Anonymous Lawyer

Book Review by Willard Manus

It's been a long while since a book made me laugh out loud. The honor goes to ANONYMOUS LAWYER by Jeremy Blachman (published by Picador). A black, bilious satire, the novel has an unnamed hero whose internet entries skewer the people and happenings at the major corporate law firm where he is a partner. He and his fellow partners compete in cutthroat fashion for the perks that go to the strong: end-of-year bonuses, expense-account lunches at five-star restaurants, private-jet travel, medical coverage fit for a Saudi prince. Anonymous also has his eye on the biggest prize of all, the chairmanship of the firm, a position which he feels is rightly his, thanks to his ruthlessness, egotism and deceitfulness. Much of the book deals with his Machiavellian schemes to best his main rival, dubbed by him as The Jerk. Anonymous has some equally sarcastic monikers for his other colleagues: The Suck-Up, The Prodigal Son, Stocky, Stinky and The Woman Who Wants To Be Partner.

Anonymous describes the latter thusly: "Much has changed since they started letting women into the workplace. We never had to worry about pregnant associates until very recently. In some ways it's great that they want to be lawyers--they're certainly capable of doing the work. In fact, the women who overcome the gender stereotypes and make it to the top are usually better attorneys than the men. But a lot of them don't have the commitment you need to thrive here, and they end up wasting a few years of their lives working hard for no reward. If they want to have families along with careers, they're not going to make partner."

Anonymous is pleased that the firm came up with a "part-time" solution to the problem. "We get to cut their pay while merely pretending they don't need to work as hard as everyone else...The women work 100 percent of the time they used to work but for only 80 percent of the salary...Effectively, they spend 20 percent of their salary to be able to tell themselves--and everyone they meet, because it's all they can talk about--that they've made the sacrifice and work 'part-time' to prove how much they love their children. It's self-delusion, but if it makes them feel better about putting their careers first, then that's fine with me. They can delude themselves however they want. The more women who want to work part-time, the better."

With its irreverent outlook on lawyers and the law, its mordant wit and humor, it's no wonder that ANONYMOUS LAWYER made it to the top of the best-seller lists. It wouldn't surprise me if the novel were turned into a feature film or a Soprano-like TV series.