Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Don Draper's Guide to Being a Better Lawyer

Mad Men is back with a two hour premiere debuting March 25th.  I thought I would take the occasion to squeeze in one more rerun before the start of the show's fifth season.  Here is an earlier post we did concerning lessons to be learned from the show.

Whiskey, Cigarettes and Brylcreem
If you have a busy law practice, you probably don't have time to get around to catching up on the latest trends. You may think that the Montreal Expos are still a baseball team.  Maybe you think MTV still shows music videos and that you can still smoke in bars. You may wonder why you elicit strange stares when you wear acid washed jeans on the weekends.  If you want to be part of the conversation around the water cooler, you might want to try watching Mad Men.  (Side note: Do people still gather around water coolers?  I've been out of the loop.)

One of the hottest shows the past few years has been Mad Men, a show about a 1960s Madison Avenue advertising agency. Despite the show being on the air for a few years, I only recently got around to watching. I crammed three seasons into my nightly tv viewing. Not surprisingly, I have developed a strange craving to smoke Lucky Strikes, drink whiskey at breakfast and call every woman I see "doll face". I find it difficult to resist the overwhelmingly urge to slick back my hair with pomeade. Though I do not recommend cheating on your spouse, getting drunk during a three martini lunch, sexually harassing everyone you see or smoking yourself into oblivion, I think the show can offer some tips you can apply to your own law practice.

1. Mad Men Tip - Look the Part: The show Mad Men reminds us of a time when men and women dressed up to go out to dinner or a movie. Despite being based in the 1960s, the timeless look of classically cut suits present a polished professional image. Truth be told, if you look successful, people will perceive you as successful. On the show, Don Draper always seemed to have an extra shirt and tie in his desk. It's not a bad idea. You don't want to meet with a client with a wrinkled suit and ketchup stained tie after eating a hotdog from the cart outside the courthouse. The old saying is dress for the job you want, not the job you have (unless your dream is to become a circus clown). Your look can help inspire confidence in your client. If your business wardrobe is starting to look a little ragged, consider investing in a new suit. If money is tight, consider tailoring your current suits. Like it or not, appearance counts.

Mad Men Tip to Avoid - Conical Bras Apparently sales of 50 style"cone bras" are up 33%. Nevertheless, it may be a good idea to avoid wearing them to the office. They can lead to serious eye injuries.

2. Mad Men Tip - Refrain from Office Gossip: You don't want to appear to be the office gossip. When the ambitious young executive Pete Campbell discovers a secret about Don Draper, he shares the information with a senior partner in an effort to advance in the company. His boss scornfully replies "who cares?" and Campbell's reputation as a weasel is solidified. So who cares if you walked in on the senior partner singing to a Brittany Spears song. As long as he or she is not violating ethics rules, keep it to yourself. Remain above the fray. Who do you respect more at the office? It's probably not the guy who is giggling over what he read on facebook about a co-worker.

Mad Men Tip to Avoid - Smoking. On Mad Men, smoking is the standard. Even pregnant women smoke on the show. Health risks aside, constant cigarette breaks may give you the appearance of being an unproductive worker.
3. Mad Men Tip - Network. Besides his talent at creating ads, Don Draper's biggest worth to the firm is that he is a rainmaker. He lands hotel magnate Conrad Hilton as a client after sharing a drink with him. Don't limit marketing your firm to advertising in the local paper. Going to a wedding, getting a haircut, getting your car fixed? Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation. Let them know you're an attorney. Think about joining the bar association, civic groups or your local country club. Expand your networking circle.

Mad Men Tip to Avoid - Excessive Drinking. If they're not smoking, the employees of Sterling Cooper drink to excess. The Mad Men even have their kids prepare their Rob Roys and Old Fashioneds as their pregnant wives smoke and drink cocktails in the next room. They are high functioning alcoholics. In one memorable episode, an account executive loses his job after being so drunk at work, he wets his pants. The management fires him after taking him out for drinks. If you are entertaining clients, make an effort to drink in moderation. The International Journal of Law and Psychiatry discovered problem drinking in 18 percent of lawyers who practiced for 2 to 20 years and in 25 percent of lawyers who practiced for 20 years or more. If you need help, look into the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.

4. Mad Men Tip - Take a Break. On Mad Men, Don Draper escapes from the stress of the office by going to California for a few weeks to clear his head. While I do not recommend dropping off the face of the earth without telling your firm, it is a good idea to take some time for yourself. Besides our annual vacation, my wife and I started taking weekend day trips, catching a show at the casino, or simply catching a movie. Enjoy the fruits of your success. It can't all be about work. Don't make it all about the office. Take time to spend with your family.

Mad Men Tip to Avoid. Avoid sleeping with your clients, your secretary, your kid's teacher, or the neighbor's nanny. Never spank your co-workers. . And never, a lawnmower in the office.


Anonymous said...

Wait - what happened to the Expos? This is the first I heard of that.

Cliff Tuttle said...

I didn't know about the Expos, either. But what do you expect? I live in Pittsburgh. We haven't had major league baseball here for so long I can't remember if I ever heard about the Expos coming into existence. I still call the Dodgers "Brooklyn."

But I have seen every episode of Madmen ever written. I've posted about it before, but the 1963 season (my era revived) deserves special comment. So follow me over to Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk and we'll continue the discussion there.

Cliff Tuttle

uk immigration solicitors said...

When you meet with a client and you feel it in your gut that there is something wrong with this client, listen to your body and do not take on the file. In most cases, your initial instinct will be right. There are plenty of other lawyers out there to help that client..

long island divorce lawyer said...

Adding a little bit of humor and creativity was a good idea. This will definitely be a good read for any lawyer.

Bose said...

I came looking out for info on Mens Health and google brought me here, never mind some useful info i received! thanks

los angeles probate loan said...

I was looking through the widgets and saw that lancaster globe and more than anything aside from the very informative textbooks on law and stuff, that caught my attention big time.

class action attorney said...

as a professional lawyer, it is ethical to refrain from office gossip. don't add fire to a burning bush. you must learn to respect others' lives.

Marcella said...

Spending time with my family is the best advice I have received from a former colleague. While it is true that to gain more income is to work more in the office, enjoying life outside of the office is still the best way to become rich; not in money but in building a stronger relationship with your loved ones.
sacramento estate planning attorney

Wites and Kapetan said...

I really liked this show, it's one of those few shows that actually depict how it's really like to to be a lawyer. It gives out great tips too like the ones you pointed out here.

Wites and Kapetan

Stew said...

I love what you mentioned about avoiding smoking. Who knew that it can be taken as a sign of being an unproductive worker. Plus dressing for the job that you want and not the job you have is hitting the nail on the head! Good job! sacramento attorney

Unknown said...

I'd like to know how to become a fraudulent billing attorney. Although I am still on my second year of law school, I'm hoping that someday, I'll be able to exercise this chosen field and be one of the best in this profession.