Friday, August 7, 2009


By : Ms. D. Samantha Crabtree-Farkingbeech, Esq., Partner, Cunting, Snidewell, Screech & Dourpott, LLP, a Fortune 250 Law Firm Specializing in Client Service to the Software Industry; J.D., Harvard Law School summa cum laude (1990); Author, “Work is the First Word in Work-Life Balance,” (an American Bar Association Publication)(2008); Voted Best Litigator, Atlanta, Georgia Bar Association; Married; Mother of two.

God fucking damn it. What the hell do you want? Can’t you see I’m in a hurry? I’ve got a meeting in five minutes. Do you think I have time to sit down and talk to you about this? Maybe you didn’t notice, but it is a weekday; I’ve got deadlines. If I don’t call Dick Henry back in five minutes we could lose four fucking million in fees. And I’ll be damned if I let that happen. Not on my watch. Shit, now my phone is ringing again. Who the fuck is it?

I didn’t make partner in this law firm being nice. If you want to succeed here, “being nice” is not an option. I didn’t bill 4100 hours last year and set a revenue record kissing ass or being polite to people. Sure, maybe a smile here and there for a judge or a client is OK. But once you start working cases, you’d better hang up your nice hat and start acting like a winner. Winners don’t ask; they tell. When opposing counsel asks for a delay because their witness is running late, you tell them: “Fuck no. We had an agreement. You signed it.” Then you make phone calls and yell at people for costing you time. Basically, you’ve got to put some gravel in your voice, break out your BlackBerry® and start telling some junior associate that they have their head up their ass because time is ticking.

Yeah, I’m stressed. Yeah, I take Tums. It’s stressful trying to win cases for software companies, especially when they have all kinds of dirty laundry to hide. Do you know how difficult it is to sift through 40 million pages looking for some damning admission some low-level programmer made in 1993? Do you know how difficult it is explaining to a judge how you’re going to catalogue 700,000 boxes of documents on some custom-made computer program? You spend more time defending your dumb-ass IT staff than talking about the case. At least you don’t have to talk about the law. The law doesn’t win cases. Management does. And management is stressful. Do you know what it’s like to take 230 phone calls every 16 hours? Do you know what it’s like trying to keep everyone’s name straight? Have you ever been so busy that you can’t even squeeze in time to take a shit? Welcome to my life.

But I don’t regret anything. I came a long way to get where I am now. I’m proud of myself. Not everyone can be a partner at this law firm. You need to take hits for the team in order to make it here. You need to handle stress every day. You need to juggle 14 different tasks at once, yet somehow still bring in new clients, win existing cases and cover up negative information about old clients. That takes serious talent. It’s not easy to remember every single fax and email you sent in May 2007. They all sort of blend together after a while. But that’s what separates the women from the girls: Women remember every piece of paper that ever crossed their desks; girls forget phone conversations two minutes after they end. You can’t pull anything over my eyes. If I see something once, I remember it. If I hear you say something, don’t try to lie to me later, because I remember everything. I can even remember if you used the word “of” in 2004. That’s what makes me a killer lawyer: I remember what people say. Yeah, it’s stressful. But it sure pays off.

I started the Disagreeable Assholes’ League for Total Stress, Professional Success and, By the Way, Fuck You Too in 2005. I started the party because successful people like me need a real political voice. We don’t have time to sit around and debate political topics. We have copies to make, depositions to take and phone calls to return. We don’t even have time to screw our husbands on Sunday afternoons, let alone talk about health care, environmental protection or voting rights. Yet we deserve to be heard because we are successful Americans. Just because we spend every day working our asses off at high-end law firms doesn’t mean we don’t exist.

We exist, all right. And we’re damn important, too. We believe it’s time for people to know just how important Disagreeable Assholes are in this country. We believe all Americans should know what it takes to achieve professional success. We believe all Americans should understand what it means to be a winning professional. We are determined to dispel the myth of slacker success. No one gets anywhere in this country being nice. No one sets billing records or revenue standards with smiles and apologies. In this law firm—and in every other respectable business enterprise—only winners survive. Winners are not just assholes—they are disagreeable assholes. Anyone can be an asshole. But not everyone can be sufficiently disagreeable to achieve professional success. Assholes complain, whine and make things difficult on everyone around them. Disagreeable assholes do all that plus cite legal rules, refuse to show mercy, reject appeals and never experience joy. Most importantly, disagreeable assholes enjoy arguing, fighting, resisting and contesting anyone who stands in their way.

For us, being “disagreeable” is a way of life. We do not feel good about anything. We fight everybody and everything, all the time. We don’t stop until we’ve been paid. We are always anxious, stressed, angry, pissy, vengeful, uncompromising, unforgiving, devious, nefarious and mean. We do not agree on anything; that’s what makes us disagreeable. We disagree on where to go to lunch, what to do on Thanksgiving and how best to copy 40,000 documents. We disagree on how much to leave as a tip, how best to get to the airport and how to greet colleagues. And we especially disagree with any suggestions made by our opponents. If our opponents suggest holding a meeting in the Sheraton because it is close to our offices, we will disagree and insist that we hold the meeting somewhere further away. If our opponents suggest that we split phone costs on a case, we will disagree and threaten to obtain a court order imposing full liability on them. We disagree for disagreement’s sake. In this business, being an asshole is not enough; one must also be disagreeable.

