One of my readers (I call them the few, but the bored) mentioned to me the other day that I had not written any humorous columns recently. Some of my law partners would say that this statement assumes a fact not in evidence – that I had previously written a humorous column. Lawyers. No sense of humor.
So I decided to write a piece about being general counsel of a law firm with about 325 lawyers in 13 cities. Lots of good material here. I work with challenging people in a great job – that’s right, read those adjectives again. I did not misplace them. As those in management of large law firms often say, it is analogous to herding cats. Smart, egotistical cats, often feral.
So in my role, I deal with the firm’s own legal problems. The job requires a combination of the skills of a priest and a psychologist. I occasionally send a firm-wide email about something, just to remind our folks that my office exists and that we are there to help. Or at least to listen. Inevitably, this results in 3 – 5 confessions over the next few days. I give absolution (usually) and tell the offender to go forth and practice and not to sin again. If the congregant is in my office, I will take the miscreant out for the lawyer-version of holy water – alcohol. Never hurts.
I try to add a touch of humor to the, often, tense situations I encounter. Our work is serious, very serious, but it isn’t life or death like a doctor’s job, so laughter occasionally helps – or at least helps keep me sane. So I have developed a range of “stock phrases” to use in response to problems brought to me. These pearls of wisdom have been developed through experience over the years, and I have prioritized them in order of increasing concern. My colleague Phil, whose office was next to mine for several years, would come in to my office after my door had been closed for an extended period and ask me which level of alert we were at, i.e., which phrase is appropriate.
Here they are – keep in mind that these quotes are made tongue in cheek, in keeping with my style. And in increasing order of angst. (My daughter, the vet, texted me the other day to tell me that she had just removed a corn cob from a very personal part of a dog’s body. I told her that, thankfully, my job rarely involves that degree of challenge.)
- Oh, that doesn’t sound that bad, we’ve all had that happen.
- Don’t worry, we’ll never hear from those people again.
- It is what is (a great fall back).
- They weren’t very good clients anyway.
- You’ll feel better after I tell you what Tom did once (Tom is one of my partners, and plays Yogi Berra to my Joe Garagiola – in other words I have made him famous, as an example of what not to do. Our managing partner lists him on our org chart as “Whipping Boy “).
- Oh _______, you’re kidding me.
- Most of our partners will still love you anyway.
- Holy ________, let me check and make sure we’re up to date on our malpractice coverage.
- The office manager will be up with a box for your things in a few minutes.
- Where the heck is the shredder? (never reached this level of alert).
I am also developing a few catch phrases to end calls or meetings where everyone is continuing to enjoy the sound of their own voices. Here they are:
- Well, I think my work here is done.
- Now that I have solved that problem, it’s time to move on to another mess.
- Oh gosh, we’re having a fire drill – I’ve got to run.
To end on my herding cats’ theme, my job is to clean out the litter box. Gotta go.