Wednesday, July 22, 2020

 

Masks

I was thinking more about status distinctions after my post yesterday, and I realized that I’ve been missing an important insight. It has to do with masks, and how they don’t all have to be the same. It’s boring if they’re all the same anyway, right?

I mean, we never used to have an opportunity to know just by looking at someone whether or not they were worth our attention, but I’m starting to come up with a plan for once we’re back in the office. It’s hard enough to tell who’s who under normal circumstances — every paralegal looks exactly the same, after all — so without faces to guide us, it’s going to be an even bigger challenge… but not with my new mask policy.

Support staff, one color. Associates, another color. Partners, I suppose we’ll go with green, for money — or we can just make the masks out of hundred-dollar bills, to highlight how little we care about a few hundred bucks that we’re totally fine tearing the bills apart and using them as face coverings. (We’ll clean them first, both in the sense of hygiene and also because most of the money in my wallet is probably of some sort of questionable provenance.)

It will make life so much easier to not have to worry I’m mistaking a pointless human walking down the hall for a slightly less pointless human being. Not that I’m going to be talking to anyone in the hall. That’s too risky, right? Safer to ignore everyone, especially when they have some kind of question or concern. I don’t want to risk getting the virus over actually engaging with someone who needs to ask me for permission to leave early. If you have a question, send an email. Then I can ignore it without feeling quite as rude.

I don’t expect it’s actually going to be sustainable to wear masks in the office, which is why I really don’t think we’re going to end up requiring people to come back, unless someone really doesn’t want to come back, in which case we’re going to insist, just because we can. It’s so much harder to look angry with a mask on, or disappointed, or like you’re questioning how someone ever managed to pass the bar exam. It’s harder to scream, harder to shout, harder to spit. Not that I ever actually spit at someone on purpose. We absolutely reached a confidential settlement on that one that did not require me to admit guilt, so there’s really nothing worth talking about there.

We’ve thought about ordering masks with the firm’s logo on it, but we ended up deciding there was more potential downside than upside. There are people out in the world who aren’t thrilled with us, and we don’t really want to put our staff at risk in the community. We’d rather just put them at risk in the office. I want to control the risks, adjust the levers to achieve the right behaviors, manipulate people as I see fit. Having strangers trying to attack our people is just too unpredictable.

Actually, that might be a good line to use in the recruiting video I’m about to put together for law students to watch, as part of our new not-on-campus recruiting process. “At our firm, we’re like family. We don’t want strangers to attack you. We want to do it ourselves.”

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