People say that “disagreeable” is a negative word. They even say that “assholes” are not pleasant. We disagree with both assessments. In our view, our critics fail to understand that professional success depends on assholes; more particularly, it depends on disagreeable assholes. No one achieves fantastic financial success in the United States without bitterly fighting over everything. Professional success means merciless combat every day until either financial victory or heart failure. In professional life, competition abounds. Everyone is out to take your money. Everyone plots ways to steal your business. Everyone is conspiring, eavesdropping and conniving—even supposed friends. Cowards and nice folks don’t stand a chance. Cowards and nice folks let opponents walk all over them. But disagreeable assholes sniff out treachery at every turn. They suspect everybody and everything. They scream, yell and threaten until the problem subsides. We are problem solvers.

We say to our critics: How is that negative? Wouldn’t you protect your business with all your strength? Our critics can complain all they want that we are “hard to get along with” because we are “disagreeable assholes.” But frankly we don’t give a shit. We’re the top revenue producers. We’re the partners. We won. They didn’t. They can go ahead and be nice. Who’s living in the villa, and who’s renting the crappy studio in Queens? Let our critics complain. In our book, being labeled a disagreeable asshole is a compliment, not a pejorative.

Our critics also say that stress is bad. They say that professional success is important, but not when it imposes excessive stress. We disagree. Disagreeable assholes like us know that stress is a badge of honor. We work for a living. We don’t screw around or wait for 5 o’clock. No, we stay in the office all night and beyond. We sacrifice everything to win, even our health. We don’t worry about the husband and kids. They can take care of themselves. When it comes to professional success, winning is more important than family and health. True, winning is difficult. Competing for victory raises emotions and causes anxiety. But so what? To be a winner you need to compete like a winner. That means relishing stress, not complaining about it. We have high blood pressure. We get ulcers. We sigh all the time. We shout. We snap at people. We throw things. We castigate and insult. We stamp our feet and tremble. We break out in sweats and guzzle coffee at midnight. We lose our hair at 30. We get hemorrhoids. We eat fast food. We worry constantly whether we’ll make deadlines. And we are fabulously successful.

This is just how we roll. It pays off, too. Winners don’t relax; they stress out. Stressing out wins cases and makes money. What is so bad about that? When all is said and done, people remember the disagreeable asshole who screamed and threw binders around at 4 AM before the big filing, not the chilled-out copy boy who went home at 4:45 PM the day before. Put simply, relaxation and tranquility do not yield professional success. In that light, we are proud to be stressed. I might have ulcers and hemorrhoids. You don’t; but who’s the partner with the $1,400,000 annual salary? I’d rather be a disagreeable, stressed-out asshole with a seven-figure salary than some relaxed nice guy who struggles to pay cell phone bills and travels by bus.

We are the Disagreeable Assholes’ League for Total Stress and Professional Success—and by the way, fuck you, too. We include that final phrase because we really don’t care what anyone says about us. We are in charge. We are more successful and richer than our critics. Our critics do not want to adopt our lifestyle, so they just resent us. We have a word for them: If you cared about your career, you would act like us. We didn’t tell you to be polite and friendly. You made a choice to be agreeable. We made a choice to be disagreeable. Our choice brought us stress and success. Your choice brought you relaxation and poverty. We employ you; you work for us. So you can criticize our lifestyle all you want. It won’t change who’s in charge. Disagreeable assholes rule this world. Nice guys like you just follow along and try not to get run over.

But you don’t have to stay polite and poor. If you really want to make a difference in this world, you can stop being nice and start acting like a disagreeable asshole. You can be a winner, too. Stop insisting on “work-life balance.” Start competing. Start mistrusting and exploiting. Start swearing and sighing. Get your calendar straight through 2011. Start yelling at people. Stop tolerating incompetence and tardiness. Make people afraid when you walk into a room. Get some stress in your life. You can do it. You need to stop thinking that stress is bad. Stress makes fortunes, and fortunes yield success. The choice is yours.


Nothing Profound said...

The person and life you describe in this satire is my ultimate nightmare. The scary thing is that not only do these "disagreeable assholes" exist, they are running the world. They are our politicians, our business elite, our corporate leaders, our famous athletes and entertainers. I've dug myself my little hole in the ground and I'm going to stay here. Safe from all the stress and noise.

Balthazar Oesterhoudt said...

Yes! They do run the world, and digging for cover is the best thing people like us can do, Profound!

I'm glad you picked up on that point: It is the dangerously ironic truth that our society models success on being a person like the caricature I describe here, and, worse, encourages people to live their lives for this nightmarish "success."