March 3, 2009

The “Deal Cube” Chronicles

Recently, I blogged about the potential demise of the deal cubes and asked people for their stories (as well as conducted a deal toy poll, which is still ongoing if you want to vote). My own tale to tell is a woman I know who took a bunch of cubes to tile her bathroom walls. It actually looked pretty cool.

Here is a story from Bob Dow of Arnall Golden Gregory: As an associate in 1995 worked on an IPO for Moovies, a video chain, sort of mini-Blockbuster. Interesting deal cube, actually it was shaped like an old fashioned movie reel. Only the problem was, of course, even in 1995 no one was still handling the old reel-to-reel movies anymore, they were all video tapes. Fortunately when we did the secondary the next year, the underwriters (Needham) updated and gave us a deal toy in the shape of a VCR tape.

Here are some thoughts from a member who wished to remain anonymous: When I was a new associate, it was nice to receive one at the conclusion of a deal. Whatever it looked like (whether it had moving parts or just a tombstone in lucite), it felt good (to believe) that I was being acknowledged (by the powers that be) as a contributor to the team that closed the deal.

For me, after receiving a number of deal toys, the desire to receive more quickly vanished. Although a number of the toys were quite a novelty, they took up precious space in my office that was better served more practically. I’d much rather occupy the space with good precedent documents, and even better, receive leather bound volumes (another practice that has ebbed) for the transaction documents, which I could refer to for precedents. [Of course today, we can keep thousands of precedents on a thumb drive.]

Today, junior associates are still fascinated by deal toys – like opening presents on Christmas Day. It’s a subject of conversation with their fellow associates, and even a perceived badge of achievement. What I believe they really want is some recognition – from the partner or client – as being part of the team and for a job well done. Cubes seem a less than satisfactory method of serving this function (but maybe no different that a retirement watch). Closing dinners are a bit better but practically more difficult to organize (and certainly more costly).

Partners have even more deal toys in their offices – some collected since their first year as an associate (carried with them as a lateral from another firm). It serves a purpose for the partners: reminding them of their past conquests (when they were younger); reminding other people (including clients and potential clients) that “you’ve stepped into the office of a ‘dealmaker’; giving associates something to look at or play with while waiting for the partner to get off the phone; and giving employment to the evening cleaning crew to keep the dust off the deal toys (but pity them if they break a piece and raise the ire of the partner).

There will be more “deal cube chronicles” soon. Keep the stories coming. I’ll keep your identity anonymous if you wish…