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Dec. 6, 2000 I spent the morning staring at what is, perhaps, the most complicated document I’ve ever seen. Stranger than a butterfly ballot, harder to read than an eye exam, it was this: a floor plan of our new offices. Yes, our firm is moving offices. The strange part is that nobody around here seems to use the term “office” any longer. Instead, we’re leaving our old “space” and moving into a new “space.” We have “space coordinators” and a “space committee.” Not that I have anything against them — to the contrary, I’m grateful to the entire space program for giving us Tang. But this diagram of the new … space is hard to follow. The interior of each floor is filled with mysterious X’s that could stand for air shafts, or elevators, or vending machines. The perimeter of the office is lined with attorney offices, some of which have already been earmarked for certain lawyers, others have been allocated to particular departments, and still others have not been allocated at all, but are enigmatically labeled “reserved.” On top of all that, the entire floor plan is criss-crossed by arrows radiating outward from the secretarial stations and linking up with attorney offices. It appears that the new office scheme will require reasonable proximity between secretaries and their attorneys. That is a good thing, since my secretary and I are currently in different time zones. And yet, I’ve grown accustomed to the way things work around here. Speaking of which, my secretary, Paula, stopped by my office to drop off some work. She saw me poring over the floor plan. “Is that the new office?” — Paula doesn’t say “space” — “what do you think about the move?” “It’s … it’s … “ “If you ask me,” she interrupted. “I think the move is a good thing. Shake things up a little, new offices, new faces… “ New faces? So that’s the way she feels. Paula — poor thing — is probably tired of our verbal jousting. After all, it must hard for her to keep up with a lawyer. “Oh well,” I said breezily. “I guess it’s the best that the space committee could do. Not that I have anything against them… “ Paula cut me off. “You already told me the Tang joke.” “Oh.” Dec. 14 The move is turning out to be a little like the show “Survivor” — you need to form alliances. I’ve joined forces with two other associates. We’re hoping to land three adjoining offices that can share the same secretarial station. But which three offices? The selection process turns into the kind of multi-factor balancing test for which lawyers are infamous. Will the offices be too close to the reception area? Too far from the library? Will the view be decent? And what about certain people who really, really like to use speakerphone? To help with the process, the firm organized a tour of the new space. It all seems very nice, but attorneys are paid to file complaints and so we filed some. The desks may be insufficiently ergonomic or too ergonomic. The built-in bookshelves may not be big enough. I pulled aside a construction foreman and asked him point blank: What if I need more bookshelves? “I guess you can have a bookcase put in,” he said. “But I don’t want to give up the floor space.” “In that case, you’ll have to get one of those floating bookcases. You know, the kind that just hover in mid-air.” I thought that was a great idea, but our supply manager says he’s never heard of floating bookcases. Eventually, my two colleagues and I made our proposed selections, submitted them to the space committee, and crossed our fingers. Jan. 2 Boxes appeared outside my door this morning, along with a subtle message from the moving company taped to my door: THE MOVE IS REAL! A memo explains that the moving company wants to start “pre-moving” the next week. They’ve asked us to start packing up all those files that we won’t need for the next couple of weeks. The problem is that old files are like the office defibrillator: They might be necessary at any time. I opened up a moving box and grabbed one of my old files. You know the kind of file: A case that settled in ’96, the companies dissolved, the principals dead, the property sold, and the controlling statute retroactively annulled. Still, I hesitated, thinking, boy, you never know when this one might heat up again. After watching me for a minute, Paula pried the file out of my hand and threw it in the box. Jan. 10 Word finally came back from the space committee: my colleagues and I would get the offices we requested. I told the news to Paula. “So, what does that mean?” she asked. “It means,” I said, “that the three of us would like you to be our secretary in the new space.” Paula rolled her eyes. “Oh — great.” But I think I saw the hint of a smile. Adam Freedman is an eighth-year associate at New York’s Schulte, Roth & Zabel.

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