I was once a young associate in a small firm, and I thought I knew better. As in I knew how to write better than the four partners for whom I worked, including the one partner who only dictated. Most of the time I think I was right, but in retrospect it may not have been such a big deal. Or at least not worth the fight.
For one, I made it a mission to release all legal documents from the grip of the hereins, wherebys, and hereunders of the world. Those words no longer had any business clogging up “my” contracts and memoranda. In my mind, they were coughs in a document, elaborate throat-clearing devices that had no purpose other than to show that the drafter had a genuine fondness for Geoffrey Chaucer or wore an ascot while relaxing and smoking a pipe at home.
My mission got subpar results, other than the firm successfully and inexplicably rebranding me as “Frances,” which I presume related to the line “Lighten up, Frances” in the movie Stripes. That’s all I could figure. It also didn’t help that I talked ceaselessly about the virtues of the “world wide web” and asked the partners to sign up for AOL so we could be the “new law firm of the future.” Oh, I guess it also didn’t help matters when I wrote a two-page memo addressed to “All Staff” highlighting best practices for legal writing and listing the “ten worst” legal writing offenses in the firm’s work product. That memo completed my rebranding as “Frances” and ultimately marked my days. All I can say is, yes, I was young.
The beginning of the end came when a partner called me in to his office to talk about a land deal involving multiple contracts and conveyances. He wanted me to review a complicated leaseback arrangement, the details of which I cannot now recall, other than it was a dense document and I understood most but not all of it. While I typically did my own typing, this partner gave me a hard copy and asked me to “mark it up, get it in shape,” as in get out a pen and edit it manually so I can see what you are up to. So I did. And, in the process, I crossed out twelve hereins, seven thereofs, and four hereinafters. I then put it in his secretary’s in-box.
The next day, the partner asked me to come to his office over the phone’s intercom, not a good sign, and typically (at least in the 1990’s) the universal indicator that you’re wading deep into shit’s creek. I trudged down the hall, gave a knowing look to the secretary outside his door, and walked in. He was standing up at his desk, holding two documents. One was the contract I had edited. The other, presumably, was the new copy he just got from his secretary. He was pissed, and I knew then that my efforts to “modernize” the office were coming to an end. He stood up from his desk and, and in what could only be described as “rage under your breath,” uttered:
“Listen, we’re keeping the Goddamn hereins herein!” After a long pause for effect, he punctuated his command with “Understood?”
He then tossed the contract back at me, which meant forty pages spilled all over the floor in front of me. I picked up the papers, walked back to my office and put them all back in order. I got out my red Flair pen and started mouthing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” using “Goddamn hereins” in place of most parts of the chorus. I reviewed the contract again, stopping frequently to add a little red carat with a notation above to add the word herein. And hereinafter. In the end, I counted twenty-two hereins in all, ten more hereins than were in the initial contract. I even added five additional thereofs, two extra hereinafters, and a whereof that I was particularly proud of for its strategic but innocuous placement. No one noticed. And the client paid the bill.