Search Books:

Join our mailing list:

Recent Articles

The Mystery Murder Case of the Century
by Robert Tanenbaum

by Anna Godbersen

Songs of 1966 That Make Me Wish I Could Sing
by Elizabeth Crook

The Opposite of Loneliness
by Marina Keegan

The Skinny on Back Pain: What Does Work and What Doesn't Work
by Patrick Roth

Remembering Ethel Merman
by Tony Cointreau


Anonymous Lawyer: A Novel Excerpt from Anonymous Lawyer: A Novel

by Jeremy Blachman

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 donít. I see the guilty look on your face. You try not to make eye contact. You try to rush past me as if youíre going to the bathroom. But the bathroom is at the other end of the hall. You think Iím naÔve, but I know what youíre doing. Everyone knows. But sheís 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 -- Iím not going to forget this. My secretary. My candy. Go back to your office and finish reading the addendum to the lease agreement. I donít 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 shouldnít have to go wandering the halls looking for a stapler. Iím 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 Whoís Never Getting Married, The One Who Missed Her Kidís Funeral -- I donít 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 Iíll 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 isnít 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 thereís a living creature in the office next to mine. Usually itís just the corporate securities partner, and he hasnít moved a muscle since the Carter administration. But today he brought his dog into the office. Ridiculous. As if there arenít enough animals here already. We had fish once. Piranhas. We overfed them. We threw The Fat Guyís 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 arenít for dogs. We donít even let the paralegals have the muffins. The muffins are for client-billing attorneys. Theyíre purely sustenance to keep the lawyers from having to leave the office for breakfast. Theyíre not for visitors. I made a note of the incident and Iíll have a dollar-fifty taken off the guyís next paycheck.

The dog barked once. I told his owner to keep the dog quiet or Iíd lock him in the document room with the junior associates whoíve been in there for six weeks, searching for a single e-mail in a room full of boxes. Thereís an eerie quiet that normally pervades the halls of the firm, punctuated only by the screams of those whoíve discovered they can use the letter opener to end the pain once and for all. Iíd like to keep it that way. We donít 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 Doesnít Know How To Correctly Apply Her Makeup say the dog really brings some life into this place. ďI donít feel so alone,Ē she said. I gave her some more work to do. Sheís obviously not busy enough. Sheís supposed to feel alone. This isnít the kind of business where people can go into their co-workersí offices and fritter away the morning chatting about the weather or the stock market or their ďrelationship issues.Ē Or playing with a damn dog.

Weíre a law firm. Time is billable. The client doesnít pay for small talk. Every minute you spend away from your desk is a minute the firm isnít making any money off your presence, even though youíre still using the office supplies, eating the muffins, drinking the coffee, consuming the oxygen, and adding to the wear and tear on the carpets. Youíre overhead. And if youíre not earning your keep, you shouldnít be here.

The dog shouldnít be here, except heís 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, thatís probably billable. If I can get him to pee on a secretary, it wonít be billable, but itís 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. Iím 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 whoís graduating next month. I said Iíd see if youíd let me pass along your e-mail address in case his son has any questions. His father is a tax lawyer, so the sonís probably a nut, but at least I can get some points for being helpful to my colleagues. Heíll 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 Iím never going to hire. They also motivated me to start this new e-mail account. Maybe Iíll write a weblog of my own. Iíll 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 youíre 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, itís no problem. Besides, if Iím nice to his son, his dad will help me with my Tax assignments once Iím in law school, right?

To: Anonymous Niece
From: Anonymous Lawyer
Date: Tuesday, May 9, 2:37 pm

You wonít need his help. Iím sure youíll do quite fine on your own. Not everyone can get into Yale Law School. Iím proud of you, you know. It doesnít look like either of my kids is turning out to be a genius, so you might be my only hope.

Donít forget to call your grandma and wish her a happy birthday. We talked about you this morning. Sheís happy youíre 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. Thatís what happens when you canít 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 canít stand to be here.

And then it falls to me to replace them. Thatís 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 firmís logo screen-printed on the side and really have some fun with the recruiting process, but I think thereís 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 rťsumťs, yet weíve got a 30 percent annual turnover rate. And itís not just us. Itís 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 arenít tied up with rope -- because that rope is just too tempting. One hanging every so often is to be expected, but when thereís 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 canít hack it at a place like this -- that youíre not as smart as you thought you were, or donít have the discipline to make the sacrifices it takes to succeed -- then obviously itís not really worth continuing the charade. But some donít get the hint. They stay until we push them out -- with a polite suggestion that they might find more appropriate work at Dennyís.

Iíve been informed we have a former associate driving a bus. Until someone said that, I didnít realize we still had buses in this country. I fired the person who told me. Lawyers at this firm shouldnít be riding the bus. They shouldnít be using any kind of transportation at all, actually. They should be here. Billing clients.

#Posted by Anonymous at 10:51 am

Copyright © 2006 Jeremy Blachman