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 https://jeremyblachman.substack.com/

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