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Gibson Dunn Associate Is America's Funniest Lawyer. No Joke.

Vivia Chen

November 5, 2012

Attention Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partners: Did you know that the next Stephen Colbert is incubating right under your noses?

20121018_213222You're probably clueless. So here's the scoop: Goutam Jois, that nice litigation associate you hired from Cravath, Swaine & Moore last summer, leads a double life. He might fit the bill of a diligent, well-credentialed associate (cum laude from Harvard Law School, former clerk, and all that jazz), but he's got another side.

That other side—a much raunchier side—was on full display at Gotham Comedy Club a few weeks ago, when he won the America's Funniest Attorney crown. He beat out four other finalists, including Ira Kustin, a parter at Akin Gump; solo practitioner Debby Reiser; Francis Russell, a partner at Mountain, Dearborn & Whiting; and Clinton Starghill, a former associate at Salans's New York office. (About 50 lawyers entered the contest, which was sponsored by Howard-Sloan Legal Search, to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.)

To be fair, all the lawyer-comedians at the event were raunchy and politically incorrect. References to penises and vaginas were thrown about like spitballs in a college dorm. And, of course, virtually everyone made cringe-worthy comments about their own sex lives (gay, straight, and whatever).

Which brings up this question: How are the Gibson partners taking Jois's win? "I didn't tell anyone at the firm [before or after the contest]," says Jois, who adds that he entered the contest while he was still at Cravath. "I guess they'll know about it now."

Virtually no one at Cravath or Gibson knows about Jois's comedy habit, even though he's been going to "open mike" sessions at various clubs to test his jokes for about a year: "It started when I was at Dangerfield's last year, and I thought this is something I want to try." He says he'll sometimes leave work at 6 in the evening to perform a brief gig at a club, then go back to work: "I'll be checking my BlackBerry at a club before I go on stage."

Whoa--checking on his cases while waiting for his turn to tell jokes? "I find it doable," he says about his two lives. "I remember when I first started practice, a Cravath partner said that you have to make it a priority to go on trips, see friends, and have a life."

As for the firm's reaction, Jois says, "I'm not worried. I guess you can't fault someone for winning." He adds that he thinks that "firms should encourage lawyers to have outside interests" because it will help people to have more balanced lives.

For the record, though, Jois says he's totally devoted to his lawyer job and has no plans to go rogue. "I really like my job," he insists.

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Well, Goutam Jois has learned how to purge himself from the internet in whatever ways suit him ... he has zero presence on YouTube.
(Is Ms. Chen hiding his "real" [stage] name from us, having agreed to ask it "on background" perhaps?)

Goutam, good luck. You make me think of Wallace Stevens. Sometimes good lawyers can be extraordinary at their "other" work, and keep both going.

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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