Under Analysis: Lawyer watching: An entertaining pasttime

Lisa Henderson-Newlin, The Levison Group

I like to travel. Maybe it’s because I like to see new things, or maybe it’s because I need to leave the office regularly so I don’t poke my eyes out with a letter opener. Or maybe it’s because there’s a Cinnabon in most airports and I can’t resist cinnamon goodness. The reason isn’t really important.

Whenever I travel, I like to play a little game I invented called “Find the Lawyer.” I know, it’s not an original name, but I’m working on a better one, so withhold judgment. It’s a very creative game that is exactly what it sounds like.

For those of you not following my logic, allow me to explain. I try to find the lawyer in the airport. It’s kind of like a live version of Where’s Waldo, but there aren’t picture books and people in the airport are far less attractive.

There isn’t so much a winner or a loser to this game, although I like to think I’m always a winner. Because I’m feeling charitable, I’ll share a few tell-tale characteristics of lawyers in an airport that make them fairly easy to spot.

1. They’re doing five things at once.

Lawyers are masters of multi-tasking, as there aren’t enough hours in a day to draft motions and briefs for our sizable caseloads. Throw in the cultural expectation of bathing and grooming oneself, and time becomes even more valuable to those in our profession.

Look for the person reading a document while walking and talking on the phone while also stuffing a sandwich in his mouth. Then ask for a bite of his sandwich.

2. They’re dictating into something.

As part of our capability to multi-task, most lawyers dictate their letters, instructions to staff, and billable hours. Some lawyers also dictate reminders to set the DVR to record the “Three’s Company” marathon on TV Land.

No matter the content of the dictation, lawyers are easy to spot because they’re usually talking into something. Beware of the extremely tired lawyer, as he may talk into anything that fits in his hand. If you see someone talking into the seat belt buckle, just look away (and then alert the stewardess.)

3. They’re popping antacid tablets like candy.

With the stress of the job comes acid reflux, indigestion and ulcers. Where was that in the law school promotional pamphlet? As a way to combat these constant companions, lawyers in the airport are usually taking something for their stomachs, or they have a travel package of TUMS within reach.

4. They look exhausted.

Part and parcel to the profession is nearly constant exhaustion. It’s almost like our uniform. Mechanics get a button-down shirt with their name on it and we get bags under our eyes and hives on our necks.

Lucky us.

5. They’re wearing disheveled suits.

Most lawyers travel for business and wear their suits while traveling. However, airplane seats aren’t particularly kind to wool, even if the seats are in first class. There’s not a way I’ve found to avoid this problem, so I prefer to travel in sweatpants and change when I get to my destination. It allows me to be comfortable while traveling, while also flying under the radar of others playing this fun little game.

That’s all the tips I want to give for now. There are more but I don’t want to reveal all my tricks to spotting the lawyer in the airport. After all, I have a work trip coming up and I plan to beat my co-workers at this. Hopefully none of them read this column, or they may gain the upper hand.


Lisa Henderson-Newlin is a member of the law firm McAnany Van Cleave and Phillips. Contact Under Analysis by email at comments@levisongroup.com.
© 2013 Under Analysis L.L.C.


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