“Even lawyers need a hug. When workdays stretch into worknights and the pressure to meet the quota for billable hours grows, lawyers and staff members at the firm of Perkins Coie can often expect a little bonus.

In Perkins Coie's Chicago office, members of the firm's "happiness committee" recently left candied apples on everyone's desks. Last month, the happiness committee surprised lawyers, paralegals and assistants in the Washington office with milkshakes from a local Potbelly Sandwich Works, a favorite lunch spot.

"That's the whole beauty of it all — it's random acts of kindness," said Lori Anger, client relations manager of Perkins Coie, which is based in Seattle. "We have pretty strict hours, so it's a nice way to surprise people."”

This is from an article, which appeared in the New York Times a couple of days ago.

Before I properly respond to this, I’m forced to say, “You have GOT to be kidding!!”

A ‘Happiness Committee’?!

Lawyers don’t need a Happiness Committee! We may well be a bunch of seemingly heartless bastards, but we’re (also) inherently happy people.

No, seriously, we are. Behind those stern, don’t-fuck-with-us-we-have-a-license-to-sue, facades of ours, we’re actually having a blast.

Okay, so some of my esteemed brethren may get immensely happy when:

1. They’re suing someone they know;

2. Someone else is suing someone they know (who says happiness can’t be vicarious?);

3. Even more so when they don’t like the person being sued;

4. EVEN more so when the person being sued hasn’t hired THEM as defence counsel (please refer to pt. 2 above);

5. Hell, they’re suing SOMEBODY;

6. The guy in the next cubicle just went fifty hours without sleep to help wrap up an important SEBI filing, only to get yelled at by the partner running the deal because, dear oh dear, he forgot to spell ‘SEBI’ in block capitals at three places in the ‘Regulatory Framework’ section (“Bwahahah. What a dork! Hey, numbnuts, ever heard of Ctrl-H and global changes?”);

7. They come across the “World’s Greatest Speeches” DVD, and then hop around like Easter bunnies on speed, distributing copies to everyone at work (listening to Richard Nixon’s Famous Last Words makes me reeaalll happy, like, TOTALLY ecstatic!) (A copy of this DVD has just been plonked into my lap. I haven’t felt this happy since my last visit to the proctologist’s office!);

8. A fellow lawyer or a judge gets caught up in some scandal. Amidst much happy snickering, they then go on strike because, well, Everyone Loves a Good Strike (apologies to P. Sainath).

But that doesn’t mean we need other people to ensure our happiness. Basically, we lawyers are quite capable of genuine happiness, as you can see. And what’s listed above is only the tip of the iceberg. Regardless of how overworked, underpaid or underlaid we may be, we can find a moment of sheer joy in almost any old thing.

So, coming back to this NYT article.

Since lawyers are adept at being happy, we don’t properly appreciate ‘random acts of kindness’. We don’t expect them, and view them with roughly the same enthusiasm as one would view a Bugatti Veyron with a $ 10,000 price tag. If it’s that random, and that cheap, then there HAS to be a catch somewhere. The average lawyer, when faced with such random acts of kindness, will proceed to spend several hours trying to fathom why someone wants to be randomly kind to him / her. This directly results in sheer wastage of billable time (if random kindness occurs at work) or unnecessary distraction from reading the latest SCC Reports or mowing the lawn or whatever (if random acts occur at home). Wasting time like this doesn’t make us happy, it irritates us.

And just look at what constitutes ‘random acts of happiness’ according to the author of the article. Candied Apples and Milkshakes!!

Come again? In a profession rampant with diabetes, cholesterol and liver failure, you want to spread happiness by handing out candied apples and free milkshakes? You sadistic bastards!! My sugar levels are flying higher than a frigging lunar mission, and I’m going feel happy eating free candy apples?! I haven’t seen my toes in years because my paunch sort of comes in the way, and I’m going to feel happy guzzling free milkshakes from a dive called Potbelly Sandwich Works????!!!!! Were you born like this, or did your mother force you to take multiple Rorschach inkblot tests when you were 2?

Oh wait. You’re the HR chimps in the firm, right? It figures. Any senior partners reading this, there’s one sure-fire way to cut down on attrition / death rates in your firms. Point your HR people to the nearest guillotine. We’ll buy tickets to come watch. We promise. We’ll even fund the cheerleaders.

The article goes on to describe some other innovative perks that firms are offering their associates these days:

- Personal valets to pick up dry cleaning, theater tickets and Halloween costumes (But naturally, I can’t be expected to leave my desk to do all that! Sacrilege!);

- Sabbaticals for learning classical piano (I think they’re called ‘M&A in E-minor’ or something) and to work on political campaigns (“No. We deny strenuously that the candidate is an incurable pedophile. Those reports are exaggerated. It was only ONE 15 year old boy”);

- A reimbursement if you buy a hybrid car (At least they’re doing something for the environment);

- Shrinks and ‘personal issue’ coaches (Let’s not go there);

- Gourmet food, at your desk, on a silver platter (But, just stay put at your desk, yeah! Don’t go anywhere. Bone up on that billing, m’boy);

- Pet insurance! (This one is really novel); and

- Yoga classes (The old stand-by. You channel your energies towards a higher billing target).

So, let me get this straight. I’m being offered perks, which will make my life, such as it exists outside of work, easier. Ok, great! Just one question. How exactly do these perks help me put together a family and raise kids and enjoy my retirement in peace next to a fireplace, with my favourite retriever, Patch, next to my rocking chair, and a glass of Courvoisier in my hand?

Very simple. They DON’T! They make my life easier, so that I can spend more and more of it at work, without fretting over whether my wife and kids are missing me, or whether I’ll be suitably compensated when my pet budgerigar kicks the bucket because I wasn’t around to feed it for a whole week.

All these, apparently, are being offered because "Money is not the only thing that drives these lawyers right now (maybe not, but it certainly buys me that snazzy Honda, which will drive me)…They want to be able to have a family and enjoy their family”. In that context, I agree in principle with some of the older firms mentioned in the article, who just prefer to give their associates a pay hike. I hate to sound materialistic, but I’d rather have more cash than spending time with shrinks.

We don’t need silly perks. We just need a weekend off. Seriously. Give us a little incommunicado time over the weekend, and we’ll kick ass during the rest of the week.

Some twit walked off with my prized stapler two days ago (the one with the “The Law is my Staple diet” inlay), and hasn’t given it back. You want to see me happy? Get me back my stapler. I’ll worship you for the rest of the year.

2 Scallywags have walked the Plank |:

Anonymous said...

Boring is the WORD....I wont be coming back to check your blogs for sure.

mistercrowley said...

Oooh...my heart just fucking BROKE...so NICE of you to drop by