Anonymous Lawyer

A Novel

Jeremy Blachman

Henry Holt and Co.

WEEK ONE

Monday, May 8
 
I see you. I see you walking by my office, trying to look like you have a reason to be there. But you don’t. I see the guilty look on your face. You try not to make eye contact. You try to rush past me as if you’re going to the bathroom. But the bathroom is at the other end of the hall. You think I’m naïve, but I know what you’re doing. Everyone knows. But she’s my secretary, not yours, and her candy belongs to me, not you. And if I have a say in whether or not you ever become a partner at this firm—and trust me, I do—I’m not going to forget this. My secretary. My candy. Go back to your office and finish reading the addendum to the lease agreement. I don’t want to see you in the hall for at least another sixteen hours. AND STOP STEALING MY CANDY.
 
And stop stealing my stapler, too. I shouldn’t have to go wandering the halls looking for a stapler. I’m a partner at a half-billion-dollar law firm. Staplers should be lining up at my desk, begging for me to use them. So should the young lawyers who think I know their names. The Short One, The Dumb One, The One With The Limp, The One Who’s Never Getting Married, The One Who Missed Her Kid’s Funeral—I don’t know who these people really are. You in the blue shirt—no, the other blue shirt—I need you to count the number of commas in this three-foot-tall stack of paper. Pronto. The case is going to trial seven years from now, so I’ll need this done by the time I leave the office today. Remember: I can make or break you. I hold your future in my hands. I decide whether you get a view of the ocean or a view of the dumpster. This isn’t a game. Get back to work. My secretary. My stapler. MY CANDY.
 
#Posted by Anonymous at 1:14 pm
 
Tuesday, May 9
 
I can barely do anything this morning knowing there’s a living creature in the office next to mine. Usually it’s just the corporate securities partner, and he hasn’t moved a muscle since the Carter administration. But today he brought his dog into the office. Ridiculous. As if there aren’t enough animals here already. We had fish once. Piranhas. We overfed them. We threw The Fat Guy’s lunch in the tank one day because he showed up to a meeting fifteen minutes late. The fish devoured it—turkey sandwich, brownie, forty-eight-ounce Coke—and then exploded. It made the point. No one shows up late to my meetings anymore.
 
But the dog arrived this morning and immediately everyone was in the hallway instead of where they belong, staring into their computer screens. Associates were getting up, out of their chairs, to go chase the dog, pet the dog, talk to the dog. Someone gave the dog a piece of his muffin from the attorney lounge. The muffins aren’t for dogs. We don’t even let the paralegals have the muffins. The muffins are for client-billing attorneys. They’re purely sustenance to keep the lawyers from having to leave the office for breakfast. They’re not for visitors. I made a note of the incident and I’ll have a dollar-fifty taken off the guy’s next paycheck.
 
The dog barked once. I told his owner to keep the dog quiet or I’d lock him in the document room with the junior associates who’ve been in there for six weeks, searching for a single e-mail in a room full of boxes. There’s an eerie quiet that normally pervades the halls of the firm, punctuated only by the screams of those who’ve discovered they can use the letter opener to end the pain once and for all. I’d like to keep it that way. We don’t need barking to drown out our inner turmoil. Noise is for the monthly happy hour and the annual picnic. Not the workspace. The workspace is sacred.
 
I overheard The One Who Doesn’t Know How To Correctly Apply Her Makeup say the dog really brings some life into this place. “I don’t feel so alone,” she said. I gave her some more work to do. She’s obviously not busy enough. She’s supposed to feel alone. This isn’t the kind of business where people can go into their co-workers’ offices and fritter away the morning chatting about the weather or the stock market or their “relationship issues.” Or playing with a damn dog.
 
We’re a law firm. Time is billable. The client doesn’t pay for small talk. Every minute you spend away from your desk is a minute the firm isn’t making any money off your presence, even though you’re still using the office supplies, eating the muffins, drinking the coffee, consuming the oxygen, and adding to the wear and tear on the carpets. You’re overhead. And if you’re not earning your keep, you shouldn’t be here.
 
