Investing Time Ch. 01

_This story is a continuation of "Counting Pennies" by Vix Giovanni.

If it's not obvious yet how much this shit irritates me, lemme explain. Cause from the day they graduated their "top-tier" law schools — No; actually, real talk? From the day they got their Reedland offers in hand — these associates completely stopped putting in any fucking effort, cause they knew they'd bank every year regardless.

That's not me calling Darrell out. Cause he's not the only associate who acts like that. Most of my associates act like getting out of bed and getting to the office at a halfway decent hour was demanding enough. So once they're here, somehow they're all "too stressed" and "overtaxed" to actually do any fucking work.

By noon, half of my associates finally decided to get around to working. But the other half looked at the clock and decided it was time for lunch. Kid you not.

But maybe I need to have more patience too? I dunno. I was way more of a fuckup at life when I was these guys' age. At least they show up for work. Maybe I should be golf-clapping them. That's leaps and bounds ahead of where I was at.

I can dig it. Struggle's real, especially with this ACE account.

I grabbed my coat and stepped out on the floor. "I'm paying for lunch. If you're coming, come now."

I suggested Dean & Deluca. No one poo-pooed it. Jennifer hailed an elevator to the lobby.

I kept my cool and pretended I hadn't heard the question. Peter either raised it to break the silence, or to puff himself up by putting his juniors down. And if it was the former, he's got fucked up ideas about how to spark a conversation. And if it was the latter, then it was a fucking dick move.

The elevator got ten degrees hotter and twenty percent narrower.

I felt like a helicopter parent. I should have been supervising her, not Miles. Definitely not Darrell. He can't supervise his own self.

Peter sighed like he was exasperated. "Is Cara working tomorrow morning?"

They don't know Cara's my daughter. No one does besides her mother and her step-father. And they probably don't know that I'm actually hitting it. But it seems they all think they know something's wonky.

But it doesn't seem plausible that they've all missed all the signs. The way I look at her. And talk to her. To me, it feels like you can't not notice that I… notice her. Regardless of the fact that there's nothing outwardly connecting us except that we work at the same firm.

Tom frowned. "That's not gonna work." I wasn't sure whether he was commenting about her schedule or her work on the AIG docs.

I wanted so fucking bad to say something. Turning comments is child's play. If it really was just about some comments waiting to be turned, any one of my associates could pick up a fucking phone and just call my clients. Cause whatever docs they were talking about, that shit seriously could wait till Thursday if needed.

I wanted to jump in, but that would have been weird. Obvious. If I'd said something, I woulda singled out my baby girl.

Dean & Deluca wasn't as packed as it sometimes is during the lunch rush. And, bonus, Jennifer found two tables to push together so there was a bit of room for us. I had no wait; I just got a liter of water and three apples. So I watched my associates drift over as their food orders came up.

You can gauge people's insecurities in little things like that. It was possible that they'd never experienced casual dining before; a hard thing to imagine in Manhattan, especially since this restaurant is in our office building. So, taking away that possibility, it was more likely they associated tray-based dining with some uncomfortable past experiences.

Weird to be concerned about something so fucking trivial. And plus, if you guys are so worried about reliving some embarrassing moment, such as dropping a tray, then why the fuck are y'all always setting yourselves up for embarrassment by dropping the ball at work????

I guess people think since I'm in charge, I must always be thinking like a responsible adult. But most of the time, I feel like I'm fourteen years old and faking my way through all of this. But at fourteen, I was six foot one and the class clown. I have a lot of teenage angst; it just wasn't whether I could sit at the same table as the cool kids.

"Don't get old. Each year starts to go by faster." She laughed politely. "Any chance this will finally be the year?" She scoffed and shook her head tightly. "Really, Jenn? You're gonna make me keep begging you?"

"You're smarter than all those fucking guys. Watch them. They can't even carry trays with food on them. They're scared they're gonna drop their plates." Jennifer giggled. "To them, a dropped tray is a disaster. But you, you'd — what? — shrug it off and get back in line?"

"Exactly! That's the real world problem solving that sets you apart!"

"That's bullshit. I was a paralegal, too, you know. I know what you do all day. And I know you're way too talented for it."

I shrugged. "I told you before. That don't mean shit. Just go get the degree. You've already got the fucking job."

"What, and leave all this?" Jennifer smiled as the rest of the guys piled around her at the tables she'd pushed together.

Jennifer grinned tightly but didn't say anything. And I realized that, regardless of any intentions behind their words, my associates' interactions with her were keeping her confidence down instead of building it up. Jennifer had been working for me for four years, starting as a part-time temp and then proving she had the same chops as paras from top universities. Maybe it was time for her to spread her wings and get her confidence back.

