Stiff, bloodless, sexless, excessively concerned with the appearance of impropriety, lawyers are not much fun at parties. This is particularly true of corporate lawyers. They are professionally risk-averse; relentlessly, unreasonably reasonable; people who look perpetually ready to pull another all-nighter in the library stacks. And they are trained to be exhaustively, expensively argumentative. The culture of corporate law is one in which rigorous attention to detail is richly rewarded, and in which no detail is more rigorously attended to than victory.
The female corporate lawyer is a special breed. Her clothes nearly say it all: I am buttoned up. My attempts at personal expression are awkward and sort of silly. Remember when female lawyers wore man-tailored shirts with bouquets of fabric that bloomed just below the chin? Today’s corporate costume makes a more straightforward statement: I am here to do business. I am in it to win. I will eat your entrails for breakfast (and bill you for it), but I will not stain my Thomas Pink blouse as I do so.
As Michael Tomasky, the author of Hillary’s Turn, put it, books about Hillary Clinton, like mosquitoes on the tidal basin, arrive seasonally and in profusion. So do theories about Clinton, about who she is and how she came to be that way. An inarguable fact — and lawyers love inarguable facts! — is that Hillary Clinton spent the longest stretch of her professional life working in a corporate law firm. From 1977 to 1992 she worked as a lawyer in the firm of Rose, Nash, Williamson, Carroll, Clay & Giroir (renamed Rose Law Firm in 1980) in Little Rock, Ark. She devotes a single sentence to these years on her campaign Web site: “She continued her legal career as a partner in a law firm.” (And this, in a section called “Mother and Advocate.”)
It’s hard to imagine that the hours, days, nights, weeks and years that she worked with a small group of white men on behalf of big businesses, banks and brokerage firms had no effect on the singular phenomenon that is Hillary Clinton. In many ways, she is a product of corporate legal culture. I mention this not because it says anything about whether or not she would be a good president, or even whether she would be a good party guest, but because it may have something to do with the trouble we — or at least I — am having warming up to the fierce-minded, breathtakingly competent woman who keeps telling us she’s “in it to win.” And I am not the only one having a tough time liking, to say nothing of enthusiastically supporting, a woman who is obviously smarter, better informed, more focused and more committed than most of the rest of us.