Sorry to waste your time!

When I worked at a law firm, I knew that lawyers’ responses to audit letters — in which the firm confirms to auditors the status of litigation pending against a client — were a massive waste of time.

Firm policy dictated that we would speak only pablum in response to audit letters. We would identify each case by name, court, and number; explain that a complaint had been filed; list the causes of action; say where we stood in discovery and whether a trial date had been set; and then say that we didn’t have a clue who would win. (If we thought that the client’s chance of losing was either “probable” or “remote,” we were required to say so. I’m not sure we ever saw such a case.)

Every once in a while, a junior associate would receive an audit letter and write a real response to it — analyzing the lawsuit, the tactics, and who would win. When the powers that be learned about that mistake, there’d be hell to pay: “How could you write those things? Didn’t you run this past an audit letter review partner? We don’t actually provide information in those responses, you fool! Never do this again!”

As a partner at a firm, I knew that responding to audit letters was an expensive nuisance: A full-time audit letter assistant cranked out first drafts of responses to the letters. (That’s all she did, eight hours per day, 52 weeks per year — honest.) The appropriate client relationship partner reviewed each draft. An “audit letter review partner” (I had the misfortune to be one of those for four or five years) took another pass at the thing. Only then — after the letter had been stripped of all content — did the response go out the door. That was an awful lot of time and money invested to insure that the firm didn’t accidentally say something.

But I always assumed that someone — the client, the auditors, someone — thought those ridiculous letters served a purpose. Now I’ve gone in-house, and it turns out that audit letters serve no purpose at all. . . .

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Happy Valentine’s Day to you if you have a date lined up tonight! For the rest of you, Happy Staying-In-To-Watch-A-Movie-And-Drink-With-Your-Single-Friends Day. Last year, two Washington lawyers actually let me set them up on a V-Day date. This year, with my pool of Chicago candidates, I didn’t bother. I wouldn’t wish the boring Chicago dating scene on my worst enemy. Playing matchmaker and condemning more lonely souls to a yawn-inducing evening is as cruel as running a dog-fighting ring. At least the latter leads to a little biting and scratched backs for the participants.

So Courtship Connection is moving on and heading West. Hey San Francisco, do you have any single types willing to put their love lives into ATL’s not-so-capable hands? Fill out our survey! I will try to send you out on a blind date with a seemingly-compatible fellow legal type. You will dish the dirt afterwards. I will write about it, keeping you anonymous. And ATL commenters will provide their sincere, caring, and helpful commentary.

While waiting for the California girls and boys to jump into our dating pool, I will share with you the final Chicago date. Like the others, it did not go well. Why? Someone’s inferiority complex killed the mood….

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