Ask Allison: August 10, 2016

Dear Allison,

A friend and I got out of law school together and immediately became solo practitioners. I work very hard and I am building my practice faster than my friend. I was supposed to meet my friend and some other lawyers for a drink. My friend called up to cancel and I was telling my friend it was a great opportunity to network, trying to encourage more interaction with other attorneys. I told my friend I had gotten some case referrals, advice, and it let me blow off some steam after court. My friend said just before we hung up, “I don’t want to be known as another functional alcoholic around the courthouse.” I was flustered and asked my friend if that meant me. My friend stammered and did not deny it was a reference to me. How do I tell if my friend is telling me I have a problem, or just jealous I have been more successful and made better connections?

Maybe a Drunk

 

Dearest Maybe,

I think the answer to your question is that you need to have a heart-to-heart talk with your friend. No matter what your friend was speaking from: legitimate concern for you, jealousy of your career trajectory, or his own stress and frustration, there is something ugly between you two that needs to be confronted.

I think if you’re not sure if you’re an alcoholic, you should probably back off the sauce and see how that feels. In this game, your darling Allison knows how easy it is to get sucked into thinking the only way to network and get to know people is through heavy and sustained drinking and talking about how much we drink. This, dear friend, is wrong.

Your Allison will not deny that when she first started to practice, she also discovered the network of bad boy boozers who tend to gather in a certain smoke-easy bar that shall remain nameless, drinking through the night and telling war stories. It’s thrilling to be included. It’s exciting to meet people you consider Legal Legends and hang out with them and feel like, for a hazy evening, that you are one of them, or at least, that one day you might be.

But the truth is that the people who love good alcohol also usually love good coffee. And if you insist on liquor, the benefit of networking and hanging out and blowing off steam over drinks comes in the first hour or two when clear heads still prevail, and not in the fifth or sixth hour, when you risk your health and safety and won’t remember much anyway. Leave them wanting more, I tell ya. Don’t be the last one to leave the party. And don’t get so sloppy you say or do something you’re going to regret later. Seasoned, older drinkers will remember and you won’t. Don’t be a rube.

I think you also need to question whether the issue is not actually how much you’re drinking, but that you have a reputation for it in a professional setting. Reputations for young lawyers are huge, as I’m sure you know, and what a bummer if your networking sessions are actually making your reputation worse. How awful. If this is actually the case, then I think your friend has done you a huge service. There have been several times I have wanted to reach out to fellow attorneys, especially young ones, and tell them that I have no idea what is actually going on, but people are talking about them in unflattering ways, and the rumor mill is flying about their promiscuity/drunken antics/substance abuse (as an aside, to quote the amazing Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, “I said there was a rumor in Milwaukee. I would know, because I started that rumor.”) Those are things I would really appreciate hearing from someone, as hard as they might be for a friend to tell me.

If you have found a friend that is close enough to talk to you openly about negative things other people are saying about you, I think this is a very valuable friendship. A person that you’ll never have to wonder if you have spinach-in-your-teeth around. If this friend is trying to gaslight you and shame you into feeling self-conscious because they are jealous of your success, I think you should evaluate whether that’s a friend at all and cut your losses before you find out that they’re the source of your bad reputation. I also think that sometimes people just shoot off at the mouth because they’re tired and stressed, and who knows what this kiddo was going through when they said that, yeah?

In my experience, Maybe, it’s not common for people to be as manipulative and deceptive as they are in movies. The darker hearted among us are easy to spot. You already have an inclination about this friend, and whether or not they meant to help or hurt. But go out for a cup of coffee. Don’t remind him that you’re doing better than he is. This game is so new to both of you, you don’t really know that anyway. Chat about what’s going on with him. Ask him real questions and actually listen to the answers. Casually bring up how you’re not drinking so much these days and see if he responds. I have a friend who once said to me, “I love you enough to be happy for you when you get the things that I want.” Look for whether he feels that way toward you, and whether you feel that way towards him.

Best of luck, and write me if you need anything.

Love Always,

Allison

Every week attorney Allison Jackson answers a question sent in from our readers. Have a question for Allison? Write to her at askallison AT hcclatv.com.
About Allison Jackson

Allison Jackson is an attorney who represents indigent people accused of crimes in Fort Bend County, Texas. She is also a book snob, a wine equal-opportunist, a good cook and a bad singer. She collects teapots, witty intellectuals, and mugshots of famous people. Before she was a lawyer, she was a cake decorator, aspiring literary critic, and superlative diner waitress. She has practiced law in Texas and Micronesia. Her favorite historical figure is Julius Caesar.

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