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Along with their other roles as errand runners, step-and-fetch boys and girls and legal servants, junior associates at The Firm must also play the role of ghostwriter. Senior lawyers are constantly calling on less experienced lawyers to draft letters, articles, pleadings — whatever needs to be done — all under the name of the senior lawyer. In fact, this column was written by someone who ranks below me at The Firm. Every associate has had the experience of preparing a document that goes out under a partner’s signature. The signature, in fact, might be the partner’s only contribution to the piece. When a client, another lawyer or judge praises the document, the partner thanks the other person for the compliment while you sit there in quiet and thankless desperation. One of the things every associate has to do is ghostwrite an occasional article on a legal subject. This might happen on one of those rare occasions when you completed all your billable work and are going around the office asking for new assignments. It is also likely that you were told to go write an article when you tried to score some points by asking a partner or two what someone at your level can do to drum up business for The Firm. Because you were not mature enough to join an exclusive downtown club or go to a ball game with someone in position to throw a little work your way, writing an article seems to be the one of the only things an aspiring rainmaker can do. The first time I was so instructed was during my first few months of practice. I was on the elevator and asked a partner what floor he wanted. In response to my inquiry, he told me to write an article. Before the elevator doors reopened, the partner had even suggested a topic — a complex international tax issue. Knowing nothing of tax, much less international tax, I had to spend quite a bit of time learning the basics of my topic. After that, I spent a good four or five weekends in the library actually writing the article. After I was done, I gave the article to the partner for his review but never heard anything back from him. This is another experience most associates have. You work long and hard on something, give it to a partner and it is never spoken of again. A few months later, I’m in the librarian’s office and I see on her desk an article clipped from a law journal. I notice the article has the same topic as the article I wrote. Then I read the text of the article and see that, from start to finish, it was exactly as I had written. What a coincidence! The only thing that was different was that my name was missing from the byline. Instead, the partner’s name was there. Young lawyers who find it unfair that they don’t always get credit for their work need not despair. Just wait until the first time you write a brief, a motion or a memorandum that turns out to be not quite right. When the client complains, a judge scolds or the state Bar comes knocking, rest assured that you will get full, absolute and sole credit for your work. It also helps to know that there is one lawyer out there who struck a blow for all ghostwriting associates. This particular person was with a major New York firm where a partner he worked for had agreed to address the membership of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. Unfortunately, the partner forgot about the engagement until late on Friday afternoon when he saw the event on his calendar scheduled for the following Monday night. The partner, who had a weekend at the beach planned, called our hero into his office and told him to prepare a speech. After listening to the partner describe what had to be done before Monday, the associate tried to explain that he and his girlfriend had already made plans for the weekend. The partner interrupted the associate and emphasized that the assignment had to be on his desk Monday morning. Come Monday morning, the partner found the freshly typed and neatly bound speech on his desk. On his way to the meeting at a client’s office, the partner stuffed the speech in his briefcase without reading it. That night, standing before an audience of five hundred business executives, the partner delivered the speech. Things were going smoothly, as the material was well written and the partner was making an excellent delivery of the text he was reading for the first time. Near the end of the speech, it reached a crescendo. “Before I leave you tonight,” the partner said, “I want to share with you my ultimate vision for using the law not only to resolve disputes, but to create a new chapter in world history of mankind. A chapter of unparalleled peach and prosperity worldwide. To accomplish this, I will suggest that we … “ The partner turned the page, curious himself to learn of this plan, only to find written on the paper before him: “IMPROVISE, YOU SON OF A BITCH.” 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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