I Have a Case of Crabs


QI am a third-year associate who, after getting off to a rocky start, knows the ropes fairly well now at a mid-size firm (about 200 lawyers). But I’m stumped on how to handle a potential ethical lapse. The firm has a client that is a regional seafood distributor, among other things. I was involved in a litigation matter for the client doing document review and interviews at the client’s site over an extended period of time. I developed a nice working relationship with one of the managers at the site and, after two months of what I would call harmless flirting, he ended up giving me a case of crabs.


I’m not making this up: an actual, physical case of crabs. He said it was worth $300.00 “on the market.” I was a bit taken aback but took the case and ended up taking it home (I wasn’t planning to return to the office that day). With what I estimated was 20 pounds of crab, over the weekend my fiance and I had a party that featured crabcakes, crabclaws, a crab boil, etc.

I didn’t tell the assigned partner on the matter. I just wasn’t thinking, though it’s not like I could go out and sell the crabs on the street. It’s been two weeks now and things are fine, but it still sort of gnaws at me that I made an ethical lapse. What should I do?

ANormally I wouldn’t advise an associate to come clean to a partner about a case of crabs, but this case offers at least one remarkable exception to that rule. Come clean. Tell the partner that you got a case of crabs, how you got it, and what you did. In fact, after only two weeks, you may be over-thinking this. But there are at least two issues to discuss, along with offering up your mea culpa:

  1. Not informing the partner who, after all, would have found out no matter what you did. And, more than likely the partner will find out from the client, making you look like you were hiding or stealing something because . . . (move to number 2)
  2. It wasn’t your case of crabs. It was the firm’s, and the firm is the one to decide what to do with a case of crabs from a client (though, to be honest, I’m not sure how you’d be received walking in the next day with a boxful of possibly dead crabs). Maybe you should offer the value of the gift to the firm, but it’s unlikely the firm will insist on that. But be prepared. And I cannot resist saying one more thing: don’t try to give the partner his or her own case of crabs.

My guess is, once you tell the partner, you’ll both laugh about it. I am. It’s the first actual case of crabs I’ve come across in practice, and that’s saying something.

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

7 Comments

  1. P-Nut

    April 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

  2. Bill Dugan

    April 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Who cares. Its worth maybe $50 tops. It would be more unethical if you banged him and you wound up with an STD. But a case of crabs? It’s like a bucket of stinking fish, which is what I remember thinking I wound up when I decided to have sex with a paralegal in my office. Boy, was I glad I did not decide to “head south” with her. As it was, the room got all gassed out!

  3. Alan T.

    April 25, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    To be honest, in many firms in the Northeast, this is not that uncommon. At least having the opportunity to get crabs.

  4. MeanPartner

    April 26, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Nonsense. If this really happened, keep your mouth shut: if the issue comes up, act as if they were disgusting things, just like their smaller, counterparts. Say you didn’t want to offend the client but they were going to spoil, you didn’t have a large enough refrigerator, and that you gave them away to a homeless shelter on the way home. If this didn’t happen, and you made this up thinking it was really amusing, get out more: and have better stories involving office affairs, gold bullion, dropping off papers at the partner’s house with his wife gone, getting wasted at a bar and sleeping with an older guy/woman only to accept a job and find him/her as a partner…..better stuff than crabs.

  5. Guano Dubango

    April 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    I would like to find a beautiful woman interested in marrying me and having sex with me twice daily.

    I once met a beautiful woman I was interested in dating but she had crabs. I did not want to be scratching for the foreseeable future, so I passed up the opportunity. She got rid of the crabs and is now happily married to a state court judge.

    So there is one that got away.

  6. ChickLitigator

    April 30, 2011 at 11:38 am

    I was much more excited about reading this article when I thought the tagline was about someone getting a case of the other kind of crabs. What’s with BitterLawyer suddenly doling out ethical advise?

  7. Strenuous Objector

    May 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Chick: if you look back at previous Ex-Bitter responses you would see that plenty of them have sensible realistic advice, the only reason it didn’t appear so was because some people ask the stupidest questions. It makes me wonder if Bill Cosby should take over as the Ex-Bitter lawyer game show host and respond to the questions.

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