Denver Bar Association
February 2005
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Young Lawyers Hunt Valentines

by Stacy Chesney, Diane Hartman

by Stacy Chesney and Diane Hartman

Editor’s note: We kept hearing complaints from young lawyers about their non-existent social lives. The Docket decided to investigate.

IIt’s a summer Friday night, in Denver’s Funky Buddah Lounge, and a couple is deep in conversation. The lovely Jane, 30, a traveling nurse, has just met Paul, 32, a jaunty stockbroker. It’s a match made in heaven.

What’s that got to do with how/whether lawyers date in Denver? In this case, Jane is a single lawyer who decided to fudge about her profession in hopes of making a better impression. Things were going well until wily Jane said: "You’re not really a stockbroker, are you?" Paul admitted it, accused her of nurse impersonation and they shared some awkward laughter and went their separate ways. "The worst is that he was making himself out to be more successful than he really was, while I was trying to downplay my abilities — not that there’s anything wrong with nursing!"

What ARE Lawyers Looking For?

In our conversations with young attorneys, it became clear that there was a distinct line: those who only wanted to go out for a good time and those who were looking for someone to be serious about marriage.
On one side (29-year-old male attorney): “My attitude toward dating is to go out and have fun. If that turns long-term, it would be great, but I’m not necessarily looking for the love of my life.”
And the other: “I’m looking for the woman I want to marry and ideally, the mother of my kids.” He said being single with lots of married friends with children “makes you focus on what you’re looking for.” He used to go out with someone for months just for fun. Now, he wants to know if his potential partner has marriage and children in her future plans.
Along the same lines, one woman had this experience: “A good-looking attorney asked me out and I was flattered. When we went out, he told me up-front that he was looking for a woman interested in marriage and having children. I was glad he told me right away because I didn’t feel pressured and he gave me an out — which I gladly took.”

What’s going on here? Is there something about lawyers that makes searching for a mate — or even a good date — different?

After a short and entirely unscientific poll, we came to believe several things were going on. One is that lawyers, especially young lawyers, are racking up billable hours and sometimes work seven days a week. You often don’t have time to call your mom, much less find her that grandbaby-producing partner. While other singles might be skiing, going to health clubs or other places they could possibly mix and mingle, you’re in your cramped office doing research.

A second factor could be that most lawyers are introverts by some psychological testing standards — they pick up energy by being alone rather than in crowd. That can be socially limiting.

One woman in a smaller firm offered another possibility: "Mostly lawyers are lame. They meet at law school or in college and that’s pretty much it." Several others echoed the "we’re boring" theme.

But that leads to a major question that has strong proponents on both sides (go figure ... ). Should lawyers date other lawyers? What about in-dating in their offices? Should they marry other lawyers?

One woman said: "I’ve tried personal ads, I’ve gone to bars, but really, you meet people where you are." She’s dating someone she works with: "We work really hard. ... It’s the only way I could see him."

A lawyer at a large firm said she and her lawyer husband met through mutual friends, and added: "All of my close attorney friends are married. And most are married to lawyers. It’s not a bad idea."

To that, one guy who just finished law school said, "All my friends are recently married or heavily ‘couple-ized’ — sometimes it feels like I’m the 5th wheel."

One big-firm attorney said he wouldn’t date anyone in his office, but would ask someone out "after they go on to another job."

A couple, both attorneys, married two years with no kids, said they thought lawyer/lawyer worked well.

A man who’s been married to a health professional for two years said he once worked in a firm with two married lawyer couples. "They’re very professional and it worked fine."

Another commented: "Lawyers dating lawyers is good in that you understand what they’re going through. But it’s bad if you’re lawyers in a different discipline. We do primarily criminal defense. If I was dating a patent attorney, she wouldn’t have a clue about preparing a case — just not a clue."

An almost-finished law student said he preferred dating other lawyers. "There’s more to talk about and she’ll understand. Also, I like a competitive partner, not someone who would just say ‘oh, whatever you think.’"

On the other hand, here are some comments from attorneys who disagree, often in staccato sentences and raised voices:

"We can’t have lawyers dating other lawyers where I work. They just shouldn’t be in relationships together. The lawyers I know? I wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with them. I would never marry an attorney."

"It’s important to have a degree of separation between what you do in life and who you experience life with."

"I wouldn’t date lawyers because they’re psychos. I just rarely meet women who come out of the law school grind who are moderately sane and/or sociable."

A female attorney who’s engaged to a non-lawyer (they met in college) said: "I just think two lawyers together would create too much friction; they’d have competing schedules and egos. I like variety."

Another said: "All other things being equal, I’d rather not date lawyers. In my free time I don’t like to be talking about law stuff. ... Having a division between business and social life is good."

