Dear Mr. Schaeffer:
I should have thought twice before becoming managing partner of a 550-lawyer firm. But I didn’t think twice. Instead, I said yes even though it’s well known that our firm has been cursed since the mid-1930s. It all started with the Flood of 1935, which destroyed our entire building and swept five secretaries to their deaths. In 1947, just after the firm had recovered from the flood, there was a fire that gutted the firm’s second building. Although no one perished in that tragedy, the entire law library went up in smoke, not to mention a huge hoard of Cuban cigars and a world-renowned stamp collection owned by the head of the firm’s trusts-and-estates department.
Though the flood and the fire were bad enough, the curse was just getting underway. Since 1947, there have been three earthquakes, a rat infestation, a bout with dysentery that felled three senior partners, several typhoons, an instance when all the secretaries became pregnant at once, and a near miss with an out-of-control meteorite. The meteorite struck only last week: it busted through the building’s top three floors with a bang like a nuclear explosion and didn’t stop until it came to rest in the middle of the 67th-floor conference-room table during a meeting of the firm’s executive committee.
No one was hurt, and that’s what really has me worried. That damn space rock was supposed to kill us all. But now we’ve angered the fates and there’s no telling what will happen. On Monday morning I called a meeting of the entire firm in order to sound the alarm. In very strong terms, I encouraged all the members of the firm to wear their seatbelts, discontinue jaywalking, and think seriously about purchasing bicycle helmets to protect their valuable heads.
Did they care about what I had to say? No! I could hardly get a word in edgewise. You know what they wanted to talk about instead? The woman who’s in charge of the phones kept complaining that her name doesn’t appear on the firm’s website. The IT people kept butting in to say that we should quit using the word “solution” when talking about legal technology. As for the partners, if they said it once, they said it a hundred times: they all want to move beyond the “eat what you kill” philosophy to a more “collaborative, corporate-modeled culture.”
What’s gotten into these people? The world is coming to an end, and all they’re worried about are these insignificant things that would only matter to complete numskulls. Is it any wonder that I’m thinking about jumping from the 67th floor to my death?
Signed, Standing on a Ledge in Los Angeles
Dear Standing on a Ledge:
Jump if you must, but first let me say that I understand your frustration. Law firms can be very insular, closed-off places. That the members of your firm didn’t react at all when you informed them that they were being harassed by the dark forces of evil means either that they are in denial or, more likely, engaged in typical lawyerly navel-gazing. For people in the legal field, the law is practically all that matters. They seem to forget that just beyond the walls of their law firm lies a much wider world circumscribed by much more pressing questions. For example, does God exist? Does Satan? What about ghosts and goblins? Or vampires—do vampires roam the earth? All of these questions are much more important than petty concerns about law-firm websites, legal technology, and how much a bunch of greedy partners should get paid.
How are you going to shock your firm into paying attention to what really matters? In the old days, they used to sacrifice a virgin by throwing her into a volcano. Not only did this appease the gods, but it also made the townspeople pay much greater attention to the priests, especially if the townspeople were virgins or happened to know one. I suggest a similar sort of ritual for your law firm. Since volcanoes are hard to come by, you’ll have to make do with the incinerator in the basement of your building. The role of the virgin should by played by your youngest, most nubile junior associate. When work resumes next week, lure her into the basement just before lunch and shove her in.
During the premodern era, it was well-recognized that desperate times called for desperate measures. The same is true today. After you have completed my recipe for appeasing the gods, you will certainly be met with some harsh criticism. But if you can avoid being beaten to death by an angry mob of secretaries or being led away in handcuffs by the FBI, you will be certain that your luck has changed. And the next time you call a meeting of your law firm, I guarantee you’ll have everyone's attention.
Your friend, Evan Schaeffer*
1. Advice to Clients of Lawyers #1 (I Killed My Lawyer)
2. Advice to Young Lawyers #13 (The Senior Partner Hasn't Bathed)
3. The "Advice" Category--all previous advice posts
*Author’s Note This post is dedicated to Monica Bay, the newest member of the pantheon of Law.com weblogging gods and goddesses. I suppose it was somewhat rude of me to riff so perversely on her introductory blurb in this post. On the other hand, I’m advertising her weblog even though it barely exists. It’s my own small sacrifice to someone I’m certain will someday be an awe-inspiring weblogging deity.