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“You are what you eat.” In the case of lawyers, however, this can’t be true because what lawyers eat is usually free — and we all know lawyers are not free. The modern attorney, if he or she is smart enough, hungry enough, and cheap enough, can go weeks and even months at a time without having to pay for food. Free food is one of the perks of being an attorney. Providing nourishment to its members may in fact be the raison d’�tre for the legal profession. Think about it. Have you ever known of a practicing lawyer starving to death? There are many sources adding to the giant all-you-can-eat buffet table that is the law. The most fruitful of these sources are discussed below. 1. The Summer Associate Program. A more descriptive title for The Firm’s summer associate program would be the “Feed the Law Students Program.” To encourage lawyers to get to know those being test driven over the summer, The Firm picks up the cost of meals attorneys have with summer associates. The question is, how well do you really need to know these people? The answer depends on how hungry you are. Summer associates, knowing a meal ticket when they see one, make it a point to break bread with everyone at The Firm. The summer program thus turns The Firm into an upscale soup kitchen for hungry students seeking to store up food for the long winter back at law school where they have to pay for their own meals. I have known summer associates who have gone the entire two or three months they were with The Firm without opening their wallets during lunch time. By doing so, these people demonstrate they have the right stuff to become successful attorneys and are extended offers for full-time employment upon their graduation from law school. Lawyers also enjoy feeding at the law firm trough during June, July and August. They salivate over the smorgasbord of incoming summer associates and make their lunch reservations early. Because summer associates typically book up early, if you want to have your lunch or dinner paid for, you’ll need to tap one of them first thing in the morning. When you add these free lunches and dinners to the summer associate welcome reception, the pool party, the farewell banquet and the other events hosted by The Firm during the summer, starvation is not a serious threat. 2. Working Late. The policy at many law firms is to reimburse for meals eaten after a certain number of hours have been billed in a day, or if an attorney is working late and at the office after a certain time. More than salaries, bonuses and hopes for career advancement, paying for overtime meals is the smartest thing The Firm ever did to encourage lawyers to work long hours. Most lawyers, given the opportunity, are happy to bill a mere ten or twelve hours a day and skip going home at night if it means The Firm will pick up the cost of a late night meal. 3. Business Development. Attorneys generally dislike participating in business development activities. Most resent having to spend their free time with people they would not normally socialize. That’s the downside. The upside is that the cost of the food and drink you consume at overpriced restaurants while trying to woo new clients is fully reimbursable. These get-togethers may be painfully boring, but they’re paid for. Even eating in uncomfortable silence is better than having to pick up the check. The Firm will host a meal if you are sharing it with a client or a potential client. And because most lawyers operate under the principle that everyone is a potential client, gatherings with friends, going out on dates, and taking the spouse to dinner and a show all fall within the broad definition of business development. 4. Scavenging. If you are serious about being a lawyer who doesn’t pay for food, you might have to scavenge a bit. Fortunately, if you look hard enough, you can always find something free to eat at The Firm. There are practice group meetings, client receptions, litigation victory parties and deal closings — most of which are catered. Some of these events, especially the client receptions, may require you to load up on things like cheese and crackers, small pieces of fruit and either shrimp or miniature hot dogs, depending upon the budget. Sure, it’s not be the best meal — but it is the cheapest. Some of these events may require that you join certain meetings where you probably don’t belong. In this case, simply act like you know what you’re doing and, at the appropriate time, discreetly merge into the buffet line. If you time it just right, you can wander in, grab a Danish or a sandwich and then exit the room without anyone realizing you’re not contributing anything to the meeting. This really works. I’ve done it many times over the years and on only three occasions have I been caught, had the food taken away from me and been forcibly removed from the room in front of colleagues and clients. As a last resort, you can always find saltines, candy bars, Tic Tacs and other assorted items in your secretary’s desk. Under normal circumstances, you might complain about the food, but in this case, you won’t — because, like everything else you eat at The Firm, it tastes a whole lot better when someone else is paying for it. Bon appetit! The Rodent is a syndicated columnist and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected]

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