He lives at the law firm, blowing off his wife's dinner parties, not to mention the birth of his son. He finds no satisfaction in his work, but he is trapped by his high salary and partner title.
He disdains everyone lower in the hierarchy: the smarmy $2,400-a-week summer interns, the idealistic associates who want to help poor people on company time, the associates who have the audacity to become pregnant and his incompetent secretary who broke the crystal plaque he received from a client.
He is, in short, a petty, cynical, sexist, miserable, overpaid corporate creep. He is also fictional.
But he is apparently all too familiar to thousands of lawyers across the country who are regular readers of his Web log, Anonymous Lawyer, in which he chronicles the soulless, billable-hours-obsessed partners, the overworked BlackBerry-dependent associates and the wrecked families that are the dark underside of life at his large firm in Los Angeles.
"What A.L. posts on a daily basis are the precise reasons I have left practice and am now in a "law-related field,' " one reader wrote.
Hilarious, poignant, maddening (even the readers chide one another for their high-priced whining), the blog, which began appearing in March, has become an anonymous, online 24-hour confessional for disaffected associates at large, elite law firms around the country. (Many comments are posted late at night when, presumably, the readers are still at the firm.)
And even though the blog (anonymouslawyer.blogspot.com) makes clear that Anonymous Lawyer's stories are fiction, readers write in to say they identify with him and especially with the associates he tyrannizes.
"I'm a real live Big Law mid-level associate," one reader wrote. "And I'm here to say that whether A.L. is real or not, yes, most (most) Big Law partners do think that way."
It is not surprising that a group of highly verbal computer-bound professionals who are paid to complain would gravitate toward the blogosphere. The elite firms are supposed to be the pinnacle, the reward at the end of Harvard, Yale or Stanford law schools. Anonymous Lawyer is a chance to admit, anonymously, an uncomfortable truth: The money and status may not be worth all the sacrifices.
"Anonymous Lawyer is a cultural phenomenon," said William Henderson, an associate professor at Indiana University School of Law, who uses the blog in class. "It strikes a nerve with the deep-seated ambivalence that lawyers in big law firms feel about big law firm life."
So who is Anonymous Lawyer?
The blog is full of the sort of real life details, like the chocolate-covered pretzels offered during recruiting interviews of Harvard law students at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge ("unusually good for hotel food," Anonymous Lawyer rates the pretzels, while dismissing the students as entitled and ignorant) that have convinced many readers that Anonymous Lawyer has to be a Big Law insider.
"I know he's come to Harvard to recruit," said John Howell, a Harvard law student, citing the chocolate-covered pretzels.
Anonymous Lawyer's comments about his view of the ocean from his 20th floor office have led to speculation that he works at Latham & Watkins outside Los Angeles.
"Very good possibility A.L. is one of the corporate partners at L.W. in Costa Mesa," one reader wrote.
Another reader countered: "Step back and ask yourself what partner making a fine six-figure salary with half a brain is going to risk being caught exposing various little secrets of this anonymous firm. My guess is A.L. is a current or former associate at an L.A. or L.A.-area firm."
As it turns out Anonymous Lawyer is Jeremy Blachman, a self-effacing 25-year-old third-year Harvard law student whose firsthand experience of Big Law comes down to a round of recruiting interviews last fall (at which he encountered the aforementioned chocolate-covered pretzels) and three months as a summer associate at a large Manhattan firm. While Anonymous Lawyer has been gloating over his view of the Pacific, Blachman has never even been to Los Angeles.
"I wanted to see if I could post as a hiring partner and be believable," he said over a recent dinner at a Thai restaurant in Harvard Square. "I thought it would last for a week.
"I was just writing satire," he added. "The stories I'm telling, to me, feel so outlandish. In a way I've been disappointed that I've been able to pull it off. I've painted a picture based on a few months of observation and the worst things I saw, heard about or could imagine about law firms, and experienced lawyers are chiming in, saying, "This is exactly what it feels like.' "
Readers commiserate with Anonymous Lawyer, berate him ("A.L., stop your pathetic whining"), praise his vivid writing ("It's a shame if those talents are going to waste in corporate law") and offer advice ("Go to a smaller or midsize firm, take the pay cut and increase the quality-of-life hours"). A couple have even sent him resumes.
His July 23 lament about being trapped ("You never see your kids. And they hate you. And then you don't even want to go home, and so you stay at the office, and the spiral continues.") inspired 59 comments, considered an unusually high number for this sort of blog.
"I didn't realize that it could actually ring true with so many people," Blachman said.
One comment was, "Where I work now, only myself and one lawyer a few years younger than I care a hoot for our families, and the other fellow frankly does much better than I about making time."
For his course on the law firm as a business organization, Henderson cites Anonymous Lawyer quoting an early morning e-mail message from an associate: "I just gave birth to a daughter this morning at 4:13 a.m. So I will not be at the office today. I will be checking my BlackBerry throughout the day, so feel free to let me know if you need anything."
The point, Henderson said in an interview, is that Big Law may not be exactly the life that a lot of law students think it is.
Blachman, who has been disclosing his identity to some readers who question him by e-mail, said he welcomed the chance to come clean. And he would not mind if someone offered him a book contract either. Anonymous Lawyer is up to 56,000 words and counting.
Blachman asked that the firm where he worked last summer not be identified because, he said, he did not want to create the mistaken impression that it resembled A.L.'s dehumanizing outfit.
"It was one of the more relatively laid-back firms," he said.
One partner from another firm whom he interviewed with did provide some inspiration. Asked by the partner what he was looking for in a firm, Blachman mentioned something about "nice people."
"He said that his firm wasn't selling nice," Blachman recalled, "and that if I was looking for nice, I shouldn't pick his firm."
At the firm he did choose, Blachman said, he found nice people, many of whom struck him as deeply unhappy, and plenty of impressions to turn into fiction for Anonymous Lawyer.
Blachman, who commuted to Manhattan from his mother's home in the Bergen Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he grew up, recalled the reception where one associate told him: "Savor this summer; it's all downhill from here."
As an undergraduate at Princeton, where he wrote musical comedy sketches and songs for the Triangle Club, Blachman dreamed of becoming a writer. But, he said, "I didn't know what steps to take to make it happen."
So after working in marketing for a software company in Austin, Texas, he enrolled in law school. He thought a law degree would ensure his employability and give him time to figure out how to be a writer. The son of a kindergarten teacher, he said that before Harvard he had never met anyone who worked at a law firm.
He is following in a tradition of Harvard Law students who have turned to fiction, the most famous being Scott Turow, who wrote a novel, One L, about the law school.
Blachman writes an opinion column for the law school newspaper and composes songs for the law school a cappella group, Scales of Justice, and for the school's parody show. (One recent composition is Billing Me Softly, sung to the tune of Killing Me Softly.)
He also writes a second blog, jeremyblachman.blogspot.com, as himself, a witty soul-searching third-year Harvard law student.
"I've turned down the opportunity to make having gone to law school make sense," he wrote last month, announcing that he had passed on a $125,000-a-year job offer from the Manhattan firm.
"The law doesn't inspire me," he wrote, adding that he had had to wrestle with his fear that his yearning for fulfilling work was a "stupid, childish fairy tale."
"Look, I want to write," he went on.
Blachman said that after graduation in June he might move to Los Angeles and look for work writing for television.
"I could possibly write for a law show, given my legal education," he said.