All lawyers are educated, expensive mercenaries of fortune with a high chance of variable expediency in allegiance to whoever employs their burst of legal pep, or “intelligent drudgery,” so to speak. Lawyers know no fear but lots of hubris that can move heaven and earth because of their Napoleonic credo of “There’s no word for impossibility in my dictionary.” To Sally, it’s a real case of Sartre’s existentialism which dictates that “Experience precedes essence.” And yet, the images of gentlemanly lawyers in the characters of Atticus in To kill a mockingbird played by Gregory Peck and Kavanagh QC portrayed by John Thaw are hard to be disembarrassed from Sally’s abstract ideas of fine lawyers.
Sally’s position of legal assistant wears many hats: secretary, paralegal, accountant, receptionist, calendar person, and whipping girl paid to do a one-man show at a high price. You may yoke the concept of the position into that of a pricey maid, sort of an upgraded modern version of educated head maid you may see in TV period dramas, such as Upstairs and Downstairs, Berkeley Squares, and The Duchess of Duke Street. Accordingly, like a dutiful head maid in a manor house, docile Sally exerts all her efforts to fulfill incredibly hectic demands imposed upon her daily tasks with graceful patience and her very pretty smile.
“It’s all a mind game, a sort of mental Tetris in which I have to find out a way to accomplish my tasks without being jammed with constantly generating tile blocks to be upgraded to the next level. And I want to win in this game.” Surely, as consciousness is the foundation of the universe, marshaling self-discipline and courage to perform her tasks to the fullest extent possible is the sine qua non of her happy metier. After all, the nature of lawyering turns its practitioner into a professional inquisitor of wickedness of mankind as observed by Arthur Schopenhauer.
Stephen King said that people love reading about what others do for a living because it’s so entertaining and thrilling at the same time with subject matters being closed to the real world. It gives readers a sense of realism or verity in which we all are rooted because work is what ties to us in reality where we face existential absurdities in dealing with human imperfections in conjunction with performing demands imposed on our daily tasks at work.
Hence a story of a neurotic legal secretary who has good heart but is driven to a borderline madness by witnessing the idiosyncratic characters she encounters in the office: The bumptious boss, the snobbish lawyers and their ilk, the ingratiating and ruthless HR personnel, the pitiful and sometimes cunning co-workers. Reading this story is like watching a black comedy which induces both pathos and satirical comedic relief. In fact, this diary seems to be more of a therapy journal in which the narrator purges out her hidden innermost feelings and emotions about her work and the people at it; it’s a Punch-like compendium of caricatures in word format.
Ms. Halliburton could have written this hilarious book as her memoir of a seasoned legal secretary in a prestigious Manhattan law firm. Or more likely than not, the author might have written this diary as a way of releasing her own stress and distress. For whatever reason it might be, Stephen King was right in saying that we enjoy stories of others in relation to their jobs because this book is easy to read and enjoyable, providing the reader with the kind of pleasure a Peeping Tom indulges in by peeking at what others do and feel about their work with a telescope.