for April 25, 2005
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On Lawyers II...
Last time, I introduced some of the quirky attorneys from a large, powerful law firm where I spent some time after fleeing law school with three cents and a really big stack of books left to my name. This time, I'll share some of the more interesting moments spent with the law firm's managing partner, who was my direct supervisor for most of my time there, although fortunately he never offered me the same benefits package that was paid out to the office manager.
So I'm sitting innocently at my desk one day when managing partner (since I can't use his real name - lawyer, remember? - let's go Dear Abby style and give him the initials MP) appears with a huge stack of papers related to a massive project he was working on. He asked me to put the papers into a file. As I was new at the job, I asked if there were any rules about the filing and he just said to sort them in a way that seemed logical and put them in a tabbed folder with the tabs marked. It's the kind of system I always wish I could do with recipes instead of just leaving them in stacks everywhere then throwing them away five years later because the print has faded or main ingredients have become extinct. So I spend a good part of my morning happily sorting and gulping down company-comped Cokes. This was a "long lunch" day for him so when I got done I just popped the file in his chair because his chair and the ceiling of the office manager's office were the only places he was able to find anything.
A few days pass, a few more company Cokes disappear...then one day he's on a conference call in his office. He comes running out looking 10 kinds of frantic and says there was a hand-drawn map on yellow paper in that stack he gave me and I lost it - he knows I lost it because he's been through the entire file and can't find it in there. I tell him to leave the file with me and I'll look and he runs back to his call. Two minutes later I go in and hand him the map then leave while he finishes the call. After the call is finished he asks me where in that horribly disorganized file I managed to find that map. Fighting every instinct in my body I managed not to smile - either knowingly or sarcastically or even spitefully - and said with a straight face "it was the first page under the tab marked maps."
Without a word he turned on his heels, walked back into his office and slammed the door. I ran like hell to the break room so I could laugh without him hearing me. I didn't see or hear from him for several days after that. As this was pre-Internet times (you remember that? The dinosaurs still roamed downtown streets...) I spent those days asking the other lawyers for something to do just to keep from going out of my mind with boredom. Finally he must have figured out that I resisted the strong temptation to tell everyone else in the office about it and began to speak to me again - but never about that file. I swear he must have been typing his own memos about that client for the next year just to avoid having to talk to me about it.
We had a similar kind of incident about six months later. He comes storming out of the office telling me I had misspelled a client's name on a letter and that I needed to fix it. Then he ran back into his office. The spelling of the name was exactly the same as it had been. I printed out a previous letter to that client and took it to him saying it had always been that way since I had been there. He said I had always been doing it wrong then and gave a brief lecture on embarrassing the company in front of important clients. I dug out the client's file and found letters from years before I had been there with the client's name spelled the same way. At this point he started speculating about vast conspiracies to embarrass him going back to the caveman era and insisted his spelling was correct and I needed to fix it and perhaps enclose a letter of apology for the last 200 years of human existence. I waited until he was at lunch (not a long one this time) before making my next move. When he returned from lunch he found in his chair a fresh copy of the original letter with nothing changed, the client's card (which I removed from the Rolodex on his desk) and a copy of the client's letterhead - all with the original spelling. Again, he didn't speak to me for days, although I did find the letter finally signed on my chair the next morning. And again I had nothing to do for several days. I have to admit I did share this story with a few people in the office...it's never a good idea to leave me with too much free time.
MP had a more indirect role in my third story, which also counts as one of my favorite name-dropping stories. One of the firm's clients was the city, so one of our frequent visitors was the city mayor. MP had left for some resume-padding board meeting when I took a call from the mayor. Apparently the mayor had called earlier that morning and spoken directly to MP about some urgent business and had been sitting on mayoral pins and needles all morning waiting for a return call. I politely informed him that MP was at a board meeting for a local entertainment venue followed by lunch and would likely be out of touch for several hours. The mayor didn't take that so well. He starts yelling at me and using every word in his rather extensive dirty-word vocabulary (God bless private education). He pauses to take a breath just as I'm whispering to nearby assistant, "Wow, I'm being yelled at by the mayor." There's something kind of liberating about being yelled at for something that cannot even remotely be construed as your fault. Anyway, I guess he heard me because he hung up.
Two things came out of this - first MP got a cell phone a few days later, back when cell phones were as small and handy as the barbells weight lifters use in the Olympics and picked up telephone signals nearly as well. But only the mayor (and probably the office manager) knew the number. The second result is that the mayor eventually went on to be the state's governor, making my claim to fame that I've been thoroughly cussed out by a governor. If he ever runs for president or gets appointed for national office I hope I'll get to go on CNN or O'Reilly or something and create a scandal. Maybe then my mother will quit asking, "You're spending your days writing what?" and have something to tell her bunko buddies.
So that's the long and short of my year at the law firm and why when the cheaper law school started sending me literature I took a polite pass and donated my law books to a distant cousin with law school dreams, dreams kept alive by successfully avoiding any actual lawyers until she was one herself.
All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.
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