The dog shouldn’t be here, except he’s probably more easily trained than some of my associates. If I get him to eat some incriminating evidence we need to destroy, I can bill the client a couple hundred dollars an hour for it. If I can get him to bark at some opposing counsel and scare them into accepting our settlement offer, that’s probably billable. If I can get him to pee on a secretary, it won’t be billable, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. Hardly matters. Having a dog in the office is almost as ridiculous as holding the elevator for a paralegal. Inappropriate, undesirable, and it WILL NOT HAPPEN when I become chairman of this place, I guarantee you that.
 
#Posted by Anonymous at 9:25 am
 
To:       Anonymous Niece
 
From:   Anonymous Lawyer
 
Date:    Tuesday, May 9, 1:40 pm
 
Great seeing you over the weekend. I’m glad you came down. I was just talking about you at lunch—another partner said his son is starting at Stanford in the fall, and I told him I have a niece who’s graduating next month. I said I’d see if you’d let me pass along your e-mail address in case his son has any questions. His father is a tax lawyer, so the son’s probably a nut, but at least I can get some points for being helpful to my colleagues. He’ll owe me one the next time I need a swing vote at the partner meeting.
 
I took a quick look at some of those law student weblogs you told me about. They gave me some names to add to the list of kids I’m never going to hire. They also motivated me to start this new e-mail account. Maybe I’ll write a weblog of my own. I’ll be Anonymous Lawyer. You can be Anonymous Niece. How does that sound?
 
To:       Anonymous Lawyer
 
From:   Anonymous Niece
 
Date:    Tuesday, May 9, 2:23 pm
 
Sounds strange, but you’re the boss. Anonymous Niece is fine. Feel free to give the tax partner my e-mail address. I can tell his son which professors to avoid, where to get the best pizza, it’s no problem. Besides, if I’m nice to his son, his dad will help me with my Tax assignments once I’m in law school, right?
 
To:       Anonymous Niece
 
From:   Anonymous Lawyer
 
Date:    Tuesday, May 9, 2:37 pm
 
You won’t need his help. I’m sure you’ll do quite fine on your own. Not everyone can get into Yale Law School. I’m proud of you, you know. It doesn’t look like either of my kids is turning out to be a genius, so you might be my only hope.
 
Don’t forget to call your grandma and wish her a happy birthday. We talked about you this morning. She’s happy you’re following in my footsteps. At least someone in this family is.
 
Wednesday, May 10
 
The Guy With The Giant Mole quit today. Associates usually quit in January, right after the annual bonus checks, but this guy had been trying to go on vacation for three and a half years and never got the chance. Apparently he woke up one day last week and decided to become a high school teacher. That’s what happens when you can’t cut it. The best part of my job is getting to watch people like him go from happy, energetic, eager-to-please young law school graduates to slightly older, frustrated, burned-out midlevel associates who can’t stand to be here.
 
And then it falls to me to replace them. That’s the power of being the hiring partner at one of the most prestigious law firms on the planet. Law students love us. We have to beat them away with sticks. Well, not anymore, at least not literally. In the old days, the story is they would get some sticks with the firm’s logo screen-printed on the side and really have some fun with the recruiting process, but I think there’s an American Bar Association rule against that now, and so we have to use the standard rejection letter. I bet it was a lot more fun with the sticks.
 
We have students lining up to hand us their résumés, yet we’ve got a 30 percent annual turnover rate. And it’s not just us. It’s everywhere, all our peers, the whole industry. That makes my job a bit of a challenge. How to stay positive about selling students on the excellence of this place when we have to make sure the boxes of copier paper aren’t tied up with rope—because that rope is just too tempting. One hanging every so often is to be expected, but when there’s another one every time we get new office supplies it starts to get a little difficult to work.
 
At least the ones who kill themselves are admitting the truth. Once you realize you can’t hack it at a place like this—that you’re not as smart as you thought you were, or don’t have the discipline to make the sacrifices it takes to succeed—then obviously it’s not really worth continuing the charade. But some don’t get the hint. They stay until we push them out—with a polite suggestion that they might find more appropriate work at Denny’s.
 
I’ve been informed we have a former associate driving a bus. Until someone said that, I didn’t realize we still had buses in this country. I fired the person who told me. Lawyers at this firm shouldn’t be riding the bus. They shouldn’t be using any kind of transportation at all, actually. They should be here. Billing clients.
 
