The other day I was flicking through one of those literary type journals – the ones that only arrive in the mail every few months or so, yet regrettably even then go unread beyond the first few pages.
The only consolation for being so lax is that their pretty artistic covers present well when laid on my oak Mujirushiryohin furniture.
I managed to glance at a bit with a sentence that stayed with me and has since pulsated through my daily adventures in big law*.
It simply said, “Life is not a math equation”.
How fortuitous it would be if lawyers everywhere – though specially those operating on premium gas in US big law, which is where I front up to work most days while running on regular – were to read and process such a sentiment.
It might give them pause; a moment to reflect that there’s more to life than raised letter business cards, monogrammed shirt cuffs and the next multi-billion dollar (moribund) deal or lap-dance with first drink free.
Speaking of odd affectations, one partner in my firm has gone to the trouble of having his own civilian insignia designed and stitched on the upper sleeve of all his business shirts.
It’s a cartoony looking animal that’s integrated with his initials. Life is definitely more complicated than a standard math equation for this particular practitioner.
This past week, I received instructions for my latest mission in legal papier-mâché (read: “international corporate law stuff”) from Mr (a+b)² = a²+2ab+b², Esquire himself.
A trip to the office of this Square of a First Order Polynomial, who we’ll just call Square, Esq for convenience, is typically an experience fraught with peril.
For Square, Esq life is as rigid and incontrovertible as the formula representing his full fake name.
It only takes one stolen look at the geometry of his office, curated as it is with exacting purpose and imposing formality, to appreciate Square Esq’s personality.
Not a single deal toy or Montblanc pen lay out of place when considered in spaciotemporal relation to the next nearest object of like kind.
The pens, paper weights, gloss-finished walnut card holder and in-tray all appear to be permanently glued in-place, pristine, untouched, forming mere surface ripples to the integrated whole of the richly thick, leather desk covering.
The resulting visual is much like an austere, adult version of some all-in-one Fisher-Price “Laugh n Learn” toy.
The real mathematical problem for a visitor to this space, however, only presents itself once seated in Square, Esq’s presence and one is earnestly attempting to take notes.
As several of the “surface ripples” are strategically positioned to the front edge of Square, Esq’s otherwise expansive mahogany (veneer I suspect) desk there is only a sliver of space left where one could theoretically place a notepad.
A reasonable person may think it acceptable to ever so slightly move some of the unused ornaments – and only momentarily – so as to create some space to allow for the real work at hand to be done.
Yet, in Square, Esq’s world such a possibility would not compute and no half-marks would be awarded for reasoning – the result would simply be wrong, from which untold consequences would flow.
Indeed, the message from Square, Esq to all who enter his “life as a math equation” is all too clear – “I’ll give you more desk space when you take it from my cold, dead hands!”
Until then, note-taking associates must perform a lap-dance of their own, juggling notepads, BlackBerry, markers, pens and any other documents on their knees.
No free drinks with lap-dances in Square, Esq’s office.
It’s enough to make an associate want to work for a partner who wears his anthropomorphized heart on his sleeve.
*Big law is the straightforward term North Americans use to describe what Australians call “top tier” firms, or what the English consider to be their “magic circle” or “silver circle” firms. I like the term “big law” for its lack of pretentiousness. It sounds almost like a put down when compared to expressions such as “boutique” or “white shoe”.