Take Your Headphones Off!

That's my advice to new attorneys.

Also, open your office door. And, once in a while, around lunchtime, find an attorney that looks approachable and seems to know what they're doing and say, "Hey, what are you doing for lunch?"

(I'm not saying you should buy them lunch. Although I'm sure they'd appreciate it. Or ask them on a date. Which they may or may not appreciate, depending on the circumstances, I guess. But you could just grab a slice of pizza, no big deal. Hey, maybe they'll even buy you lunch! Or you could just bring your sandwich in her office while she eats her crappy lean cuisine meal and wishes she had your delicious sandwich and you can chat about your cases or what's been going on in the office.)

But this isn't about lunch.

There's a new attorney in my office who walks around with headphones in his ears constantly (except in court, of course). And every time I see him, I just think, "God, he's probably missing out on so much."

Maybe guys are less likely to feel lost. Or maybe they're less likely to let on.

And I'm not saying that you have to be super-outgoing. But when I was new, I learned so much by seeing a colleague in the morning and saying, "Hey, are you walking to court? I'll walk with you," and chatting during the walk. Or, if I didn't feel like talking in the morning, just listening.

Or, sitting down next to a colleague in the courtroom and discussing (very quietly, of course) what book you're reading or what's up with the judge's hair. And not just public defenders, you can chat with private counsel, or co-counsel.

I've made friends with other attorneys just by saying "Good morning!" every morning. Or, you know, just making small talk. Which turns into, "Hey, I saw that case you stood on today in court, I tried a case sort of like that..." As we've gotten to know each other better, these attorneys have offered help to me ("Do you want to see my trial file for that case?") and have offered to let me help them ("I have a trial coming up, want to second seat me?").

But I'm not saying that you should be more outgoing just to further your career. Although, that's a good thing.

I think it's also good just for general job happiness - to get to know people, to make friends, to just get general fun information (like, that the bathroom is out of order, or about the judge's new hairdo, or who's sleeping with who, or whatever). And who doesn't want to know that kind of thing?

So, take your headphones off. You might just learn something.


  1. The Washington Post recently had an article in its Health section about how we'd be better off if we stopped eating at our desks alone everyday.

    I admit I eat alone at work way too often, but at least I usually find another associate or partner to walk to the deli with, so we can chat about stuff on the way to and from take-out.

    I can't imagine wearing headphones in the office. That strikes me as very rude. Maybe I'm old-fashioned that way. (I listen to music in my office, but on the radio or computer--no headphones.)

  2. Once in a while, the people on my hallway are being really loud and I really need to get something done and I'll close my door and pop on headphones for a few hours so I can do what I need to do.

    But it's pretty rare, certainly not every day, and, more importantly I think, I'm not in my first few months on the job.

  3. It's weird you brought this up, at my office nobody really talks to me since I'm not "an attorney" but I'm not a "paralegal" so I'm basically in a tier by myself in the firm hierarchy. Since nobody talks to me I started wearing my headphones as a coping mechanism.

  4. I totally agree with you. It's really the best way for young lawyers to learn. When I first started practice, one of the partners would invite me motion hearing, depositions, etc... I learned more than I did in law school.

    I can understand the young attorney with the earphones. I am the same way. I prefer to work with music. But that is no excuse for being anti-social.

  5. As an additional thing to do to meet attorneys--check out your local bar association. Since I am in a small town this may be easier for me, but I have met most of the attorneys in town. Our bar assn. has a group lunch every two weeks for a CLE lecture, or other interesting talk. It gives you a chance to learn something while meeting attorneys from both the civil and criminal sector.

  6. I'm a headphone wearer too, but it's because a guy in my office verbalizes all of his movements. "I am going to staple this now." "Wow, I sure am tired today." Then, since there is no door between me and his office, looks to me for something... validation? Sympathy? Not sure. Headphones have made a HUGE difference in my sanity. If it were the occasional comment, it would be one thing, but this guy lives his life outloud.

  7. Oh man, this is soooo awkward! Erika...it's me! I'M the one that announces all of his movements and feelings in the office!

  8. Very smart networking thing! Isn't there a book out now, entitled "Never Eat Lunch Alone" or something like that? It's all about this kind of thing.

    The problem is that I hate most of the people I work with..so it doesn't really work for me.

  9. Quitcherlyin', Sanchovilla, I'm the one who announces all his movements and feelings in the office! I feel very embarassed now so I am going to go hide in the corner and make shiffling noises.

  10. Oooh... before you say it's you... this person also refers to other people primarily by their (minority) race or possible homosexual preferences. He did have a brief moment of discomfort when he met my dark brown husband, perhaps wondering if something he said in the past wasn't entirely appropriate... I think he couldn't figure out my husband's race, so that moment passed quickly. He's back on track now. I think I'm quitting my job. Seriously.

  11. The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.