To the unobservant eye, he was nothing much, a poor dresser with poor posture, fond of shuffling his feet and sucking on his lower lip, attached to a sort of glasses last popular in the 1950s. His shoes hadn’t been shined since a previous Christmas. All his ties were stained. He laughed out loud at inappropriate moments, even though no one had said anything funny.
In the beginning, the partners were ready to write him off. They figured he was a lightweight, a pushover, a disposable worker bee who’d put in a few good years of document review and then be discarded like so many of the others. But they didn’t understand. They didn’t realize that this unassuming rube was the associate-who-would-learn-where-the-bodies-were-buried, and that one day he’d be running the firm.
While the other associates were busy memorizing procedural rules, he spent his time making a study of the men and women who ran the firm. This didn’t require a paradigm shift so much as a simple knowledge of history: the firm was a castle, and he was a courtier. In making his reputation at the firm, he had never planned to trade in the usual currency—that is, a superior knowledge of the law or an enviable book of business—but something much more valuable, the secrets of the partner-kings.
Eavesdropping at a firm party one night, he learned of a plan by the opportunistic Jones to take the Mitsubishi business away from an unsuspecting Smith; he had only to report the planned coup to Smith himself in order to become Smith’s prized associate. From this position, he reported back to Jones, who never suspected that such a frumpy-looking associate might have been the one who’d derailed his coup. Jones was very interested in what Smith was up to.
As a double agent, the associate-who-was-learning-where-the-bodies-were- buried next became a triple agent, reporting to still higher levels in the law-firm hierarchy on the goings-on of both Jones and Smith. Soon he became a trusted—and secret—advisor to the head of the firm’s management committee.
It was only then that the partners began to suspect what was going on. Though the feeling was unanimous that the associate-who-knew-where- the-bodies-were-buried had to go, no one dared to make a move. Instead, they made him a partner, and fell all over themselves trying to be his friend. He acquiesced readily, slapping them all on the back in his new suit and freshly-polished shoes, his posture now perfect, just like his eyesight—in fact, there’d never been anything wrong with his eyes. Those glasses had merely been a prop.[Like this post? It's one of many included in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (And Other Irreverent Oberservations from the Legal Underground). Details here.]
3. The "Types of Lawyers" Category--all previous types-of-lawyers posts