Tuesday, July 28, 2009
( 8:27 PM ) teahouse
Developing a Thicker Skin
I know I haven't blogged much about work during the life of this blog, but the fact does remain that I am a lawyer.
And it's a big part of my identity - who I am, what I spend most of my days doing.
So this will be a rare post about life as a firm lawyer in New York City.
One of the unpleasant realities of getting more senior in a law firm is bringing in clients and handling those clients.
And it's pretty much 100% unpleasant. When you have no clients, you worry about bringing in clients.
When you've brought in a client, you worry that it will be your only one.
When you've brought in several clients, you worry that you won't be able to juggle them and keep them all happy.
And the whole time, you worry that you won't be able to keep them - that the winds of fate will blow, that the vagaries of internal company politics and the economy will take it all away.
What I do isn't so different from what my grandparents did. They ran a bakery.
When business was good, they worried they wouldn't be able to keep up with demand. When business was bad, they worried that they wouldn't bring in enough revenue to pay their bills.
In short, they were always worried.
Today I spent 20 minutes on the phone getting yelled at by an irate client who was unhappy with the bill we sent him.
He wasn't just irate - he was FURIOUS.
He accused me of lying to him, of misrepresenting how much this matter was going to cost, of screwing him because now he's up a creek with a deadline and he can't afford to find another lawyer, of purposely running up the bills, of wasting his time.
I dealt with him calmly, and pointed out that the bills were high because of his demanding nature and need for interminable telephone conferences on everything; I showed him an email where I'd warned him his costs were spiraling out of control; I'd put everything in the retainer agreement that he'd signed; I told him how much time I'd already written off his bill.
But after I hung up the phone, I completely broke down.
It's hard not to take this stuff personally.
It's hard to be called a liar, a schemer, a sleazy lawyer.
I know that's not true.
Days like these are what make the job really tough. #