[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]
A well-known Boston law firm shattered, and its various rain-making partners took their business and legal staff elsewhere. One of those partners came to the firm where I was an associate. He needed more lawyers to work on his cases; I was drafted. That’s how I met Attorney S., a former full partner at the now-defunct firm, only a “contract” partner without equity at this one. She was fashionable, hard-working, judgmental and cold. A superb trial lawyer, she had absolutely no mentoring skills. The other associates called her “The Ice Queen.”
However, there was a certain unspoken camaraderie at that firm among its few women lawyers. Not that anyone would have laid her job on the line for you. But when my mother died and I went to tell Attorney S. I’d be away for five days, she came out from behind her majestic partner desk and put her arms around me. When I informed her, among others, that I’d been given a year’s notice, she was the only one who actually gave me names of contacts with whom to begin my job search. And long after the partners decided to rehire me to practice in another department and she herself had left to join a new boutique firm as a full equity partner, she sporadically stayed in touch. Then she offered me a better job.
Of course, I was grateful. But at the boutique firm, was she now any friendlier? She occasionally invited me to one of her parties, if the guest list was short. We might have lunch, if she found herself free. But on weekends she never had time. That’s when she shopped, and socialized with more important people. After moving to Princeton, I now and then sent emails; she always answered, never wrote first. From a distance I pitied her: no children, no close family, no longer young. So year after year I also sent birthday greetings. And each time she replied she was so happy I remembered — yet never sent greetings to me.
At last, I gave up. As they used to say, it takes two to tango. Whatever she felt and couldn’t express, who needs that kind of friend?