Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I got an e-mail this afternoon from an associate who I'd put to work over the holiday with an assignment, asking if I wanted to meet to discuss now that we're all back in the office. Honestly, until she sent the e-mail, I'd forgotten all about the thing I told her to do. I'm still not entirely sure what she's working on. In a moment of frustration about something unrelated at home (Anonymous Wife wants a new bathroom... she's decided the toilet is too high off the ground and the shower knobs aren't delicate enough to get the temperature exactly where she likes it... but that's a post for another day), I called into my office the first associate I could think of and just started rattling off demands and claiming it all needed to be done over the holidays.

Basically I picked a deal off my list of open matters and told her I thought there might be a problem with some clause in the contract and she should do some research and make sure we were in the clear, but I didn't write down anything about what I told her, which clause it was, what I told her the problem was, and where I told her to look. You do this long enough and you internalize a set of generic assignment commands that can apply to pretty much anything and make the associates think you need something real when actually you're just inventing it on the spot. That's part of the magic more generally when you're a lawyer. We have this vocabulary of legal terminology and specific words that only we understand and can use to shut down and intimidate the common man. Clients can't fight you if they don't know what you're talking about. And associates assume we're all infallible gods, so when we tell them something and they aren't following, the great thing is that they assume it's their fault and beat themselves up until they think they can make sense of it. They're afraid to challenge us, afraid to ask for clarification, afraid to seem dumb.

So this associate spent much of the holiday week here, working on something I'll have to cross off the bill anyway because it's unnecessary busy work, and when we meet tomorrow I'll pretend what she did was fine and ask some probing questions and file it away with all the other stuff I've gotten from associates that I didn't really need, and she'll feel okay about it and I'll feel okay about it and the world will go on.

Of course, when she asked if an informal memo would be fine, I couldn't resist throwing an additional wrinkle into the whole thing. "I'd rather see it in PowerPoint, thanks." So she'll probably be up all night doing whatever it is you do with PowerPoint. I'm fortunate enough that by the time we started concentrating too heavily on slides I was senior enough that there were people to do it all for me. I love the animations. I need to get my son to teach me how to work it.

The toilet's too high? Is she shrinking? If anything, she's growing. I got her a necklace for Christmas and she says it's too tight. I don't know what's happening to make her neck grow. Maybe it's the Botox. She's seeing an astrologist tomorrow to see if she can figure it out.

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