I got extremely busy with LR work and orientation last week to the point that I couldn’t even spare just a couple minutes to update this blog. Off to Alaska tomorrow.
After five days of intensive work, we all needed a break. Friday evening was the perfect opportunity to go out and get a little drunk, and so we did. Late afternoon, we finished all citechecking work (no more citechecking work for me, ever again, because the 2L editors will be taking over that part of the LR business), did a full read on an article (and extended its author an offer to publish it, making us one article closer to our goal of 15 for the whole year), and the entire articles office plus the EIC went to the bars.
The night was quite eventful. Some editors brought their spouses and it seemed like everyone met their significant other in college. On the way to the second bar of the night we ran into some teenagers dressed up like zombies with blood dripping from their hands limping on Main Street. I wanted to take a picture of the kids but couldn’t get my camera out fast enough before they ran a red light (and almost became real zombies). The beer was good, but I probably had two or three too many, as did everyone else. After hours of drinking, chatting, dart-throwing and pool-shooting, the married couples left before midnight. I stayed on with the hungry bachelors and headed to a diner that’s supposedly very popular among the locals, according to one editor who had lived in Ann Arbor for almost a decade. He was right. It was 1 a.m. and the place was nearly full.
As I turned over the pages in the greasy menu that seemed to have been in use in perpetuity and couldn’t decide whether I wanted the $4.75 meal or the $5.15 meal, it suddenly hit me that the free fancy lunches were a thing of the past. Half-sober at this point, I turned around and smiled at the 20-year-old waitress, who had a prominent nose ring, tatoos on her arms, and her hair dyed green, “I’d like to start with some coffee.”
At about 6:30 p.m., I was finally done gathering my portion of the sources for some international law article that we accepted a while ago. The happy hour that the law review hosted at a nearby bar was long over by the time I got there.
I had nothing planned for the evening, so I stopped by the Border’s bookstore and came out with an Alaska travel guide, to be used for bedtime reading in the next few days. There was a small ice-cream store right around the corner. I must have walked past it hundreds of times in the past two years and never went inside, but today, I had nothing better to do, so I stepped inside and got a giant scoop of ice-cream on a cone.
Shortly afterwards I stood on the sidewalk, licking that giant ice-cream cone as I sized up the store again, only to realize that this was another oddity of Ann Arbor. In addition to the two Chinese restaurants with 100 yards from each other and the two movie theaters almost on the same block, we actually also have two ice-cream parlors right next to each other competing for business. How could I have not noticed this before!
I couldn’t eat the ice-cream fast enough, so it began to drip. But even the melting ice-cream couldn’t prevent me from watching with intense curiosity a tow-truck slowly backing into position to tow a parked car with a bunch of parking tickets on it. Not far away, a city parking enforcement guy was furiously writing something on his logbook and talking to the tow-truck driver at the same time. It must have been a good ten, fifteen minutes before the ordeal was over, as was my ice-cream.
Then I headed back down to the library to think over the little things that I encountered today but would have missed or ignored on any other day. For no apparent reason, all of a sudden I realized how much I like the library now. It is spacious. It has A/C and wireless LAN. It has big sofa chairs, complete with little tables where you can put up your feet. Even the bathroom is nearby. Put in a shower and a bed, and I can see myself living here comfortably.
In retrospect I was in a pretty bad mood yesterday when I arrived in Ann Arbor and moved into my friend’s place. I missed Ping and Anna, and stayed up until 2 a.m. in the simmering heat, drinking the three-month-stale but ice-cold beer from my friend’s fridge, reflecting upon what I had given up chasing one goal after another. If I didn’t bother trying out for law review I’d be able to spend the whole summer with Ping and Anna , and if I didn’t quit the job to go to law school we’d be together all year long, and Anna probably would have a backyard to play in by now. Sometimes I tell myself I did all this for the family too — at least when I graduate I can afford a much bigger backyard and send Anna off to expensive (and hopefully good) schools and Ping won’t have to work and can become the stay-at-home mom that she wants to be every once in a while. But other times I also asked myself who the hell am I kidding? This whole law school thing originated from a selfish motive–to help get me where *I* wanted to be in 10 or 20 years. Justifying it ex post facto with other less selfish reasons is pretty pathetic.
So at approximately 1:30 a.m. I wanted to call Ping up and tell her that I was going to withdraw all my clerkship applications. I am not about to put another ambition of mine over Ping, much less Anna. The possibility of one more year of separation being very real, I thought I had enough. I was tired of always being on the move. I hated not being able to be with the family. I wanted to settle down in one place.
The third beer did it. At about 2 O’Clock the effects of cheap Budweiser finally kicked in. I slept until the roar of road traffic woke me up this morning. Went to the library, saw my law review friends, exchanged our summer stories, threw some frisbee, and became happy again. Whatever difficulties in life I perceived last night seemed to have melted away with the laughters of friends, and things will work themselves out again as they always have.
Ann Arbor near the end of the summer is as quiet as it was when I left it in early May. There are still a few students in the law library, probably summer starters or undergraduates. The room I rented for the next two weeks has no AC and doubles as two other persons’ summer storage, leaving me barely enough space to put my own luggage and lie down to sweat. There is, of course, no internet connection. How to spend the next 12 days is going to be a challenge.
So today is the last day at the firm. I turned in my employee ID card and Blackberry at precisely 5 p.m., hugged good-bye to my secretary and recruiter, and walked out of the building. I took the ferry home for what was likely going to be the last time in a while, and watched the now all-too-familiar Manhattan skyscrapers, the bright orange Staten Island ferry, and the Statute of Liberty from a distance as my ferry left the Wall Street pier and headed for the New Jersey side.
