This week, I promise no politics, no policy-change ideas, no activism.  I was able to solve the jury system and problems with teen drivers, but I am done for the time-being.  Get answers to the BP crisis or global warming from someone else.  

This week, I thought I would share a story with you of one of my first interactions with another attorney after I had passed the BAR exam .

I don’t know if any of you were like me, but I grew up wanting one thing: a business card.  I had been working at Anker Reed for over a year as a law clerk and every day when I grabbed the key to the men’s room I would look at the business card holders with all of the pretty business cards inside.  The beautiful bonded paper and black embossed writing.  “Attorney At Law.”  It carried such esteem.  Do you know what it meant?  Legitimacy.  Sure, you can flash your BAR card to someone, but to me, the true demonstration of being an attorney was having a business card.

So when I passed the BAR, the first order of business was to order business cards. “Robert A. Cohen — Attorney At Law.”  I had played around with all types of ideas: “Robert Cohen — Attorney At Law;”” R. Alan Cohen — Attorney and Counselor At Law;” “Rob Cohen, Esq. — Atty At Law.”  The business cards could not come fast enough, and when they finally arrived, I was convinced EVERYONE would want a card.  I brought them everywhere.  I had them in all kinds of business card holders on my desk, on the receptionist’s desk, in my car, in my briefcase, in my wallet.  Who wouldn’t want a business card from “Robert A. Cohen – Attorney At Law?”

Well, you can imagine my ecstasy when another attorney, we will call him Greg, finally asked me for my business card.  I remember it so vividly.  I was getting ready to meet with Greg and a potential new client who he was referring to the firm.   As we were waiting for the new client to arrive, Greg looked at me and asked me if I had just passed the BAR exam and I told him that I had.  Without offering any congratulations, he asked me if I had a business card.  Can you imagine how excited I was?  This is it.  This is what it is all about.  Legitimacy!  I am finally a “real” attorney because I have business cards and I can pass them out upon request…

So when he asked me for my card, I mentioned that I happened to have one in my shirt pocket and, very nonchalantly passed it across the conference table to him, as if I had done it thousands of times before.  I think I even did it with a little wrist-flick to get it to slide across the table.  Then I thought, “Damn, did I appear over-eager?”

Well, you will never guess what happened next.  Greg took the card, looked at it and then… pulled out his cel phone.  Wait, he isn’t going to call a friend of his to tell all about this hot-shot new attorney he met, right?  Or wait, is he calling his secretary to have her input my contact information into the database and rolodex?  Maybe he is going to put my telephone number into his speed-dial so that he can call me anytime he needs to send business my way.

No — he didn’t do any of those.  This is what he did.  He called his voicemail.  And then proceeded to turn my business card upside-down and write down his messages on it.  Now I have heard that there is some etiquette in Asian cultures with respect to business cards, but I am not up-to-speed with that.  All I know is I have never felt so deflated or hurt as I did that day.  Is this the way attorneys do it?  Is this how they show respect to one another?

But you know what?  I look back on it now and I laugh my “you-know-what” off.  I would never, ever, ever, EVER do that to someone else, but it is really freaking-funny…

However, just in case you never noticed it before, I always ask for your business card because I deeply respect the power of a business card, the perception that comes with having a business card, the feeling of accomplishment that you have because you have a business card.

So, that being said, anyone need one of my business cards?  The new ones are glossy so you can’t write on them!

Have a good week and hand those business cards out…