Dear Mr. Schaeffer:
Many months ago, I was assigned to write an important appellate brief by a partner in our 760-lawyer firm who should have known better than to trust me to write it. I hate to sell myself short, but appellate briefs just aren’t my thing. Even though the deadline kept getting nearer, I couldn’t bring myself to work on it. Still, I had to look at the trial transcript each day, which was taking up space on my desk. I simply didn’t know what to do. Finally, I said good-bye to my secretary, took the elevator to the basement of my building, and revved up the engine of my car. I had decided to head west. I was going to Aspen where I planned to become a ski lift operator.
Unfortunately, just before reaching the open road, I made the mistake of turning into Borders. I told myself I was just going to run inside to get a cup of coffee and browse through the men's magazines. In fact, I never left. I can’t explain why. Or maybe I can. Borders just didn’t seem as far away as Aspen and the furniture was really comfortable. As for the rest of my plan, I followed it to the letter. Even though I’m only ten minutes from the office, I never went back. Instead, I’ve been returning to Borders each day where I sit in a cozy leather chair and read the graphic novels. It’s not like I’m completely AWOL. As I said, I’m conscientious. I’ve been checking my Blackberry pretty much every thirty minutes. The strange thing is that even though the appellate brief was due a week ago, I’ve had no word from the law firm. Which brings me to my questions. Do you think I might have been wrong about the due date? Or is it more likely that my Blackberry is broken? And how long do you think I have before the firm quits direct-depositing $2,400 a week into my bank account?
Signed, Living-at-Borders in Baltimore
You want to know if your Blackberry is broken? Who cares? What’s happened to you is as good as winning the lottery: your law firm has misplaced you. It happens from time to time at very large firms. Your office is probably off in some distant corner of an upper floor, your secretary has noticed something amiss but doesn’t want a new assignment, and every partner you’ve been working for assumes you must be working for someone else. Meanwhile, you’re still getting paid. Hoo boy! In a few more months, all the associates will figure you’ve been fired, but the partners won’t realize their error until they meet to consider you for partnership—that is, not for twelve or thirteen years. As for the brief, the partner who assigned it to you obviously assigned it simultaneously to someone else. It’s a kind of double-billing that’s generally called “insuring that the job gets done.”
If you ask me, you’re set for life. The only thing that concerns me is your choice of reading material. Men’s magazines and graphic novels? If that’s how you choose to spend your reading time, it’s no wonder you don’t know how to write a legal brief. If I sound preachy, I apologize. Some of my best friends are dolts like you. They’re good company at the bar and always have a funny story to tell me about some girl they know. But as for you, now that you’ve had this windfall, it might be a good time to learn a little more about the English language. I suggest beginning in the “young adult” section and working your way up from there, remembering to stay as far away as possible from books with pictures, weblog compilations, or anything with "deal," "rich," or "billionaire" in the title. Good luck with your new project.
Your friend, Evan Schaeffer[Like this post? It's one of many included in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (And Other Irreverent Oberservations from the Legal Underground). Details here.]
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