THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 5 P A R T 5 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 7 677
THE CAFFEINE CONSPIRACY
By Israel Chafetz, Q.C.
What follows is the winning entry in the 2016 Advocate Short Fiction Competition.
It is not based on true events—we know, criminal lawyers briefly excited by the
confessional first-person narrative will be disappointed to learn this! – Asst. Ed.
Ihave a job that a right-thinking person would not want. Most people
in my position say they don’t want this job, but secretly some do
want it as a latent consequence of childhood megalomania. They
crave the status and authority that come with the job. But I’m different.
I never wanted this job. I was drafted into it because I did not have a
credible excuse to refuse. My job is managing partner of a law firm.
I am the managing partner of a 75-lawyer, one-office, full-service, local
law firm. This is a species of law firm that so-called “organization experts”
predict cannot survive and whose demise is simply a matter of time. These
firms are squeezed in the middle, too big to be small and too small to be big.
These firms charge hourly rates too expensive for local clients yet these
firms are too small for servicing national clients. Managing such a firm is
difficult, bordering on impossible. One wrong move could prompt an exodus
of the few influential lawyers in the firm and leave behind the petty
bureaucrats who could not find work if it were piled on their desk. To keep
this class of ship afloat someone came up with the novel solution that what
the managing partner needs is information, and lots of it. The right answer
will magically jump from the pages of data. I get reports about photocopy
revenue. I get reports about kitchen expenses. I get reports about travel
expenses. I get reports about reports. These reports are drowning me in
boredom and suffocating me in computer printouts. But in spite of my antireport
bias, there is one report that does matter: billable hours. Yes, billable
hours, the holy grail of law firm data. Billable hours are the statistics that
ultimately pay the bills. This is the report that distinguishes law firm doers
from law firm excusers.
It is my third year as managing partner. I have noticed that as a group,
millennial associates and partners have consistently fewer billable hours
than the more senior partners. To me this is counterintuitive. I expected