The BigLaw associate: cursing the cold calls

“Are you being beasted, Tom?”

It was the first time I’d actually pulled the phone away from the side of my face and stared at it. I was lost for any other means of making sense of this latest cold caller.

The first calls came around a month after I qualified as a lawyer. It starts as soon as the details of your office location, department and landline have been allocated and then quietly dispersed onto the internet via LinkedIn, the Law Society website and other silent pathways. I’ll admit to an initial immature sense of satisfaction that it’s someone’s job to investigate you and attempt to poach you for a competitor law firm.

The first few calls are dispatched from memory with a shrug and a smile. After that, the calls become an increasingly difficult wrestle to end a conversation.

Often the callers extract the most banal details from you via your own sorry excuses for shutting them down. You offer them something out of exasperation: “I’m quite busy today/this month/generally”. But this soon becomes the chink in your conversational armoury that grants the opportunity for a follow-up call – “I hope things have calmed down for you now”, or “How do you find the work life balance there?

So you try different approaches: calm refusal (the call never ends), or aggressive refusal (“Do you think you get stressed out at work?”)

In time, as a seasoned receiver of cold calls, you will at least take heart from the curious variety of the oddities purveyed to you over the phone: “We have the finest linen and cloth imported by hand from Vietnam at Vietnam prices. Wouldn’t you be interested simply to try some of this fine material and be measured for a special suit at a very special price? We have a hired space in the City. Very convenient.”

With other callers the main takeaway is their presumptive audacity. An independent financial adviser explained: “I found you through your university careers website and thought you would be at the stage now where you would like to think seriously about managing your finances?”

Others will proffer their sincerest concern in listening to your responses while they’ve already written you off as an unlikely prospect and are planning whom to call next: “That’s absolutely right, Jeff.”

I was still thinking how glad I was that this recruiter did not know that my name really wasn’t Jeff when the other lawyer sharing my office picked up a call and was soon adopting the familiar irritated but politely defensive manner. This recruiter had obviously considered that, although it might be a slightly aggressive approach, the most efficient way to catch a new lead was to call each of the lawyers in our department one after the other in one maddening sequence.

Dodging this barrage of cold calls has become one of the most technical mental exercises I encounter in my working day. So if you intend on doing any legal work as a lawyer be prepared to become an expert in verbal jousting.

“Before you hang up…”

Tom is a BigLaw associate working in London