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It’s a familiar story to lawyers who find themselves low on the law firm totem poll. A partner, at the end of the day, usually a Friday, drops an assignment on your desk and tells you it must be completed by the next morning. For the luckless associate, there’s no way out of this situation — no matter how hard you try and no matter how much you lie. Before you can say “But I’m getting married tonight” or “That organ I’ve been waiting for has finally been located and my surgery is scheduled to start in three hours,” the assignment is in your hands and the partner is out the door. The first thing an associate does in this situation is curse the partner who is now on his or her way to the theater or the ballgame. You promise yourself that when you are elected partner, you will never do such a thing to your associates. But since you’re not a partner yet, the next thing you do is pick up the phone or walk around The Firm searching for lawyers whose names are lower than yours on the letterhead and upon whose desks you can dump this assignment. If unable to punt the assignment away, you will have to resign yourself to the fact you will be spending the night at The Firm — your home away from home. Or is it more accurate to call home your office away from the office? Either way, preparations must be made. There are four things you will need to make it through the night. 1. Assistance: The worst thing about working all night at The Firm is that there won’t be anyone else around to help you get your work done. Thus, even more desperately than you searched earlier for another lawyer, you now try to find a secretary, paralegal or clerk who will stay late and provide assistance. This is another search that is likely to bear no fruit. This is because members of The Firm’s staff, unlike you, have lives outside the office and like to go home at a reasonable hour. This makes it hard to coax (or coerce) someone to stay late and help you out. This also means that, even though you are a Big Shot Attorney, tonight you might be more accurately described as a fax machine jockey. Midnight lawyers have to type mailing labels, prepare packages for the courier and run the photocopy and fax machines — all by themselves. 2. Emergency Rations: After a few hours of work, you get hungry. At this time of night, however, your choices of cuisine are limited. It’s too late to have food delivered and probably too dangerous to go out and try to find something. Fortunately, Chef Boyardee is there to serve you 24 hours a day. He is located in The Firm’s vending machine and offers several microwaveable and delicious entrees to choose from. If you still don’t have enough to eat or simply don’t want to spend the money, the inside of your colleagues’ desk drawers provide many nutritious items to choose from — Saltine crackers, candy bars, microwave popcorn, Prozac. 3. Companionship: Working late at night can be lonely. Thus, another thing you’re going to have to seek out during your overnight adventure is companionship. Pickings are slim. If your firm offers all-night word processing service, you might be able to engage one of the operators in conversation. Otherwise, you will have to focus your attention on members of the cleaning crew. Since they have better things to do than sit around talking to a lawyer, these people will chat with you for a few minutes (out of pity) but then need to move on to the next office. Eventually, they will have to tell you to stop following them around. Later, during their break, they will make jokes about you with other members of the crew. Meanwhile, you’re calling the building’s security guard just to have someone to talk to. 4. Shelter: It’s usually too late to go home once you have completed your work. By the time you get home, it will be time to turn around and go back to work. You will therefore need to find a place at The Firm to sleep. I advise against sleeping out in the open. Stay away from conference rooms and the library. It’s always embarrassing when you’re found in the morning face down in the Civil Code, the pages wet from your drool. You also want to avoid falling asleep at your desk. Someone passing by might assume you died at there and call the coroner. This too, as I know from personal experience, can be quite embarrassing. My preference among law firm resting places is underneath a partner’s desk. Black’s Law Dictionary makes an excellent pillow. Just to be safe, you might want to leave instructions for your secretary to come and wake you up at nine o’clock. In the morning, you are going to be tired, unwashed and cranky. On the bright side, you will feel a sense of accomplishment for getting your work done and meeting the deadline. First thing in the morning, just like you were instructed, the project is on the partner’s desk and, hopefully, you are no longer underneath that same desk. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected]

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