Wednesday, July 22, 2020



I was thinking more about status distinctions after my post yesterday, and I realized that I’ve been missing an important insight. It has to do with masks, and how they don’t all have to be the same. It’s boring if they’re all the same anyway, right?

I mean, we never used to have an opportunity to know just by looking at someone whether or not they were worth our attention, but I’m starting to come up with a plan for once we’re back in the office. It’s hard enough to tell who’s who under normal circumstances — every paralegal looks exactly the same, after all — so without faces to guide us, it’s going to be an even bigger challenge… but not with my new mask policy.

Support staff, one color. Associates, another color. Partners, I suppose we’ll go with green, for money — or we can just make the masks out of hundred-dollar bills, to highlight how little we care about a few hundred bucks that we’re totally fine tearing the bills apart and using them as face coverings. (We’ll clean them first, both in the sense of hygiene and also because most of the money in my wallet is probably of some sort of questionable provenance.)

It will make life so much easier to not have to worry I’m mistaking a pointless human walking down the hall for a slightly less pointless human being. Not that I’m going to be talking to anyone in the hall. That’s too risky, right? Safer to ignore everyone, especially when they have some kind of question or concern. I don’t want to risk getting the virus over actually engaging with someone who needs to ask me for permission to leave early. If you have a question, send an email. Then I can ignore it without feeling quite as rude.

I don’t expect it’s actually going to be sustainable to wear masks in the office, which is why I really don’t think we’re going to end up requiring people to come back, unless someone really doesn’t want to come back, in which case we’re going to insist, just because we can. It’s so much harder to look angry with a mask on, or disappointed, or like you’re questioning how someone ever managed to pass the bar exam. It’s harder to scream, harder to shout, harder to spit. Not that I ever actually spit at someone on purpose. We absolutely reached a confidential settlement on that one that did not require me to admit guilt, so there’s really nothing worth talking about there.

We’ve thought about ordering masks with the firm’s logo on it, but we ended up deciding there was more potential downside than upside. There are people out in the world who aren’t thrilled with us, and we don’t really want to put our staff at risk in the community. We’d rather just put them at risk in the office. I want to control the risks, adjust the levers to achieve the right behaviors, manipulate people as I see fit. Having strangers trying to attack our people is just too unpredictable.

Actually, that might be a good line to use in the recruiting video I’m about to put together for law students to watch, as part of our new not-on-campus recruiting process. “At our firm, we’re like family. We don’t want strangers to attack you. We want to do it ourselves.”

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Tuesday, July 21, 2020


Looking for Law Firm Safety Precautions?

I mentioned in yesterday's post the loss of my partners-only bathroom -- that's important, but clearly it's only one of the reasons why working from home is unsustainable in the long run.  We can't maintain an industry that thrives on hierarchical status distinctions when the only opportunities we have to distinguish ourselves are in the different backgrounds behind us during Zoom calls.  We banned artificial backgrounds as a firm-wide rule -- some garbage about honesty and integrity as representatives of the legal profession, I think we said, but the real reason was that I need to see the true squalor in which my associates live in order to remind myself how much better I am.  The first thing I did when we moved to remote work, and I realized I would be spending all day on video, is call the landscapers to put in a pond and a touch of mature forest right outside my window.  We've got benches now, a gazebo, one of those trained dolphins who pops out of the water every so often, a botanical garden worth of flowers (literally -- I scavenged the assets of a broke botanical garden at a bankruptcy auction just to truck it all over to my backyard and replant it within view of my desktop webcam) and a guy I'm paying to wander around and keep it all looking clean.  I haven't actually been outside to see any of it -- I hate nature, I just can't stand anything about it -- but it looks amazing on screen, and that's all that matters.  When I see the bare, empty walls of my associates' apartments, the bookshelves filled with novels they'll never have time to read, the IKEA tables they could afford to replace but why bother when you're hardly home... well, it just makes me smile inside.  And I think the dolphin's having fun, too -- I can see it in his eyes.

But there's only so much landscaping one can do, no matter how competitive, and so we have to end up back in the office eventually.  And it's clear from everything my news compilation service is sending me that we're going to have to make some changes.  We really will have to crack down on elevator usage, first of all.  When we say partners only, it's going to be out of a public health need to de-densify, not just an impulse to make things difficult.  And maybe it's better that way.  I can tell that quarantine has added quite a few pounds to a lot of my colleagues.  There's nothing like a walk up to the 37th floor to start shedding that weight.  We're not going to be able to put out those bagel platters, either.  We used to average about 25% of personnel taking a bagel on any given day, and that's how we managed our ordering.  Now, everyone will have a box delivered to their desk each morning with their allotment -- a quarter of a bagel, half an ounce of cream cheese, and one red onion string.  No beverage, because we really have to limit bathroom use.  In fact, we're seriously considering turning the bathrooms into extra office space and telling people that for safety reasons they can only go at home.  It'll save lots of wasted productivity time, too.  A win-win.