#Posted by Anonymous at 10:51 am
 
To:       Anonymous Lawyer
 
From:   Anonymous Niece
 
Date:    Wednesday, May 10, 10:58 am
 
I’m just going to law school—I don’t know that I’m following in your footsteps quite yet. I’m sure the work is very exciting at your firm, but I think I might want to end up doing something different. Maybe start a nonprofit, or even go into teaching. I think I’m too idealistic to do firm work.
 
To:       Anonymous Niece
 
From:   Anonymous Lawyer
 
Date:    Wednesday, May 10, 11:14 am
 
You’ll change your mind. They all do. Everyone starts law school with stupid dreams like that but you can’t make $160K your first year out of law school working for a nonprofit. I’ll get you a job working here next summer and you’ll see. Look at me. I didn’t think I’d end up at a law firm, but here I am. I’m rich and successful and you can be too.
 
To:       Anonymous Lawyer
 
From:   Anonymous Niece
 
Date:    Wednesday, May 10, 11:27 am
 
I promise I’ll think about it.
 
Thursday, May 11
 
I got here ninety seconds later than usual this morning, maybe a hundred, but definitely not even two minutes, walked into the attorney lounge, and saw The Jerk taking the last bagel. “Split it with you?” I asked.
 
“I don’t think so,” he said. “Just like the IBM deal. The early bird gets the worm. Or, in that case, a pretty major payday.” He smirked as he walked past me and opened the door back into the hallway. And I’m stuck with a danish.
 
I hate that smirk. I’ve hated it for the past eighteen years. We both started at the firm on the same day, members of the same class of summer associates. He was already losing his hair back then. He tried to compensate by letting it grow long, but he wasn’t fooling anyone. Now he thinks nobody notices when every three years his hairline is magically restored to where it hasn’t been naturally for decades. Some sort of transplant surgery. My hair is 100 percent my own. No surgery, no nothing.
 
Eighteen years and I don’t think we’ve ever had a civil conversation. On the very first day of the summer program I made some throwaway comment about how I couldn’t believe we had to waste the first week in training and he replied, “Some of us are here to learn.” And one of us was apparently there to be a jackass. Since then, it’s been an open secret that we’d each like nothing more than for the other to die in a house fire. A brutal, painful, ugly death. Causing great misery, and not covered by insurance.
 
Early on, I got picked for the hiring committee. I thought I’d be the first third-year associate ever put on a committee. Three days later they told him he was on it too. I threw a chair when I found out. Broke it right in half. Well, dented it at least.
 
The only benefit was that I got a new chair. Usually there’s a long wait. You need to file a requisition form, wait for approval, and then you’re limited to a certain set of chairs no more expensive than any chair belonging to anyone with more seniority. There are thirteen classes of chairs in the catalog for associates and partners to choose from, but no second-year associate can have a class III chair until all of the third-year associates have chairs from that category. The hierarchy dictates that we manage the chair situation, or sixth-year associates will be getting chairs nicer than the ones the partners have, and that’s obviously an untenable situation. But if your chair breaks, you get to bypass the rules, and so I got a partner-level chair even though I was still an associate. I still have that chair. It’s a good chair.
 
A few years later, The Jerk and I both got corner offices. One time, emboldened by the satisfaction of having made the longest paper clip chain I’d ever constructed, I snuck in and measured. Mine’s seven square feet bigger. That’s fifty-two extra paper clips in each direction. I’ve always taken that to be a sign. Seven square feet. I’m that much more valuable.
 
We were both named partner the same year, the first time our names came up for consideration. Of course, on the same day I got the call to be the hiring partner, The Jerk was named assistant head of litigation. I ripped up a paralegal’s paycheck when I found out. Had to vent the frustration somehow.
 
The Jerk is everything I hate about the people here. He’s smug and entitled and three inches taller than me. I’m not short, especially for a lawyer. But he’s a mutant. I hate having to look up to him.
 
He fired his assistant on the day she announced she was pregnant—and he did it during the celebration in the conference room. Everyone was congratulating her, and he pulled her aside and told her he’d arranged the celebration so that security would have a chance to clean out her desk and pack her stuff in a box. She had a miscarriage later that night. He admits no responsibility. At least I wait until they come back from maternity leave before I tell them they’re fired.
 
