Wednesday, October 19, 2016

They Will Not Show You the Rembrandt

I recall a couple of years ago when I was new to a particular hobby that is a bit like organized train spotting, but it sounds better if it is told in terms of museum patronage.  There aren't any formal meetings, but people eventually keep running into one another.  People would contact one another if they saw a painting that was out of the ordinary and people would flock to it.  I have added this story to my blog because it is sort of like practicing law.  

People have these great stories at CLEs about how everyone in a section is friends with one another.  They can all pick up the phone and call them!  Why, they call each other all of the time and pick each others' brains about how to handle a case.  They scratch each other's backs.  

When I hear this, I wonder how my experience with law has been more like the Solomon parable of "The Odious Woman."

I was unfamiliar with any of the basic concepts of art spotting beyond the fact that there are paintings in museums.  Some don't make any sense until you read the card on the wall.  Some are masterful.  Some are lucky to be shown.  Some are one blot of color.  Some are dribbles with multiple colors slung about in a frenzy.  Either way, people chased these things down and ticked them off their list.
One day, I met someone who volunteered to explain to me the cult of art spotting.  She took my information and told me where a meeting of art spotters was held, but I did not immediately jump on this.  I was afraid that I would be mocked for my lack of art knowledge, so I thought I would go out on my own a couple of times and investigate so that I could at least understand the basics.

I did this and ran into some people in the community, although I did not know it at the time.

This lady I speak of realized this later on after I told her where I went, but she did not tell me.

She quizzed me and asked me if this person told me about this really spectacular Rembrandt that had recently been spotted in the area that everyone wanted to see.  It was on display at a local museum, but she could not remember the name of the museum and claimed that it was not really a special exhibit that would be advertised in the media because only Rembrandt enthusiasts keep an eye out for these pieces and text their friends.  However, she would e-mail her friend to see where it was being hosted and arrange for us to see it because she was looking forward to seeing it herself.

Days passed, then weeks.  I mentioned it later on and she said that she and her sister went to see the painting and the exhibit was now closed.  I was a little upset that I was not invited, but I understood why she forgot her offer to see it with me since we were only acquaintances.  I was a little perturbed that she never told me where the painting was being shown, but I doubted my annoyance because she invited me to an event at the community art museum showing new works by a local artist.  She convinced me that the enthusiasts liked to spend their time viewing the works of up and coming artists, but I did notice that the halls tended to be empty except for a few retirees looking for a way to kill the afternoon on the cheap.  

I did not know any better.

I found out later after continuing self-study that everyone in the entire community knew where the Rembrandt was being shown because the museum was a primo destination on par with the The Met.  This woman was taking me to see local artists who had their works on display in coffee houses while the people in the know were at the Guggenheim and the Louvre.  However, I knew so little about the scene and could not come up with a reason why she would lie that I had no reason to doubt that she did not know what museum was hosting the Rembrandt.   Furthermore, she had been holding out on some other spectacular exhibits that had been coming through the area that I had stumbled across in my internet research.

I never found out the true reason why she lied to me about the Rembrandt, but suspected that she wanted the scene all to herself.  What she wanted to do was distract me then hope to bore me to death with these ho-hum pieces so that I would beg off the next time I was invited and put the art experience in my rearview mirror while the enthusiasts were hobnobbing with glasses of wine at yet another traveling exhibit from Paris.

That, my friends, is what people don't understand about the practice of law and it is the myth perpetuated by the same people who talk of "underserved needs" and "shortage of attorneys" because they are hoping they look helpful and non-threatening so you will give them a call after the CLE to pick their brains then eventually trick you into throwing some juicy cases their way or use you as a repository to dump the clients they are tired of looking at.

This may be painting everyone with a broad brush because it is more likely than not that the majority realize that they won't last that long if they run their practice that way.  The problem is that the weeding out process doesn't happen overnight and it is also like whack-a-mole because with every new class that is graduated, you run into yet another bumper crop of people who think they have figured out how to game the system.  There are some that simply continue the practice by moving on to another crop of victims.