On Norm Pattis and “The Happysphere”
by Jamison Koehler on June 26, 2010
Norm Pattis was in town this weekend, and Mirriam Seddiq and I joined him last night for dinner at Oyamel restaurant. Seddiq’s brother works as the head bartender there, and he made sure we were treated like royalty. Pattis and Seddiq were in the bar area waiting for our table when I arrived. Pattis commented on how much smaller Seddiq is in person than he expected.
Pattis has written about the odd experience of finally meeting someone you have previously only known through a blog (the person is often not what you expected), but the Pattis in person is very much like the Pattis on his blog. There was, of course, the sandals, the rumpled shirt, and the long, graying hair pulled back into a ponytail from his photograph. Though not particularly tall and still trim, he has a large physical presence.
Pattis has been criticized recently for not being the Pattis of old, but now, having met him in person, it is hard to imagine there was ever any one Pattis. The man in person seems to be someone of many contradictions and shades of gray. He is self-confident, almost arrogant. He is also humble. He knows what he wants and he knows who he is. He also seems capable of tremendous self-reflection and doubt.
There is not one speed with him – full steam ahead, certainty, attack — but many speeds. He is warm and calm in person. At the same time, you get a sense of a certain unease, even anger, lurking just below the surface, and it is not hard to imagine him bottling up this anger to unleash at trial in a spasm of controlled violence. To try to categorize him would seem to diminish him.
There has been some fun poked recently at the so-called Happysphere. I don’t know exactly what the Happysphere is supposed to look like but I suspect that, if there is a Happysphere, Pattis is already there. He plays the game according to his own rules, and he directs his anger, his venom, not at his fellow bloggers – there are no ad hominem attacks, no pettiness masquerading as some high-minded purpose — but at opposing counsel, the police, the courts, in fact at anyone threatening the interests of one of his clients. You get a sense that it is only in defending a client that he ever feels fully at peace. Let’s hope that the rest of us can eventually join him there.