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I don’t think I ever disappointed my father so much as when I announced I’d decided to be a lawyer. You see, he’s a social worker (technically, so is my mother, but this isn’t about my hang-ups), and he’s convinced that lawyers are to blame for society’s problems (taxes, high insurance premiums, traffic). But even dad’s disappointment couldn’t shatter my dreams. I wanted to find justice like Ben Matlock and Perry Mason. I wanted to wring the truth out of lying witnesses, make dramatic appeals in a courtroom, people hanging on my every word, and a soundtrack in the background. So I went to law school. Some time between Torts and Civil Procedure, I started to think I had made a mistake and maybe I should have gone to acting school. But by then I’d reinforced my dream with Jack McCoy on Law & Order and I was convinced I could still make it happen. Interviews came. I carefully scripted my responses to the inevitable questions. Then the questions came. “Why do you want to be a litigator?” And I froze. “Uh,” I stammered, “there seem to be only two choices: corporate and litigation, and I love Matlock and Law & Order?” (No matter how many times I said it, I never could make that answer sound like anything but a question.) Somehow I still got a job. When I got to my office for the first time, I felt very important. There I was in Midtown Manhattan, a sharp-dressed man, still ready (hoping) to spend my time, like Matlock or Perry, finding the truth, helping the little guy. I started to lose hope when I finally saw my office. Down in the bowels of the firm (have you seen Office Space?), where not even the custodial crew would go at night. And once you finally found it, it looked uncomfortably like a warehouse. Wall to wall and floor to ceiling, it was filled with boxes faintly illuminated by what seemed to be an old, green-glowing public library terminal buried somewhere in the middle of the room. “Welcome to the firm. And welcome to discovery hell.” “What’s discovery hell?” I asked the guy I soon found out was my mentor. “Your job is to go through all of these boxes and check the documents for any of the names on this list.” He handed me a 10-page sheaf of papers. “The names in pink are lawyers. Those documents go on the privilege log. Docs with the names in green get marked highly confidential. Orange gets confidential. Blue is irrelevant. Purple is pretty. And if you find any documents with names marked in yellow, you win a special prize.” “Where’s the soundtrack?” He left me alone. And that document production was my first introduction to discovery. The truth is, it doesn’t get any better. Interrogatories, requests for admissions, 30(b)(6) depositions, other depositions. All of it governed by the good old Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For you transactional attorney who may have forgotten what that means, those are the rules Congress wrote to to help litigating parties discover all the relevant facts to a dispute and allow defense attorneys to ask plaintiffs and their attorneys anything they want. (They were really written to satisfy sadistic judges who were tired of smart-aleck litigators and wanted more tools to slap them down. But I digress.) For example, I recently received interrogatories from defense counsel. Here’s an excerpt: 1. State thoroughly each and every fact, minute or large, relevant or irrelevant, interesting or boring, salaciously gossipy or not, without omitting anything that forms the bases for your unfounded, harassing, sanctionable, hopeless allegations as stated in the Complaint. While you’re at it, give us every document in your possession or in some one else’s possession, neatly organized and indexed in 3-ring binders (with corresponding and hyper-linked electronic spreadsheets) that support the baseless, unfounded, and sanctionable allegations mentioned above. 2. State your credit card number, social security number, shoe size, waist size, and inseam, as well as those of your client(s), spouse(s), friend(s), family member(s), neighbor(s), colleague(s), acquaintance(s), parent(s), and everyone else you know or may not know. Under the rules, I actually have to dignify these interrogatories with a response. One mistake that young attorneys often make in their responses is providing accurate answers to the requests. Fortunately, though they require responses, the rules do not require accurate responses. So responses often look something like this: 1. Plaintiffs object to your interrogatories. They are ridiculous. If you want to know the facts supporting our allegations, ask your client. He is the one that breached the contract, breached his duties and is responsible for this mess, anyway. As for documents, we’ll give them to you, but you can forget about organization. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit looking at all of them and I think you should have the same privilege. 2. Stick it in yer ear. This response is hereby incorporated into each and every one of my other responses to your other interrogatories. And that’s discovery. Of course, the real reason litigators engage in such a futile exercise is the off-chance that the responses will be relegated to a schlep associate who will actually answer the interrogatories with accurate credit card numbers, measurements and the smoking gun document. A schlep like me who is furious at being caught in discovery hell. Furious because Matlock never responded to interrogatories. Furious because Perry never reviewed boxes of documents. And furious because, other than tinny tunes coming over the small radio, this law gig has no soundtrack. Adam Anderson, an associate at Beus Gilbert, bears little resemblance to the schlep described above.

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