Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Turned Tables

One of the things I liked least about being an attorney was the marketing.  Mingling at cocktails parties, attending rubber chicken dinners and sitting on non-profit boards for the sole purpose of trying to gain business was just not my thing.  I resented those nights away from my family, talking with people I'd never see again and who had no real reason to keep my business card around.  I only ever joined the board of one non-profit, and even while that non-profit was for an extremely worthy cause that I wholeheartedly support, I still hated those nights away from my family.  The non-profit involved children, and I would spend substantial portions of the meetings considering the irony of spending that night taking care of other people's children when I should be at home, taking care of mine.  I was all too happy to leave the marketing world behind when I got my in-house gig.

 But as it turns out, I didn't actually leave that marketing world behind.  I'm just on the other side of the table. 

A large part of my job is hiring outside counsel to handle litigation on behalf of my company.  In lawyer speak, I give out business.  That makes me a target for all those lawyers looking for someone to talk to at conferences, take to dinner or shower with court-side seats to basketball games (I made that last one up.  No one has offered me basketball tickets.  Football, yes.  Basketball, no.).  The realization really came at Christmas, when the firms to whom we had given business started sending in holiday gifts.  Even though I had been at the company less than a year - and taken 8 weeks of that time off to have a baby - I received more holiday gifts that I ever could have imagined.  And they were generous.  Pecan pies from our counsel in the South.  Fruit basket from Florida.  Lemon cake from Cali.  Of course like most companies, we have a policy against accepting gifts and most things went straight into the larger law department snack cube to be enjoyed by all.  But the point is, the marketing was strong. 

Since Christmas, the marketing machine hasn't stopped.  I went to a dinner in New York where the shrimp were as big as your fist. . . and just an appetizer to the lobster and steak.  I drank splits of champagne without ever seeing a bill.  And once when I appeared to be stuck in Florida due to the snow, my outside counsel employed his firm's own travel department to find a way to get me home.  It truly is overwhelming. 

While I enjoy being pampered as much as the next gal, I don't need all of these things to make me want to continue working with my outside counsel. The truth is, I like working with them because they are nice people who are good at what they do.  In fact, I'm pretty confident that in many geographic regions, I'm working with the best attorneys in our area of law.  I learn so much from them.  And truthfully, I admire them.  Each of them were able to develop their own book of business - something I could never do.  And they've all become specialists of sorts.  I feel lucky to be working with them.  I should be sending the fruit baskets.

 But that isn't the way of the legal marketing world.  I am attending a three day conference this week, and my boss and I have so many lunch and dinner invitations that we can't accept them all, even splitting up.  Tomorrow, I'll be having dinner at what my outside counsel describes as " the hot new restaurant in town."  He even goes so far to say that the restaurant wasn't taking reservations, but his brother-in-law is a wine salesman, and was able to get us in. While I'm grateful for the trouble he went to, and admittedly looking forward to a dinner where I won't have to cut anyone's meat (and that might be hot when I eat it), I'm sure I'll still spend at least part of that dinner missing the kids and wishing I was at home, sharing in their day.  Even if that meant a dinner of cold leftover pasta picked from their plates post-bedtime. 


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