Thursday, August 18, 2005

Most of the lawyers here are a little insecure. You need to be a little insecure to stay at a place like this, and to believe that the long hours and the unreasonable demands are the best you can do for yourself with your law degree. The insecure ones feel fortunate they haven't been fired yet, and in turn are willing to do just about anything, no matter how little sense it makes, as long as they know that somebody is watching. For many of them, the insecurity spreads into their personal lives as well. They end up with people who are worse than they are, at least on the measures that count, like education and income. They end up feeling unworthy of having anybody, and so they take whoever happens to pay them a little attention. A little attention can go a long way. But the insecurity tends to fade over time. You make partner and suddenly you feel like you're on top of the world, and working the long hours becomes a matter of pride instead of fear. And the wife you picked when you thought no one else was interested suddenly becomes a bad choice when you feel like there shouldn't be anyone who isn't interested. The pendulum swings in the other direction.

Of course, the insecurity expresses itself in other ways as well. One of the partners here is an alumnus of Stanford, and never misses an opportunity to remind everyone else. He owns a half-dozen Stanford ties, has Stanford cufflinks, has framed pictures of Stanford on his office wall, a Stanford watch, a Stanford chair, and uses only Stanford pens. He has coffee table books about Stanford, Stanford casual wear for partner social activities, and, in essence, is a walking billboard that screams, "Look at me. I went to Stanford. Aren't I important?"

He's not important. At least not after Stanford fell a spot in the US News rankings.

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