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On Friday I witnessed the reward for survival in this world. One of… - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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[Nov. 22nd, 2003|05:00 pm]
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

On Friday I witnessed the reward for survival in this world. One of the original partners in the firm asked me to shape up a Federal Court of Claims motion for summary judgment - table of contents, table of authorities, exhibit list, Shepardizing cases and verifying quotes. Fred's an older fellow, but lively, and I sat at his desk as he told me everything he wanted, showed me where documents were - he's on vacation next week - and confidently gave me marching orders.

He faltered a bit, then added, "And if you see anywhere I could have said something better, don't hesitate to tell me."

And then he glanced through a copy of the motion he'd written, as returned by one of the managing partners. It was filled with corrections, rewrites, notes. Fred sort of caved inward, got smaller in his seat. "I'll check these changes and have my secretary revise the draft. It might change some of the page numbers."

That's okay, I replied. Computers make that easy.

He nodded, but I could see the humiliation.

Later in the afternoon the senior paralegal on staff said she'd heard that I was overwhelmed. I explained that I had thought that Fred's project was due next week, but it wasn't until the week after, so I was okay. She gave a sardonic laugh and waved her hand, "Oh, you have to learn - nothing Fred gives you is important. Just smile and nod."

Before this law firm was sold to another, Fred's name was part of the name of the firm itself. At one time, he was a young, ambitious attorney hanging out his shingle. Not that long ago, he was the person everyone called "Mr." and whose orders commanded immediate attention.

He was born with a strong constitution, and did not succumb to childhood illness. His reflexes saved him at least once from a deadly accident. He stayed healthy, and worked hard, and this is his reward.

His mind is failing, but not so quickly as to spare him the knowledge that it's happening. His life's work has been taken away from him by younger men, He's been moved into an interior office smaller than mine. He is trying to hold onto his dignity while asking a paralegal to check his work.

What a spectacularly bad system.

It worked when the elderly were rare, and the only source of memory available. They were revered, and treasured. Their ability to recall what happened 50 years ago more than made up for their inability to remember what happened yesterday. Not anymore. We think that everything important is stored in a book somewhere, and them that can't keep up should be left behind. It's a lie, but it's the lie by which the world lives.

And we're all headed there. Those of us fortunate enough to survive to a ripe old age must then suffer the deprevations of our success. There is no reward for it, only decay.

I will not dismiss what Fred says as unimportant, nor the words of Walt, the other surviving original partner. I will seek out their stories, and foster the work they give me. If they come to look upon me as someone they can trust with their work, I will consider that an honor. They deserve that.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-23 06:17 am (UTC)
Thanks. I've seen firms that have actually shoved the elder partners out the door, so it could be worse. But it could definitely be better.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-23 06:18 am (UTC)
That's a great attitude. The elderly who know you are lucky.
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[User Picture]From: scouseboy
2003-11-22 02:12 pm (UTC)
That is really sad.

And you're great.

Have you read 'The Remains of the Day'? It touches on such issues with sensitivity.

And 'Death of a Salesman', of course. And 'Glengarry Glen Ross'.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-23 06:21 am (UTC)
Know the first two, but still haven't gotten around to Glenngary Glenn Ross. And thanks.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-22 02:28 pm (UTC)
I know. I just don't think there's a lot out there that's much better.
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[User Picture]From: kathrynrose
2003-11-22 02:32 pm (UTC)
You are a good woman. And you sparked a thought I needed to think. Thanks.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-23 06:22 am (UTC)
One can ask for no greater honor than making others think. Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: law_witch
2003-11-22 02:48 pm (UTC)
Oh honey - I'm in tears. I too have seen this "you're past your prime old man, just sit in the corner till we need you" attitude.

And you are so right, with just a small amount of kindness understand and a TON of respect, these gray eagles can really contribute to a firm.

Be his rock as much as you can. Having anyone is willing to listen to his "old war stories" will give him back his respect and a sense of worth.

It is their foundation of knowledge, learned by LIFE EXPERIENCE, that really is the gift to the "young turks".

The world of law needs more people like you!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-23 06:24 am (UTC)
The young turks should remember that they are looking at their own future, and the lesson of how they treat these elder partners will be learned by the next set of associates they are growing to take their own places.
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[User Picture]From: myshanter
2003-11-22 03:12 pm (UTC)

You said it.

You said it all. *hugs* And if the proper opportunity arises, give my respects to Walt and Fred. They will always be Misters to me, even if we never meet.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-23 06:25 am (UTC)

Re: You said it.

I shall.
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[User Picture]From: salix_03
2003-11-22 03:42 pm (UTC)
you are such a kind hearted girl! at least you have the decency to treat fred as a human being unlike the rest of the law firm! give it 20 years though and every one of those sneering morons will themselves be old and put out to pasture. what goes around...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-23 06:26 am (UTC)
Exactly. I look at them and see my future. I want to take care of them just because of that.
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[User Picture]From: lyssabard
2003-11-22 03:58 pm (UTC)

*sigh* *HUG*

It is good there are folks like you, and other here, that remind me that basic human decency is still alive and well, at least on the individual basis.

Thank you--and my regards as well to Mr. Fred and Mr. Walt.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-23 06:28 am (UTC)

Re: *sigh* *HUG*

I shall do so.
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[User Picture]From: kibbles
2003-11-22 04:24 pm (UTC)
I used to work at two old firms, one a law firm. (Cadwalader Wickersham and Taft, as a temp, and Brown Brothers Harriman as a secretary.)

Those 'white shoe' firms really respected the older partners, and they also brought in the business. And they had GORGEOUS offices, and the same secretary they had from day one, it seemed.

They got a lot of respect.

I noticed it more at BBH, the bank, than CWT.

I always loved working at places like that (I temped a LOT) and if I ever did that sort of work again, I would try to gravitate to another 'white shoe' firm. I liked dressing up, too. (I am such a dork.)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-23 06:31 am (UTC)
I will say that at least they have not forced them to leave or left them stranded. Each has a secretary, their work does get assigned, and people do not laugh in their faces. I've seen it worse, but as you point out it could be infinitely better.
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[User Picture]From: the_siobhan
2003-11-23 06:29 am (UTC)
Nothing to add.

Just wanted to give you a thumbs up.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-23 06:34 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: shiftercat
2003-11-23 04:31 pm (UTC)
That is so sweet.

Another attitude I really hate is the notion that elderly people can't keep up with modern concepts; that they're mentally decades behind. The saddest thing about this one is that it's sometimes spread by older people who don't want to take the effort to acquire new knowledge. But it just isn't so! A person who's kept her mind in active condition will keep learning and adapting until the end of her days. And let's not forget that as far as new standards go, a lot of old folks were once young radicals, pushing for freedoms we now take for granted. (My grandmother was an expert witness in the Brown vs. Board of Education case.)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-11-23 07:39 pm (UTC)
I am old enough to remember the upheaval, even though I was too little to be a part of it, in the 60s. People have no idea how much they are taking for granted.
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[User Picture]From: megthelegend
2003-11-23 10:59 pm (UTC)
Consider yerself added, m'lady.

You & Ferrett are a great pair.
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[User Picture]From: zigurat
2003-11-24 11:11 am (UTC)
Yet isn't it sad that lawyers work much longer than others? You would think an old partner could retire, and wonder whether they have anything to retire to.

But if they want to stick around, they should get the corner office.
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