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I’m a china and silverware kind of guy. Like Field Marshall Rommel. He loved the clink of sterling against porcelain. So he carried them everywhere, even over the Alps (Okay, it was his flunkies who did the lugging).

Then there’s plastic and paper. Rommel would have had nothing to do with those. And, to me, they spell trouble. There’s something about sitting down at my desk to a seared bluefish steak, pesto blackened polenta, and kale cobbler with whipped cream, all thrown haphazardly onto a textured pink cardboard plate that turns my stomach. Not the food. The cardboard. And when I dig in with the white plastic fork and shatter the middle tine, I heave a sigh.

Eating is supposed to be fun, elegant, inspiring. And back in the day, Limoges® and Reed & Barton® made sure of that. Add a tablecloth. A bottle of wine. In the 23rd floor conference room with the client and your colleagues around the table. What could be better?

Here’s the rub. Cardboard and paper are cheap (should I say “cost effective”?). So firms everywhere long ago ditched stylishness and switched to Dixie® and more Dixie®. Whole hog. That’s why the sound you hear in their lunch rooms is that familiar nasty rustle of polyethylene cutlery on cellulose fiber. And the occasional twang of a snapping plastic knife blade, followed by the swoosh of the freed shard of plastic flying toward the wall.

When you’re done wedging the lunch into your petite mouth, it’s time, of course, to discard the entire place setting along with the leftovers glopped onto them. Ugh.

It’s then when you discover that you’re stuck with the obligatory sorting and recycling charade. That farce may be eco-friendly, sustainable, green, and LEED certified.

But it’s not simple.

Back in the day, the detritus of law firm life was handled in round tinplate wastebaskets. They sat on the floor. In the corner of the conference room. Whatever was no longer wanted went into them. That could be the unfinished half of a ham sandwich, a brief on appeal, or dead flowers from the vase on the conference room credenza. No one cared much about sorting any of this mix. They would have snickered at the thought. Happily, everything that was tossed into the wastebasket was gone by the next morning, no questions asked.

Then some wiz bang do-good architect figured out that you could put the garbage into drawers in the credenza instead of storing pencils and staplers and paper clips in there. Those desktop tools had fallen into disuse with the demise of sheet paper, and something needed to be done with the freed-up space. In fact, there was so much empty room that when the garbage drawers were designed into the credenza, there were two or three of them at least. The drawers usually didn’t have labels, until discrete markers were taped onto the front of the credenza by the local recycling police. Before that, you were expected to figure out on your own which drawer was for “trash” and which was for “recycle.”

The distinction between “trash” and “recycle” may make perfect sense to you. But not to me. In my world, garbage is garbage no matter what you call it. And I could rarely guess which drawer was for the cold limp pale-green fried potato dregs and which drawer was to receive the crumbled damp paper cup. In my universe, paper cups are trash that gets recycled or recyclables that get trashed. Who cares. And leftover spuds are trash but they also get recycled if you compost them (as any self-respecting earth lover would do).

So I just put stuff in any drawer that seems handy at the moment.

All and all I’m fed up with this state of the world. Sadly, it doesn’t have to be this way. Believe me. Back in the day, afternoon tea on china was de rigueur in a big shot law firm. And a biscuit or crumpet, too. The garbage was removed silently by someone else without a comment. You felt civilized. And when you finished, you lit up a cigar. Terrific.

Just my two cents.

 

Written by thinker

November 23rd, 2015 at 9:36 pm

Black rocks

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I’m not sure what it is about seeing a litigator dressed in a black suit with a chartreuse polka-dot tie that sends my heart aflutter. It can’t be the chartreuse tie; the same thing happens with aqua, teal, and hot pink. It must be the black suit. Yes, that’s it. There is something about black. It’s so “take-no-prisoners”, so “I totally, completely, and unequivocally fit in”, so—well—so black.

And I’m happy to report that this undertaker look seems to be on the rise among hot-shot trial lawyers. And semi-hot-shot courtroom wannabes, too, for that matter.

This is especially true when a litigator has to meet up somewhere with another, opposing litigator, called a “bad guy.” Say at a deposition or a negotiation or in court.

To set the record straight right up front, there’s nothing that awful about bad guys, really. If you bumped into one at a gala dinner of the International Rottweiler Owners Association or even at your kid’s Saturday soccer match, you’d be perfectly comfortable chatting with him, at least until you found out he was one of the bad guys. Even then, a chat would be fine. Deep down, the good guys know full well that a bad guy is really just one of the guys. But calling him a bad guy remains de rigueur.

The confusing thing is that a good guy who is on the other side is actually a bad guy if you’re one of the good guys, and a bad guy on your side is really a good guy, even if you’re one of the bad guys (good guys?). Somehow even the average guys seem to keep it all straight. It’s so necessary that they do keep it all straight, as this is a very important part of litigating. And, of course, it makes everyone feel better to do some finger pointing.

Anyway, when a good guy and a bad guy are in a room together, say at a video-taped deposition of an inventor, they definitely are both going to do the mortician thing—the black suits and pastel ties—that takes my breath away. And this isn’t just a matter of appearance. No, sir. The good guy and the bad guy actually perform better in black. And, honestly you’re just less likely to stand out in a crowd of black suit guys if you’re wearing basic black. You know: “I see by your outfit that you are a …”

The poor videographer faces a conundrum, though. He generally is not supposed to appear IN the video. Unless something odd is going on in the deposition room. Okay, maybe he appears in a corner of the frame when he reaches for one of those cheese and bean quesadillas left over from lunch. But it’s only for a moment, so it isn’t clear whether he has to wear the obligatory black suit. Ditto the guy who slipped into the room to put the vegetarian lunch wraps and seltzer on the side board.

This good guy-bad guy mix-up probably explains why you never see one of these hot shot litigators dressed in a white suit with a chartreuse tie. A white suit sure seems like a good way to signal he is one of the good guys. But the bad guys (good guys?) on the other side would become hopelessly confused or start tittering. It’s probably just as well. I mean, try walking into a courtroom wearing a white suit.

The puzzling thing is that these litigator guys wouldn’t be caught dead in a black suit when they are dropping by Starbucks for one of those $8.95 Iced Caramel Macchiato’s. No way. They know the black suit would look dumb and be wildly uncomfortable. And the tiny spilled specks of that cinnamon whipped cream would leave grotesque grease spots in the most unfortunate places. So in Starbucks, they wear cutoffs and flip flops like any other self-respecting American consumer.

Every so often some Neanderthal litigator makes the mistake of violating the strict black and chartreuse dress code. He shows up in a dark gray suit or a dark dark gray suit. Or a dark navy suit (which frankly is pretty hard to tell from a dark dark grey suit). Or he enters the conference room sporting an aquamarine or malachite tie.

Disgusting.