Spontaneous Exclamations: Congratulations, everybody’s watching

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, commercial finance, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on all posts are welcome!

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The first day you step into law school, you’re under a microscope. Any action or inaction can have lasting, significant, and occasionally preposterous consequences on a person’s legal career.  To you law students: Got too many speeding tickets?  Reported to the bar examiners.  Cited for jaywalking?  Reported to the bar examiners.  And most frequently, arrested for any sort of drunk misconduct in public?  Definitely reported to the bar examiners.  Even worse, the first day on the job as an attorney, you’re under a much more powerful electron microscope.  You have to watch your back, your reputation, and your Facebook.

Every summer and particularly around the firm holiday party season, stories appear in the news perhaps about how this law student jumped in the Chicago River for a quick swim after a firm baseball game outing. Or maybe how this attorney, in full Black Swan Halloween costume, blacked out after drinking a bottle of something awful, got arrested for blocking traffic doing pirouettes on Division Street and starting a bar fight.  These stories keep getting more ridiculous.

While it’s certainly OK to drink if you choose to, once you reach law school, you must also use your head.  Bar examiners are notoriously bad sports about misdemeanors and are especially crusty on felonies.  When things begin to get rowdy at your law school’s “Bar Review” bar crawl, stop for a second to think about how stealing the bar’s giant neon sign might be a good idea after 10 beers, but an unnecessary risk the next morning when you have a giant neon sign sitting in your living room.  Maybe you should have just stuck to the dance floor or watched the game like your original plan.

Firm attorneys, your holiday party or retreat, awkward as they may feel at times, is not a good place to black out and take a swim in the hotel’s fountain (happens more than you think).  Despite the open bar and the appearance of the firm’s leadership letting loose for a night, you are still at a work event and will thus be judged.  Random flirting and general scene-making does not help you build your reputation as an intelligent lawyer who makes smart decisions when it’s all on the line.  To sum it up, save the excessive drinking for your own time.  Retain your manners. Firm events are better for demonstrating your charm, getting to know your co-workers, and making your way up the company ladder.

No matter what you think, somebody is always watching, especially your clients.  Keep your wits about your or you might end up watching yourself on the news blocking traffic on Division Street in a Black Swan costume.


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