"You were a paralegal, too, B. What was the best advice you ever got?" Jennifer's savvy. She's always been good at cutting right to the core of things. And she's got ridiculous charisma. Peter might have been too dense to get it, but my other associates got the deep jibe she took at him.

My baby and my wife were what I used as excuses for all of my fuckups. But Jack didn't buy in, and his associates pushed me hard — extra hard — to stop slacking off. And he trained me up to push myself to be better and work smarter.

Peter and Tom nodded thoughtfully; Jack's was a name they'd definitely heard in Big Law folklore.

Darrell laughed self-indulgently and Miles and Peter joined him nervously, I guess remembering that I'm forty-four, and maybe worried I'd take Darrell's comment some type of way. But none of them got my point.

"You guys don't get it. Jack said, 'Make a millie while you're young' cause he meant, like, train yourself up early how to work hard. Cause working hard just gets harder to do as you get older.

Peter jumped in, I guess thinking there was an opportunity to market himself. "Wow, that's real good advice, B. That's kind of my approach, too… I mean, we're all working hard. But I just try to push the associates to stay focused and to give 100%. Especially on this ACE project. I know that's important to you."

But Peter's been gunning for Special Counsel hard. The fake plastic smile plastered on his face looked like he was wearing a mask. And it's that creepy smile that makes me worry about putting him face-to-face with my clients or letting him supervise any of my books.

I sat back and read the table. Miles and Peter both looked ready to crap their pants, Darrell and Jennifer looked only slightly more relaxed and Tom looked like he'd rather have been anywhere else.

I sighed. I shoulda just skipped lunch. I don't know how to mentor. "Don't talk to me like you're still prep students at Harvard; talk to me like you're real people."

"Good question. Porter at my old condo. Dude was in his sixties. Huge college basketball fan; we'd talk when I got home late.

"Shit." Darrell smirked and raised his CokeZero in salute. "That's lucky. So I guess your advice is that we get to know our building staffs, huh?" They all chuckled politely.

Tom rolled his eyes and frowned angrily. "And that's why most white shoe lawyers burn out! Nobody can be 'on' all the time. It's unrealistic to work twenty-four seven, always at one-hundred."

Miles scowled. "It's impossible to punch a clock twenty-four seven. But if this is your life, if it's your goal — you'll make it happen." That caught me off-guard. Maybe Miles gets it.

This is fiction. All characters are over 18. All rights are reserved._

My law clerks make two hundred grand a year for looking at me bug-eyed and acting like they've never picked up a goddamn phone before. Darrell's a third year, which means he will take home nearly three hundred this year; and fuck me if I understand that shit cause I've never seen him do any real work.

Not even bullshit work! Like, I just needed a handful of fucking calls returned; even that never got done! Unfinished docs on the ACE account (besides the one Darrell was supposed to complete) were circulating back to me — and whoever drafted them got all kinds of language wrong in the docs. Basic contract language; like the names of the muthafucking parties!

It's like running a fucking daycare I swear to Christ! My students back at Science Leadership in Philly used to act with more goddamn sense.

And shit didn't change overnight for me. It took a long ass time for me to finally get my shit together, start coming correct. I needed a lot of encouragement. Maybe these guys just need more encouragement….

My 1pm conference call got cancelled. So it seemed like as good a time as any to act on my new, gentler revelations. Turn a new leaf. Get my team revved up.

Most everyone was already gone but I noticed Jennifer grabbing her coat and scarf, and I saw Miles emerge from his office. While I was standing in the elevator bank, those two and Peter and Darrell and Tom funneled out to join me. They grinned awkwardly, a couple mumbled thanks.

It's a straight shot, but it still takes time to get from the 47th to the ground floor. So we were stuck in a very awkward silence until Peter asked Darrell and Miles, "The drafts from AIG. I'm still waiting on those docs. Did either of you turn those comments yet?"

Darrell frowned and shook his head, but Miles answered. "We looked at them but neither of us had any capacity. So, I gave the comments to Cara to finish."

What documents did they give her? And who were they going to at AIG? Did tax and corporate sign off on them yet? I needed to know the specifics.

But that was just feelings, right? I'm the exact opposite of "overprotective." Christ, I left my child in my bed this morning with my cum still dripping out of her.

I was nervous even about swallowing. I fought down a cough. I didn't want to draw any attention to myself in that moment. Cause I have the feeling that they all already know… something. But I don't know what "something" actually is.

Maybe they can read it on my face. Or maybe they can smell her on me the same way that I still smell her on me. Or, maybe I'm just paranoid.

My heart was pounding. Jennifer's voice sounded like it was in a tunnel. "She has class all day Wednesdays. She's only working Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays this semester."

