Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Second Most Terrifying Thing in Lawyering

I believe that the most terrifying thing I do as an attorney is handing my partner a brief for the first time ever. “Don’t fire me because I’m stupid. Please”

The second most terrifying aspect of my job is when my partner calls me into his office, motions for me to sit down, hands me a copy of a brief that he just wrote and says “I want your thoughts.”

I have no trouble speaking truth to power. I’m pretty adept at it. And perhaps, I engage in it a little too frequently. But this is different. This is my boss, the one who signs my paychecks, handing me his hard work, a red pen and a hunting license. “Don’t fire me because I think you’re stupid. Please”

I took the brief to the morning court call and started to jot down my thoughts as I casually waited my case being. I startled my opposing counsel when I began to laugh at one point…[the word ‘mismash’ is funny to me]. I returned to the office, fired up Word, hit ‘track changes’ and started editing in a manner fitting my linguistic style. Passive voice became active, the word choice became a little more cutting edge and the brief just began to flow.

203 changes later…

I get called into my partner’s office. He’s got the 14 pages of the brief strewn in front of him, a contorted look on his face and he motions for me to sit down. He goes to the last page and begins to talk: “I’m going through this and I am incorporating some of your changes. Except for this one. [Points to the page] This one sentence is supposed to be singular, not plural.” Well, I thought ahh…that it should… “Don’t argue with an English

After taking the hacksaw correction pen to the partner’s baby, I still have a job. At least until the next time he asks for my thoughts…