Double Billing: A Young Lawyer’s Tale of Greed, Sex, Lies, and the Pursuit of a Swivel Chair

Double Billing: A Young Lawyer’s Tale of Greed, Sex, Lies, and the Pursuit of a Swivel Chair

Withers, Ashley P

by Cameron Stracher (William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1998, 228 pages, hardcover)

The book Double Billing works on different levels for different readers. Depending on your perspective, the book is either a clever and honest account of the practice of law or a small-minded narrative that unjustly condemns the legal profession. In either case, Cameron Stracher has tackled the giants of high-priced corporate law and come out swinging.

In his book, Stracher describes the realities of modern-day litigation through the eyes of a young associate working at the firm of Crowley Sz Cavanaugh. “C & C” is a fictional firm that Stracher created from his own experiences at various firms and from interviews conducted with associates. Ninety-seven partners own “C Sz C” and they direct 205 associates in a midtown Manhattan office. Fifty new attorneys enter the firm every year and each will have approximately a five percent chance of making partner. Stracher devotes most of the book to describing the typical associate’s work load. For example, the central character’s tenure at “C & C” begins with an assignment to organize over 100,000 pieces of paper into a computer database in preparation for a trial. The young lawyer works around the clock to finish this task. After the third straight weekend spent at the office, he finally thinks he is getting somewhere. Unfortunately, the case settled on Friday and no one bothered to tell him. According to Stracher, this type of indifference characterizes many young associates’ careers.

In fact, lawyers working as associates at large corporate law firms should not read this book unless they have skin as thick as armor. You will be reminded of the many hours you wasted researching an irrelevant legal issue on the far-off chance that it might become relevant. You will be forced to take an honest look at the billing practices that keep you talking about a case at lunch, so that the client can pay. But most important, you may realize that while this career pays the bills, and pays them well, it never reminds you that you chose law because you once thought it was a noble profession.

On the other hand, if you are a law student or new lawyer contemplating a future with a firm like “C & C,” read this book and read it carefully. Stracher gives an account of the legal profession that can only come from someone experienced in the field. And he does not sugarcoat any of it. He paints an incredibly vivid and harsh picture of the work and of the partners whose approval will come to define your professional existence. At the same time, however, Double Billing lures the young lawyer to this type of firm with descriptions of the wealthy lifestyles led by partners and associates alike. In the end, the book simply reads as the honest truth, and judgment is for the reader to make.

Copyright Commercial Law League of America Jan/Feb 1999

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