Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Beach Lawyer"

Avery Duff was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he attended Baylor School and graduated summa cum laude. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he earned a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. He then joined a prestigious Tennessee law firm, becoming a partner in five years, before moving to Los Angeles. His screenwriting credits include the 2010 heist drama Takers, starring Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, and Hayden Christensen. Duff lives at the beach in Los Angeles and spends his time writing fiction.

Duff applied the Page 69 Test to Beach Lawyer, his first published novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Later, sitting in his interview, he was recounting to them how the Palmer closing blew up back at the firm and his solution, letting them know he was a problem solver when one of them raised a hand, midsentence.

“We have no doubt you are well qualified. No doubt at all.”

“None,” said the woman, checking her file. “You had an excellent recommendation from a Philip Fanelli.”

“Great,” he said, but something was wrong. Had they picked up on his thinly masked desperation? Had he laid it on too thick about what a mack-daddy go-getter he was?

The woman said, “Having said that, we would consider starting you first of the month if we can come to terms.”

“Where there’s a will,” he said, smiling and wishing he hadn’t.

“But we don’t need a deal maker or a closer. We thought we were clear about that in the ad.”

“The ad?”

“In California Lawyer. The ad.”

“Right,” he said, clueless. “Of course.”

“So, even though we are aware of your qualifications, we see you more as a...”

The shorter of the two short men slid a black binder across the table. “We see you sinking your teeth into these new pension regulations. Our clients are overwhelmed right now with all the new rules coming out of Washington.”

Robert couldn’t bring himself to touch the book: Pension Protection Act of 1996. Best guess, it ran a thousand pages with page headings like Reg.1009.4 (g)(i)-(ix) et. seq.

“Pretty intricate material, we know, but we’re prepared to pay competitively.”
Robert decided to be polite, to see if he could get out of here with an offer. Maybe he could still beat traffic home on the I-10.

“I’m right here,” he said.
It’s remarkable that page 69 winds up being so pivotal in Beach Lawyer.

Robert finally trekked from the beach to downtown Los Angeles looking for a job—any job—only to be tag-team insulted in a high-rise conference room by a three-lawyer hiring committee. Slated for the most boring legal task he can imagine—pension regulations—and re-starting his career, Robert is approaching critical mass about wanting to work inside the legal community.

His internal process works here, too, I think. He’s still clueless about what’s really going on in his doomed career and persists in trying to make a good impression on people neither he, nor the reader, would ever respect. He holds his temper in check—his push-back nature we’ve already seen—a good-faith attempt to be a team player on a team of losers.

It dawns on me only now—hate to admit it—that had the hiring committee offered Robert a salary verging on reasonable, his story would’ve ended here with a soul-crushing job in that firm’s pensions department. By trying to screw him, the committee actually did him a favor.

If you’ve ever asked yourself the professional question, “How much more of this garbage can I take and still respect myself?” page 69 is where that question, still inchoate, begins to crystallize for Robert. He gives his answer to their lowball offer shortly after this—he’d rather jump out of their high-rise window and count his blessings on the way down than work for these losers.
Learn more about Beach Lawyer.

My Book, The Movie: Beach Lawyer.

--Marshal Zeringue