The Jerk is like a spoiled brat, in his custom-tailored suit meant to hide the fifteen extra pounds he’s put on, still getting over the disappointment that he’ll never be a Supreme Court justice. That’s what they go to these top law schools hoping for, all of them. And The Jerk went to Harvard, the worst one of them all. Very few people go to Harvard just to become a lawyer. They go to Harvard to become chief justice. Normal kids grow up wanting to be firemen and astronauts and baseball players. One kid I interviewed this past fall told me he had a book of Supreme Court paper dolls when he was a kid, and played with them every day. That isn’t normal. This is who these kids are, though. These mini-Jerks, Jerks-in-training, these Jerks who populate these hallways. I’d have happily shared the bagel with him. I’d have even given him the bigger half.
 
#Posted by Anonymous at 9:50 am
 
To:       Anonymous Niece
 
From:   Anonymous Lawyer
 
Date:    Thursday, May 11, 11:10 am
 
I’m kind of embarrassed to tell you this, but I actually started one of those weblogs the other day, after I looked at the student ones you told me about. It’s ridiculous, and I’m sure I’m not going to keep it going, but there’s no one here I can talk openly to, and I thought it might be fun to have a place to write about life. I wrote a screenplay when I was in college—did I ever tell you that? I’m sure it was terrible. I probably won’t keep the blog for long, but I’ve had some endless conference calls this week, and I’ve needed something to do.
 
I want you to check it out and make sure it’s working, and also make sure no one can trace it back to me. No one can trace it if I’m anonymous, right? You know this computer stuff better than I do. I’m changing the details and not using anyone’s name, but I just want to make sure. It wouldn’t be good for everyone in the firm to start reading this and know it’s me.
 
The address is http://anonymouslawyer.blogspot.com. Let me know if it looks okay.
 
To:       Anonymous Lawyer
 
From:   Anonymous Niece
 
Date:    Thursday, May 11, 11:55 am
 
The One Who Missed Her Kid’s Funeral?? I hope you’re exaggerating.
 
The blog’s working fine. Graphically it’s pretty basic, but I’m sure you don’t want to spend your time playing around with that stuff. You probably do need to be careful. I’d imagine there are plenty of law students who would love to know what’s going on inside a partner’s head.
 
Definitely be careful about specific details. I know students at school who’ve been able to keep their blogs anonymous for a few years, but they’re careful not to write anything traceable—never any names, they switch the genders and the dates, and they make sure nothing gives them away. It’s a small world and if there are a couple hundred law firms like yours, you start saying too much and by process of elimination someone’s going to find you.
 
But I don’t think you have all that much to worry about. There are a million blogs out there. I sent the link to a couple of friends who are also going to law school in the fall. I didn’t say you were my uncle, I just said I stumbled across the site. So it’s nothing to worry about. I’ll let you know if they say anything to me about it.
 
That tax kid sent me an e-mail yesterday. He wanted to know if people living in the dorms have to take communal showers. I think he may be a strange boy. Did you watch the Dodgers game last night? I told you they need a better bullpen. It’s going to be a disaster like last year. I should be studying anyway.
 
To:       Anonymous Niece
 
From:   Anonymous Lawyer
 
Date:    Thursday, May 11, 12:55 pm
 
Thanks for looking at the blog. I’m making sure to disguise things. The Jerk didn’t take a bagel, he took a croissant. And the Dodgers will be fine, it’s still early. Give them a chance. I’m leaving the office right after lunch and getting in a round of golf. I just saw The Tax Guy in the bathroom and he told me his son said you wrote back a helpful response. I appreciate it. He’s so impressed you’re going to Yale. He didn’t get into Yale, and hopefully his son won’t either. You’re helping me win these conversations, so thanks.
 
