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April 12, 2001 5 p.m. Where did the day go? That’s a bad question to be asking yourself at 5 o’clock, just as normal people are starting to look forward to the latest “Survivor” episode. Here’s where the day went: court. I spent a large part of the day in court, assisting a partner. I just got back and there’s a pile of work. One of our clients has an urgent problem, one that might lead to a lawsuit, and the client wants a memo by tomorrow afternoon. Working backwards — send memo to client tomorrow afternoon; discuss with partner tomorrow morning; figure out how to solve the problem between now (5 p.m.) and tomorrow morning — it would appear that I have a late night ahead of me (“But wait, I went to court today! Don’t I get a gold star and a Transit Check?”). 5:15 p.m. At least I won’t be alone — two other associates have been assigned to the matter. It would also help to have some secretarial help since I am The World’s Worst Typist. I turn to my secretary. “Paula,” I say, “can you work overtime tonight?” “You could have asked me a little earlier,” she says, looking at her watch. I put on my “pathetic face” (I have a certain flair in that direction) and she agrees to stay. 7 p.m. Those of us who are still here have now passed through the euphoria of the early evening (“Hey, maybe we’ll finish early and still be home for dinner!”), and are starting to move into the “philosophical” portion of the evening. This is the part where lawyers shed their long-winded ways and begin speaking in short, clipped phrases; the part where otherwise simple questions become existential conundrums. We have a team meeting, the other two associates and I, to discuss our progress on the memo. We are discussing the finer points of precisely when we should stop researching and start writing; or should we research a little, then write a little, and then research a little more, and so on. In the midst of the discussion, one of my colleagues announces, with a rare solemnity: “If we go more slowly, we’ll finish sooner.” This is followed by a long silence and general nods of agreement. Yes, the philosophical portion of the evening has begun. 8 p.m. More existential angst. I pass by a corporate colleague in the hallway and ask her, “How are you?” She looks at me, shrugs her shoulders, and says: “I’m here.” This strikes me as an admirably brief, but profound, way of summing up the human condition, the kind of thing that people say in East European novels or French cafes (“How are you, Pierre?” “How am I? I’m here.”) The junior partner, the one for whom I’m writing the memo, calls me. “How’s it going?” he asks. I put on a jaded voice and say, “I’m here.” “Yes, I figured that out,” he says. “What I meant was, ‘How’s the memo going?’ Because I would like to not be here, and I’d like a preliminary draft to take on the train with me.” “Oh.” I should have known better — the “I’m here” line is only for associate-associate conversations. 8:30 p.m. I order some Chinese food and start writing the memo, while my colleagues keep going on the research. I dictate the memo into a tape recorder and give the tapes to Paula. I get to the fortune cookie; it’s one of those chocolate ones (another conundrum: when is a fortune cookie not really a fortune cookie?). My fortune reads, and I quote, “It’s time to find out what you’ve been missing.” I add a “P.S.” to the memo: “I think we may be missing an argument here, I’ll try to figure it out by the morning.” 9 p.m. Paula has just about finished a draft of the memo for the junior partner. She’s working well, but the late-night atmosphere is getting to her. From 9 to 5, Paula can always put me in my place. But from 5 to 9, it starts going in reverse: I’m getting a second wind and Paula’s getting tired. At this stage, even Paula sounds strangely existential. As I proofread the document, I hear her mumbling something. “What is it?” I ask. “Oh, nothing,” she says, slightly embarrassed. “I’m just talking to my computer.” “Let me know if it starts talking back,” I say, and send Paula home while I am, for once, ahead of the game. 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. The junior partner leaves with a preliminary draft of the memo. Then the other two associates finish their portion of the research and go home. I stay, trying to tie it all together into a finished version of the memo. My only company is the cleaning lady, who seems to be vacuuming a small patch of carpet outside my office for about an hour. Eventually, even she leaves. At some point, I remember the fortune cookie point: What have I been missing? I do more research, trying to come up with a different angle on the client’s problem. 1:30 a.m. Enough already. I’ve researched all sides of the problem, plus the fortune cookie point. But there is still time for one final blast of metaphysical wonder. I call the car service. “Is there a wait for a car in midtown?” I ask. “No,” says the dispatcher. “Hold for your car number.” After a few minutes of muzak, the voice returns. “Car 225 in 20 minutes.” “Twenty minutes? I thought you said there was no wait.” “That’s not a ‘wait,’ technically; that’s just how long it’ll take him to get there.” In the meantime, what can I say? I’m here. Adam Freedman is a senior associate at New York’s Schulte Roth & Zabel.

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