Long Stories

1. When I was in private practice, the boutique firm where I worked rarely took walk-in clients. This was not because we were snooty lawyers who turned down work we deemed to be beneath our level (although I admit there was a certain pride to be had working for my firm), but because it took some effort to reach our office. The office was (and still is) on the eighth floor of what was designed in the sixties as a seven story building in the heart of Makati. Sometimes, when both elevators servicing the building would conk out, ours was an office on the top floor of an eight-story walkup with some of the worst parking in the country. As Randy Pausch would later explain, this was, in its own way, a filter to ensure that only those who really wanted us got us.

2. One day, a middle-aged woman came through the firm doors asking for help. Anita* had heard about our take-no prisoners approach to litigation from her friends, and was interested in engaging us to make her husband’s lover miserable. Over the course of several days Anita was able to have her husband admit to the affair; she was told by her friends that his lover had been overheard bragging about her husband’s sexual proclivities. Anita made it clear that she didn’t want to punish her husband, she only wanted to make sure that the lover get hurt for her lack of discretion. We weren’t that kind of firm, so we declined the engagement. I wonder about Anita sometimes, and I pray that she has found enough direction to hold her husband to task for his indiscretions.

3. A girl friend of mine, Beth*, asked me for marriage advice one morning, her cousin Carlo* having caught his wife cheating on another woman. Years earlier, Carlo had married in haste after poor judgment in coitus ended up with his wife getting pregnant. Several years on, their relationship became plagued with insecurity, emotional and physical battery, and now, infidelity. In the end Carlo became so bitter about his situation that he wanted to take it out on his wife’s lover. While I told Beth I couldn’t give legal advice, I told her that Carlo taking it out on jis wife’s lover was a bad idea. They’d only make their lawyers happy, I said, and that was that.

4. I was surprised to see a friend, Daniel* change his relationship status from single to married back in the days of Friendster. The accompanying pictures showed he had married Eve*, a good friend from college who became Daniel’s girl of the moment. The surprise was borne out of Daniel’s character. The man was an inveterate rake; he always on the lookout. I was about to set him up with a few law school friends when the status change happened. Not surprisingly, around six months later I found myself standing as godfather to a boy who, had he been thirty years older, could have been Daniel’s doppelganger. Also not surprisingly, three years after the wedding I got a call from Daniel asking if he could crash over. He proclaimed his marriage over, for he was now smitten with someone he met recently. I asked him why he had married in the first place, and if there was a shot at his marriage being saved. He said he had married for fear of the shotgun. “It was goodbye sex,” he said over beer at my house that night, probably forgetting that the concept of a breakup was alien to me. “We both didn’t want to be in the relationship anymore and we sure didn’t want to have a baby, but Eve got pregnant and that was that.” The next day, Daniel left, and that was the last I heard of Eve.

5. After almost a year in a Makati boutique firm, and probably because Mom wasn’t used to not being my primary boss, she began to drill in my head that all my lawyering was nothing but wasted time. I was her son and her employee, and everything else was my hobby. In tine, stories of little goals, milestones, and victories were met with sarcasm, insult, or bland indifference. Mom’s incessant nagging, put-downs, and loaded retorts took their toll. I quit my job in the first week of February, and home became a better place to be (if only for a while, before the fireworks started again).

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* Names changed to protect the innocent.

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