From what I can tell, there are two types of people in a law firm: workhorses and show horses. Work horses are fungible billing units, doing good work in obscurity. They sit in their offices all day drinking coffee and bluebooking and banging away at the keyboard until its time to go home at well-past a reasonable hour.
Show horses, on the other hand, get to take clients out to dinner and travel to conferences and do more than just churn out documents. Sure, they get worked too – in a firm, everybody gets worked. But the law is more fun for these people because they’re not neck deep in it all the time. The differences between work horses and show horses: social skills and a desire to determine their own experience.
Show horses tend to have more refined social cues than work horses, and consequently have an easier time putting people at ease. They’re more outgoing and know how to tell a joke or a story and keep a conversation rolling. That stuff’s really important, and for some folks it doesn’t come naturally.
But show horses also do something that anyone can do: they ask for what they want. They ask to go out with clients and to travel to conferences and whatever else they want, and often enough they get it. They determine their own level of involvement and get rewarded for it. And ultimately they’re more valuable to the firm than the workhorses because more people can type a memo than can bring in business. So not only do show horses have a more enjoyable experience than work horses, but they have more job security too. Harsh but fair, sad but true.