Just in case you need more convincing, here's an exclusive excerpt from the book about a woman trying to make it in the intense world of New York law firms.
My secretary leapt from her desk and scurried to intercept me before I entered my office.
"Where have you been?" she whispered anxiously, studying my face. "And why do you look so... sweaty?"
I swiped my forehead. "I was just at lunch. It's hot outside." It was a lie, but Rita already looked flustered enough for both of us.
"Mackenzie," she hissed, her eyes darting around the hallway to ensure she wasn't being watched. "Saul's called three times. And he sounded really pissed-awf. I mean, REALLY pissed awwwf," she emphasized in her thick Long Island accent. "He wants you in conference room 27C — ASAP. He asked for your personnel file." Her kind eyes filled with concern.
My stomach dropped. If my gut hadn't already warned me this meeting would be bad news, the request for my personnel file solidified it.
"He wouldn't tell me what the meeting was about, but I don't think it's good, Mac." She wrung her hands. "If they're lettin' you go, I don't want you goin' down without a fight, so I printed out a spreadsheet of your billable hours to take with ya to the meeting." Rita dashed back to her desk, knocking over the Starbucks cup perched precariously on the counter of her cubicle, sending pools of coffee over a pile of papers.
"Oh, crap! Crap! Crap! Crap!" She frantically wiped the coffee with a balled-up napkin. "Good enough." She pushed the coffee-stained document into my hands. "Let them see what you've given this firm." Her eyes burrowed into mine, the way a trainer stares into the eyes of a boxer during a pre-fight pep talk.
"Thanks," I mumbled, heading into my office to grab a legal pad. I squinted at the clock on my computer, silently willing time to stop so I could catch my breath.
"Is there anything else I can do?" Rita peered into my office, tugging nervously at her short leather skirt.
"No, that's fine, Rita." My tone was clipped as I breezed past her on my way to the elevator.
Get it together, Mackenzie, I repeated, punching the button for the twenty-seventh floor. Don't panic.
Yesterday I'd been practicing my best surprised face so I would be prepared when they inevitably knighted me with an honor bestowed on only a select few associates. Things couldn't have changed drastically in the past twenty-four hours. Unless...
A tight band of stress constricted around my lungs. Unless they'd found out about my one teeny, tiny transgression.
When the elevator doors opened, the large group standing there startled me. Sixty eager-to-please law students dressed in shiny new suits and smelling like the leather from their recently gifted briefcases were reporting for their first day as summer associates. I remembered my first day at Freedman & Downs ("F&D" as they had branded themselves) when I too had that same confident glint in my eye. How could I not? We were the chosen ones — the Type A personalities who'd graduated top of our class from the most prestigious law schools and now had the good fortune of nabbing a coveted summer associate position. The standards had been stringent. F&D was part of an elite group of New York mega-firms, the ones that housed 500+ lawyers, with offices that were run like small cities. Lawyers referred to this collection of firms simply as "Biglaw," and landing at one of them meant earning close to $200,000 right out of law school. Thousands applied to F&D, only sixty were chosen. It was a dream job.
Is this how I used to look? I wondered, studying their fresh faces with annoyance and fascination. No glassy eyes from long, obedient hours staring at a computer screen. No physical signs of prolonged sleep deprivation. A few of them even had a summer tan. A tan is practically forbidden in Biglaw. It shows you're spending too much time outside the office. Maybe even have a hobby. They had no idea what was in store for them, just as I hadn't. Like war, Biglaw is something that has to be experienced firsthand to truly be understood.
I pushed through the crowd and down the hall as another associate scurried past me. Nobody walked at F&D. They scurried. Walking was for people with time on their hands. I recognized him — he was the associate with the peculiar habit of carrying around a briefcase with a huge block of cheese inside and nothing else. Cheese Boy might stand out as strange outside of Biglaw, but at F&D he fit right in. In Biglaw, some form of eccentricity is practically a job requirement.
"Mackenzie!" A familiar shrill voice spat out my name venomously from the end of corridor.
Cheese Boy whipped around to locate the target of Sarah's wrath. A mix of sympathy and fear filled his eyes as they met mine for a second. He quickened his pace. Clearly he didn't want to be in the middle of what was about to go down.
"Get your ass in here," Sarah hissed, gesturing towards the door. Her neck was covered in red blotches and her stick straight hair looked so frizzy you'd think she'd just run a marathon. I'd never seen her look so unnerved. "Everyone is waiting!" She disappeared back inside the conference room.
I could feel my underarms growing wet. Taking a long breath, I stepped into the conference room, prepared to hear my fate.
But there had been no need to practice my surprised face, because my face contorted into a genuine expression of shock quite naturally when I saw the man in front of me extending his hand.
"Miss Corbett, I'm Tucker Sullivan with the Securities and Exchange Enforcement division. I have a few questions for you regarding some unusual trading activity we've uncovered. Why don't we all take a seat?" He strode briskly behind me and pushed the conference room door shut.
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