This is my way. I’ll take mine. In a hundred years, who will know the difference?

Pippa passes.


No comments: