Lawyers are like drinks: Water to Margaritas

Yeah I know these lists crop up all the time but I’ve been working on this one for years. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve seen one describing lawyers. So here it is, the first part of my list of lawyer drinks and what they say about each of us:

Water

Water bottles are for law students working lousy hours as an indentured clerk. Every one of you in the world drinks your water from large plastic bottles with an oversized screw-on lid attached by a strap. You buy these from outdoor stores in the vain hope you will look like you actually lug them up mountains when you are not slogging through classes and writing research memos.

Most of the time that strap on the top has an imitation mountain climbing carabineer hanging from it so the bottle can be snapped to your ubiquitous book bag. You can’t use those things for actual mountain climbing, of course. They are just for show. Your water bottle also has stickers on in from causes like “Free Tibet” or campaign slogans for some politician you worked for in college.

You carry your water bottle around with you everywhere you go so you can sip water constantly. You think you will die if you don’t “stay hydrated.” I won’t even try offering to put your water bottle in the dishwasher in the break room. Your water bottle is your pacifier. You can’t be away from it for more than five minutes or you freak out.

What your drink says about you: You are an over-worked, under-paid, stressed out and occasionally obnoxious law clerk that always gets in our way. Your water bottle is your binky and you would melt down without it. Plus, the water helps you swallow those little blue pills the doc gave you so that you can make it through law school.

Your hobby: Studying.

You wear: You have one nice work outfit you put on every time something important happens at work. But mainly you have a couple of grubby law school sweatshirts and a bunch of worn out jeans.

Your car: A bike.

Soda

Soda is for the new associates who drink it all day long to keep up their energy. It’s sugary and kind of fills them up so they can skip the occasional lunch to get stuff done. The caffeine helps them a lot too. They were up re-writing a brief all last night. They are guzzling soda all day to try to stay away enough to write another brief that has to get in the mail by 5:00 p.m. today. They rarely look past the next couple of hours and they will crash and burn every Saturday morning.

Lately the soda crowd has been switching to the ‘energy drink’ crap. It has a lot more caffeine and some worthless stuff like guava root and ginko balboa which does absolutely nothing for them except induce some kind of mild placebo effect. The ‘energy drink’ crowd is really the Gen Y and Z group that graduated from law school a couple of years ago. Don’t get in their way because they have an 1,800 billable hour quota for the year and they are falling behind. They know our software package tracks their time each day down to the second and the other associates are ahead this week. They know our firm lays off the bottom couple of associates every few months and it makes them hungry the way a lion who hasn’t eaten in a week is hungry. And grouchy, too.

What your drink says about you: You are barely treading water. You need the sugar and especially the caffeine to survive another day. Maybe.

Your hobby: None. You work too much to have one. You have no friends either.

You wear: Three brand new work outfits. They’re all the same dark blue or black so you can alternate parts with a different shirt to keep it looking fresh.

Your car: A beat up Toyota Camry with way too many miles on it and a parking sticker in the window for the health club you never go to.

Cheap coffee

A cup of cheap coffee is the worst thing in the world. It drains out of every corroded coffee maker in every law firm in the country and I hate it. It’s not bad enough that the receptionists never run some cleaner through the coffee maker so all the mineral deposits and gunk build up. They also have to buy big gallon-sized cans of God-awful over roasted coffee with the picture of some weird guy on the front. Then it sits in the cabinet oxidizing and getting rancid for the month it takes to work through that huge can, two scoops at a time.

This stuff is absolutely awful. Those office managers and partners who perpetuate it deserve special condemnation. I mean, there’s lots of great coffee out there. I know you cheap coffee people know the difference between good and bad coffee but you don’t care. Everybody who gets tortured with your cheap coffee in the office sees you showing up first thing in the morning with a big latte from Starbucks. You could have bought a decent bag of beans this morning.

I’ve tried but there is no way to convince you that cheap coffee is awful. The longer the pot sits there on the burner the worse the coffee gets and the more you grin and say you love it. Sometimes you load it up with really cheap powdered creamer flavored like fake amaretto. My favorite, though, is the cheap coffee person who has to throw in two packets of fake sugar that tastes like bad chemicals. You’re adding insult to injury and you don’t even notice.

Cheap coffee is your drug and you need it like a junkie needs their fix. You know you’re addicted and you hate it, and you hate yourself for needing it. It’s even worse than that, though. Junkies just get their fix once a day. You keep going back for refills all day long. The worse the sludge at the bottom of the pot gets the better it makes you feel. Your smile gets wider. It’s masochism in a cup and you need it.

What your drink says about you: You are overworked and close to another heart attack. Cheap coffee is keeping you alive but just barely. You wish you could find another career before that ulcer puts you in the hospital again.

Your hobby: Golf or something equally boring. Anyway, as soon as you get out of the office you hit the booze so who cares.

You wear: Old, worn out clothes that were in style ten years ago. Your belts are wearing out but you never replace them. Your shoes are wearing out too, but you have no energy to do anything about it.

Your car: A good, sturdy blue Volvo.

Herbal tea

Herbal tea drinkers are all scrunched up and miserable. They wish they were young enough to drink soda again but they can’t because it hurts their  stomach. Most of the time herbal tea drinker have just experienced a serious health scare and they  went on some kind of spiritual journey through the herbal medicine books. At home they are taking all kinds of weird ground up tree root stuff out of irrational fear that their doctor might be wrong about that lump. Herbal tea at work is a way to hedge their bets. I mean, four billion healthy Chinese tea drinkers can’t be wrong, right?

