In a follow-up to Kash’s post on Monday regarding the newly formed Big Law Society, I volunteered to check out their first happy hour Tuesday night at the BlackFinn American Saloon in D.C. At first I thought it would be amusing to see the type of people who would attend such a gathering. But by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, I was tired and doubted whether I should go at all.
Moreover, I had reason to be suspicious, considering what the group posted about itself on its About page:
Big Law Society organizes social networking events for a very select group of legal professionals, with the aim of creating a community of talented, dynamic individuals. Memberships and invites to the Big Law Society events are limited to individuals with a unique professional background; however, qualified members are welcome to bring guests.
Seriously, I almost felt like I was crashing a middle school party for the “popular” kids, except with less interesting people….
I could just picture it: A bunch of arrogant young Biglaw associates, most — if not all — of them men, standing around a bar, knocking back drinks, and praising one another for how great they are, as well as eagerly pointing out how much better they are than everyone else. As appealing as it might sound to spend an evening with a bunch of pretentious asshats like that, I just wasn’t feeling it.
To my great surprise, however, I am happy to report that my experience was quite the opposite.
“Oh, so you are here to see us d-bags, right?”
That was the response I received from one BLS member when I introduced myself as being with Above The Law. Clearly he had read Kash’s earlier post about their group. I was just happy I wasn’t kicked out of their get-together right off the bat.
First, let me mention that BlackFinn is a great bar. With tons of flat screen televisions everywhere, it seems like a great place to watch a game. Plus it has a laid-back atmosphere and good service.
Second, the group was mainly composed of women. I was fully expecting a group with the name “Big Law Society” to be an overflowing testosterone fest. One of the women, Donna Lee, seemed to be the group’s facilitator, although she does not claim that BLS is her brainchild.
“The name [Big Law Society] did start as a joke and a way of poking fun,” she said.
Third, very few who attended the gathering are currently in Biglaw. Most of the 10-15 attendees are Biglaw alumni in transition. The group mainly focuses on networking, of course, but also on helping associates improve their careers. In fact, there was much talk of how Biglaw associates could hone business development skills as they become more senior. As Donna Lee described it:
The purpose and mission of BLS is to bring awareness to those billing away. How many people do you know that wake up after 7+ years of working [in Biglaw], and then get kicked out without a sense of direction?
To top it all off, there was even a Biglaw heavy hitter at the society’s inaugural meet and greet. Bart S. Fisher is one of the nation’s foremost experts on international trade, especially with regard to Asia. Fisher joined Patton Boggs in 1972 as — check it out — their 19th attorney. Patton Boggs now has well over 600 attorneys. Do you think this guy has seen a few changes over the years? Fisher now practices on his own in D.C.
One thing I will also say about this group: there was zero pretentiousness. Everyone was as nice as could be. Perhaps it was because this was the first meeting of the group or, more likely, it was just a reflection of the current economy.
“Associates are scared right now,” said Lee. “They are worried. The importance of networking cannot be stressed enough in my opinion. We want to bring to light a fun yet informative environment to associates navigating their legal careers.”
Gabe Acevedo is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and the owner of the e-discovery blog, GabesGuide.com. He also writes on legal technology and discovery issues for Above The Law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.