Under Analysis: Decorating (a law office) for Dummies

Spencer Farris, The Levison Group

Things have gotten depressing at the “Levis” Towers. That is what the sign on the building says, because the last two letters in the old name are gone. The “O” broke in half and fell to the ground, and the partners decided that the “N” looked silly by itself, so they had it removed as well. Speculation around town is that the denim company bought naming rights, but those of us on the inside know better.

The engineers won’t talk about what they found in the basement; they just look at their clipboards a lot and make sounds. Lots of sounds. I presume the fix will be expensive since the head of their crew began showing up to look at the joint in his new car. Doing simple math, the age of the building multiplied by the age of the partners means demolition is more likely than renovation. For both the building and the partners.

I had hoped that my current office would be my last. The space isn’t particularly posh, and I wanted to make it comfortable. I gifted away most of my old furniture and started over. Except for my chair, but more about that in a minute.

Middle-aged legal guy can take a nap anywhere, so comfort is relative. Lighting, however, is not. LED lights were at the top of my list for new space. I miss the fluorescent light lullaby hum, but being able to read without an extra desk lamp or a squint seems a pretty good trade off. Lights that are just functional don’t suit me anymore either. I have a neon desk light that was made in Southern Illinois, near the town where my wife grew up but well before she was born.

A smart lawyer told me, a long time ago, that I would spend more time at my desk than at home in bed. This is certainly true around trial time, but even on a typical day I work more than I sleep, unlike some lawyers who bill more than they breathe. A good desk chair is essential, and if I can find one with a built in massager and cup holder, I am sold. Some of the young lawyers use stand-up desks. I know that Thomas Jefferson worked standing up. If I ever found a country, I will get a stand-up desk. Until then, it is all sitting, all of the time. My chair has been with me since I first started solo practice.

Middle-aged lawyer guy is more concerned with being at home in the office than he is with the impression his office makes on others. Gone are the motivational posters and diplomas that used to be on my walls. After a certain age, folks are willing to take for granted that some law school let me out with a sheepskin. Maybe it started when my gray hair made its presence known.

I tried a case as a youngster and one of the jurors talked to me afterwards. I don’t remember if we won or lost the case, but I remember her saying, “You will be good some day, when you get some gray hair.” Plenty of gray hair later, I don’t know if I am good, but I know that my lack of framed diplomas on the wall doesn’t cause clients pause anymore. Plus, the space they emptied on the wall freed up nails for art.

Not priceless art or even particularly good art. Just things I like to look at all day. Whatever style the pictures might be, they don’t match the cow skin rug on the floor. A client who knows I hunt asked me if I killed the “thing” he was standing on. I have been responsible for the death of many cows, but not that one.

Not everything in my office is new. The couch in the corner looks like a frat house rescue project, overstuffed black leather with lumps to spare. It is longer than I am tall, and not by coincidence. Jefferson is rumored to have power napped as well. That couch has followed me through four offices and will be with me till the end. It isn’t sleek or stylish, but it is soft and comfortable.

The most expensive piece in the room is my desk. It is a deco inspired glass monster that is likely too big for the space. When I was looking for a desk, it caught my eye and after several days of shopping, it was the only one I couldn’t stop thinking about. Every morning when I see that sleek desk in the same room as the saggy old couch in the corner, I can’t help but smile. There is a certain point in one’s career when having what you want is more important than having things that would impress others or win a design contest. The print on design awards is kind of small for my eyes anyway.


Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. His chair deserves an award for supporting his big frame every day. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to Under Analysis via email at farris@farrislaw.net.
©2016 Under Analysis LLC


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