Under Analysis: Middle-aged lawyer guy mamblings

Spencer Farris, The Levison Group

Gentle Reader,
I promised not to be a humbug this holiday season, and I have done a pretty good job if I do say so myself. No complaining about the huge amount of weight inducing treats in the Levison Towers kitchen, no skipping holiday parties to go home and watch Netflix. But alas, Middle Aged Lawyer Guy has been grumbling.

Call them mamblings — man grumblings/ramblings that may not be holiday inspired but are definitely influenced by the pressures of the season. It started innocently enough.

I was shopping last week and saw some hair mousse — the kind of stuff we used back in the big hair 80s. When we had hair. Product, as the kids call it. This was not styling mousse, however. It was Rogaine. That’s right, MALGs everywhere are being lured to buy a familiar package, but the content has changed. As has our need — likely my generation needs the new contents more, but that is not the point.

Fresh from this betrayal, I went to court and there was a young hipster lawyer. By way of background, I was trained by a much older lawyer. A little older than I am now, which is the definition of “older.” Casual Friday back then meant not wearing a tie with your suit. Jeans were for Sunday afternoon and mowing the lawn, not office attire. If you wanted to be a professional, he said you should look professional.

Young hipster lawyer completely ignored this convention. He had on a suit with no socks, sneakers, and hadn’t shaven in a day or two. His hair didn’t need Rogaine, but a comb would have been a nice touch. I am not advocating a return to powdered wigs, although my hairline would benefit from one. I just believe decorum in the courthouse is required. Hipster lawyer’s look was all too intentional — the suit was well tailored and while his hair pointed in all directions of the compass, it didn’t move — something was amiss.

I sat behind him while he visited with another of his contemporaries — a woman in a suit with shoes that were more fitting for a ballroom than a court room. They were talking about work/life balance and how they wanted to work less but still complaining that their pay was too low.

Work/life balance is not a topic that my generation (middle-aged lawyers sound old when we say this) even thought about. I can imagine my boss’ response to such a request: You can have a life when you are too old to work. Or, you can have a life now, but you can’t work here.

In my early years of practice, my first son was born. I wanted to take a few days off to enjoy him, but there was a story floating around about the generation ahead of me. One of my bosses’ contemporaries had taken off for his first child’s birth. For six hours. After that, his boss told him to get back to work immediately or don’t bother. By the way, the lawyer allegedly worked for his own father.

The final straw came when a young client was late for a hearing. As a young lawyer (never cool enough to be a hipster) I routinely showed up at court just in time for the docket call. Now I feel that if I am not fifteen minutes early, I am ten minutes late. It is an almost physical discomfort. This young man strode into court as if there were no problem, and didn’t understand that the judge was not amused and I was beyond flustered.

You could tell trial lawyers in the generation ahead of me pretty easily. They were either on their first heart attack or second marriage, or both. My generation was a bunch of slackers to them and their three martini lunches. We learned to use computers and Blackberries (look it up, kids) and our elders were stained by carbon paper and fountain pens.

I am not saying that new things aren’t good. As a geek, I am the first to champion new technology. I don’t miss the last minute dashes to the courthouse to file something.

In court this morning, in fact, an older lawyer was grousing that he got an electronically filed document only after his secretary printed it and drove it to him on Sunday for court on Monday. I looked at him like he was a dinosaur. Probably exactly the way the hipster lawyer looked at me. On second thought, I should call this missive “old lawyer guy grumblings.” It would be easy to make the change, but I won’t. I can’t admit that I am an old lawyer. Yet.

I have kept my promise to you, Gentle Reader, no humbugs. But only barely. Happy Holidays. Stay off of my lawn.

—————

Under analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. He is only middle aged if he lives to be over a hundred, but don’t tell him. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to the Levison Group via email at farris@farrislaw.net.
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