In an earlier Tale, Red Rag to a Bull, I told of an encounter with a lawyer at a prestigious firm in New York, which ended with him offering me a job.
His firm was forming a new oil and gas section, and he called to invite me to New York to discuss my becoming the new oil and gas partner.
I was conscious that few lawyers receive such an invitation in a professional lifetime, and of the compliment that I was being paid. While I had no intention of moving my young family to New York, I could not resist asking for an outline of what the job involved.
He began with the salary. This would be at least a million dollars a year, plus a share of profits. That was an unheard-of number in 1994, even by the inflated standards of the upstream.
The job was to bring in the oil and gas work, form the department, and hire and train the lawyers in it. I personally would be expected to bill a minimum of 2,400 hours each year. I would also be expected to pass the New York bar exams in my own time.
I did not want to offend him, but neither did I want to waste his time or mine window-shopping in New York. So I replied with a rework of an old lawyer joke:
The oil and gas partner in a New York law firm dies from exhaustion and overwork.
He is welcomed by an angel at the pearly gates: “We are expecting you. St Peter wants to greet you personally, as you are the oldest man ever to get to heaven.”
“Oldest man?” exclaims the lawyer, “but I am only thirty-two!”
“Ah yes,” says the angel, “but we are going by your billable hours.”
He said he had heard the joke before, and knew exactly where I was coming from.
We kept in touch, but sadly this New York bull died the following year. He was in his mid fifties.
See also: Red Rag to a Bull