I fought the law, and the law won

It’s 1:00 a.m.

I’m standing in front of a metal rolling bookcase.  It stretches from the floor almost to the ceiling.

Always check in between the stacks before you turn the handle, I remember the librarian telling us.  Otherwise you might crush someone by accident.

There’s no one here to crush.  It’s just me.  Yet for some reason, I still peer into the darkened stacks quickly before I turn the handle.  There is a musty smell in this room, old paper and leather.  The oil from the fingers of the ghosts of lawyers past, turning the pages of corporate minute books.  Ancient students conducting due diligence by candlelight.

I wish that I had a candle, because I didn’t bother to find out the special code to turn on the lights in this part of the floor.  I squint as I try to make out the writing on the spines of the leather-bound volumes.

This is crazy, I think, as I press my forehead against the cool metal of the bookshelf.

I sent the students home an hour ago.  They had made a complete mess of the closing room, and had somehow lost three of the documents.  But they don’t know any better, and one appeared to be on the verge of tears.  After taking a deep breath, I told her what she had done wrong, and not to worry about the closing tomorrow.  I would have everything fixed by then.

I gingerly touch my finger where I had gashed it open on a file folder during the three hours that I spent in a boardroom with another client.   He spent the evening drinking red wine and signing hundreds of documents that I handed to him, one by one.  I could have handed him a paper selling his company to me for a dollar, and he would have signed it.  He was so agitated that I didn’t want to interrupt the signing session to get a band-aid for my finger.  I tried to squeeze it, to put enough pressure on the deep, painful cut to stop the bleeding.   No blood on the closing documents, please.  Instead, I stealthily wiped the blood onto my black pants while the client wasn’t looking.

I remember the dinner sitting on my desk, uneaten.  I had taken one bite when I retrieved the voicemail message, urgently bidding me to the boardroom, where I had found the nine-months pregnant associate, looking pale and tired.  Please stay here with this client and get him to sign everything that has his name on it, she quietly pleaded.  I couldn’t say no.  She thanked me and rushed back to her office to draft more documents for him to sign.

On my way out to get that dinner, I bumped into the senior partner.

“Hello, X,” I said.

“Hello, A.  This would be a very early time to be leaving the office, if that’s what you’re doing,”  he responds coldly, before stalking off in the other direction.

I press my forehead against the cool metal of the bookshelf.  It is dark.  I am alone.

It’s 1:00 a.m.  I will find the minute books I am seeking, and I will take them downstairs to my office.  If I’m lucky, I can spend an hour drafting documents for another file, and I will catch a cab home at 2:00.  I can get four hours sleep before I have to get up to come back and sort out the mess in that other closing room.  Not bad.

As I trudge down the nearly silent hallway to my office, books in hand, I look into the pregnant associate’s office.  She is still sitting at her computer.

“Please go home,” I practically beg her.  It scares me to see her here, every night, this close to her due date.  We have been repeating this little routine every day for a month, on the weekends, too.  I know that this is not a weekend because I am wearing a suit.

She smiles weakly.  “You should go home,” she says in return.  We both know we won’t.

I finally drag myself into a cab after 2:00 a.m.

“Queen and Woodbine, in the Beaches,” I call out.  My eyes are swimming.

“Oh, no worries, lady.  I know where you live.”

I chuckle.  Of course he does.  Every taxi driver at this stand knows where I live.

“I drove you home on Tuesday, remember?”

“Yes, of course I remember,” I lie.  “I thought today was Tuesday.”

“No, no, lady.  Today is Thursday.”  He laughs.  “You lawyers, you work too hard.”

The cab drives off into the cold November night.


20 Responses to “I fought the law, and the law won”

  1. October 1, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Beautiful… and a bit tragic.

  2. October 1, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Andrea, you need a new job. How can yours be worth all this trouble?

    • 4 shoeboxdweller
      October 1, 2009 at 12:03 pm

      Spoken like a man on vacation.

      I have good news for you, Snay — the day I described in this post took place in November 2006.

  3. October 1, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Or a man on staycation, and I’m sad, because I have to be back to work on Sunday. 😦

  4. 6 rondamarie
    October 1, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    And to think I wanted to be a lawyer at one time. Which of us is smarter, the one with the law degree or the one that decided not to get one? 🙂

    • 7 shoeboxdweller
      October 1, 2009 at 1:27 pm

      The one benefit of being a lawyer is never feeling a need to answer a question directly.

      • 8 f.B
        October 2, 2009 at 12:11 am

        This is about as perfect a reply as I’ve ever seen.

        But reading that this was November 2006 is such a relief. I know that’s a pretty selfish thing to say, but I’m relieved for you.

  5. October 1, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    My sister tells me these kinds of lawyer horror stories, and I always just shake my head. Me, the woman who throws a fit if I’m at my office past 6 p.m.

    I’m a work wimp. Meaning, I am infinitely impressed with your stamina.

    • 10 shoeboxdweller
      October 1, 2009 at 1:37 pm

      We trick ourselves into thinking that this is stamina, and that we should be impressed.

      We shouldn’t. There is no glory in losing one’s life and health for anything less than our life’s passion. There is no shame in recognizing that, and acting upon it.

      This is why I don’t practise law anymore.

  6. 11 Marie
    October 1, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Sooooo about that book you should be writing….because then you can retire from being a lawyer, not have to work such harsh hours and make hoards of money from your awesome book.

  7. 13 L
    October 1, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    gorgeously written
    I am glad this is old news.

  8. October 1, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Freedom is a beautiful thing, eh?

  9. October 1, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I’m a municipal worker. That shit doesn’t happen for me.

    Of course, I have no perks and a very low ceiling.

    You give a little, you get a little.

    • 18 shoeboxdweller
      October 1, 2009 at 3:44 pm

      For some reason, when I read “low ceiling”, I immediately thought of Being John Malkovich.

      Yeah, I know what you really meant.

  10. October 1, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Aside from the insanely long day, the part of this I marveled at was you ability to make someone cry. I’m actually trying to picture how *you* would make a student cry. Perhaps it’s just the fact that attorney A is a very, very different person from A in D.C. Or is it that the students have yet to learn how to work a strait week without food or sleep and they’re weak?

    • 20 shoeboxdweller
      October 1, 2009 at 3:46 pm

      I didn’t make her cry. She was upset because she couldn’t find the documents. Killer fatigue was also a factor.

      ETA: It’s a fine line with students, because you want to just take the work away from them, but they also have to learn. In the middle of the night, when the teacher is on the verge of complete mental breakdown herself, it requires a lot of deep breathing and remembering how stupid we all were when we started. And then you send them home – because someone should get some sleep.

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