Picking up where we left off, the $55 million BigLaw brief from hell was due Monday by 11 pm central time. There were dozens of revisions throughout the week last week and, of course, over the weekend. By 9 pm Saturday night, I needed a break. And I said as much to BigLaw Senior Partner, with whom I work.
“I’m done for the night. Let’s just circulate this draft as-is and get back to it in the morning,” I pleaded.
“I want to do just one more round of revisions before we send to [the client] for review,” Senior Partner said.
“No, seriously, I need to stop for the night. I’ve hit a wall. I’m tired,” I pushed back.
“Have a glass of wine. I’ll get them to you in twenty minutes.”
“Have a glass of wine,” I repeated in my head. “Have a glass of wine,” I said out loud, a bit shrilly. “Have a glass of wine?” I yelled, scaring the cat. Instead of having a glass of wine, I took a shower. A lying-down shower. The kind where you put the wash cloth over your face and let the hot water pour over you. And while the hot water pours over you, you hyperventilate and sob and wail. You don’t have those kinds of showers? Neither do I, usually. But once again, I found myself under tremendous stress, filled with frustration, exhausted, and just fucking done. Done, but not finished. It was Saturday night. The deadline for filing the brief was Monday. “Just two more days,” I told myself. “Two more days, and I’ll have my life back for a little while.”
As I lie there sobbing and wailing in the shower, I could hear my phone ringing and my email dinging. “Let him wait,” I thought. “I can take a fucking shower break.” Thirty minutes later, the water was cool, so I turned it off and climbed out. I looked at my iPhone. Missed call from Senior Partner. Email from Senior Partner, “I called you but you didn’t answer. Call me.”
So I did. Ignoring the phone and his emails for thirty minutes seemed to have had an effect. He seemed contrite. He had very few revisions, which I made as he dictated them to me over the phone, and we then circulated the brief to half a dozen other lawyers, along with the client, for comment. Following which, I crawled into bed and slept fitfully until sunrise. Upon awakening, I looked at my iPhone. More emails. More revisions. Must have coffee. It was Super Bowl Sunday. And time for Brief Revisions Round Sixty-Three.
And so it went. I made revisions to the brief, worked on the document exhibits, and peeked at the football game on the TV from time to time. Not that I really cared about the game. But I thought there might be a commercial with a puppy. If there was, I missed it. By Monday morning, things were in pretty good shape. They were in such good shape that we didn’t even go down to the wire on the 11 pm deadline. We had that sucker filed by 7 pm and I was free. Free!
But free to what? What do you do when you’ve just spent a month of your life in a cave writing a legal brief, and you’re finally allowed to come out? How do you celebrate? “Have a drink,” Big Law Senior Partner would say. Hell, I’d say. Just as I’d been saying for decades. In the past, I would have opened a special bottle of red. Or perhaps some bubbles. Or maybe some bubbles first, and then a glass or two of red. In fact, it was a special occasion. Maybe a glass of brandy before bed, too. But since I wasn’t drinking, I had a glass of sparkling water. With fresh lime. Now we’re talking. I made scrambled eggs. (There was no other food in the house. I hadn’t been to the grocery store in weeks.) Later, I made a cup of tea. I watched some TV. I went to bed.
I spent Tuesday away from the office, recovering, and running all the errands I’d put off for the past month. I went to Whole Foods and picked up some groceries. I bought myself a bouquet of hyacinth. (It smells lovely.) I bought lavender bubble bath and body lotion. Despite buying groceries, I was too tired to cook. So I had some leftover chili I pulled out of the freezer and a corn tortilla. No wine. No celebratory meal. I did manage a bubble bath, hot tea, and a generous slathering of lavender body lotion. I thought the cats would hate it and run from the bedroom, as they generally hate scents. But they hung out. We had pets. And I slept for ten hours.
Now it’s Friday. The work week is done. The brief from hell is filed and the other side’s response isn’t due for ten weeks. Which means I have a ten-week lull until I dive into writing the reply brief. It’s Friday! The brief is done! Have a drink!
No drink. Today is Day 35 of my 100-Day-No-Booze Challenge. No celebratory drink.
Which leaves me with the question: How do you celebrate momentous occasions (e.g., filing the brief from hell, the end of a work week signaling the first weekend you haven’t worked in a month, a long-awaited Friday night of freedom) if not with alcohol? Another bubble bath? Sparkling water? Zoning in front of Netflix?
“Have a drink,” Senior Partner says. “Fuck off,” I say. But there is no celebration.