The Other Bluebook: On the High Seas of Discovery by Reme Grefalda
(RADIANT PSI, Fairfax, VA, 2009)
For nearly 30 years, I've been on the receiving end (so to speak) of the Big Law lifestyle which sources Reme Grefalda’s novel, The Other Bluebook: On the High Seas to Discovery. The byline is somewhat fictionalized as well as it is presented as “As told to Reme Grefalda by Quill Berenkoff.”
The title is a pun of The Bluebook, a “unique system of citation” used by “(g)enerations of law students, lawyers, scholars, judges, and other legal professionals.” As for “discovery,” in “U.S.-American law, discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party through the law of civil procedure can request documents and other evidence from other parties and can compel the production of evidence by using a subpoena or through other discovery devices, such as requests for production of documents, and depositions.” Grefalda may be a poet-playwright-fictionist-editor but she also served as a paralegal for “three major U.S. law firms in the East Coast.” For what will become obvious reasons, none of said firms are identified in her novel.
But what is shared with much gusto by Grefalda are fictionalized stories about her legal experience. The vignettes are hilarious—surely to be expected if everyone in that world understands that “seasoned paralegals exist to make other attorneys look good.” Some of the more amusing components are Grefalda’s definitions of certain legal terms, e.g.
“Lackeys”: term of endearment for paralegals
“Junior Associates”: These are the most recent recruits; while those who have been in the firm longer, but not necessarily savvy-ier, are the “senior” associates.
“Associates” : Learn to ignore their diplomas on the wall. They may rate in academics. But their learning curve in an office environment is slow. In the echelon of legal hierarchy, they are the drones.
Being a poet as well, Grefalda also integrates poetry. “The Unspoken PECKING ORDER: in The Law Firm Hierarchy” no doubt contains a lot of real-life truth; while I replicate it below to be legible, Grefalda makes Form = Content (as good poetry can) by presenting the poem-text upside down in her novel:
The Unspoken PECKING ORDER: in The Law Firm Hierarchy
SECRETARY to Managing Partner,
SECRETARY to Senior Partner,
SECRETARY to Junior Partner,
SECRETARY to Senior Associate,
SECRETARY to Junior Associate,
Law Clerk, Project Specialist,
Files Supervisor, Librarian, LEXIS Specialist,
Word Processing Supervisor,
Word Processing Operators
Fax Operator, Copier Machine Operator,
Paper Shredder Operator,
Supervisor of Cleaning Crew,
Lobby Guard on Duty,
And Pizza Deliverer.
I have to confess that I was surprised at how low the paralegal’s status is. I am also convinced that the Pizza Deliverer ranks higher up in the hierarchy. But, whatever. More significant for a book review's sake is how, no doubt millions of lawyers might wish The Bluebook to be as rollicking a read as Grefalda’s The Other Bluebook—after all, it is the latter which contains the following poem:
AN HONORABLE PROFESSION
There once was a Lackey named Marjorie
Whose main expertise was Discovery.
She went after documents
Like a tourist for monuments.
For her, overtime was recovery.
A Lady I knew named Theresa
Reviewed all the files with a tweezer.
“Be careful of germs,
And so we wore mittens to please her.
An advocate deep in permutations
Scoffed at the Statute of Limitations.
Without a 3rd-T
He just couldn’t see
How a sculpture called up our trepidations.
Ever hear of our Top Gun O’Neal
Who tackled Retention with zeal?
He’d stack up the boxes
If only to shock us
That Quantity ain’t such a big deal.
I highly recommend this book—particularly for the crowd that popularized lawyer jokes. That be a huge crowed, yah?!
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to reviews of her newest book THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems & New (1998-2010) over at Litter Magazine and at Tributary. The book's "Afterword" essay by Joi Barrios is also newly-available online at OurOwnVoice. If these reviews get you curious, please note that its publisher Marsh Hawk Press is supporting a fundraiser for Haiti relief by giving a free copy if you order at least $15 worth of booklets through the Hay(na)ku for Haiti fundraiser; as THE THORN ROSARY is priced retail at $19.95, this is one of the best bargains in the poetry world, even as it helps out with a Haiti fundraiser.