Monday, March 13, 2006

I'm sorry I didn't post last week. I was too distracted by the death of one of this world's true heroes. I'm talking, of course, about Slobodan Milosevic. He did what every lawyer in a losing case wishes his client would do, and made sure he died before the verdict came out. Good for him. There's nothing worse for a lawyer than a high-profile verdict against him, and Milosevic, his own lawyer, understood this better than anyone. His reputation as a man may be in tatters, but his reputation as a lawyer remains intact. No verdict to sully his record. And he becomes a hero to defense lawyers throughout the world.

The man was a master of self-promotion. The New York Times obituary talks about the cult of personality he created around himself, with songs and chants, slogans, and orchestrated television coverage. His story was an inspiration to men like Joe Flom and Marty Lipton, who sought to achieve the same with their law firms, and have largely succeeded. But this side of Slobodan -- mentor to business leaders around the world -- has largely gone ignored. Larry King hasn't done a tribute to him on TV, talking to his close friends and associates. It's the mainstream media's unfair bias against dictators. Liberal bias. It's all to be expected. Everyone makes mistakes. There's positive and negative sides to everyone. But sometimes the positive gets ignored because the negative is a better story.

Like law firms. We do lots of good things. But then some former Cravath associate pays a couple of girls for sex and the whole industry gets tarnished. Who else is going to have sex with a Cravath associate? It's not like he's out of the office often enough to develop a real relationship. People don't realize the pressures of a job like this. At least he paid them! Where's that side of the story? At least he didn't just intimidate them into doing it for free. And with the power he's got as a lawyer at Cravath, he certainly could have. I can intimidate people into doing all sorts of things. I got an associate to send me a gallon of Clam Chowder from Legal Sea Foods when he visited Boston on assignment. I didn't offer to reimburse. He'd never ask. He's flattered I trusted him enough to ask him. It's good stuff. Haven't found clam chowder nearly as good out here. And I've sent associates to look, absolutely.

I went to grab an associate to work on something for me, hoping to get him before he left for lunch, and I saw him on ESPN's web site, filling out an NCAA tournament bracket. I hadn't realized it was that season again. NCAA pool season. Even if it takes ten minutes to fill out a bracket, ten minutes times a hundred lawyers is a lot of billable time, lost to deciding whether U Conn is going to go all the way. What a waste. They think they sound cool talking about the NCAA tournament. Cooler than talking about the tax code. Well, you know what, it's not cool. It's pathetic. No one in this office ever played college basketball, I'm sure of it. And no one playing college basketball is ever going to be a powerful corporate attorney. These are worlds that don't ever collide. And to spend any energy living out jock fantasies through an online tournament bracket is sad. Real sad.

It doesn't take any skill to do this. At least if they're going to waste ten minutes of the firm's time on filling out an NCAA bracket, they'd better be smart about it, and they'd better win. There's no excuse for doing this -- and losing. Especially if there's money involved, but even if it's just pride. So here's my challenge. I'll set up one of these NCAA bracket groups on ESPN -- well, I'll have an associate do it for me -- and I'll put an entry in there. I'll post the password and encourage anyone reading this to do the same. And I'll prove that knowing nothing, I can win, just because I'm smarter than all of you.

Skeptical? I'll put it all on the line. Anyone beats me, and I'll go back to posting new entries on here 4 times a week, at least. That's a promise. Heck, I could promise anything. Of course I'm going to win. With sheer force of will, a hiring partner can do anything.

Here's the web site:
Group name is Anonymous Lawyer
Password: anonymous

[Update: some people were having trouble with the password. That should be fixed now.]

Anyone working anywhere, go for it -- except of course for the people who work directly under ME. If I find you wasting your time on this, you're fired. No questions asked. Except maybe a couple of questions about sleeper picks and what the difference is between Utah and Utah State. I don't even know where half these schools are. I know 20 schools. The ones we recruit at. Gonzaga sounds like the name of a mythical beast.

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