How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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Interesting approach to job hunting. But, how about this for How Not to Quit Your Job. The following is an e-mail written by a lawyer at one of Canada's largets firms. He began by sending it to everbody in his firm, and then, after he had been kindly asked to stay home for a while, he forwarded it to a number of associates in other firms, with the request that they spread the word. Read more about it here:


And here is the e-mail:

Good morning,

It appears that some basic education on respect, tolerance and emotional
intelligence in the workplace is required in the Vancouver office of
Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP.

I am an associate in the Technology Group at Fasken. Upon starting work
here on October, 31 2005, I was given a warm and eager welcome to the
firm and felt I had a very good relationship with my colleagues in the
Tech-Group. In approximately January 2006, my mentor and I were moved
to the North Side of the 22nd Floor of 1075 W. Georgia Street (the
"North Side"), where we work along side lawyers in Wills & Estates,
Trusts and Tax Groups.

During my time at the firm, I have been subject to a barrage of
uninvited comments about my personal life, my appearance and my manner
of dress. It is frankly nobody's business whether I have a boyfriend, a
girlfriend or both and or why I don't have a wife, children and a
mortgage. We all have agency to make choices in life and we must live
with those choices . But we also have to respect each other's
individual choices to do things a bit differently. Only in that way can
we live and work in harmony.

In March 2006, a member of our support staff who I sit near and consider
a friend was interrogated as to whether I was gay by a partner in the
Tax Group. She was advised by this partner that my presence and
mannerisms in the office were "bugging people" and cited my
"friendliness" as perhaps not being appropriate for the office. This
came in the form of a reprimand and warning to that member of the
support staff regarding my relationship with her and my perceived "gay"
behaviour. This member of the support staff advised this particular
partner that it was no one's business whether I was gay or not and was
quite taken aback that she was put on the spot to field such an
inappropriate inquiry from her superior.

Since moving to the North Side, a partner in the Tax Group has been
repeatedly harassing me. I am routinely scoffed , hissed and huffed at
by this individual whenever I am near him. In fact, I can't recall a
single encounter with this individual where there has not been a snide
remark or utterance of disgust directed toward me. This individual has
been publicly cursing (in the hallways no less) my name, my appearance,
my reputation and has made several comments to others as regards to my
manner of professionalism. I do not work with this individual and he
does not have any day-to-day involvement in my legal practice.

These incidents are but the tip of the iceberg - I am well aware of
innumerable rumours as regards to my sexual orientation which are
commensurate with the palpable dirty looks, whispers and
cold-shouldering I receive on a daily basis from certain lawyers and
support staff.

On Thursday June 1, 2006, in a meeting with my mentor and our support
team I was advised that there was a "complaint" about my mannerisms and
mode of dress and that I should make more of an effort to look and act
"professionally" in the office. In the meeting, I advised my mentor
that I wear a suit every single day to work and this was explicitly
agreed and acknowledged. I then asked whether it was the brightly
coloured shirts and ties that I wear that were the problem. I was
advised that "maybe that's the problem". I have yet to receive a formal
performance review (which was supposed to be completed months ago) based
on criteria such as quality of work, client interaction etc. It
appears that aspects of my personality, dress and mannerisms are
apparently a more pressing issue than being an excellent lawyer.

It takes no great leap of logical reasoning to glean the that the
culture at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP is one of intolerance, where a
colourful, slick and stylish manner of dress, a friendly demeanour,
winning smile and alleged homosexual propensities are considered
"unprofessional". This is simply unacceptable.

Folks, it is 2006. For millennia humankind has lived through war,
strife and all manner of conflict because of differences of belief,
thought and ideology. It is utterly appalling that a workplace that
purports to call itself "professional" and "excellent" should become so
infected with nattering nosiness, petty jealousy, insidious
small-mindedness and vicious gossip such that it becomes the norm.

I remind all lawyers that they are agents of the law and we, like other
responsible citizens of Canada, are bound by legislation such as the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms and various provincial human rights
codes. Furthermore, the Rules of the Law Society of British Columbia
operate to preserve individual dignity and to protect members of the
legal profession and support staff from harassment. These range from
gross harassment such as firing an individual for being gay, black,
Asian or whatever, to the more subtle forms of a "poison" work
environment. The poison is endemic in this firm and simply attempting
to exist in this atmosphere is an affront to my personal dignity.

To those individuals like the partner in the Tax Group who are
particularly incensed by my mere presence in the workplace, I remind you
that your vitriolic response is yours and yours only. You own that.
This is the most basic of psychological concepts. Any relationship
whether romantic, personal, workplace, or friendship is a mirror.
Responding to another human being with spite or malice is simply a
reflection of your own feelings of jealousy, insecurity, inadequacy and
self-hate; you and only you are 100% responsible for your own emotional
well-being. Negative feelings, if left unchecked, are what lead to hate
crimes, lynch mobs, gay bashings and genocide.

So next time you boil up with rage or spite upon seeing me, please take
a look in the mirror and ask yourself what part of yourself you hate so
much that you have such an ugly emotional response toward another human
being. There are so many options and resources available to you: maybe
its time to finally acknowledge your desires and urges and learn to love
that part of yourself, seek some assistance from a mental health
professional or try to constructively channel your negative emotional
energy through exercise, relaxation or meditation. I'm an expert yogi
and I've trained with enlightened masters in meditation and I know a
plethora of great techniques for clearing emotional poisons. You'll
feel better and you're doing a great service to the workplace and to the
world by being a happy, tolerant and respectful human being.

As for my wardrobe: it's called style, folks, and it's an immutable
reflection of my personality, imagination and a manifestation of my
creative expression. My wardrobe is a source of considerable joy
because fashion adds beauty and colour to life. Holt Renfrew loves me
and the folks who I chat with every day when I'm waiting for the bus or
when I'm buying my morning cannoli seem to get a kick out of my wardrobe
too. I get daily compliments on my spunky style from complete strangers
on the street!

As for my rampant friendliness, I similarly make no apologies: I simply
operate as a Corporate Jesus or Office Buddha. It's so simple. Anyone
can do it. Practice lovingkindness. Smile. Say please and thank-you.
Laugh. Treat your co-workers with respect. Have fun at whatever
doing. Choose to live in joy. Find the positive aspects in everything.
Be yourself (who else are you gonna be?!). Everyone wins in these
situations. Life's too short to be a smile-hater!

Yours in love, light and outrageous joy,

Joseph Briante


Mr. Briante made the national media in Canada:



Following the chain, it was forwarded by a befuddled recruiting committee member to some V&E friends, one or more of whom leaked it. The author is readily identifiable, and many of the published versions include his name.

I do think that a lot of law firms are uncomfortable with the idea of older junior associates, something that other law firms can (and do) take advantage of. And Houston law offices are notoriously parochial geographically. Either may have played a role here. But part of law firm interviews is demonstrating that you know how to play the law firm interview game, because it's a good leading indicator whether the lawyer will act socially appropriately around clients or opposing counsel or court personnel—or send lengthy emails that embarrass you or your employer or your client. That is a more likely explanation why the clerk didn't get the offer.

But on the rare occasion that I got an email like this from someone I interviewed, I didn't forward it around.


I know this will disturb Ted, but I believe his second paragraph is probably right on target. And I don't see the point in forwarding such an e-mail with details like the author's and firm's name attached.

As for the letter Rob posts, if it is accurate, I have to wonder if that law firm isn't in need of a better HR department.

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