As we float the idea of reopening the office, we've definitely been getting pushback from the weak and infirm.  We've started a group for them to voice their concerns, called Weak and Infirm Lawyers.  We'll collect their comments and consider them at our next partner meeting, just like we do with all of the groups we've formed -- Parent Lawyers, Short Lawyers, Old Lawyers, Dead Lawyers.  Collectively, they've managed to get us to lower the height of our closet shelves, allow an emergency family leave half-day per employee-in-good-standing per year, and arrange for free transportation from the office to the morgue if you happen to die at work.  We used to bill families for the ride, and I have to admit, it was not always easy to collect, and we felt bad going after people's property to cover it, even though we absolutely had the legal right to, we made sure in every employment contract.

We're also planning to ban singing from the office, which is a HUGE RELIEF and something we should have done decades ago, especially once a group of employees started their horrendous a capella group, "Bankrupt of Melody."  And we can't share supplies, which is great, because people always used to steal my stapler, and obviously that was and will continue to be a fireable offense.

Oh, shoot.  I think the dolphin just died.  I guess I'll just have to get the gardener man to perform the tricks until we can replace it.  Ugh, this pandemic.

Updated to add: Subscribe to Anonymous Lawyer's revival at

Monday, July 20, 2020


The True Tragedies

I appreciated the response to yesterday’s post.  I’ve missed you, and as I tell my associates, sometimes it takes a pandemic to get in touch with what’s really important in life.  That’s why even before all of this, we were introducing new viruses into the office every couple of years.  First, it helped us weed out the weak — always important. But second, it forced everyone to make the hard choices that it’s all too easy to kick down the road during good times.  We don’t want you lingering here for years if you’re not fully committed. We don’t want to spend the money to train you, or waste all that printer ink on your documents, if you’re just going to walk away.  But if you still come to work even when there’s a mysterious illness spreading through the hallways paralyzing your coworkers, liquifying your insides, and causing hallucinations too frightening to even describe — well, then we know you really do care about the firm, and maybe we should open the vent in your office so you can have some of the air conditioning.  Not too much, don’t want you to get too comfortable.

This is why the move to a virtual workplace is so tragic.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort for someone to drag thenselves over to the computer, and there isn’t a lot we can do to make it harder, short of sneaking into people’s homes and booby-trapping their hallways.  So the incentive to linger on our payroll longer than you might otherwise is really high. Especially when there aren’t many other jobs around.  We’re going to be stuck with the lazy ones, and it’s going to hurt.  Not financially, since we’re still billing them out at crazy rates, but in terms of morale. I don’t want to be at a firm that also employs people whose work ethics I don’t respect.  Also, people who can’t manage to put on a suit even if they’re only on Zoom.  If I see one more open collar, I swear I’m going to send out a very long and harshly-worded memo that no one will read.  It’s the least I can do.

Speaking of clothing, here’s something else that bothers me: I really don’t mind if people’s kids come into their offices while they’re working, but at least they need to be following the dress code when they do. That means suits for the boys, whatever the equivalent is for girls, and babies need a formal diaper, not one of those cheap disposable ones.  I will never understand how people let their kids spend the day in pajamas. How do you train work ethic without making them get dressed, clock in, and track their day in 6-minute increments?  Sure, take 0.2 hours to play with trucks, you’re only young once — but then you should spend at least 0.6 hours on something productive.

The other big tragedy of the pandemic is the loss of my partners-only bathroom — my wife won’t allow me to designate one at home — but I’ll have to get more into that next time.  I’m late for an 8:30pm Zoom that I could have scheduled during normal business hours, but what’s the fun of that?

Updated 7/21: Subscribe to Anonymous Lawyer's revival at

Sunday, July 19, 2020


Anonymous Lawyer in a Pandemic

Gosh, it has been a long time. But as I sit here in an empty Zoom room on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of a pandemic, I just couldn’t help myself.  These past four months are just proving everything I already knew: no one should ever be allowed to work from home, having a family is the biggest career mistake you can make, and partners shouldn’t have to touch doorknobs.  I’ve been trying so hard to keep my associates accountable during this whole mess, and it has just gotten impossible.  For the first couple of weeks, it was fine — I told them to leave their cameras on 24/7 so I could watch them work, and, for the most part, they did it. Sure, some of them got up to use the bathroom sometimes, and I’m pretty sure I caught one or two napping at some point in the night, but they knew I was there, so it was just like in the office, where they’re all being watched on closed-circuit cameras, and the work basically got done.

