Associate’s Nightmare

by John Conway

Molly clenched her teeth and stared blankly at the post-it-sized area of her desk that was visible amid the mounds of paper that had once been neatly stacked. Her heart was pounding, her breath was short, and her throat felt thick. Judge-Laird’s 2-page October 15 Minute Order lay in her lap, clutched by her right hand. What should she do?

The Minute Order stated clearly “thirty days.” Thirty days. Molly closed her eyes hard, opened them, and looked again at the calendar. Today is Thursday. And there it was again: November 15. It can’t be.

With a deliberate, plodding gesture, she put her finger on Monday, October 15. Then she counted, one day at a time, from October 15, up to 30. And there she was. Again. Her finger stopped on Wednesday, November 15.

No.

And now what? The motion papers were already stacked up on her secretary’s desk ready for pickup and delivery to the courthouse. The motion was important—no crucial. And this was a problem that could not be fixed. Whatever you do, don’t ever blow an important deadline. That was Christian Donnelly’s only advice when she told him she was accepting the offer at Prentice, Mc Cleary, Tuttle & Briggs. It’s the only thing you can’t fix.

Should she backdate the signature pages? Make up a story about the filing? Hope it gets through and no one notices? Or make up a letter saying “Thank you for extending the deadline by one day” addressed to opposing counsel—which would be fine except it pointed out the mistake, and opposing counsel would know.

Should she tell Evan? No. That would make it worse. Nothing can be done anyway. Telling Evan would just guarantee reprisal. But won’t he find out anyway? And isn’t it worse that way?

She was not sure what to do, but she was sure of the most likely consequence in any event. Her career at this firm was over. Over. She had committed a cardinal sin, and the price … the client will lose millions, the firm will lose a client, and Molly will be to blame. The firm would have to terminate her. No choice. Or if it didn’t, she still had no future here. There was no way she would ever make partner. Not after this.

Why did I think it was Thursday? Why?

(c) 2010 John Conway

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