I don’t really have any interest in working at a firm. Like, at all. When my moot court team did superlatives, one of mine was “Most Likely to Go to Big Law for the Sole Purpose of Quitting on the First Day.” (I was unreasonably pleased about this.) But I’ll concede, when you guys mobile upload pictures of your free Michelin star-worthy lunches, I scroll through my newsfeed with hungry eyes.
But I’ve found the way to keep my stomach full as well as my soul. And that is: the “plus one.” I have really good friends at firms who let me tag along — maybe this can count as pro bono? — and over the course of the summer so far, I’ve managed to sample five different firms’ social events. So, I’ve decided to use this vantage point to assess them all in turn.
To the best of my layman’s understanding, 2L summer at a firm is basically that scene in Lion King where Mufasa sits Simba down on Pride Rock and says, “Everything the light touches is your kingdom.” Except Mufasa’s a named partner, Simba is most of my friends, and Pride Rock is the Financial District. Having a few firm events under my belt now, I have a newfound wealth of information to impart about the source of my pals’ newfound wealth. (I guess that makes me Rafiki?) Your guide to letting the excess and extravagance of Big Law wash over you is presented below. Rising 2Ls — make your bid lists accordingly.
Or, y’know, don’t. I never did.
Location: My girl at Cleary completely undersold this event. I believe her words were, “wanna go drinking on a roof with me.” And let’s be real — she had me at drinking. Only on the day of the function did I realize this was a luxurious rooftop in Tribeca overlooking the Hudson.
Food: I can’t even begin to handle the food they had at this place. The rooftop and the top floor of the building were fully stocked with enough hors d’oeuvres to put a significant dent in the world food shortage. Each of these floors had a sushi bar. You could have someone prepare sushi in front of you, go upstairs, and have a different person prepare sushi in front of you. Was there something wrong with the first person? (And let’s not forget, this is before we even got to the sit-down dinner.) At one point, in a moment that will stay with me forever, a waiter walked up to me and said, “Excuse me, miss, would you care for a grilled cheese?” And I kid you not, he was holding a tray of tiny grilled cheese sandwiches sitting on top of shot glasses filled with tomato soup. The food was preposterous. And also delicious –special compliments to the chef on the sea bass and spinach. And I don’t even like fish. Or vegetables.
Booze: Yoooo. Cleary summers and friends will find themselves treated to multiple open bars with top shelf liquor. When scoping out my options, I decided to press my luck a little; as a wise man once said, mix the Goose and Malibu and call it Malibooyah. One of the bartenders made me such a drink with only slight hesitation and poured a solid half a glass of Grey Goose. Towards the end of the night, my friend and I decided to indulge in a glass of champagne and take in the view once more before leaving. As we were standing there, Jay Z’s Big Pimpin started playing. It truly added that bit of magic only Hov can provide.
People: I know a bunch of folks at Cleary, so the people I interacted with were cool enough. Still, the firm oddly distinguished between summer associates and their guests by quality of nametag. What happened to sparing no expense? Also, either Cleary is really good at minority recruitment, or people of color were overrepresented on the dance floor. Either way, I was 100% here for it.
Entertainment: And did I mention there were people on the dance floor? Also, I suspect that there’s some unwritten rule of DJ-ing that says you have to put on all of my favorite songs when I try to leave. It’s a miracle that I made it to work on time the next day. Well done.
Overall: This was a solid event and a great opener to the law firm lifestyle. I had fun, and I think it set the bar high. On the fanciness scale, I give it an 8.5 out of 10 top hats.
Debevoise & Plimpton
Location: Debevoise was pretty interesting in that there were two locations represented. The DC office doesn’t do nearly as many events as its NY counterpart, so the DC crew came to the city (business class, I might add) to partake in a joint affair with the New York summers at the Central Park Zoo. And they got to stay in an unnecessarily nice hotel. In Debevoise’s house, there are many mansions. My friend’s room had a spacious sitting area, a separate bedroom, a bathroom, multiple closets, and a carpeted balcony from which you could look out at the 23 floors beneath you. Also, rooftop bar. But more on booze later.