One other kind of herbal tea drinker is the lawyer that is far past their “sell by” date. They are hanging on in a back office by a thread, working a few clients here and there but mostly gossiping with the new receptionist. A few more years and you will find them slumped over their desk the next morning. Or they are going to finally get lung cancer and be done. Herbal tea is their way of taking a little break from the hard stuff lawyers do like returning phone calls and writing letters. They like the smell of the herbal tea because it reminds them of someplace safe like their flower garden at home where they don’t have to worry about anything.

The last kind of herbal tea sippers are the weirdo granolas. They are going to set strange looking crystals on the edge of their desk. They smell like Patchouli. When they sit down in the breakroom they fold their legs underneath themselves on the seat and kind of perch sideways. They always hold their tea cup with both hands, cupping it like they saw some Tibetan monk do on a TV show. That guy was probably drinking warm Yak milk and harsh black tea, by the way – not sugary herbal stuff. Their reading glasses have strings of beads on the sides. They wear sweaters with sleeves that are too long and they don’t roll them up. Every three months they put a poster up on the wall in the breakroom advertising 20% off colonics at their favorite herbalist’s office. Don’t ever take them up on their offer of trying their herbal tea. You might not pass your next drug test.

What your drink says about you: You are washed up, crazy, or dying of something. You can’t handle anything harder than maybe some basic real estate cases or simple contract reviews but nobody wants to fire you and hurt your feelings.

Your hobby: Watching T.V., knitting, and pretending to garden. During dinner they talk to their spouse about all the funny things their herbalist said to them today.

You wear: Sustainably grown and fair labor priced hemp fiber clothing from Ecuador.

Your car: The bus. Maybe a sensible electric hybrid.

Lite Beer

Lite beer is strictly for the lawyers in their late 20’s who can’t grow up and are being worked to death. They got their first big job at a prestigious law firm and the enormity of the burden they have taken on is crushing the life out of them. They know that the grind to put out 1,800+ billable hours a year is going to kill them unless the stress of deadlines and dealing with some really serious stuff in those case files doesn’t do it first. Have you ever carried the burden of not screwing up the defense of a claim for $10 million?

Lite beer drinkers loved the parties in college and law school. They remember how much fun they had back then. So, they suck down cheap lite beer to relive the old memories and numb their brains after a horrifying work week dealing with backstabbing fellow associates, insulting clients, and a spouse who wants a divorce because they’re bringing work home each night. Lite beer is cheap self medication. The lawyers downing this stuff drink one right after the other like they are fish swimming upstream.

You see a crazy look in their eyes when two lite beer drinkers get together. They recognize  a fellow sufferer and they seek solace in the bottles and a friend. After the first couple, you will see them standing there with a beer in each hand as they are laughing hysterically telling stories about what they have been going through. It’s a coping mechanism but it’s painful to watch. They’re completely unprepared for dealing with the stress that gets dumped on them and they’re practically out of control. They try to pick up everyone standing around them until a sympathetic legal secretary stuffs them in a cab.

What your drink says about you: You are not handling the stress well and are two steps away from hitting on your boss’s wife and getting fired. You need to take up running or something constructive but you’re probably well on the way to hardcore alcoholism and bottoming out as a legal aid lawyer.

Your hobby: Dangerous extreme sports on the weekends. Well actually anything that gets you away from work, sounds exciting, and could lead to a concussion or broken bones.

You wear: Severe business suits and dresses. Men are wearing red power ties and the women are wearing $500 Italian shoes they can’t afford.

Your car: You drive the fancy, huge, over priced Lexus SUV parked in the really tiny associate parking spot in the basement by the elevator. Now that you have such a huge car payment to go with your huge student loan payment and huge mortgage payment (and soon a huge alimony payment), you can’t afford to quit the firm and do something that would make you happy. Go drink more cheap lite beer.

Frozen margarita

It’s always 5:00 o’clock somewhere for you. You are a fun party person and you never met a happy hour you didn’t like. You have somehow found a weird but profitable legal specialty that lets you kind of coast at the big firm or, more likely, you just took a job with the state and now you can sit back and relax.

You’re single, probably recently divorced, and you know the regulars at every Mexican restaurant in town. You can recite the list of the top forty versions of frozen margaritas from memory. Every spring you head to Puerto Vallarta or Cabo for a week’s vacation with someone new. You always bring back a straw hat or some cheap souvenir for your legal assistant. Mornings late in the week are rough for you because you had hit some dingy bar pretty hard the night before and you’re still working off all that Patron. You would drink a pot of that awful coffee sludge up front except that you really need to bite the dog that bit you. You keep a bottle of tequila in the bottom drawer for just these occasions.

Margarita people either end up as hardcore alcoholics and disappear when they lose their jobs or they make it through, get married and settle down. If they survive the Margarita phase and start a family, they will occasionally have a bender and go crazy at a friend’s bachelorette party. You can spot them because they’re leaning backwards over the bar while some creepy guy is drinking a tequila shot off their chest and the rest of the group is chanting “go, go, go!”

What your drink says about you: You are happy, you are really fun, and you are on the downhill slide familiar to every early stage alcoholic.

Your hobby: Waking up with someone new all the time.

You wear: Um, quite often nothing at all. But for work it’s a basic cheap suit you can wash in the sink every time you spill a drink during lunch.

Your car:  It’s red, it’s a two door convertible, and it cost more than a college education for a normal person.

-Samuel Owen

© Samuel Owen 2012. All rights reserved. Please read important notices and disclaimers by clicking here.
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Author: Samuel Owen

This is my Lawyer Rant. I've put up with new associates trying to kill me, clients being dangerous idiots, and Judges being rude for far too long. It's time for me to tell it like it really is, and it feels good to give back.

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