[Ed. note: The following piece was authored by The Legal Tease, of Sweet Hot Justice fame. Check out her other musings from Sweet Hot Justice here.]
There are a few moments in any young lawyer’s life guaranteed to perk up the day. Closing a deal after a marathon of strained, sleepless nights. Winning a case after three years of document review and trial prep. Finding out you haven’t been included in the firm’s latest slaughter. But none comes close to the thrill of witnessing your opposing counsel have a public, full-out mental breakdown. Call me a sucker for schadenfreude, but there’s just a greasy comfort that sets in when you realize that there’s someone–anyone–outside of your own tortured corner of Big Law who’s closer to losing his mind than you are. Only thing is, that comfort comes with strings–and if you’re not careful, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll double back and take a nice, firm chokehold right around your own neck.
Don’t believe me? Imagine, if you will, the scene that played out in my office a few weeks back: I’d been working on a nightmare bond deal with the most repulsive type of cretin partner imaginable, a deal made all the more ridiculous by the incessant, obnoxious demands from the monumentally horrid senior associate first-chairing for the other side, a 6th-year I’ll call Mitch Haklafti. After a couple of weeks of his tirades, all it took was seeing “Haklafti, Mitch” in my Outlook inbox to set off a fresh round of stomach cramps.
So, around 2 a.m. the night before the deal was set to sign, after a string of all-nighters and increasingly hostile emails from all sides, when I saw a new message arrive from Haklafti, I took another swig of Diet Dr. Pepper and braced myself for what I assumed would be another dose of pain. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was this–including the 16-point, lavender script font:
“Assorted buddies, daddies and babies: please review and let me know if you have any nits by 4.45 a.m. e.s.t., at which time I will send to the totality of working group. Client hasn’t seen. Usual caveats.
-M.H., The WalruS. goo goo gjoob “
Break out your straitjacket and keep on reading, after the jump.
Clearly, this was amazing. Not only was this sent, period, but it was sent to about 50 lawyers and bankers on the working group list, not to mention both clients. After I barked out bits of Dr. Pepper spittle all over my monitor, I felt a ripple of glee tear through me. Honestly, folks, if someone had walked into my office with a bucket full of bottled orgasms right then, I think I would have been less excited. Daddies and babies? Goo goo gjoob, for chrissakes? This was just too good, too humiliating, too…deserved.
Within minutes, though, a cold realization sunk in: Haklafti had seemed like a normal enough guy–a tremendous douchebag, yes, but nothing much out of the ordinary Big Law mold–and he certainly didn’t seem like someone a few breaths away from being fitted for a straitjacket. I started thinking, Am I really that different from this poor slob? How many times in the past few years have I been a couple of billable minutes shy of giving in to some humiliating public meltdown? Four, forty, four hundred? You just never know. You never know when you’ll be cranking along in your Big Law cell one day when suddenly that one comment, that one 4 a.m. phone call, that one Sunday-night email will finally push you over the edge.
So, what do you do? What do you do when you feel the walls of your office start to cave in on your brain? How do you avoid joining Haklafti and his twitching, drooling ilk? Well, as a seasoned pro when it comes to navigating and–so far, at least–deflecting Haklafti-grade mental meltdowns, allow me to offer the following pointers:
Grab a pen and hope for the best, back over at Sweet Hot Justice.