Friday, May 12
 
There’s a farewell reception for The Old Guy this afternoon in Conference Room 24B. He’s been chairman of the firm for fifteen years, but he just turned seventy-five and the executive committee is forcing him out. They’ve got some chocolate truffle cake and an open bar, or at least that’s what my secretary is telling me. You can tell how much we think of people by what kind of food we give out in their honor. We celebrate birthdays at the firm. For associates, it’s usually some yellow sheet cake. For partners, we’ll add some ice cream, maybe some brownies. For the support staff, we’ll throw a box of Oreos on the table and see if anyone bothers to show up. Inevitably, people do. Partners making a million dollars a year will still leave their desks for a free cookie. There’s not a partner here who can name one member of the custodial staff, yet when they get the e-mail that it’s Karl’s birthday, suddenly he’s every partner’s best friend because there’s a package of Chunky Chips Ahoy in the attorney lounge.
 
I’ll eat the cookies like everyone else, but at least it’s not entirely a charade on my part. There are a lot of things I’m terrible at, like being a decent human being, but one thing I’m good at is remembering people’s birthdays. It fools people into thinking I have a heart. I’ll go up to a secretary and wish her a happy birthday, and she’s shocked I even remember the month. Or that she has a birthday. Or that she’s a person, who was once born.
 
It’s a party trick. Birthdays, names, faces—I remember them. If I meet someone’s kids, it sticks. “How’re Roberto and Juanita?” I might ask, if we had any Hispanic lawyers at the firm, and Joaquin’s eyes would open wide and he’d ask me how I could possibly remember the names of his kids when he can’t recall ever even talking to me before. It’s just something I’m good at. It fools clients too. And it especially fools summer associates—the naïve law students we bring on as interns each summer, who’ll come back after graduation and replace all the attorneys who’ve left.
 
When I drop a detail into a conversation—something I learned about them when they interviewed back in the fall—they think I care. I don’t.
 
“How’d the year at the law school newspaper finish up?”
 
“You remember?”
 
“Of course I remember. You’re quite an impressive student. I’m so glad to have you aboard this summer.”
 
“Thanks, I appreciate that.”
 
“Now I know that another partner’s got you working on that fascinating research assignment, but I was hoping I could steal you away for half a day to help me track down a piece of paper that’s somewhere in a big room full of boxes. I’m asking you in particular because of that newspaper experience—I know how good journalists are at uncovering the scoop, and I’m sure you’re one of the best. So what do you say you put down that other guy’s files, help me out, and I’ll take you for a reimbursable lunch later this week?”
 
It gets them every time.
 
This year’s batch of summers will be here on Monday. But today it’s all about The Old Guy. Truffle cake and vodka shots. It beats the box of Triscuits we had when the director of client services retired. Yeah, we didn’t even spring for cookies that time.
 
The Old Guy has put in some good years of service. He led our global expansion to Europe and Asia. He streamlined the core practice groups to increase profits per partner and move us ten spots higher in The American Lawyer rankings. He left his wife for an associate a few years ago. A terrible associate. Shoddy work. Lack of commitment to the firm. She knew she wasn’t going to make partner on her own merits so she figured she’d find another route. She’s hidden away in Trusts and Estates now, where lawyers go to die.
 
The Old Guy’s forced retirement is moving everyone up one spot in the hierarchy. The line of succession has been pretty clear for a while. The New Chairman, currently head of the corporate department, has been with the firm for thirty-three years, waiting his turn. He’s from another generation. He remembers when the life of a lawyer wasn’t quite so lucrative. He prefers a greasy cheeseburger to a hundred-dollar omakase sushi dinner. He’s only got two houses. He flies coach. But he’s sharp. He knew how to play the politics of this place and get himself into the chairman’s office.
 
And I’ve got to do the same if I want to be next. The New Chairman will last no more than fifteen, seventeen years tops, and then it’s going to be me or The Jerk. The problem is that they’ve been grooming both of us, and we can’t both get that office. It seems like there’s all the time in the world to prepare, but that’s exactly what The Jerk wants me to think. While he tries to elbow his way ahead of me, I need to be vigilant.
 
With The Old Guy it was easy. I learned to play racquetball just to get that face time with him, and it got me to where I am today. The New Chairman doesn’t play racquetball. He’s built for brunch more than racquetball. I had my secretary send him a gift basket from Lobel’s of New York. Finest steak money can buy. Hopefully he’ll think of me while he eats it. The Jerk sent him flowers. I win.
 