Then they got lazy.  Or something like that.  It’s all because one associate thought she was being frugal by living in a studio apartment, trying to save enough to pay back her loans before losing her soul entirely and ending up a slave to us forever.  She didn’t want the golden handcuffs of a big salary and big expenses, and so she ended up complaining that it wasn’t fair to have to keep her camera on all day and all night when we could see her kitchen, her bed, and the ridiculous thing she called a toilet.  It didn’t even have a seat warmer!  I tell young lawyers all the time, my biggest piece of advice, if you’re going to upgrade one thing in your home (and obviously you’re going to upgrade a lot more than one thing!), upgrade the toilet.  Mine has an attached bookshelf, a reading lamp, a mini-fridge, and a carefully-positioned video screen for conference calls coupled with the world’s best flush-muter.  It is a necessity, and it has come in handy so many times — not the least of which was when I had to fire 16 paralegals in a row and didn’t feel like taking a break.  You haven’t really been fired until you’ve been fired by someone on the toilet.

So, anyway, she got HR to shut my whole surveillance system down, and I had to make it “voluntary.”  HR takes all the fun out of everything. Good thing we basically have no use for 90% of them anymore.  Now I have an open Zoom room and associates are “invited” to join whenever they feel it might be helpful to have a partner’s supervision.  I get a few here and there, but it’s not the same.  One guy’s six-year-old somehow figured out how to log on and I helped him with his math homework for a little while.  He’s doing document review for me this weekend. With the new talk about not necessarily needing to take the bar exam, I think there’s a chance I could get him admitted by the end of the year. I’ll pay him in home deliveries of gourmet ice cream.  Think it might work out well.

I will say though, there have been a few benefits to all of this.  I never liked being within 6 feet of most people, so that’s a huge plus there.  Much easier to deal with people when I can mute them.  And it has been so interesting to discover that my longtime assistant has a husband and children.  Seems like ten or twelve of them, though she insists it’s only two.  But can you believe that she worked for me for thirteen years and I never knew she was married?  She knew pretty much every detail about my life (not this blog, not unless she finally learned to read), but all I knew about her is that she loved working for me.  Never knew she used to have to commute two hours each way to get to work. Never knew she was supporting her elderly parents. Never even knew she had parents, really.  Just figured she hatched as a fully-formed assistant, ready to schedule my calls and lie to clients about my availability to discuss their latest bills.  She is such an interesting person, good-hearted, devoted to her family, homeschooling her kids while still catering to my every nonsensical whim.  I have no idea why she kept that from me for so long.  Anyway, I fired her last week because my grocery delivery was an hour late and I figured there probably should have been some way she could have prevented that.  My new assistant is OK, too.  I might ask her name next week sometime.

It is going to be a long road to recovery.  Half of my clients are out of business.  No one is willing to go into the office, get my desk chair, and deliver it to my door.  And I still can’t find my favorite hand sanitizer anywhere.  I should have stocked up when I just assumed everyone was infected with something terrible, before it turned out that was actually the case.

Been good catching up.  Hope you’re all doing well professionally.  When this is all over, make sure you don’t have any regrets about the hours you put in. You do not want to look back on this time and wish you’d done more to satisfy the partners of the firm, it would really be a waste of an opportunity to impress with your commitment to the profession.

All best,
Anonymous Lawyer

Updated 7/21: Subscribe to Anonymous Lawyer's revival at

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Folks, my firm is hiring new associates.  Finally.  Business is turning around.  But we're only considering you if you have a degree from Manhattan Law School.  Check out the site, and if you really want to give yourself a chance to get hired, you'll need to check out The Curve, my brand new novel all about Manhattan Law School and the antics over there.

Above The Law calls the book "hilarious and highly recommended," and, really, just check out the website and see for yourself.

I did not intend to go so long between books.  If you were a fan of Anonymous Lawyer, please do check out the new one and spread the word.  Amazon reviews, Facebook posts, and all of that are very much appreciated.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

News articles like one I read today about a doctor who allegedly ejaculated on a patient's face ( remind me that medicine is so much more civilized than the law. A doctor does something like that and it's news. A law firm partner does it and it wouldn't even rise to the level of elevator gossip. It's almost standard operating procedure around here. I can ejaculate on pretty much anyone and it would be a non-issue.  Except maybe the chairman of the firm.  He might have a problem with it.  Anyone else is fair game, though. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

There are moments I remember why I let New Wife talk me into letting her have a baby.  Like when the kid nestles into my arms, curls up like a little animal, and falls asleep for an hour or two and I can catch up on some reading on my phone without feeling guilty that I'm not working on something more important.  It's like bonus time, that baby-sleeping-on-you time, where the world can't expect anything of you so if you do anything at all, it's like you beat the system.  And, sure, it's annoying when you accidentally hit the kid in the head with the corner of the phone, or you realize you've been aiming the light directly into his eyes, but, hey, I read almost the entire NY Times today-- and it's been a long time since I've been able to do that (which is why I generally have an associate send me a memo summarizing all of the articles).

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