Legal avatars

Many nights, after leaving O´Leary and Letterman, I aimlessly wandered the streets. When I started walking my head was still full of the life of others, the immeasurable distillates   of everyday lives that were contained in the files that I had read in the broom closet during the day, producing even more condensed excerpts for Mr. O´Leary until they  were transparent like glass. Bits and pieces of everyday lives, some mundane, some extraordinary, had to be integrated into the kind of language that the legal system could process. My work as an intern mainly consisted of writing  a good enough draft of a legal memorandum for each of the files I found on my desk in the morning. A legal memorandum presents research and analysis and applies these to the particular facts aiming at conveying the technical and legal content of the file in a precise and comprehensible manner. I had to try and succinctly identify the correct legal issues, within the context of the facts of your case. Yet some untechnical aspect, an idea of what made the case tangible and human had to be preserved. There is no real algorithm to a good legal memorandum. But even producing just a fairly sufficient memorandum meant to be able to recognize which parts had to be eliminated from the narrative because they had no legal relevance and thus were misleading. The more narrow and descriptive the issue statement is, the more effective it will be. It was my aim to only include legal elements that were essential to resolution of the issues. The better I got at this, the more transparent the client became. But in my head there remained a part of the client that was not part of the memorandum and seemed to stay with me instead. Shaping the legal structure of the  narrative produced legal ghosts – avatars to the clients. I was walking with avatars at night until they got tired and disoriented. Only after I had outtalked  the last of the ghosts did I walk home, often talking a late night subway. During daytime while sitting in my closet drafting I had become once again become remarkably versed at entertaining a parallel train of thought in my head while producing avatars. Once I had found a way to draft a reasonably memorandum the days my legal internship were a lot like school.
It was in school still, when I had first discovered the places “where the seams come undone”. Every classroom in my school had a clock over the door, and all the clocks had the same simple clock face, and every one of them showed a slightly different time. I don’t know whether clocks in classrooms today are all connected to one central, totalitarian time piece as I suspect might be the case, though I hope it is not so. I always loved the way time oscillated between classes, obstinately refusing to be tamed. Officially, students had three minutes to walk to the next classroom after a period ended. But for the way from science to math, for example, you’d better made do with 1 minute and 29 seconds – the clock in Ms. Kirsch’s class was as fast as our teacher’s ability to conjure numbers out of the back entrance to Hilbert’s Hotel and as inexorable as her refusal to admit to time measured outside her class room.
On the other hand, you could afford to leisurely stroll to French after that, using not only the 1 minute and 31 seconds from Math but also the 40 seconds the French clock was late, giving you an ample 5 minutes and 11 seconds (not counted the additional minute or two Mme. Petite rustled with her papers ignoring our ongoing conversation). The clock in Language Arts had the peculiar and infamous habit of stopping at exactly 12.01 pm every couple of weeks and being only be persuaded back into service by Superintendent Reginald Smith who, for that very reason, was particularly fond of it, and year after year insisted on repairing rather than replacing it.
Every day for a few moments just before noon instruction in language arts paused and everyone’s eyes followed the unhurried second hand making its way from 11.59.59 am to 12.01.03 pm. It was almost like a pagan ritual, these four seconds of silence, as if we were paying our respects to the spirit of the clock, Time. Time, sputtering, fleeing, stopping, resuming its course, divided itself up over the 79 clocks in our school according to its own preference. With other words, it seemed to be on our side and refused to be institutionalized.
I felt the same way about the legal avatars. They willed themselves into being through the margins of the files. They escaped the system by nesting in my hair. They insisted on being human despite my best efforts.

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