One male attorney, very recently married, said he met his wife through friends: "I once had a date with another lawyer, but one time was all I needed. We were both just too stubborn and competitive."

And another: "I’m not married to a lawyer. I’m argumentative enough for the both of us. I met my wife before law school and she’s good about bringing me back to reality."

Since that area seems unsolvable at the moment, we’ll move on to the topic of how single lawyers look for dates or mates. Here’s where you can learn all the secrets of the game (or lack thereof)!

One criminal defense attorney, who’s 31 and presently dating someone who’s pushing for marriage, said: "We met the old fashioned way — in a bar. We’ve been together a couple of years." In the not-too-distant past, he would hit all the bars he could in a night. If he was meeting someone for a date, he’d have a friend call the bar, just in case he needed to escape. In true lawyer form, he made time for his social life by calendaring it: "Friday night, go to bars."

We heard from quite a few men and women that because bar hopping is easy, it’s what they do, and they do it in groups. ("I think if I saw someone alone that would mean they have a drinking problem.") Does going to bars work? No, all but one person agreed. As one woman said, "The best place to meet people is at the bars, but those aren’t always the best people to meet."

Lots and lots of the male attorneys and many of the women said friends fix them up: "I like the idea of someone who knows me trying to create a match," one man said. "My friends set me up. First of all, the people come with ‘references.’ And my friends don’t set me up with people they don’t like themselves. I always see where they’re coming from, even though I don’t always pursue the person."

A 35-year-old single male said he likes the idea of someone who knows him setting up a match. "Of course, I’m still single so it hasn’t worked out in a marriage. ... I’ve dated some women I’ve met in bars; it never worked out. I think it comes down to having a variety of friends who know a bunch of people."

Be careful with set-ups, though, as one 26-year-old female told us: "I’ve had a lot of people try to set me up and it didn’t work. You think that someone knows you and then you see the person you’re set up with and wonder, ‘do they know me at all?’"

Besides bars and friends, any other options? Meet while walking, skiing, biking, jogging? No, everyone said. Talk to someone at The Tattered Cover, in a coffee shop, at the
grocery store, in an airport? Well, no (although one guy said it sounded like a good idea). There’s also a rumor floating around that Whole Foods is the number one place to meet singles in Denver. Alas, no lawyers we talked to had tried this approach.

There were few people who had tried online dating services (like eHarmony.com, Match.com, Matchmaker.com, jdate.com, etc.). Nobody we talked to had tried a dating service, although they said some friends had, with mixed results.

So, we talked to representatives from a couple of organizations. At the Jewish Federation, they do "outreach and fundraising," and 85% of the people who attend are single. They have happy hours, parties, education and "bring young professionals together." What advice would they give singles? "Getting involved is huge," said a representative. "Find an organization that wants you to plan events; we’ve had the most success when our singles meet each other because they were involved, they didn’t just show up for an event. The bar scene is not the place to be anymore."

Denver has many dating services with a wide range of what they do and how much it costs. We called the most expensive, Kris Kenny Connections, where it costs $2,900 to join for a year. For that you get a couple of dates a month and lots of "hands on" guidance. "We’re not a franchise," Kris said. "All our clients are highly educated (82% have advanced degrees), we run a criminal background check, we have lots of attorneys and doctors and up until about age 55, they’re pretty evenly split, men and women." She said attorneys have problems because "they’re so involved with work. When they do have free time, they want to get out and be active but don’t have the resources to meet people of like mind." She said except for a few, lawyers don’t say they don’t want to be matched with other lawyers. "I do have lawyers saying they don’t want to go out with doctors and docs saying they don’t want to go out with lawyers."

So, how is there time for this whole dating thing, anyway? A few relatively sane attorneys emphasized the need for balance. One 29-year-old single male, who described dating as his "most confusing subject" said: "You have to have a lot of energy. You can’t be a person who’s going to go home at 6 p.m. and crash. It’s important to broaden your interests outside of the workplace."

Another said: "It’s important to be a complete person. If you have to work for a long time on a project, that’s ok, but you have to take time to take care of the other neglected aspects of life. If someone’s only working, ultimately it’s bad — they become a one-sided person."

Where are we left in this confusing mess? For the sake of Saint Valentine and "the big day," let’s end on a positive note. One inspiring story came from someone who met his future wife while he was in law school; they later married and recently had a child. He was sitting in a park over his lunch hour, finishing The Celestine Prophecy: "It’s all about coincidences. The premise is that each person has a message for you and it’s just a matter of acting on a coincidence and seeking out the message." As he drove away, he saw a woman with blond hair walking into a restaurant. He pulled over, walked inside and found her, then asked, "could I join you, I hate to eat alone." They courted, even sometimes long distance, but stayed together. Timing was everything; before, he’d always based dating on schedule and convenience.

Next month ends our series: Married happily to a lawyer.


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