Q: I’m a mid-level associate at an 80-lawyer firm and I want to make partner. I don’t ever hear any negative feedback about my work, but I’ll be the first to admit that I dress poorly, drive a crappy car (1998 Ford Ranger), and don’t otherwise have sophisticated tastes. I wasn’t concerned about this until yesterday when a partner said off the cuff that I would never make partner driving a POS and wearing Men’s Wearhouse. I thought he was joking, but none of the other partners in the room laughed. Okay, I get it. So where should I buy my suits and what kind of car should I get?
A: None of the partners in the room laughed because they probably didn’t think that the douchebag’s comment was particularly funny. If there’s one thing that I’m categorically certain about, it’s that partners love nothing more than to seize any possible opportunity to give an associate negative feedback. Lawyers in general are a bunch of overly critical assholes who love to shit all over anyone unlucky enough to be situated below them on the totem pole, and this trait is magnified exponentially in partners. In other words, if you don’t receive negative feedback about your work, then you’re probably doing just fine. If you consistently do good work, avoid negative reviews, and don’t otherwise repel partners and clients with off-putting, socially awkward behavior, then I doubt that your suits and late model truck are that much of a problem.
I realize, though, that not everyone will agree with me, since there are a good many lawyers whose desperate hunger for status and prestige was probably what drove them to attend law school in the first place. If you truly fear that the decision-makers at your firm fall within that description, then sell the Ranger (that thing will probably run forever, given that you’ve never used it for anything other than hauling a briefcase and a stack of papers), lease a BMW 5 Series (a sedan, obviously), and go on a spending spree at the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale (definitely ask a sales guy for help before you buy anything). That’s pretty much all you need to blend right in with the other douchebag partners — if that’s really what you want for yourself.