Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Anonymous Lawyer, by Jeremy Blachman

Title: Anonymous Lawyer
Author: Jeremy Blachman

Why not exert my power? Why not have fun with it? I mentioned to Chicago Guy on Monday that I’ve never been sure which toilet on my floor flushes the best, and on Wednesday I had a memo summarizing the options. I wrongly accused a summer associate of taking my rubber band ball last year – turned out it was the janitor – and he made me a new one. That’s the advantage of being in my position. I can make people do things. It’s the one constant here […].

There are a lot of things I can’t control. As you get older, you can’t control your body. My shoulder hurts from throwing a pair of scissors at my secretary last week. My elbow hurts from fighting for one of the swivel chairs at my department lunch in the conference room on Tuesday. My foot hurts from kicking a homeless man who was lingering around my car in the parking. I think he was homeless. He may have been a paralegal.”

~ The Narrator, Anonymous Lawyer

Who is the Anonymous Lawyer? Well, he’s a hiring partner at a monster L.A. law firm, and pretty much takes the award for the World’s Worst Boss. He’s an impatient, crabby, and rude workaholic with any number of insulting prejudices. If you displease him, he will gladly garrote you with office supplies and throw your limp body to the dogs waiting out back by the dumpster – if, that is, firm regulations permitted. In short, he’s about as warm and fuzzy as Genghis Khan.

Most of all, however, he’s wickedly, devilishly funny.

Based upon his popular blog of the same name, Anonymous Lawyer is Jeremy Blachman’s first novel. And no, Blachman himself is not actually a hiring partner at a large law firm. Rather, he’s a recent graduate of Harvard Law School who began his blog as something of a lark, just to see if he could pass as a real partner. Anonymous Lawyer quickly exploded in popularity among law students and professionals, however, with many readers claiming that A.L. perfectly depicted the attitude – if not the exact details – of law firm life. Many readers refused to believe he wasn’t real.

Blachman’s identity, however, was eventually outed by Sara Rimer of the New York Times in Revealing the Soul of a Soulless Lawyer. He was then offered a book deal, and the rest is history.

Seriously...history. Anonymous Lawyer is the first book originally incarnated as a blog and then written in blog format. This isn’t completely new, since “diary” novels and epistolary novels have been around for centuries, but it’s probably of great interest to people reading this. Many of us, I’m sure, probably nurse the secret ambition of having our blogs “discovered” and becoming real writers. Well, Jeremy Blachman’s done it, and I, for one, am willing to be impressed.

For avid followers of the blog, rest assured that the book contains new material making it worth the read. There’s actually a plot. Taking center-stage is an epic battle between A.L. himself and The Jerk – a smooth, sleazy, Harvard-educated partner – over who will become the firm’s next Chairman. The Musician is intriguing as a summer associate who suspects that his heart lies somewhere other than with the law – a stand-in for Blachman himself, perhaps? And an added e-mail exchange between A.L. and his Standford-educated, Yale Law School-bound niece reveals that this crusty schemer may have a human side to him after all.

For those not familiar with the pressure-cooker environment of corporate law firms, Anonymous Lawyer is a tantalizing glimpse into this mostly-unexplored world. While bad legal dramas proliferate on television, there’re none that I know of that give any idea whatsoever of how a law firm actually runs. There’s the strict hierarchy of summer associate, junior associate, senior associate, partner, as well as the torture method tiresome concept of “billable hours,” which together drive all aspects of firm life. In my opinion, this environment is ripe for dramatic exploitation, just as the closed society of sailing ships once provided an excellent laboratory for the study of human character. Happily, NBC has obtained the rights to Anonymous Lawyer, and I can see the show becoming a second The Office – only more evil.

Finally, for people who have no interest in the law whatsoever, Anonymous Lawyer can entertain as nothing more than the quintessential Evil Overlord, cackling over his corporate domain.

The novel is not flawless, however. The plot that has been superimposed upon the usual snarkiness feels a little strained (especially the role played by the Bombshell), and the character of Anonymous Niece is head-scratching. I’m also not quite sure how I feel about the ending. In short, Blachman excels at “being clever,” but is not quite expert yet concerning the deeper aspects of a novel. Still, it’s an amazing debut for a first-time writer. With the hardback priced at $25, I don’t think I’d recommend it to non-lawyers as a purchase, but it’s definitely worth the price of a paperback. And if you have the opportunity to borrow it from the library or a friend (moi!), so much the better.

posted by Elizabeth at 10:40 PM


Blogger reyn said...

I don't even read law books, and that excerpt made me want to check it out.

(You're obviously putting far more effort into this than I had originally intended--thanks a LOT for raising the bar!)

8/03/2006 6:32 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Maybe I will have to borrow it from you sometime. Or get it from a library, seeing as I've got access to just about every library in Ohio. :)

8/06/2006 7:09 PM  

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