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At the end of a long work day, when you’re jet-lagged and in a foreign city, going back to your hotel, ordering room service and getting an early night is pretty tempting. However, in our line of work we rarely travel alone. Such times offer a rare chance to gain a little insight into our colleagues’ lives that goes far beyond what we are normally privy to in the traditional working world. Throw half a dozen co-counsel from various law firms into the equation, and you have yourself an opportunity too good to pass up, jet-lagged or no. Like something out of The Godfather, I recently found myself invited to dinner party in the private room of a picturesque steakhouse, organized by several leading white-collar criminal defense attorneys from around the country – who also just happened to be our co-counsel. Although somewhat intimidated to be the youngest and least experienced attorney at the party, I was determined to not let it show. After arriving stylishly late (getting lost while driving a partner from your firm is also an insightful experience) we walked across the parking lot to the restaurant entrance where a particularly revered practitioner was waiting for us in southern gentlemanlike style. I reached to shake his hand, attempting to multitask and lock the car with my free hand. Naturally, I set off the car alarm instead. Abandoning his outstretched palm, I turned and furiously pushed every button on the remote. But the car refused to be silenced. Soon added to the ruckus were the “helpful” comments being called out by several intoxicated patrons at a neighboring bar. I finally relinquished the keys to the partner I was traveling with out of sheer desperation. Fortunately, the humor of the situation was not lost on any of us. Co-counsel, although by reputation intimidating, turned out to be the sort of person who would just as soon hug you as shake your hand and quickly followed my lead when I suggested the entire incident was due to a possessed car rather than my own nervousness. Although my “first impression” was certainly not what I’d hoped it would be, I took solace in the knowledge that the rest of the co-counsel team was already safely inside the restaurant and had missed the Christine-like action in the parking lot. No deals were struck that night – it was only after several bottles of wine that it occurred to us we really ought to have invited the government attorneys – but as we sat together behind closed doors, business was most certainly conducted. Like a dance whose steps I am still only beginning to learn, I watched in amazement as the conversation twisted and wove between the comical, the serene, the war stories, the ribbing, and last, but certainly not least, the case strategy. After my early mishap, I decided to just sit back and watch how the dance was done and, hopefully, maybe even learn a thing or two. What became clear over the course of the evening was that each partner had his own style, and had adapted it to perfection. The more boisterous kept us on the edge of our seats with their war stories, humorous tales, and gentle ribbing of colleagues. Others, although their comments were less frequent and less rowdy, would draw a hush from around the table to ensure no words were lost. As the night wore on, I couldn’t help but think that a reality TV show was missing a golden opportunity. Privilege issues notwithstanding, of course. Anyone who is under the misconception that attorneys are dull, boring, or introverted, clearly hasn’t hung out with a group of trial attorneys before. In fact, I had to remind myself to speak on occasion, as it was very easy to get absorbed in the listening and the watching. The more seasoned attorneys easily dominated the conversation not through arrogance, but because the younger among us were happy to let them. That is not to say we were ignored. Like fledglings, we occasionally flexed our wings. We were also occasionally nudged closer to the edge of the nest, as if to weigh our reaction. For myself, this included having co-counsel innocently identify a half dozen partners at my firm for whom I work (one of whom was sitting at the table) and then ask me to rank them in terms of preference. While the easiest answer (and some might argue, the smartest) would have been to start with the partner sitting at the table, I refused to give them the satisfaction. In the end it was announced that “the witness was being unresponsive,” and the game, thankfully, moved on. Although the entire experience lasted for only a few hours, it was clear that new bonds were forged and old bonds grew deeper. As we were leaving, the partner I was traveling with from Venable confirmed what I already suspected, “Clients don’t just come from marketing yourself to businesses, they come from other attorneys.” “Agreed,” I thought to myself. Good thing I hadn’t opted for room service.

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