"Darrell can you text Cara? Find out where she left off and pick up from there? Cause I still need to look everything over too. And it's gotta go to AIG and ACE like… yesterday."

But these idiots clearly had fucked up something bigger than comments. Or they'd failed to do something bigger that my clients were expecting. And instead of owning up to it, they were trying to scapegoat the law school part-timer. It was total bullshit!

All the clerks and paralegals get the dump down. It's not fair but it's normal. What's not normal is a senior equity partner giving a fuck about it.

They had paper bags of pastries and black plastic trays awkwardly gripped in their hands. It wasn't just one of them; all of them looked extremely unsure and uncomfortable holding those trays.

Maybe they all were former nerds, unsure whether there'd be a table for them at lunchtime. Or maybe one or all were once some big jock's target for tormenting during lunch period. Maybe one of all of them had experienced the heated embarrassment of everyone laughing at their dropped trays and scattered food….

Though at the same time, I gotta admit: my hands were fucking itching to just run up on Miles and smack the fuck out of his tray! Just flip that shit all out of his nervous little grip and watch everything go flying! Not to embarrass him; I swear. Just to see what would happen.

Jennifer was sitting next to me and stirring a cup of soup. "I can't believe February's almost over. I feel like I just got back from my New Year's trip. This year is flying by!"

Jennifer sighed and pursed her lips. "I watch what you guys do everyday, B. The truth is, I am… not cut out for it."

Jennifer smirked and couldn't help giggling. "No, I'd wait at my table for an employee to bring me a new soup. And I'd complain to management about the flimsiness of the tray and get Dean & Deluca to comp my lunch."

Jennifer's face slowly fell. "Maybe I seem smart maybe because I'm just doing research and typing things up all day. It's routine."

"I… I did take a practice LSAT. But I didn't do so hot. And I don't have Harvard or Penn or Princeton on my resume; I have Plaza College."

"Omigod, are you leaving, Jenn?" I hadn't been paying attention to Miles as he walked up and methodically started laying out his lunch. But his voice rose and his eyes were huge. Pained. And he really did then look like he'd drop his tray. "Brian just said you've got a job?"

Darrell grinned and noisily dragged his chair closer. "That's a relief. We need you around! You're the best paralegal by far. If you did leave, we'd have to get you back somehow."

Peter chuckled to himself as he stirred dressing in his salad. "Well, I , for one, say you should get thee to a law school, Jennifer." Peter smiled as if making a decree that we'd all been waiting for. His mannerisms are so weird and stiff! Jennifer cut her eyes at me and grinned. "That's my advice. The best one you can get into."

I thought back to my first summer and the "old" days, back when there still was a Philly office. Working for Jack Morrel's institutional finance practice. Back then, I was either on par with or worse than Darrell.

"'Make a millie while you're young.' That's what my first boss said. Jack Morrel."

Darrell clearly hadn't heard of Jack, but still lit up. "Oh man, that's the truth! I can't be like, forty trying to stack bread. I mean, I'm not greedy. But, yeah, I just wanna be, like, at least retired by then."

Well, maybe Jennifer got the point. Or, maybe I'm biased towards her.

"I was a fucking slacker when I was a paralegal in my dad's firm. And I wasn't a hard worker when I when I was an intern or a clerk. I'm pretty sure I stayed on Jack's last fucking nerve. But he pushed me hard. And his point was that the spoils become an afterthought if you just work hard enough to be successful."

The fuck? All of what he said was nonsensical jibber.

"Well, I think we all have. I try to be very methodical about it. And on the Netflix and ACE accounts in particular. I know you've said that level of work will be par for the course, but these have been really complex deals." I really don't get Miles. He's got too much nervous energy.

"Wow. I'm… this isn't an annual review! Seriously. It's just fucking lunch. Ya'll can relax a little."

I was proud of Miles for at least trying to speak up. "Well… what advice… how, what exactly, what… did you do to make your first million dollar deal happen?"

"Anyways, he knew I was a lawyer, so one night, he mentioned his step-son was looking for a lawyer. I said, 'Tell him to call me.' Turns out his step-son was COO of Finance Engines and needed someone to handle the company's IPO. Was one of the biggest that year, P/E passed 60."

I shrugged a shoulder. "My advice is… treat everybody like they're your potential client. To quote Rick Ross, 'Whoever thought that fat girl would grow up to be Oprah.' You gotta have a plan, and you gotta give everyone one-hundred percent all the time. Cause you never know who'll have something to help you."

I knew Tom was dissatisfied and likely had been scoping out lateral moves. But that was the most direct he'd been with me.

"Right. But you gotta figure your goal. Harvard, Penn, Reedland — none of that matters. No one else can 'tell' you how to make it happen. And it's the same rat race whether you're at Reedland or Cravath or Watkins … same old shit, different names.