Time for truffle cake.
 
#Posted by Anonymous at 3:54 pm
 
To:       Anonymous Niece
 
From:   Anonymous Lawyer
 
Date:    Friday, May 12, 4:17 pm
 
You ever have truffle cake? It’s good. Next summer, it can be yours.
 
To:       Anonymous Lawyer
 
From:   Anonymous Niece
 
Date:    Friday, May 12, 4:33 pm
 
It sounds better than dining-hall food.
 
To:       Anonymous Niece
 
From:   Anonymous Lawyer
 
Date:    Friday, May 12, 4:48 pm
 
Go out tonight, my treat. Just send me the receipt. It’s the least I can do. You’ve given me someone to brag about. You can celebrate that I’m finally one step closer to becoming chairman of the firm.
 
To:       Anonymous Lawyer
 
From:   Anonymous Niece
 
Date:    Friday, May 12, 4:55 pm
 
You sure? Thanks! That’s so generous of you.
 
To:       Anonymous Niece
 
From:   Anonymous Lawyer
 
Date:    Friday, May 12, 5:04 pm
 
You deserve it—I’ve got the world’s smartest niece. Stanford is one thing, but Yale Law School is quite another. Especially looking at where you came from. I love your mom, but she was never the scholar growing up. I admit it—I’m jealous, just a bit, of all the opportunities you’re going to have. I did fine going to Michigan for college and law school, but you’re doing it the way it ought to be done. Stanford, Yale, and the most prestigious firm we can get you working for. I’ll take advantage of every connection I’ve got, I promise. You’ll go right to the top.
 
To:       Anonymous Lawyer
 
From:   Anonymous Niece
 
Date:    Friday, May 12, 5:25 pm
 
I appreciate this so much, but like I told you—I’m not sure a big law firm is really where I want to end up. I want to help people.
 
To:       Anonymous Niece
 
From:   Anonymous Lawyer
 
Date:    Friday, May 12, 5:35 pm
 
Don’t worry. Give me a little time and I’ll squeeze that “helping people” crap right out of you.
 
Saturday, May 13
 
The summer program starts on Monday, and I’m hosting a party this afternoon to thank everyone in advance for making this the best summer yet. I’m up early waiting for the guys with the tent to arrive. I undersold the party as a barbecue, but it’s actually a surf-and-turf buffet, after a cocktail hour and some music from a three-piece string ensemble I dropped a few grand on. I made the maid stay late last night to ensure everything would be perfect. I realized this morning that the fringes on the rugs weren’t lined up, so I got down on my knees and fixed them myself. It would have cost a client $275 if I was able to bill the time. The partners will get a tour of the inside of the house; the associates will be limited to the backyard area. My secretary helped me with the planning, and I’m sure she expected an invitation to come, but there wasn’t a chance of that.
 
I don’t need to have this party. On the surface, it’s to thank everyone in advance for treating the summer associates well this year, and not letting them get too much of a glimpse of what working here is really like. But what it’s really about is a chance to impress The New Chairman. To show off my house and finally get to exhibit the patio furniture that I had upholstered in the firm’s color. When I’m chairman, I’ll probably change our color. This cornflower blue isn’t my favorite. It’s not masculine enough. I’d like a forest green, maybe a hunter mixed with just a little note of midnight blue. I’ve thought about this a lot. We need to make a bolder statement in the marketplace to stand out against our competition. Cornflower isn’t bold enough. It’s on my list of things to address when I finally become chairman. Others:
 
1.         Buy a new couch for my office
 
2.         No more free food for overweight associates
 
3.         Paralegals don’t get health benefits
 
4.         Fix the wobbly conference table in 23D
 
5.         Switch to three-ply toilet paper
 
That’s just the first five. I’ve got hundreds.
 
I’ve rented the deluxe tent, with the wind panels and the carpet floor. It cost a bunch of money, but it’s worth it. Anonymous Wife is still in bed, of course—even though she knows how important this is. She’s useless anyway. I had to hide her car in the garage because it’s an old Honda with two dents in it, and I don’t want the other partners to see it. I moved my Lexus out front. It’s a better image. I’d get Anonymous Wife a nicer car, but she destroys them. She does her makeup while she’s driving, or talks on the phone, paying no attention to anything. One day she’s going to kill herself or the kids or, even worse, me. I don’t drive with her anymore. The only thing I let her do is take the service providers home—the maid and the babysitter. If they get into an accident, it’s a loss, but I’m willing to take the risk.
 
