Crawl Across the Finish Line

My old rowing coach used to tell us that we should “leave everything” on the river. The idea was that win or lose, you never had to wonder whether you could have done a little more, because you’d be sprawled just the other side of the finish line and simply doing everything you could not to puke. That concept has crossed my mind on occasion when I’ve worked out over the last couple of years, but seldom has it applied to work the way it did last week.

To be fair, seldom in the legal industry do you have cases involving complex electronic discovery that end decisively. I was in London working on a second request, which is an antitrust kind of animal where the government asks for documents to enable them to decide whether your proposed merger is going to create a monopoly. When you turn in the documents, that’s it — there isn’t any follow-up request, there’s just an answer that you hope is in the affirmative. And if you don’t hit your deadline, there’s a definite negative answer and no real hope of appeal.

The fifth of August was our deadline. It shifted several times throughout the engagement (as in, I was told this was a three-week case back in April) but we had our timetable nailed down by early July and built toward that, despite issues with resources and the inevitable craziness on the part of the client. I’m remembering now the last two weeks of the project. Owen was back in town and Golnaz was dialed in, and we’d been through test productions and confrontations with the client and resource issues, and it was on.

There’s something special that happens during crunch time. All the people that complain about the hassle of coming up with custom things suddenly test them and take pride in making them work. The people that have had better things to do suddenly turn on and tell you to call their cell phones any hour of the night if you need anything. The client, who has ignored your requests for details and instructions for weeks or months, suddenly is giving you all the information you need. There’s a period shortly before you have to produce where you are alive in your profession, where the stars align to get this one single job done and you don’t care about much else. I wouldn’t much want to live in that place all the time, but the pinprick points in the calendar when everything is about one mission are kind of special. In an adrenaline-junky sort of way. Does that make sense to anyone out there? I’ve had cases like this that my superiors referred to as my “final exams.”

There’s a saying in the legal profession I’ve always loved: If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done. At least, I think that’s an expression; I’ve always said it. So if you’ve never heard it before, then I get the credit. But that’s not all that gets things done. You need a team to respect that last minute.

This blog will go back to normal tomorrow, but I have one last set of thank-you notes to pen in honor of the last four months in UK (whether the people thanked actually see them, I feel like writing them). Sorry to say it, but if you don’t have these people, best of luck to you when you find yourself in a similar situation:

Owen B. My compatriot expatriot. My fellow new hire. The guy with a skill set that complements mine perfectly; without either of us, I can’t see how this thing got or stayed off the ground. It will be my privilege to continue working with this bloke over the next however many years.

Golnaz B.B. I used her given name but perhaps “Fearless Leader” would be more apt. Golnaz spent far more energy on this case than she had time for, because she had a full load in addition to the case for which the Americans were in town. I can’t imagine a better guide, colleague or friend, working on a case with a new company in a strange city. And let’s face it — if you put three leaders on any matter without dictating to them who’s supposed to be in charge, you’re incredibly lucky if they get along and succeed as well as the three of us did.

And there's the magical moment ... telling a stack of hard drives that you never want to see them again.

Lori B. As long as we’re sending case managers, we may as well send application support, too. Right? Except let’s set the bar a little higher for these folks — can you please make AC exceptionally competent, funny, interesting, cooperative and farsighted? Better yet, make ’em just awesome to hang out with. Lori, special thanks for architecting such an amazing workflow that a dummy like me could administer it when you were away.

Alex T. Head of operations and custom dev. Brilliant man and dedicated professional. Even better, he’s funny and can tell which project managers know both sides of the business and which ones don’t, and he’ll move mountains to make sure that clients get what they need.

Jason B. They ought to just call Jason the Wizard of EP, or maybe we ought to call him Iron Man. Up later at night than anyone else, in London longer straight than anyone else, and flat-out amazing besides.

Dan B. Resident genius. Always calm because there’s always a solution. Sees things coming that you don’t … because you’re mortal, and he doesn’t have that problem. Having an “okay” from Dan is more comforting than a blanket made of lambskin and baby seal eyes, because you know that if Dan’s on it, you’re good to go.

Paul T. Considering he’s getting married tomorrow, I’m really impressed with the focus over the last couple of weeks. But that aside, an amazing resource and so dedicated over the past months to make sure we understood what our data was and what was in it.

Chris B. Don’t talk to Chris about his vacation, but if you need to know what’s happening in your SQL database, don’t talk to anyone else first.

Chris T. Here’s a man who understands what we’re trying to accomplish and can help by coordinating between the US and UK sides; who can take on the client or support you when you need him to, but lets you do your thing otherwise. Another person I was lucky to work with, but even luckier to get to know.

Leon M. When he’s not busy giving fantastic presentations or serenading the office to keep things fun, Leon’s busy being an incredible resource. I don’t think I’ve met anyone outside the Godfather who knows more about the application with which we work, or is so steady and helpful with it. He’s got a pretty good workout regimen, too.

John K. Also so helpful, and a great friend. Thanks for the Newcastle ticket!

Megan S. One of the original amigos in town, she had personal commitments that took her back to the States (relatively) early in the case, but it was great getting to work together.

The problem with lists is that they can be conspicuous in what they exclude instead of what is on them, and I hope that isn’t the case here. I’ve been part of an amazing team, in an amazing office. Sitting quietly this week and catching my breath, it’s really gratifying to realize what we all accomplished together. And as for Friday night, our last in town, I’m more grateful than ever that our crawl across the finish line didn’t end up being from pub to pub. Cheers, London!

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One Response to Crawl Across the Finish Line

  1. Lori says:

    Awwwww shucks. Nothin but love for ya, man. You were awesome in your own right. Took new challenges on and were such a darn good teammate/compadre. I really enjoyed the experience. I’m really proud of the work you did and was proud to be alongside you for it.

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