Nauseating Things, Small Law Firms

Size Matters: Gerard Depart-Two

Who among us does not love bathroom humor? As we saw last week, Anderson Cooper loves him a joke about bodily functions. No one, however, wants to live a poop joke. And, according to a conversation that I had with two small-firm attorneys, they are doing just that.

I was at a birthday party last Saturday night for a woman with whom I used to work at my small firm. She has since left and is now working for another small firm. The party attendees were composed of mostly small-firm attorneys from several firms in Chicago (and yes, it was just as raucous as one would imagine given that guest list). As usually happens when a group of lawyers gather, we all started exchanging horror stories about work.

Some people lamented the lack of quality secretaries, some complained about outdated technology, and some whined about the face-time requirements at their firms. These gripes I had heard (and personally experienced) before.

Then my friend Tammi (not her real name) shared her tale of woe….

“Last week, the office manager at our firm called a meeting for all employees to discuss a situation in the ladies room. You see, there is a monkey on the loose and she has been wreaking [reeking?] havoc in the restroom for the past several months,” she said.

“A real monkey?” asked one of the dumber guests.

“No, there is a woman who wipes her feces on the wall like a monkey and then apparently goes back to her office and writes a brief,” she replied.

Everyone listening gasped, except for one man. He pulled out his iPhone and said “check this out” before passing around a picture he had taken of the mens room in his office.

It read: “To whoever is spraying fecal matter on the seats, please clean up after yourself. Your behavior is unprofessional and unhygienic.”

As a true journalist, I smelled (sorry, I had to do it) a story. Was there some link between small-firm attorneys and inappropriate bathroom behavior? After all, after we started talking about Tammi’s story, we all realized that we had similar if less disgusting ones.

Looking back, I realized that I had one (although luckily a much tamer one). Our office manager sent out an email to all women at the firm with the subject line: “Bathroom Behavior.” While I unfortunately discarded the email, the gist of it was if you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.

Perhaps there is no link, but the shared space in small firms makes such stories impossible to keep under wraps. Unlike Biglaw firms, where the offices span many floors and, consequently, there are many bathrooms, small law firms often have only one bathroom. If there is something gross going on, everyone will know. And you will probably know who the culprit is, because you are able to identify the shoes in the stall next to you (except for the elusive monkey discussed above). There might be similar stories in Biglaw, but the monkey is able to avoid detection by using many different bathrooms.

Or, perhaps it is a conspiracy among small-firm office managers to get the chance to call an all-firm meeting?

Or, maybe I just need to socialize with a different group of small-firm attorneys?

I vow to make cracking this story my number one priority….

When not writing about small law firms for Above the Law, Valerie Katz (not her real name) works at a small firm in Chicago. You can reach her by email at and follow her on Twitter at @ValerieLKatz.

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