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Clinton’s Corporate Lawyer Past Shapes Her Persona Today

Posted Mar 13, 2008 10:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Hillary Clinton spent most of her career in a corporate law firm, a fact that could account for the difficulties some people have warming up to her, according to a column in the American Lawyer.

“The female corporate lawyer is a special breed,” all buttoned-up and trained to do business, the column says. Corporate lawyers are trained to be argumentative and to focus on details, a fact that makes them not much fun at parties. “They are professionally risk-averse; relentlessly, unreasonably reasonable; people who look perpetually ready to pull another all-nighter in the library stacks.”

Clinton was the first woman lawyer at the Rose Law Firm, where she was the subject of intense scrutiny because of her groundbreaking hiring, the story says. Secretaries talked about her clothes and her weight, and one busybody warned the wives of her colleagues, Webster Hubbell and Vince Foster Jr., after the three had lunch together.

But Clinton was undaunted. She became a board member at Wal-Mart and several other institutions, was promoted to partner, and litigated a few cases, including one in which a plaintiff sued Clinton’s client after finding rat parts in a can of pork and beans. Clinton argued the rodent parts had been sterilized and the plaintiff wasn’t harmed. She won the case.

“Neither Hillary Clinton nor the average corporate law partner is likely to make anyone's blood jump or heart sing,” the column concludes. “When you are in trouble, however -- real trouble -- it may be that the person you want to see isn't the guy who wows you with his wit and charisma, but someone who has really done her homework, pored over all the boring details, and then gone back over them again, just for fun.”

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