Biglaw, In-House Counsel, Partner Issues, Tax Law, United Kingdom / Great Britain

Inside Straight: The Best Things I Heard in 2012

I’m a week late in reminiscing about 2012, but what can I say? I’m a step slow; you’ll just have to excuse me. These are some of the memorable things I heard during the last year.

First, an employment lawyer who recently moved from the United States to the United Kingdom:

“What’s the correct way to refer to black people over here?”

“Excuse me?”

“In the United States, we refer to black people as ‘African-Americans.’ But you must have a different word for black people over here in England. Those people aren’t Americans, so they can’t be African-Americans.”

“We call blacks ‘blacks.'”

Second, a senior partner who serves on the executive committee of his Am Law 20 firm:

“My firm insisted that I move from New York to London.”


“Virtually everyone on the executive committee is from the United States, and we wanted to make the committee more international. The firm moved me here so that the London office would have a representative on the executive committee.”

Me, presumably because I have issues with self-control: “Wouldn’t the people in London feel better represented if the firm had actually put a Londoner on the executive committee?”

Third, a different partner at a different Am Law 20 firm:

“We had more than the usual year-end battles about revenue this year.”

Me, always rooting around for blog fodder: “Why?”

“Taxes in the United States are almost certainly going up next year, and they’re surely going up for people with high incomes, such as our partners. But income tax rates will be going down by about five percent in the U.K. next year. So everyone in the United States wanted to bring in as much revenue as possible in 2012, to receive the income before rates go up, and everyone in the U.K. wanted to defer revenue, so we’d receive the income in 2013, at lower tax rates.”

“Who won?”

“We’re the London office of an American firm. On that type of issue, we lose.”

Finally, because I know you love the kid, my son Jeremy, who had just entered medical school at a relatively young age (21 when he started, and everyone else in the class was at least 22, and the oldest was in his middle 30s), holding an atypical undergraduate degree (political science, in a medical school class consisting almost entirely of biology and chemistry majors), with no work experience or advanced degree (which again distinguished him from most of his classmates), and thus feeling more than a little trepidation:

“Hey, Dad, I just had my first small group session, where ten of us sat in a room with a professor. This was the first time I heard a bunch of my classmates ask and answer questions.”

“Yes, Jere?”

“Hey, Dad — I’m gonna be okay.”

(Okay, I confess: Jeremy actually said that in August 2011, when he started medical school, so it doesn’t count as something I heard in 2012. But I’ve been itching to share the kid’s wisdom with you since I heard it, and today’s column felt like opportunity knocking.)

I wrote long ago (in The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law, at page 59) that an old Tumbleweeds cartoon gave some great advice about how to succeed as a lawyer: “Don’t worry about how tough they are. Just don’t let ’em know how scared you are.”

Maybe my vision was too narrow: That advice applies to medical school, too. And maybe, on reflection, to almost everything in life. Consider making it one of your new year’s resolutions for 2013.

And have a happy and healthy new year.

Mark Herrmann is the Chief Counsel – Litigation and Global Chief Compliance Officer at Aon, the world’s leading provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human capital and management consulting. He is the author of The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law and Inside Straight: Advice About Lawyering, In-House And Out, That Only The Internet Could Provide (affiliate links). You can reach him by email at

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