Food: Once again, the food was plentiful. So many stations with so many choices. Debevoise was going for a picnic vibe as opposed to Cleary’s Oscars after-party feel, so the food was more along the lines of burger bars, hot dogs, and ribs, all of which I approved of. I was underwhelmed with the macaroni and cheese, but I do hold macaroni and cheese to a high standard. Something that stood out to me was that there were sweets as far as the eye could see. I may as well have walked into a page from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” instead of the Central Park Zoo. Chocolate-covered pretzels, cotton candy, ice cream, they had it all. Most importantly for me, they had stacks of premade S’mores – a dessert I feel particularly passionate about. I must have had about three there, and smuggled out three more in my friend’s suit jacket. Whatever, no one’s taking public interest summers out to lunch every day. I gotta make this GSF last.
Booze: No hard liquor?
But actually, that was probably a pretty good decision. (I had this worry that some drunken associate would wander into a lion’s den like ‘Heeeyy Jonathan, John come watch this I think I can take him.’) But fear not! There was more than enough beer, wine, and sangria to go around. There weren’t many liquor stores near the hotel to facilitate a room party, but if you felt like paying twenty dollars for a single cocktail, you could easily find your way to the roof, where you would also find people dancing badly on tables. I guess they could afford the drinks.
People: Again with the tiered nametags! This time, guests got plain name badges, summers got badges lined in blue, and actual attorneys had badges bordered in red. According to one attorney, anyone who didn’t notice that was stupid. Nice. I did see some familiar faces at Debevoise that I hadn’t seen in a while (hi guys!) and I liked most people I got to interact with. Couldn’t help noticing though that the place was a little monochromatic. I’m talking about the people, but I suppose their outfits all looked the same too.
Entertainment: The Zoo locale was fun but I think cooler in theory than in practice: Debevoise was in its own private section but that meant there were only, like, three animals. And one of them was a duck. The seals were beyond cute though.
Also, being at a zoo means being outside, which means being exposed to the elements – namely, the rain we got caught in.
Overall: There’s something to be said for serving hot dogs and burgers when your yearly revenue is over half of the GDP of the country where I was born.
Debevoise knows that it’s fancy, but it still wants you to think it’s capable of being chill. But, like, there was live animal entertainment, a buffet, and a room with a view inside of another room, so also remember it’s fancy. I see you, Debevoise. I think I’ll go with 7 out of 10 top hats.
Location: Cahill’s summer social was located squarely on the Hellmouth, also known as Times Square. The event was a two-parter, consisting of dinner at the delightful but unfortunately named West Bank Café followed by an awesome Broadway show. The restaurant looked very unassuming on the outside, but was a sort of comfortable-chic on the inside – dimmed lights, white tablecloths, and I think I remember candles.
We also had pretty good seats at the Broadway show: nice enough for the woman seated next to me to feel comfortable side-eyeing me and my backpack, and for me to feel comfortable side-eyeing the folks on the opposite side of me who super not-subtly smuggled in booze. I mean, whatever, I like drinking too, but damn. I did unfortunately have to run in the rain from the restaurant to the theater, and (like a peasant!) had to take the subway back home instead of the company cars I hear are provided normally. You were willing to spend an exorbitant $139 per person on Broadway tickets but cheaped out on gas money?
Food: The West Bank Café provided us with the classic three-course meal. It started with a salad, which, y’know, I ate, but as mentioned earlier, I never really cared for vegetables. For the main course, I had Rigatoni Bolognese, which was very tasty, but I did note that it seemed like something I could buy for myself if I really wanted to. While there’s no way I could have purchased that whole meal, I think my meager public interest stipend could still afford the entrée. The best part of the meal was decidedly the dessert – I scribbled some notes on my phone throughout the evening and the dessert section of my commentary says “hallelujah.” Dark chocolate bread pudding topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Mmm. Praise the Lord.
Booze: I do love an open bar. It wasn’t anything too crazy though, given the dinner and a show setting. I stuck to a few glasses of wine and called it a night.
People: Cahill has a sizeable summer class so they split the group into thirds and took turns going to West Bank Café and Broadway. I hung out exclusively with people I knew, so I’ll just have to assume that the remaining two-thirds are pretty okay.
