Peter: Milton? Uh, could you turn that down just a little bit?
Milton: Uh, they said I could listen to the radio at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven while I'm collating...
Peter: But, no, no, no. I know you're allowed to, I was just thinking, like a personal favor, y'know?
Milton: I, I told Bill that if Sandra's going to listen to her headphones while she' working, I can listen to the radio while I'm collating -
Milton: So I don't see why -
Milton: The radio, I can't -
Peter: Yeah! All right!
Milton: I enjoy listening to the radio at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven.
You are in your office after just concluding a strenuous 45 minute conference call with the most conniving clients in the world. You’ve kept your temper in check and you’ve been a great counselor at law. You hang up the phone, take a breath while beginning to look for something to take your pent up aggression out on when you see that standing against the door of your office is the guy that channels Bill Lumberg. What do you do when he just wants to talk?
Throwing your red swingline stapler is not an option.
My office is in what can be conservatively called tight quarters. Secretaries, law clerks and attorneys are all crammed into a space that would comfortably accommodate a third of the people present at any given moment. It’s always fun to turn a corner to find the 85 year old of counsel who is 1) walking with his eyes closed, 2) carrying a cup of coffee, and 3) you having nowhere to go except to jump. And as much as it would be gratifying to assault an elderly attorney because he almost soiled my suit and scalded my lower half, it’s not exactly proper for me to cross check him into the wall.
...Because God gave us support staff or some unwitting functionary on the phone for delivering our pent up rage to instead.
Like this is exactly a newsflash: attorneys, especially those of the litigious variety, can have personality issues that do not mix well in close quarters with others. Combine this quality with (1) tight office quarters and (2) having a job that forces you to engage in verbal combat with those outside of the office on a nearly constant basis and you’ve got yourself a powder keg of interoffice waiting to happen.
Case in point: There are two attorneys in my office that do not get along even though they work hand-in-hand on almost everything that they do. These two don’t let that detail get in the way of their daily screaming match with each other. Someone tells the other they are going to lunch, a retort is made and 45 minutes of screaming at the top of their voices later, their office doors are slammed. Meanwhile, 200 feet away in a closed door conference room, my clients are mortified at what is going on while I’ve gotten so used to it that I’ve tuned it out.
I’ve finally come to realize that the daily grind of dealing with people makes a little interoffice fighting inevitable.
For me, there’s one attorney in my office that always seems to find me at the wrong point in the day. This is the individual who is about 15 years past him prime, is of counsel and acts like it. He is in the office maybe three hours a day, four days a week. It also doesn’t help me that his office is close enough to mine that he can hear when I get off the phone and always wants to talk about the glory days. Each time that I talk to this guy, I want to drop kick him while shoving him in front of a bus.
So what do I do when I hang up that phone call to find the most annoying person in the world standing in front of me looking to share an irrelevant war story from his glory days?
I suck it up and start thinking about my first drink.