You were always sensitive to the problems of the world, from the smallest infractions to the largest miscarriages of justice. The strong preyed on the weak, the rich on the poor, the smart on the stupid. The downtrodden needed protection from their predators—and often themselves. You thought that lawyers, protectors of the innocent and upholders of the law, were the real heroes. Your opinions may or may not have been informed by whichever David E. Kelly show was popular at any given time during your formative years.
Inspired by attorneys of history and pop culture, you were driven to join their ranks. While the other nerds read Tolkien, you read Dershowitz. You joined the debate team to hone your arguing skills and the drama club to craft a courtroom presence. You consumed the legal process like other kids consumed MTV. Fridays were “Deconstructing Law & Order” nights. Your college application essay contrasted the values of the competing Boston-based law firms in The Practice and Ally McBeal.
Around the time you were acing your LSAT you heard a statistic that there were more kids in law school than had lived on the earth between a billion B.C. and 1971. You were undeterred. The Constitution, the environment, and the huddled masses needed all the valiant defenders they could get. The world needed you, J.D., Attorney at Law.
The statistics were not in your favor. Almost half of your graduating class immediately signed up for another academic tour of duty, this time in pursuit of MBAs which was just throwing good money after bad in an economy that saw more and more MBA graduates trying to make it as Internet food critics. You didn’t pity them, though, because they should have put their supposed research and analytical skills to better use before blindly following the nearest available path to an unknown destination.
You had offers fresh out of school, but nothing that made your engine fire. Student loans are the number one cause of erosion of moral high ground. Being a junior associate at a powerful corporate firm was the opposite of what you wanted to do, but the pay was good, and the experience would be worth a few years of selling out. Corporate citizens are still citizens after all, and they need the protection of the law. In a way, you were even more on the side of the underdog as a corporate lawyer. Corporations make the economy work and they are big targets for greedy people. Lawyers tell themselves the best lies.
You found that your passion for the law had no place in the practical application of the law. At least not corporate law. Everything was done in conference rooms, on phone calls, and, on occasion, at fancy midtown steak houses. There were no impassioned arguments, no searches for the truth or examinations of the philosophical meaning of justice. There were only contracts, and breaches of such, and patents and infringements of such, and loopholes and exploitation of such. Even the more exciting parts of this practice were not available to you as you spent the majority of your days mired in junior-level tedium. Your typical day broke down something like this:
6:00 AM — Wake up, coffee, work out hard (fatties don’t make partner).
7:00 AM — Call the car service even though your office is right on top of a subway stop (straphangers don’t make partner).
7:30 AM — Starbucks. Coffee run (no partnership-related ulterior motive, you think the barista is hot) (oh wait, people who date below their station don’t make partner).
8:00 AM — Put the finishing touches on some interrogatories for yet another Apple patent infringement suit.
9:00 AM — Congratulate someone more important than you on… anything you can think of (sycophants are 46% more likely to make partner).
10:00 AM — Spend an hour deposing some unimportant person’s secretary on autopilot while you daydream about the barista.
11:00 AM — Play another round of Sexual Harassment Roulette with opposing counsel.
12:00 PM — Lunch at your desk. Everyone else on the Apple case is at Smith & Wollensky — and billing the time. You have depositions to review.
1:00 PM — Try once again to time your bathroom break with a senior partner in your department. Miss by 45 seconds and resolve to try again (people who linger at the urinal don’t make partner).
2:00 PM — Take on some pro bono work for a local non-profit. Wrack your brains trying to figure out how to bill the hours to a client. (Creative billers? They make partner.)
4:30 PM — Work on a fifteenth draft of a basic non-compete/non-disclosure for a high tech client who is way more interested in his idea than anyone else will be (there’s those billable hours we need).
6:30 PM — Meet the most upwardly-mobile fellow associates for drinks (people who hang out with scrubs don’t make partner).
The pattern continued for years. The only real change in the routine was when you decided to push hard for partnership. The need to bill more hours superseded the pro bono work. With nothing left to anchor you to the ideals that brought you to the law you were free to pursue more lucrative goals. The firm had taken on a major client in the private defense sector, the kind that deals largely in the disposal of troublesome political targets from great distance. You handled most of their work, and because of that you were at the table with powerful men. When it surfaced that they were responsible for atrocities in a war zone you had no problem constructing the legal firewall that absolved them of wrongdoing. Somehow, even though it dominated the news cycle for weeks, it barely registered with you that nobody faced justice. It wasn’t the first time you bailed them out, but it was the most significant.
You were sure that was a big enough win to carry your name through the next partnership vote and when you were passed over for the fifth year you decided to take matters into your own hands. Like any smart lawyer with dirty hands you had been collecting blackmail material for years. You decided it was time to put it to use. Once you became partner it wouldn’t matter how you got there. You took it to the senior partner on the client team and you told him what you would do with it, and what would happen to him if your status at the firm didn’t improve. He assured you that there wouldn’t be a problem, and that he would call an emergency partnership meeting to reconsider you.
You went home feeling like you had gotten the best of the bastard, and that in a sick way you had finally earned your spot as a partner. You kicked back on the couch with an expensive scotch, gazing at the view outside your window. You were too engrossed with daydreams about your new life to notice the point of red light enter your crystal glass and refract brilliantly onto the ice. The bullet entered your eye faster than the sound of breaking glass hit your ear drum and the maid found you the next day with a watered down scotch still resting on your lap.