Let’s play a game of law firm word association. What words come to mind when I say Skadden Arps?
Sweatshop? Perhaps; some sources say the hours can be “long and unpredictable.”
Yes, you heard me: funky….
While reading the business section of the Sunday New York Times, I came across a delightful piece on the professional lawyerly lair of David Zornow, the prominent white-collar lawyer who leads Skadden’s Litigation/Controversy department (which just got honored for its excellence by the American Lawyer; congrats). Here is how Zornow describes his decor:
We work very hard, long hours. So you ought to be in an environment that is comfortable and fun and reflective of your personality. Although this is a Wall Street law firm and I am a conservative person, the office is where I let a little funkiness through.
So what constitutes “funkiness” by Biglaw standards? An Aeron chair that’s not black or grey?
Actually, how about an orange desk?
My wife, my daughter and I came across this desk in SoHo. It was designed by Gaetano Pesce. It looks like someone spilled orange paint onto a platform. It took some convincing for me to agree to buy it. At heart, I am very conservative. But my wife and daughter are convincing, and orange is the new black.
Indeed. Just ask Steve DiCarmine.
A Biglaw partner who’s still married? And has a child (whose gender he knows)? Zornow sounds impressively human — even before we find out this fact:
I have a couch in my office where I will take a nap. You know, every now and then, when you are burning the candle at both ends as we do around here, a 15-minute rest in the afternoon can be quite refreshing. I lock my door and hit the couch.
Junior associates, don’t try this at home (by which we mean the office, your home away from home). It’s good to be king — or the global head of litigation.
Partners can do things that mere mortals (read: associates) can’t get away with. And when a partner does something offbeat, it’s considered charming, as opposed to a black mark. Here is Zornow’s endearing quirk:
Each partner around here has his or her own conference room. I keep [a Bob] Dylan shrine in my conference room. Wherever I go, if I see a photo, a poster or a magazine, I’ll buy it. I have so much that I actually have a second Dylan shrine in my house.
David Zornow’s love for Bob Dylan is well-documented. See, e.g., this 2011 DealBook piece by Peter Lattman (describing Zornow’s presentation at a “Bob Dylan and the Law” conference, which included a 10-page mock indictment quoting 27 Dylan lyrics).
What other fun stuff does Zornow have in his office? Here’s his response to a question about his “most embarrassing items”:
I have two photos of me from vacations. One where I am holding a fish I “caught.” I reeled it in, but the man on the boat really caught it.
There’s a metaphor in there somewhere about Biglaw partnership. It takes a village (affiliate link) — partners, associates, paralegals, secretaries — to get a trader off on front-running charges. But when it’s time for the photo op, it’s the partner who ends up holding the big fish.
What does Zornow believe his office says about him? It sounds like a closing argument for one of his Wall Street clients: “Don’t make assumptions about who I am based on what I do. There’s a more complex story here.”
(These are just a few highlights. Be sure to check out the full Times piece, which includes photos.)
A Lawyer Who Lets the Funkiness In [New York Times]
The American Lawyer Honors Skadden’s Litigation Practices [Skadden Arps (press release)]
Bob Dylan’s Legal Fan Club [DealBook / New York Times]