Now we know how Tammy and Victor Jih must’ve felt last fall.
Because here we are, racing against the clock against the blog Above the Law to see if we can get our interview with these California lawyers-turned-Amazing Race contestants up first. We only wish we could stick ATL with a
yield right now.
But, we will type fast. We were not so Amazed to read Monday that there were some lawyers on the upcoming, and 14th, season of TAR. Lawyers on reality shows aren’t news anymore. But for Tammy and Victor, we make an exception, because they are not only both based in California, but they’re brother and sister, and they work for Am Law 100 firms. Really, we couldn’t ask for a better excuse to watch.
Victor, 35, is a partner in L.A. at O’Melveny & Myers (#18 on last year’s Am Law 100 list),Tammy, 27, is an associate in San Francisco at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges (#70), and they’re the oldest and youngest, respectively, in a family with three kids. Mainly, we were curious if they were nervous at all about subjecting themselves to the scrutiny of clients and hundreds and hundreds of colleagues on TV: Especially because, according to the CBS Web site, he thinks she can be immature and selfish, and her biggest pet peeve with him is that he’s a bit of a control freak.
Not surprisingly, they were a lot more tactful, though not technically contradictory to the above, when they described their relationship to us. Tammy’s take: “All of my life, I’ve just totally looked up to him and followed in his footsteps. But as we’ve gotten older, we just bicker all the time.” She said it good-naturedly, at least. And Victor’s: “We’re very close and we get along great. I think with that closeness comes sort of the freedom to speak our mind with each other. … The challenge, of course, though, is I don’t think any big brother-little sister combination is designed to be locked in a room together.”
Victor is the longtime fan of the CBS reality show — he even applied to be on it a long time ago, when he was an associate, with O’Melveny colleague Carla Christofferson, who heads the L.A. office. This time around, it was Tammy pushing them to try out. “After just working at a law firm for a couple of years, I started itching to travel and do something exciting, and I decided to apply,” she says. “I started thinking, who would really want to do this and who would I have a chance of winning with.”
Both claim their firms were full-on supportive. Tammy was staffed on the big Bratz doll trial that ended in August, and spent months in Riverside, Calif., for it. “By the time it was time to leave for the show, you know, the trial was over and most everybody was taking vacation anyway,” she says. Now that she’s back in the office (she wasn’t allowed, per CBS, to say when she returned, exactly), “I’m still working on the Mattel case. But unlike Victor, I’m a lowly associate, so it’s a little bit easier for me to leave.”
Victor, also a litigator, says he was surprised at how easy it was to get approval from firm leadership. O’Melveny is big on its people being in the “outside world,” he said, but he’d never had to put that to the test. “I thought that was just a slogan. Or at best, encouragement to go out and write articles and give speeches.” (To his bosses: He laughed there, so we think he was kidding. Sort of.) He says it also helped that the main client he had to check with had come from a big-firm environment and was very into the idea of work-life balance.
The show, for those who haven’t seen any of its 13 previous seasons, pits pairs of backpacking travelers from the U.S. against each other in a series of race-to-the-finish-line scavenger hunts that skip through foreign countries. Often the pairs exude some kind of gimmicky image that adds to their likability (see: Meredith and Gretchen) or loath-ability (see: Rob and Amber) with viewers, or that might make for interesting dynamics in any vacation situation — much less one with a million-dollar prize, lots of sleep deprivation, scheming tripmates and a running clock thrown in.
Victor doesn’t seem too concerned about humiliation. We wonder if that’s because he knows he didn’t do anything really screwy. But he recounts something his mom, looking forward to watching from Taiwan with her friends, told him: “She said at the end of the day, you are who you are, and everyone knows who you are. So what is there to be embarrassed about?”
The Jihs say their lawyer-y traits helped some in the contest, in that they’re used to reading people, diving into totally unfamiliar territory, and communicating well. And being competitive. And paying attention to little things even when they’re really, really sleep deprived. But maybe the whole legal angle had a drawback or two, too.
“I think it helped us that we were relentless. We read our clues in a very detailed manner, and we basically attacked everything from every angle,” says Tammy, a self-proclaimed klutz who anticipates she’ll see herself stumbling or running into doorframes once the episodes air. On the other hand, “We might’ve read our clues a little bit too much like lawyers sometimes, and said, ‘It doesn’t say you can’t do this … .’”
So did we beat ATL to the pit stop? We’ll see when we post this.
[Update: First! Although, in fairness to ATL, they didn't know we were in the race, whereas we saw after our interview this morning that they were. We were stealth.]
First reported in the blog Legal Pad.