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Before anyone gets the idea that I’m fixating too much on the subject of food, let me admit right up front that I’ve been on a diet lately, and it hasn’t been going too well. I’ll be good and cut back on stuff for a while, but then some firm function or some bar function or some civic function comes along and I belly up to the chicken satay or the little weenies in barbecue sauce or the bonsai spring rolls and the rest is tonnage. If I were you, I’d invest in Ab Roller stock. But enough about the next Qualcomm grade investment opportunity. I’m here to talk about what I’ve learned by eating all this junk food in various law offices: You can learn just about everything you need to know about a firm by noshing there. So if you’re considering a lateral move or are fresh out of law school, you can learn a lot by knowing about law firm hospitality food groups. Here’s what the spreads say about the firms that serve them — at least in Texas: � You are served donuts, cookies (especially chocolate chip), pastries, croissants, cinnamon rolls. Comfort food, comfort firm. These guys probably are an L.L.P. and have lockstep compensation. Or they are tight with a copy service. I’ll bet they have big piles of chewy candy in bowls too, and a lot of them smoke. They definitely do not represent cardiologists. � You get a spread of barbecue, potato salad and cole slaw, and sweet tea to drink. The hallmark of an old line Texas firm. They know what they like, and they like what they know. They probably have a set of those replica Republic of Texas flags on their conference room walls. Or duck prints. Many Bush for President stickers in evidence. These guys only have peppermints to nosh on. � They serve you catering company hors d’oeuvres (it’s pronounced horse doovers, for those who don’t speak French, by the way) — you know, cheese pieces, little chicken pieces on wooden spears, oily and overcooked spring rolls, stuff like that. Ozarka water and white wine. (Unlikely to have beer except at receptions for law review editorial boards, and then only with napkins wrapped around the labels on the longneck bottle to disguise the fact that it’s Coors Light, which none of us would have guessed anyway.) Probably located in Dallas or Houston, definitely an established firm showing you how established it is by giving you familiar established food to eat. They probably have a marketing coordinator and have spent gazillions of dollars to design a tastefully colored logo that they would stamp onto the food if they could. They’ve already got it on their coffee mugs and the little napkins they give you. Candy frowned upon as not fitting the chosen demographics. � You get sushi or other forms or art food. Definite “eat what you kill” mentality. Has logo but it looks like it came out of Wired magazine. If a large firm, many associates looking wired, too. May have started in Silicon Valley or has aspirations of being a Silicon Valley player. No candy here unless it’s those little coffee mints they have at Starbucks. Chairs for clients/guests very architectural — i.e., they cannot be sat in by humanoid life forms. Many Al Gore stickers, even pictures of firm founding members helping Gore invent Internet. � You get those little Danish sugar cookies in the blue tins. You’ve wandered into a mediation and should leave immediately. Well, now that you’re in on what to look for, you can see how helpful this is to your decision on whether to take a job with the firm. Let’s take a few examples. You go to a firm that has served one of those giant party submarine sandwiches. Probably litigators in price-sensitive fields — e.g., insurance defense, slip and fall, other torts. You get chicken satay, arugula in the salad, veggie trays with ranch dressing. Mixed signals here. This is a middle of the road, middle-sized firm hoping to grow by getting some dot-com work but a little afraid of getting away from its “traditional strengths.” Barbecue and sushi. Run like hell! This place is schizoid and likely to be on the front page of Texas Lawyer when it crashes and burns due to personality conflicts. You get a Big Mac. This firm represents President Bill Clinton. Now wasn’t that easy? And aren’t you getting hungry? So enough talking about food. I’m going to lunch. All that dieting has made the author a bit light-headed. The opinions expressed in this column, therefore, aren’t necessarily those of Winstead Sechrest & Minick, where Tom Alleman is a shareholder in the environmental practice group, or its clients.

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