My superbusy period doesn't seem to be ending, but I'll try to work in a substantive post later this afternoon. I was chained to my desk at home all day yesterday writing a Trial Memorandum for a bench trial I have next week. I took breaks for a long walk in the rain and a nice meal of spaghetti and meatballs prepared by my lovely husband. Today I am back in the office to try to write yet another Motion for Summary Judgment. For those of you who are fortunate enough not to know, these can be time consuming affairs. One has to select the facts to include in the Motion, and show that each of these facts is established by deposition testimony or some other type of sworn statement. One then has to research the law regarding each pending claim and then come up with an argument as to why your side should prevail without having to go through trial (on the ground that you deserve to win just based on the facts everyone agrees on).
As I trotted up the steps of my enormous and grandiose law firm building at seven o'clock this Sunday morning, I was shocked to see a homeless person sacked out on a sleeping bag on the front steps of the building. I know I shouldn't be shocked, as we have a moderate homeless problem in our city and our firm borders a park where a lot of the homeless spend their time. Still, it was most disconcerting partly because the area is utterly deserted that early on a Sunday morning and also because it felt weird to walk past this destitute person into the luxury of my firm with its french vanilla cappucino maker and air of hushed opulence.
That got me thinking about different offices I have had. BIGLaw, where I now work, is by far the nicest office space I have ever inhabited. It is quite a contrast to the lowly District Attorney's Office in the dinky rural county where I was a prosecutor for five years. When I was a prosecutor, I was far more powerful than I am now (big-fish-teeny-pond syndrome), but there was no luxury whatsoever attached to that. My office walls were mismatched fake wood paneling. My walls were so flimsy that a witness once created an enormous hole in my wall when she accidentally bumped into it in her electric wheelchair. The hole in my wall was never fixed. Our carpeting was threadbare, our fluorescent lights were constantly flickering and in need of replacement. We were exposed to lead paint (or maybe it was asbestos, I've put it all out of my mind) and the building where I worked has since been condemned and razed to the ground.
Worst of all, when I first arrived at the D.A.'s office, there were virtually no resources for doing legal research. We had nothing on-line. No access Westlaw. No access to Lexis-Nexis. No CD-ROMs containing case law. All we had was a bookshelf containing all the volumes of published cases for our state -- but the index portion that helps you locate cases pertaining to your legal issue was missing. So I had all the published cases in hundreds of volumes, but no way to locate the ones that I would need to address the specific legal issues that might arise in my cases. We also had five or six random volumes of the U.S. Supreme Court Reporters.
When I first got there, I asked my boss how they did legal research. Apparently, they hadn't done any actual legal research in years. They might support their pleadings with some very generalized citations from the state criminal law treatise and that was about it. They had once asked for a budget for research costs, but the county governing body didn't understand why we would need anything beyond the books we already had! Fortunately, when I told my boss I couldn't function without at least the state law cases on CD-Rom, she took it out of another line item in the budget. I also cribbed federal law cases from the free on-line service my husband had through his then-firm -- but sheesh.
I think of that now whenever I sit in my firm's very well-stocked two story law library which has its own law librarian and a hard copy of pretty much every resource you could need in addition to various on-line services we subscribe too. And lots of space, and work stations for the attorneys! I know it's weird but I always feel a little flutter of wonderment and gratitude whenever I use the firm library-- even if it's early in the morning on a freakin' Sunday.
I know I'm late to the pile-on but I must confess to being oddly fascinated by the video footage of President Bush giving Chancellor Merkel an unsolicited shoulder massage after sneaking up on her from behind in the midst of her conversation with the Italian Prime Minister. Her grimace and defensive movement said it all -- and boy, do I know how she felt. I have been in that precise situation when some dude I don't really know that well comes up and starts rubbing my neck shoulders when I am in the middle of a conversation with someone else. I remember thinking, "What does this guy expect me to do? Go limp? Close my eyes and emit a deep 'Aaaaaah'? Ignore him and continue my conversation with the person I was talking to?" Of course, what I actually did was kind of break away, turn around, and include creepo in the conversation. I probably grimaced just like Merkel too. Bleaaaah.
Even worse then the unsolicited shoulder massage though is the unsolicited lift up into the air. Yep. That's what I said. The unsolicited lift up into the air. As in, one minute you're minding your own business being mildly sociable with both feet planted on the ground, and the next minute some asshat has grabbed you bodily and lifted you above his head in a very misguided attempt at charm. This has only happened to me twice, -- but believe you me, it rankled. One perpetrator was a random dude at a college party, the other was my husband's best friend from childhood who is so socially awkward that he is wont to punch you in the arm, pull your hair, shove you in a friendly way, or pick you up, because he doesn't know what else to do. I think in both instances I yelled, "PUT ME THE !**)#! DOWN!" I may not be the largest person in the world but I can yell.