I wonder what it will be like if and when I come back next year, but first I will have to worry about school life for another year, and before that I will return to the old routine of citechecking and sourcegathering for the journal. Casebooks, outlines, and grades all seemed to be artifacts from the distant past but newly excavated to tell a different story about myself. I wondered whether life as a lawyer on Wall Street was what I wanted and, with it so close in reach, it was almost impossible to resist the temptation to just go with the flow. I really didn’t mind listening to the Goldman Sachs bankers belittling the lawyers on conference calls–I could almost become friends with some of them if it weren’t for their presumption that I couldn’t do math or I knew nothing about economics and had to be lectured on the subjects.
Oh and the consulting firm that didn’t want me to go on their 3-day all expenses paid vacation in Puerto Rico emailed me again to ask me to come to an interview for a fulltime position, noting that they were “impressed” by my performance last time and wanted to give me another chance. No thank you, I said. It was meant not to be.
The ferry made its routine stop near the Goldman Sachs building that looked like a giant dildo standing all by itself on the Jersey shore, as I stepped out and habitually reached for my Blackberry to look at the time, only to realize that the little device that had been hanging on my belt for a little over two and half months was not there any more.
They offered; I accepted; and I got a bottle of champaigne as part of the firm’s tradition.
This is my last week at the firm. Last Friday afternoon, between the second course and dessert at an exquisite French restaurant in Tribeca called Chanterelle, I took a peek at my Blackberry as everyone else at the table did the same. I wasn’t expecting anything. I was, after all, just a “summer,” the shorthand term for “summer associates,” which was just another name for “clueless but well-fed summer interns,” but sounded better. I looked at mine just because I would feel oddly estranged from the group if I didn’t do the customary Blackberry thing with everyone else.
Then I found this little message lying in my inbox: “Please give me a call.” Short and sweet, from one of the “assignment coordinators,” who are mid-level associates that hand out assignments to the summers. I put down my napkin and left to make the call outside the restaurant as the waiter, tall, handsome and easily passable as a model for GQ, quickly picked up the napkin and gently folded into some shape before laying it next to my plate.
Chanterelle is one of those places that you wouldn’t even know it’s a restaurant if you walked by. The door was unmarked, and I don’t recall seeing a sign anywhere on the outside with the restaurant’s name on it. The neighborhood wasn’t particularly inspiring: old townhouses, some grocery stores, graffiti work here and there, and the big city noise just around the corner. All windows were half-curtained, and only the most curious and persistent tourist who strayed into this neighborhood could figure out what was hidden behind the curtains by peeping underneath them. The restaurant itself is only open for lunch two days out of the work week, for only 2.5 hours each day, and it is always difficult to get a reservation there.
So I called, and before I knew it, I got myself another assignment on a Friday afternoon. I was probably thinking about the Almond and Crème Fraiche Tart I was about to indulge myself in (not that I knew what the heck was a Crème Fraiche Tart before I ordered, but I was going to find out in a minute) when I said I could take the assignment. And after I hung up the phone, I realized I probably made a mistake. I took the assignment without asking when it would be due.
Not that I don’t want to work. I think I work pretty hard, as far as summer associates go. I just didn’t want to work this weekend, which would be my last one with Ping and Anna in a while. I will be flying back to Ann Arbor next week for journal duties, so I had things planned this weekend: Saturday to the Delaware River and the waterfalls, Sunday at home, relax, and play with Anna. And this assignment came in an unusual way. I’ve never heard of anyone getting an assignment this way – usually people have to fill out a form to ask for work to do and indicate their interest areas before they are assigned to anything. And this one just fell into my lap. And I knew next to nothing about this assignment: I was told to call another associate and get details from him.
Maybe it’s not that bad, I thought, as I sat down and studied the Crème Fraiche Tart that came with its own silver spoon. Maybe it’s a small project and I will have a whole week to work on it. In any event, I thought, I need to enjoy my Crème Fraiche Tart. I stopped ordering dessert during these lunches shortly after I started working at the firm, because the meals themselves were already fattening enough, but even if one can say no to the run-of-the-mill ice-cream, cake or sorbet, who could resist a Crème Fraiche Tart–whatever that is?
* * *
Now it’s the Wednesday after that weekend. As it turned out, the assignment I got on Friday afternoon was due Monday morning. I still went to the Delaware River on Saturday, but worked a good 10 hours on Sunday, plus another 4 on Monday morning, before I was able to hand in something I wasn’t too embarrassed to hand in.
That wasn’t the end of it. Just as other summer associates are using this last week to go out to even more lunches, dinners, manicures, broadway shows, golf lessons, and everything you can imagine and the firm is willing to pay for, except real work (or, for the hard-working few, using the time to study for MPRE this Friday), I am stuck in my office revising the thing I wrote over the weekend. The memo was good, I was told on Tuesday (it turned out that the Monday deadline was wholly unnecessary), and if I didn’t mind I should expand on this, this and this point, find more case law in favor of the client (none existed, I wanted to say, but resisted the urge), and hand in another draft this Friday.
I didn’t mind. After a two and half month stint in biglaw, I all of a sudden realized that I had become one of “them.” I check my Blackberry compulsively. I like good food in fancy restaurants and riding around town in those shiny black Lincoln Towncars. And I bitch and moan about work.