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Nov. 12, 2001 There I was, sagely explaining a research assignment to a bright-eyed first-year associate. She was taking down notes and firing back questions with evident glee. Something was wrong with this picture. It’s not that I was too old, but that the first-year was too young. Her youthful eagerness was making me feel positively geriatric. For a moment, I considered adding a few extra questions for the first-year to research — something like, “What’s the best Medicare supplemental for me?” The arrival of the first-year associates has replaced my birthday as the leading indicator of Father Time’s inexorable progress. Just now, I try to tell myself that the mere decade between myself, a senior associate, and this first-year is not unbridgeable. I will reach out and communicate! Yes, I will pepper my vocabulary with the language of tech-savvy Gen-X hipsters (phat!). Well, that lasted a good 30 seconds, and then I reverted to my old self. I finished my spiel about the research assignment with a request that the first-year consult some old-fashioned “books” before hitting any computer databases. The mention of books brought a whiff of nostalgia to the conversation, like an autumn breeze. Nov. 13 The first-year was back in my office again. “I was wondering,” she said, “if you had any suggestions for good searches on the databases?” A perfectly reasonable question. Perfectly. And yet, the curmudgeon in me was fighting to get out. “Databases?” I said. “Databases? Have you tried looking in a book?” “But … “ “Oh, don’t tell me! Nobody uses books any longer! Databases are better than books! Well, let me tell you a story about a guy who never had a database … ” My voice trailed off. I was seized by the memory of a lawyer I knew during my first year of practice (at a different firm). He was always telling junior associates to cite Blackstone’s Commentaries in their briefs. Naturally, he cut a ridiculous figure. And I was becoming him. In the moment it took me to have that flashback, the first-year managed to get a word in edgewise. She explained that she already had consulted the relevant books and that she was now moving to online research. Per my instructions, incidentally. I mumbled some suggestions for database searches, after which the first-year left my office, looking thoroughly befuddled. Nov. 15 The first-year returned to my office for further consultations. Her research is going well, and soon she’ll be ready to draft a memo. Now that I’m on board with the whole online research thing, I’m slowly regaining her confidence. Carried away by these feelings of collegiality, I impetuously say: “When you’re ready to start writing, you might consider one of these.” I point to the mini-drafting table that sits next to my idle computer. The first-year squints and focuses on the drafting table. “What’s that?” “It’s a special writing desk, for drafting documents longhand,” I explain, realizing that I was, once again, off on the wrong foot. But it was too late to turn back. “You see, I prefer writing longhand to, er, compu … never mind.” I had lost her again. Nov. 21 First thing this morning I ran into “my” first-year in the hallway, chatting with some of her contemporaries. They looked, quite frankly, as though they’d been up until the wee hours. And why not? It was the day before a holiday weekend, after all. I thought back to my own first year, and the camaraderie among lawyers just starting out. One of the first-years was talking about “the bar,” from which I deduced that they must have congregated at some bar the previous evening. I recognized the symptoms: heavy eyelids, hoarse voice. This was my opportunity to show them that I was one senior associate who understood the need for young lawyers to blow off a little steam. Finally, I would be able to repair the damage I’d done to my image among the first-years. I approached “my” first-year with a friendly greeting. “Late night?” I said with a sympathetic smile. “Yeah,” she said. “You know, the bar.” “Ah … burning the candle at both ends?” “No, I stayed up for the bar.” “I know,” I said. “But which one? Zinc Bar, Monkey Bar, Au Bar?” “No,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief. “The bar exam.” “Is that downtown?” “The bar exam results!” she cried. “They posted the results on the Internet at midnight — we all had to wait up to find out if we passed!” “Oh,” I said. “In my day, we had to wait for the letter.” There I went again, veering off in the wrong direction. I tried to compensate: “So, what’s the 411 on the bar?” “Huh? Oh, I passed.” “Phat.” The first-year sighed. “Have a nice Thanksgiving,” she said. I wonder what she meant by that. Adam Freedman is a senior associate at Schulte Roth & Zabel in New York.

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