Monday, September 29, 2008

After the Reckoning

I left you, dear readers/shy commenters, a bit in the lurch on Thursday. Indeed I--and my colleagues--were haled into a meeting in the main conference room later that day. The chairs had been removed, ominously, to fit all the people. We packed in, and spilled over to the smaller rooms nearby. As I stood amidst the nervous chatter, I looked around and saw, with great embarrassment, how many people work at the firm I had never before laid eyes on: IT people, kitchen workers, mail room guys emerged from the lower floors and stood shoulder to shoulder with attorneys to hear the formal news of their termination. I suppose when the executioner's blade falls, there is no class, there is no creed, that separates us. The chairman appeared and wasted little time in announcing that the firm was taking steps to dissolve (with a formal vote for dissolution scheduled for the next day).

The news was greeted with a mix of stunned silence and bitter smiles. Something can be a long-time-coming, but still knock the wind out of you. Soon, the smiles began to vanish, the silence turned to sighs, and as the San Francisco office's managing partner delivered his eulogy, a slow dirge about the venerable firm he joined before I was born, the sighs turned into tears: the same secretaries who had been sobbing at their desks before passed out tissue paper and hid their eyes behind sunglasses -- perhaps that is not remarkable. What is remarkable though, at least to me, is this: scores of grown men, luminaries in their field, weeping in the arms of any who would have them. I have seen nothing like it before.

I continue to work. A law firm in dissolution is still a law firm. Business winds down, and euthanization is set for November 28th. I work on cases that will find new homes elsewhere. I work hard for people whose good opinion will have no bearing on my career. I receive emails from partners about job leads. I trip over boxes, heading to the men's room. I sit at my desk as representatives of potential sub-lessees poke their heads in to my office, sizing up the space, but ignoring the human being seated before them. I will be at work tomorrow morning, but yesterday I was having some problems with my computer and called the IT helpdesk, only to find I had reached a disconnected number.

These are strange times.

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