She doesn’t understand the point of this party. She doesn’t like the idea of a bunch of old men wandering through the living room.
 
But what can I expect? I read U.S. News and she reads US Weekly. If you can even call it reading. She’s still pretty enough, sure. That’s never been the problem. But she sits in the house watching reruns of Press Your Luck on the Game Show Network, and goes out with her friends for two-hundred-dollar lunches and to stroll through department stores buying dozens of things we don’t need. The crap just ends up in the garage, never touched. An antique cuckoo clock, a towel warmer, a dog bed, a 24-karat gold chess set (as if she’s ever played chess, even just once in her life), a cake decorating kit, and, the latest addition to the pile of junk, a four-foot-long rainstick.
 
We don’t need a rainstick. It just gives Anonymous Son something else to break. Any day now, little grains of barley, or whatever’s inside a rainstick, are going to be rolling all over the floor and someone’s going to break his neck. I won’t even call the ambulance if it’s my wife. Maybe it’ll teach her a lesson.
 
But I need her for today’s party. Without her, people start to get suspicious. You can’t be creepy like the real estate guy who goes home to his mother every night. Or fat. Those people don’t have a future. They can’t hope for the top. You need the image of a perfect family or you’re not executive committee material. You don’t get the best clients or the office with the ocean view. You need to blend in at the firm picnic and be part of the club. Or you’re simply not an integral part of the future of the firm.
 
The people with the tent are finally knocking at the door. 7:39, almost ten minutes late. That’ll be twenty bucks off the tip. At least.
 
#Posted by Anonymous at 7:40 am
 
Saturday, May 13
 
What a waste. My chance to impress The New Chairman and he was here for all of fifteen minutes. The fancy tent, the string ensemble, the hundred-dollar surf and turf—all for him, and he didn’t even have the decency to stay past the cocktail hour. He and The Jerk snuck away somewhere, too quick for me to intercept and make sure The New Chairman got the tour. Instead I was left with the B-team eating my food and traipsing around my backyard killing the grass.
 
If he’d left with anyone besides The Jerk, I wouldn’t be so concerned. But every second of face time counts. I’ve synchronized my bathroom habits just to make sure I get in there right when The New Chairman does. It wreaks havoc on my system, but it’s worth it.
 
Besides The New Chairman’s quick exit, the party went off without a hitch—except for an early mishap with an associate during the cocktail hour. The Frumpy Litigator is allergic to shellfish, but one of the partners didn’t know and offered her a bite of his lobster cake. Like any good associate, she knows the rules. When a partner tells you to do something, you do it, no matter what. Anaphylactic shock be damned. She politely took a bite, and as soon as she had the chance, turned and spit it into her napkin. But by then it was too late. She pulled me aside and said she thought she might need to go to the hospital. Of course I let her leave, despite the importance of the party. She handled the whole situation very discreetly. I’ll be sure to send her an e-card on Monday wishing her a speedy recovery.
 
Anonymous Wife—who, thankfully, took her Wellbutrin today (I crushed it up and put it in her oatmeal)—led the partners on a splendid tour through the house, pointing out everything we’d rehearsed. Like the shelf of awards I’ve received from clients over the years—including the Lucite pin from the bowling alley conglomerate, the etched crystal corncob from the fertilizer company I helped out of bankruptcy, and the silver thumbtack from the office superstore. The awards spend three years on my bookshelf in the office before retiring to the house, displacing another one of Anonymous Daughter’s ceramic monstrosities from art class or one of Anonymous Son’s karate trophies.
 