Entertainment: Okay, this was actually incredible. Neil Patrick Harris played his heart out as the titular character in ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch.’ I hardly know how he managed to not only stand but sing and dance in a miniskirt and six-inch heels, but he did it and did it well. I was listening to the soundtrack days later. I enjoyed Hedwig so thoroughly I strongly debated disqualifying Cahill for cheating. Excellent choice of event.
Overall: If it were just the dinner, I probably would have been inclined to give Cahill a score in the 7-range, but NPH kicked waaay too much ass for that. Really Cahill deserves a Tony Award. No, not the Tony Awards (that was Proskauer). But for A+ entertainment selection, I’ll bump Cahill up to 9 out of 10 top hats.
Location: Through the generosity of the good people at – well I can’t exactly say but between you and me it rhymes with “Blocktell”– I had the opportunity to have dinner at Daniel. And Lord have mercy, I don’t even have the words to begin to describe this event, but you can bet your above-market bonus I’ll try. I had never actually heard of Daniel until a few weeks ago, and when I looked up the restaurant, I suddenly felt like I needed to go shopping because I did not think I had anything nice enough to wear into that establishment. Somehow I made it work.
When I was seated at the dining table (I say dining table to differentiate it from the lounge table where I waited for other guests), the staff brought out a separate chair for my purse so it didn’t have to touch the ground. Our table had as many waiters as people, and an extra person to rid our table of crumbs in between our several courses. At the end of the evening we received personal customized menus with the date of our visit to Daniel and exactly what we ordered on it. And I was driven back to my apartment in a company car. This night reached levels of wealth and opulence that I will never experience ever again.
Food: Excluding myself, the dinner party consisted of a “Dockswell” partner, an associate, and my summer associate friend who invited me. I share this to make it clear that “Hawkfell” dropped rent money on a dinner for four. We ordered the seven-course tasting menu – each course mind-bogglingly delicious – in addition to wine for the table. At some point, the waiters also started just bringing us extra stuff, presumably because we were spending so much money. This was one of the most expensive tasting menus in the country – the food was two hundred and twenty five dollars per person. And that figure is pre-alcohol, tax, and tip. The food was incredible – guinea hen, octopus, crab, steak, you name it I had it. It was as if I was aboard Noah’s Ark and got to eat two of every animal. And if I’m making a lot of biblical references, it’s only because eating at Daniel was a religious experience. Hey, I even ate my vegetables.
Booze: I arrived at the restaurant a little before the rest of the party, and my friend told me I should go ahead and have a drink at the bar –“Socksmell” would cover it. When I looked through the drink menu, one thing immediately jumped out at me. There was a twenty-five dollar mojito. It had champagne in it, was a popular choice, and it was twenty-five dollars. It cost more than my cab ride there. I thought of all the mojitos I could order for the price of that one. And I ordered it anyway, because I could. And then I had two more drinks.
People: I was a little nervous about this event given my pre-existing social awkwardness coupled with my thinly veiled fear of new people. That plus the small-group setting and vast differences in interests and lifestyles. But I actually had a wonderful time and got along famously with everyone.
Entertainment: There wasn’t really entertainment at this event per se unless you count one particularly wonderful, sassy waiter, but the food was clearly going to be the highlight of any evening at Daniel.
Overall: “Talkwell” freaking threw down the fanciness gauntlet, and then a whole fleet of wait staff came out to pick the gauntlet back up, sweep the floor, and ask what else we required. Perhaps a new, larger gauntlet encrusted with diamonds. You-Know-Who gets every top hat. I don’t even think my unit of measurement is sufficient anymore; they don’t make enough top hats to quantify the fanciness. I think I’m also in need of a monocle.
So there we have it – your inside look at how to live the high life at a variety of firms; or alternatively, where you should make friends and snag a plus-one spot. It has been a wild summer getting to pretend I belong at these events (how do y’all do this nonsense fulltime?), and I thank my firm friends who allowed me to be their guest. I’ve been asked if I’m going to come to the dark side now that I’ve lived the life. The answer remains a resounding no, but I am still glad I got this little taste. It was, admittedly, very tasty. Undeniably absurd and surprisingly unquestioned, but tasty. It’s been fun testing the old adage “the grass is always greener on the other side.”’ I took a stroll on the other side this summer, and it’s not grass at all – people are just walking on stacks of money.