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Jeremy Blachman admits that he never wanted to practice law. Like countless other risk-averse college graduates, he went to law school thinking it would help him “keep his options open.” He wanted to be a writer, but he wasn’t sure how to go about becoming one. “Law school would at least give me a backup plan,” he says. Well, it doesn’t look like he’ll need to go to Plan B anytime soon. His blog, Anonymous Lawyer, gets an average of more than 2,000 unique hits a day. When his debut novel of the same name came out in July, Jocelyn McClurg of USA Today described it as “wickedly amusing.” And there’s even a television deal in the works, as well as several other possible book projects down the road. Not bad for a 27-year-old who graduated from Harvard Law School last year. For a young man who’s never done more than a summer stint at a law firm — a firm he refuses to name — Blachman seems to have hit a legal nerve with a cast of characters of big-firm archetypes including The Suck-Up, The Girl Who Dresses Like A Slut, The One Who Missed Her Kid’s Funeral, The Frumpy Litigator, That Foreign Dude, and The Bombshell. But before the book, there was the blog. After enduring the on-campus interview process for the all-important summer-associate job when he was a second-year student, Blachman launched an anonymous blog in March 2004 in the voice of a high-powered hiring partner, dubbed Anonymous Lawyer, who supposedly works at a top Los Angeles firm. Blachman already had begun one blog chronicling his law school adventures, but after meeting so many carbon-copy hiring partners during the recruiting season, he thought it’d be fun to launch a spoof. “The Web site gathered momentum I never expected,” Blachman says. He originally thought he’d keep it going for a week or so, but by the fall of 2004 the site was getting more than 1,000 visitors a day. “I thought I was writing really over-the-top satire that made firms out to be much worse than they actually are,” Blachman says. But the fictional character resonated with his readers, who sent him e-mails saying he was describing their lives to a tee. NOT SO ANONYMOUS Publishing companies saw the potential before he did. Blachman says he didn’t have any plans to turn the blog into a novel, but after a December 2004 New York Times article outed him as Anonymous Lawyer’s creator, about two dozen agents and six publishers approached him. By February 2005, he had signed with the talent agency William Morris and had a six-figure advance for a book deal with Henry Holt. He hadn’t even graduated yet. The book details the adventures of Anonymous Lawyer during the first eight weeks of his firm’s summer program. It’s constructed around entries in a blog Anonymous Lawyer creates because he has no other outlet for his kvetching. Anonymous Lawyer chronicles his power struggle with his archrival, The Jerk, whom he sees as his main competitor to become the next managing partner. Besides giving his accounts of those skirmishes, Anonymous Lawyer also rages about the indignities of office life, offers deliciously caustic portraits of the firm’s associates, and revels in sending a summer around the country to do work for made-up clients. Blachman also moves the story forward in e-mails between Anonymous Lawyer and Anonymous Niece, a Stanford University senior who is headed to Yale Law School. Here he reveals his marginally more human side. In these e-mails he lays bare his insecurities stemming from having gone to the University of Michigan Law School (not exalted enough, in his estimation), having failed the bar on his first try, and not having been the coolest guy in high school. Individually, many of the entries are hilarious. For instance, Anonymous Lawyer welcomes the summer associates with a multimedia presentation on their first day of work. A clip from “March of the Penguins” illustrates the beauties of “mindless work performed without complaint.” That’s all we are asking our associates to do . . . Just march. March to the library. March to the document room. March to the printer . . . The penguins don’t expect to be challenged . . . They just do what they have to do. They march. There’s also a bit from “Brokeback Mountain,” which “was done a tremendous disservice when they pitched it as a gay cowboy movie.” The message instead is that it’s great to have a job that consumes most of your day, Anonymous Lawyer notes. “Don’t worry about the time you spend in the office,” he tells the summers. “You might just fall in love with someone you are working with.” Despite being a parody of big law firm life, full of characters who are transparent caricatures, the blog actually provoked a serious online debate about the true identity of Anonymous Lawyer and his law firm. (Blachman got e-mails begging him to admit that his antihero was a real person.) But, although the stereotypes of law firm life in the book clearly have some element of truth, they are painted with broad brush strokes. It’s a fun read, but the characters are too one-dimensional and the humor too repetitive for it to be much more than that. In particular, the book falls flat in its description of Anonymous Lawyer’s struggle with The Jerk to take over the firm. Anonymous Lawyer’s main tactics for winning the coveted chairmanship include sucking up to the current chairman and acting on a tip from an associate to reveal that The Jerk embezzled client funds. These sorts of ploys expose Blachman’s limited understanding of law firm politics. And it’s not that it has to be realistic, but there’s not enough complexity in the Machiavellian machinations at the Anonymous Law Firm to make the novel a real page-turner. Perhaps publishing companies are betting that books based on successful blogs have enough of a built-in readership and advance marketing that they’ll sell with or without critical acclaim. MORE BLOG-TO-BOOK DEALS Anonymous Lawyer is one of many blog-to-book releases in the past year that include Straight Up and Dirty, in which young Manhattan divorc�e Stephanie Klein details her “Sex and the City”-like dating escapades; Julie and Julia, in which New Yorker Julie Powell writes about making the more than 500 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the course of a year; and Dog Days, by Ana Marie Cox, better known as Wonkette, who parlayed her online celebrity into a book deal to write the inside-the-Beltway novel about a campaign worker for a Democratic presidential contender. As part of the marketing campaign for the book, Blachman launched a Web site for the Anonymous Law Firm in June, complete with firm bios and press releases. Anonymous Law Firm partner Terry James doles out advice to law students: “Idealism is just another word for everything left to lose. Sadness, ultimately, is security.” In addition, the firm’s task force on work-life balance announces the results of its study: Associates who divorce their spouses see an immediate boost in productivity, salary, mental health, and the chances of being assigned to do the kinds of intellectually stimulating legal work that brought them to the firm in the first place. These benefits are tripled in cases where the associate chooses to forego [sic] visitation with his or her children. Anonymous Lawyer may soon be coming to the small screen. NBC has bought a script for a pilot based on the book. Blachman is also busy proposing other book projects and writing occasional columns for the Wall Street Journal Online. Even so, Blachman seems to have a certain amount of the traditionally risk-averse lawyer in him yet. “I’m sort of insulated a little bit,” he says, “in that if the writing doesn’t work out, I am not going to live on the street, necessarily.” In fact, last summer he took the bar exam. Just in case.
Alexia Garamfalvi can be contacted at [email protected].

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