Post Date: March 24, 2005
The debate raged online for almost a year: Who was Anonymous Lawyer? Was he real, or just the fictional character he claimed to be? He certainly seemed real enough to many readers of his Web log, anonymouslawyer.blogspot.com, where he posted cynical commentary about life in a large Los Angeles law firm.
Since last spring, Anonymous Lawyer has been sharing his innermost elitist, sexist, sarcastic and egotistical thoughts with readers. He depicts Big Law as a dark, soul-crushing place where high salaries and hierarchy prevail and loyalty to the firm is the most valued trait. Often outrageous, his posts express what no one would dare say aloud.
He admits that he stays at work to avoid going home to his kids because they hate him. Why do they hate him? Because he’s never there.
He discounts female colleagues who get pregnant.
He says it’s a good idea to segregate support staff from the lawyers at the annual firm picnic.
He makes no secret of the fact that he hates his life yet loves the money he makes and the power he wields over the firm’s associates: “I mentioned to one associate, for no particular reason, that I thought his beard made him look a bit sloppy and that it wasn’t the kind of image we want to portray. Yesterday, he showed up clean-shaven for the first time, he said, since law school. Turns out he’s not a handsome man. Too bad.”
Though the blog declares itself to be a work of fiction, many readers insisted that A.L. and his firm were real. One even posted a list of possible A.L. identities.
So imagine their surprise when A.L. turned out to be not a disenchanted partner, but Jeremy Blachman ‘05, a Harvard Law student whose experience inside law firms had been limited to his 2L job interviews and work as a summer associate at a New York firm‹a job he says he actually liked.
“I was making stuff up based on stereotypes and on what I could imagine, and on the people I’d met,” said Blachman, who revealed his identity as A.L. to a New York Times reporter in December. Blachman was already blogging about his real life as a law student (jeremyblachman.blogspot.com) when he started Anonymous Lawyer. After having a series of interesting encounters interviewing for summer associate jobs, he began to write things down. “I thought it would be fun to try writing from the perspective of the hiring partner and make it really over the top and ridiculous,” he said. “It was just for fun. I didn’t think anyone was going to read it for more than a week.”
If it had fizzled out then, Blachman wouldn’t have minded. The blog was just one of several writing outlets he had at HLS. From his very first weeks as a 1L, he’s been writing a humor column for The Record, as well as writing and performing songs for the a cappella group Scales of Justice and for the Law School Parody. As an undergrad at Princeton, he wrote comedy sketches and song lyrics for a student theater group, dreaming of one day writing for television or film.
But it was the Anonymous Lawyer blog that eventually took off. When Blachman opened a comments section for the blog, he discovered a loyal following that included many lawyers and law students.
“I thought I was writing satire, and people were saying this is actually what it’s like,” he said. “I felt terrible because people thought I was real.” He even had to reveal himself via e-mail to a few people, including several law professors at other schools. “I didn’t want to get myself in any trouble for pretending to be a lawyer.”
Now, it looks as if Blachman won’t be entering law practice anytime soon. In the days following the Times article, he heard from two dozen book agents, all itching to capitalize on the buzz. In February, he settled on a deal with publisher Henry Holt and Co. to write the book version of Anonymous Lawyer. When interviewed for this story, he politely declined to say what the deal is worth.
“It will be like a ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’--letters to the reader in blog form about this guy’s life at the firm,” said Blachman. Although the existing blog will serve as the source material, he says the book will have new stories and a plot.
Blachman said he received the “standard offer” from his summer firm to return full time after graduation. But that was before his identity as A.L. became known. “I haven’t heard from any of the partners there since Anonymous Lawyer was revealed,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re displeased or not. I did hear from some of the summer associates I worked with¬nothing negative, just friendly responses.”
He turned down the offer but isn’t closing the door on law completely. This summer, he’ll take the New York bar exam. “I want to write the best book I can write because that’s what’s going to make more opportunities,” he said. “If I write a lousy book, I’ll end up being a lawyer.”