Long before this book came to fruition, the question “Who is Anonymous Lawyer?” was all over the Internet. The premise of a powerful, hiring partner at a top law firm telling the world what he really thinks did, in fact, originate as a blog.
That blog was so successful that the writer decided to pen a book, and most avid blogsters and a whole heap of new fans are glad he did. The question then became, “Who is Jeremy Blachman?” The guy who wrote the blogs under the guise of being a partner in a law firm is in fact a graduate of Harvard Law School who, after discovering the realities inside a corporate law firm, decided to tell the world how life really is in the tough, go-get-‘em world of corporate law in America.
The book’s premise is actually quite thin. A selfish, arrogant hiring partner of a law firm wants to be chairman so badly he will do almost anything. A niece helps him start a blog, and through it the world gets a look into the devious mind of a man who has the power to hire, fire, humiliate, and even destroy the lives of people who work for his firm.
Then someone discovers the secret blog with the potential to ruin his career. Can he do a deal and come out of it unscathed - or even better off? Along the way, dirt is dished and much of the crazy mentality of the legal corporate world exposed.
Though on its own not much of a story, the trick is that it is hilariously funny. Whether that is because you are part of the legal world and know people like this or because you think Blachman must have a very vivid imagination does not really matter much. This is caustic wit, some of the best satire I have ever read, and I recommend it to lawyers, non-lawyers, blog readers and non-blog readers alike.
When the devious, masochistic Anonymous Lawyer is not complaining about his chief nemesis and main competition for chairman, The Jerk (whose office is seven square feet smaller – he measured), he insults every minority possible and makes his opinions of paralegals, secretaries, and other pond scum hanging around the firm known.
He despises anyone with outside interests, with his emphasis on billable hours so high that toilet breaks are seen as akin to treason:
‘..But still, he needs to commit. The fact that he drinks so much water is going to hurt his career. We can’t have an associate who keeps going to the bathroom. That’s billable time he’s wasting. It’s Ridiculous…
He revels in giving his interns nonsense jobs that will take days just to make them suffer. Fancy sorting through twelve boxes, each full of a thousand pages, and re-sorting them into order based on the number stamped on each sheet? Or this request:
When I took the bar exam, there were people who hooked themselves up to catheters so they wouldn’t lose valuable time with bathroom trips. That’s smart planning. Those are the kind of associates we need.’
‘Well, I could always use a summary of ninth circuit cases where employers tried to deny employees health, with some recommendations for how our clients can potentially do this too. Just in case they ask?’
He hates almost everyone and will do anything to make life more difficult for those he works with. His least favorite summer intern is The Suck Up. He also does not think highly of The One Who Dresses Like A Slut, The One Who Missed Her Kid's Funeral, Foreign Guy, Black Guy, or Harvard Guy, either.
This is stereotypical corporate world stuff, yet Anonymous Lawyer is believable; stereotypes must have some basis in reality, after all. Here we have a super-confident guy at the top looking down on the mere mortals below, doing what he wants with them because he can. You can’t help but laugh, egged on by the same kind of guilty urge that makes you peek out the window as you pass a multiple-vehicle accident.
My biggest laugh-out-loud moment is when one the employees phones to say she won’t be in because she has just given birth with complications but will be certain to be in the next day. It’s so crazy and over the top, yet you can’t help but wonder whether she will in fact lose her job or actually do the urgent research task Anonymous Lawyer sends to her via her ever-present Blackberry, “Just for fun.”
I have worked in a corporate law firm, and although Anonymous Lawyer must be (mustn’t it?) exaggerated to some extent, the point is certainly valid. If you want huge success in the corporate law world, forget about a life outside of work and do whatever the partners want you to do. You’d better believe you are replaceable, and you’d better believe that men will get better chances than females, and you’d better believe the non-maternal female who is sterile will go farther quicker than her maternal female counterparts, unless they are blonde with huge tits - and no, I am not exaggerating.
Some thoughts by readers on the book include a therapist’s-view look into Anonymous Lawyer’s psyche to discover a desperately unhappy man with low self-esteem who lives an unhappy, unfulfilling life and deserves a hard lesson. He shows signs of being human in his emails to Anonymous Niece, about whom he obviously cares, so he can’t be all that bad, can he? Isn’t he just reaching out for help?
Who cares? It’s like trying to find the good side of Hitler, who apparently loved and doted on his dogs. This is satire and hilariously funny, so try not to read between the lines and find deep meaning unless you ever have to hire a lawyer, are one, or are thinking about becoming one.
It is difficult to find a comparison to this book; the topic and format together make it unique. There is plenty of satire out there, and some email-format novels, which don’t really work. Somehow putting a blog in book format worked for Blachman. Perhaps it would have worked, too, for the likes of Seinfeld had he come up with the idea.
Some criticisms of the book are that the blog format interspersed with emails is hard to read. I do not agree and feel it flows very well. Some readers of the blog believe the book does not scrub up to the real thing; others think the opposite. Some say this is way too exaggerated (no one can really be that bad) and that Blachman cannot possible know what the corporate legal world is really like on his limited experience (three months as a summer associate). The fact that those who have in fact spent many years in this world nod all the way through as they read indicates that, for the few months he was there, Blachman was an astute observer.
Some people just plain don’t like it and don’t think it is funny. They are in the minority and have probably just been through costly litigation. It is funny and will entertain, maybe even get you hooked on blogs or give you the impetus you need to change your career path. Either way, you’re a winner – except that the time spent reading it probably will not count toward your billable hours.