faking it

When I was a lawyer, I often fantasized about being in a non-fatal traffic accident to get out of work. Not “faking” a non-fatal accident, but actually allowing myself to be struck by a moving vehicle.

I didn’t like my job. But I’m no liar. I’m not like this guy who pretended he was too sick to go to work when he was really just unprepared…

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Catch Me If You Can is a fun movie. Tom Hanks has a delightful Boston accent that really captures the “Jesus Christ, I can’t believe people talk like this” aspect of the sounds. Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of teenage con-man Frank Abagnale Jr. is fun and entertaining. And there’s a Chris Walken sighting.

In the movie, Hanks’s FBI Agent, Carl Hanratty, chases after Abagnale as he forges checks, degrees, and a number of professions. One thing Hanratty can’t figure out is how Agagnale “faked” his way through the Louisiana Bar Exam and gained legal credentials. When Hanratty finally collars Abagnale (SPOILER ALERT: this movie came out in 2002), the con man revels that he didn’t “cheat” on the bar exam, he just studied “for two weeks and passed.”

For many lawyers, this was an anticlimactic end to a running joke in the movie. With all due respect to people who can’t pass the Louisiana bar, passing the Louisiana bar is not particularly hard (despite the test’s unusual length and civil-law components). I don’t know if you can do it in two weeks. But in a month? In six weeks? Even without going to law school, I’m not sure there is a bar exam in the country that is so hard that a reasonably intelligent person couldn’t pass it with intense study over a few months. Again, they’re not really teaching you what you need to do as a lawyer in law school, they’re just messing with how you think.

It turns out that the real life Frank Abagnale Jr. passed the LA Bar on his third try. But there wasn’t any deception involved, he eventually just passed the test. Once he earned the credentials, Abagnale says that pretending to be a lawyer was one of the easiest things to fake.

He’s not wrong…

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Maybe it is because I have been reading the comments or my reviews, but lately, I have reevaluated my work history. Five years after graduating from law school, I could be “associate general counsel” at some company, or maybe even “income partner” or “junior partner” at a small law firm. Or, if I worked hard enough and dreamed big enough, I could be a Public Information Director. I, however, am none of those things.

Why not? I have followed most of the generic tips out there. I “do good work.” After a few missteps, I now “dress for the job I want, not the job I have.” I got “five passports, I’m never going to jail.” Oops, maybe that last one was not a career tip. Moving on…

So why am I in career purgatory and my colleague from law school, Jimmy NoBalls, is a partner? (Note: his name has been changed for my amusement). I found the answer in a very well-crafted article on Corporette, Battling Burnout. Tip No. 6 reads as follows:

Whatever you do, at least the very least, fake interest in your current job (as the Men’s Health article also advised). Arrive on time. Be sociable. Look as professional as possible. Smile.

This tip explained everything. The difference between Jimmy and me is not talent, skill, experience, or anything else substantive. No, Jimmy was faking it. I, on the other hand, wear my disdain like a t-shirt (which coincidentally reads, “I work at your cr**py small firm, and all I got was this crummy t-shirt”).

If you want to do well at your job, fake it….

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