Saturday, October 29, 2005

I just got back from a dinner. Anonymous Wife is always saying we never go out, so to punish her for bothering me I dragged her to an Bar Association event so she could see what we're missing and never ask me again. She wants to go out, we'll go out. And she can be tortured by having to talk to the same kinds of people I have to talk to every single endless day.

At first I thought we'd be safer talking to the associates at this thing, because perhaps they still have interests extending beyond the intricacies of the tax code. I thought perhaps some talk about current events, or movies none of us had seen, or (and I was reluctant to even hope) someone might have something to say about the Dodgers pointless firing of their general manager this afternoon, as if it's a problem to have a well-educated, if perhaps a bit interpersonally challenged, person running your organization instead of some retired ballplayer who wouldn't know a spreadsheet from a PowerPoint slide and only got the job because he used to be able to throw a ball really fast. This conversation, of course, would have the dual effect of engaging me, and also sending Anonymous Wife running to the ladies' room to mix some wine with some Xanax.

But, alas, none of the associates seemed to care about the Dodgers, or the movies, or presidential aides with childish nicknames and recent indictments. Instead, and perhaps I should have predicted this, in this self-selected group of associates who choose to go to Bar Association events, all they could talk about were the upcoming bonuses at their respective firms: how much will they be, when will they announce them, which firms won't match, will they be higher than last year, will they be given to everyone or just based on hours... and, of course, when's the first day you can quit and still receive the bonus. I didn't let on that at my firm, they'll be lucky if we match the market, and we're not announcing until the last plausible moment, just to keep people on the edge of their seats and a little bit frightened. Fear. I love it.

But I couldn't stay in a conversation about bonuses for more than eight minutes without betraying the knowledge I have, so I dragged Anonymous Wife over to the partners, and we joined in the midst of a fascinating conversation about the President. I've long since reconciled any urges I ever have to talk politics with other lawyers with the realization that lawyers think they know everything when they really know nothing, and will never concede a point, even if their point is that the Earth is flat, there is no gravity, or, my favorite argument at these things, that corporate lawyers don't make enough money. You can't win an argument at these things. I don't even try. I just listen, and smile, and feel like a better person because I don't need to be the loudest man in the room.

"Would you send your son to fight in this war?" a liberal asked a conservative.

"No," he replied.

"Then how can you defend it?"

"Look, I wouldn't send my son to fight in any war. Not the War in Iraq, not Vietnam, not World War II, not the Civil War, not even the Revolutionary War. And in the American tradition, if he was drafted, we'd pay someone to take his place. Gladly, and preferably with stock options that would be completely underwater by the time he got back from the war, limbs shot off, and wanted to exercise them to buy himself a wheelchair."

"Well, there are some things I *would* send my son to fight for, but not Iraq, I tell you that. Lower tax rates, absolutely. A better bankruptcy code, for sure. Separate bathrooms for partners and associates, definitely. Oh, I think my blackberry is buzzing. I need to take this."

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