Blog Week 83: A new entrant's maverick behaviour.

Sunday 24 June 22.08

Last Thursday's office cocktail party was delightful. It was close to Brussels at chez Bill (our managing partner's fancy house). The party was well organised with a large marquee in the garden, a wonderful string quartet and some great catering. There was a relaxed atmosphere, with candles creating fantastic shadows as the evening grew darker. And the weather held out for us (something to be thankful for given how changeable it has been lately).

Sometimes it is easier to focus on the negative in office life. But everyone appreciated the partners' putting on this event. I also like the opportunity it gave me to get dressed up in something glamourous. I thought I would steal the show with my red dress, but Barbie was swanning round in something more appropriate for a cocktail bar rather than a cocktail party.

For once everyone mingled, the lawyers and support staff talking and laughing together for a change. But as time went on one separate group formed. It was not the usual sub-set of support staff getting drunk or lawyers talking earnestly. But a group made up mostly of our antitrust lawyers.

It seems Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal to cut the "free and undistorted competition" treaty reference at that day's EU summit was causing them. I was standing nearby and half-heard a discussion about what it would mean legally and in practice terms for European competition lawyers. A couple of French lawyers were quite apologetic about Sarkozy's action. It is such a Brussels thing to do: when someone's own government or Member State does something (like declaring war) then people from that country feel somehow to blame and have to apologise to everyone else. Even though it had nothing to do with them.

By contrast Shakespeare was calling the whole thing "much ado about nothing". That, unfortunately, is a joke only I (and hopefully you) would appreciate.

By contrast again, a visiting American partner was almost apoplectic, talking about the dark days of the Reagan era and Bork. (At least it sounded like that rather than Borg or Bjork). Apparently many lawyers back then had had to "start over" - whatever that means. The younger lawyers seemed more anxious than the older ones (strange given the younger ones must have less to lose).

Their overall mood - not pessimism as such, more shock mixed with slight foreboding - was such a contrast to the other conversations going on around me. Mockney, Hedgehog and Weirdo were laughing loudly and drinking too much as I heard a couple of (non-antitrust) lawyers remarking how Sarkozy had thrown a large, imaginary cat amongst some very fat pigeons. I could not tell if these lawyers were being sympathetic.

The party went on for much longer than had been expected. Always a good sign. When the string quartet packed up, some 70s/80s music came on and we started dancing. It was such a shame we had to leave because of work the next day.

Wednesday 27 June 23.22

I got a call from someone who sells something to our firm (a vague description, but I can't give any details). I recognised this person but she did not recognise me. Once upon a time I was Bill's secretary and this person spoke to me in the most abrupt, rude way. Like I didn't count for anything because I was clearly someone of no importance.

Now I am in a different position and this person now thinks my function has a degree of value. So her manner was quite different: turning on the charm because she wanted something. I was polite but not friendly. And certainly not helpful.

What goes around comes around. Why does someone like that expect to be helped? Some people don't think about the consequences of how they act.


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