Teaser Tuesday: Legally Ashford

As some of you know, I was briefly what my husband calls “a law-talking person”. I’ve spent a lot of time on panels and at talks fielding questions on how my legal experience relates to my books.

The usual answer: not much.

As of The Ashford Affair, however, I finally, finally have something to say when that inevitable question is lobbed my way. The modern heroine of The Ashford Affair, Clementine Evans, is a seventh year associate at a New York law firm known as CPM, or, more formally, Cromwell, Polk & Moore.

I had a lot of fun with this part of the book. (Although the lawyer in me would like to emphasize that this is all fiction and bears no resemblance to anyone living or dead, et cetera, et cetera, and so on.)

Here, for your amusement, and especially the amusement of my lawyer friends, is a snippet of Clemmie’s life at the firm:

New York, 2000

“Come in and close the door.”

Paul was waiting for her, kicked back in his massive, magenta desk chair behind a glossy mahogany desk that looked like Paul had nabbed it from J.P. Morgan. He didn’t stand when she entered; he never did. It was part of the power play.

Behind Paul, on the credenza, sat the framed photos of Paul’s hypothetical children—hypothetical because Clemmie had never seen any hard evidence of their existence. The glass-covered shelves behind him were stocked with law books—no plebian binders for Paul. Those were kept in Joan’s cubicle, along with all the rest of the actual apparatus of legal productivity.

Following his instructions, Clemmie closed the door gently behind her, holding her yellow legal pad under one arm, a black pen clipped to the top. Paul’s pen were for Paul only. Many an associate had learned that the hard way.

“I hope you had a good holiday,” he said, in the false cheerful voice he used when he was trying to be chummy.

Clemmie stared at him. Really? He knew her grandmother had died; he’d bitched enough about her missing work for it.

She swallowed her snarky comment and crossed the office to her usual chair across from Paul’s desk. Deep breaths. Just suck it up. That was the only way to deal with Paul. In a day or so, the partnership announcement would be out, and she’d never had to kowtow to the Pauls of the firm again. Instead, she’d be sitting with him at the partners’ lunch table and he could just lump it.

Yes, good image. She’d just hold on to that one. Once someone made partner, there was no way to unmake them. She could be as snarky to Paul as she liked and there’d be nothing he could do about. It was a remarkably soothing thought.

Clemmie sat, balancing her yellow legal pad on the slippery polyester of her pin-striped skirt. “Joan said you wanted to see me?”

There was a plastic football Paul kept on his desk, a little novelty one. He tossed it up in the air and caught it again. “Yes.”

Up the football went again. And down. Clemmie waited. And waited. Meanwhile, her blackberry, attached to her waistband by its own special clip, buzzed and buzzed again.

Any year now….

“You’re probably wondering why I wanted to see you,” said Paul.

Clemmie sat up straighter in her chair. It was faux Louis XIV, with slippery satin upholstery. “If it’s about PharmaNet, I’ve been coordinating with Harold while I’ve been away,” she said briskly. “I have the latest copies of the internal reports as well as an indexed binder excerpting the pertinent testimony.”

Two paralegals had given up their New Year’s Eve for that.

“No, no.” Paul frowned. “Although now that you mention it—Joan!”

“Yes?” The suspiciously regular rattle of typing cut off and Joan popped her head around the door.

Clemmie had to hand it to her, Joan had put up with a daily dose of Paul for nearly five years now, even if she had gone on a bender at last year’s Christmas party and used a couple of cocktail franks to rather graphically illustrate just what she’d like to do to him if he made her retype his f-ing briefs one more time. No one had wanted to eat the cocktail franks after that.

Paul leaned sideways. “Tell Harold I want to see him once I’m done with Clementine. In, say… five minutes.”

“Gotcha.” Joan disappeared around the door.

Paul settled back in his chair, kicking it back. “Where were we?”

Clemmie had no idea. All she knew was that she needed coffee and she needed it now.

More about The Ashford Affair coming soon!


  1. Christine on November 6, 2012 at 7:25 am

    I love the name of that firm. Every day I feel so very fortunate that I don’t work for partners like that!

  2. Stephanie on November 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    CPM? Cost per thousand? Lol still a perfectly law firm-y sounding name

  3. AngelB on November 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I used to be one of those paralegals giving up holidays because a brief/response/Summary judgement motion was due the day after. Thank you for reminding me why I changed careers. 🙂

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