My kids behaved themselves, which is more than I can say for the help. On his way out, The Guy With The Overbite, a sixth-year associate on the partner track, accidentally kicked over a wine glass. Like anyone would, he stood there, crossed his arms, and waited for one of the waiters to come clean it up. It took a waiter almost a full forty-five seconds to notice, even as The Guy With The Overbite was pointing and gesturing, and getting pretty upset. It was embarrassing, and I shaved another twenty dollars off the tip. Anonymous Son was about to go over and help, but of course I told him that wasn’t his job. Maybe in twenty years, if he follows in his mother’s footsteps. But he shouldn’t be cleaning up glass when he’s eight.
 
#Posted by Anonymous at 11:12 pm
 
To:       Anonymous Lawyer
 
From:   Anonymous Niece
 
Date:    Sunday, May 14, 9:05 am
 
Two posts in one day? You’re like a thirteen-year-old girl.
 
To:       Anonymous Niece
 
From:   Anonymous Lawyer
 
Date:    Sunday, May 14, 9:11 am
 
It was a big day. I know I’m getting addicted to this. It’s probably not healthy. But I’ve had no one to talk to about work for the past eighteen years, so it’s kind of pouring out. I’m sure it’ll get old, and I’m sure no one’s reading it anyway. You’re having an exciting weekend, I hope.
 
To:       Anonymous Lawyer
 
From:   Anonymous Niece
 
Date:    Sunday, May 14, 9:18 am
 
An exciting weekend studying, sure. Dinner on Friday was great—thanks. A couple of friends and I got some Thai food, it was like fifteen bucks each. It’s okay if you weren’t serious about paying for it. I can afford a $15 dinner. The friends I told about the blog said they’ve been reading and they love it. I think they passed the link along to some other people too. So that’s cool—you’ve got some students reading. And I don’t think there’s any way they can link it back to you—no one even knows you’re my uncle. Thank goodness—if it gets around at law school that my uncle is a hiring partner, I’ll probably get more résumés than the people in Career Services.
 
Sunday, May 14
 
Twenty-eight messages on my BlackBerry this morning. The BlackBerry has absolutely revolutionized the way the firm works. It used to be that in times of crisis, associates were tethered to their desks, unable to leave for lunch, for dinner, for the bathroom, or for an emergency appendectomy—for fear that we wouldn’t be able to get in touch with them. But now that they can receive e-mail wherever they are, twenty-four hours a day, their freedom has increased dramatically. Now it’s okay for them to go to the hospital after their son’s in an accident, or to take an hour to drive their fourteen-year-old daughter to the abortion clinic, or to go brush their teeth after they’ve been in the office all night. It’s a great feeling to know that if I have a research question at three in the morning, I can e-mail an associate and expect an answer within minutes.
 
But to wake up to twenty-eight messages on a Sunday is unusual. All these messages are part of our long-running debate about the dress code for the summer program. You’d be surprised what some of the summer associates think they can get away with. Jeans, T-shirts, bold colors like green and brown, ties with unapproved patterns, and even open-toed shoes.
 
Last night one of the senior partners e-mailed to the entire hiring committee that he felt we should make a last-minute change to the memo we’ll be distributing tomorrow and completely ban facial hair. This would be a change from the current policy, under which, with special permission, “neatly trimmed” beards and mustaches are acceptable. Apparently this senior partner spent the day with his grandchildren, was “alarmed by their sideburns,” and wants to revisit the issue.
 
My take on it is that we want to be seen as a firm that’s friendly to students who’ve made alternative lifestyle choices, including those involving facial hair. Besides, there’d be enforcement problems if any summer associates have to work through the night and won’t have access to a razor. Luckily, cooler heads have prevailed and we won’t have to reprint the memo before the summer associates arrive.
 
There’s enough to do tomorrow anyway. I’ve got to lock the crazy partners in their offices and make sure they don’t get out. There are certain attorneys that the summers are never allowed to see. The ones who hit, the ones who smell, and the ones who are just so high on the Asperger’s scale that we can’t risk letting them interact with law students we’re hoping will accept our offers at the end of the summer and come back after graduation. Everyone here has Asperger’s syndrome to some extent—it’s one of the markings of a corporate lawyer. But the summers have it too, so it all works out okay. It’s the ones at the tail end of the bell curve—like The Tax Guy—that we have to control. He’ll start talking to summers about the consistency of his bowel movements.
 
#Posted by Anonymous at 9:46 am
 
Copyright © 2006 by Jeremy Blachman