One day the partner in charge of the document archive called a meeting of the entire staff in the conference room. This included the Staff Attorneys, the paralegals and the secretaries. He announced that the document archive would be closing by the end of the year. I remember he had a smile on his face perhaps expressing that this burden he had been assigned was finally over. For the Staff Attorneys this was a chilling message. We all knew these jobs were not career path jobs and the tobacco litigation would end at some point. On the other hand we had settled in to our well paid, low stress positions. Because we had been only performing document review we had no real attorney skills. So, any attempt to transition into another “real attorney” job at a different firm would be difficult. The prospect of unemployment scared me.
Fortunately the partner who ran the document archive advocated for the Staff Attorneys to other partners at the firm. One partner for the New York office needed a staff to draft answers for litigation involving a well known pharmaceutical company that had made a drug that allegedly caused heart attacks and strokes. The New York partner was a bit of a marshmallow in stature from too many years sitting behind a desk and eating at high end restaurants. His personality, however, was direct and to the point. There were thousands of plaintiffs filing suit against this pharmaceutical company all across the country and each of these suits required a document called an “Answer” responding to all the points in the “Complaint”. What this meant for me was not that I would be using my legal skills to draft these answers. It meant I would be looking at the form answer drafted by one of the associates. The form answer contained different ways of denying every point on the complaint. Even simple factual points such as the pharmaceutical company was located in a particular state. I would be cutting and pasting answers from the form into the new answer I was drafting.
The work was mindless and at a certain point there was not enough work to go around. I remember billing an entire day to draft an answer that probably took me fifteen minutes to complete. I did not like being in this situation. The law firm required me to bill a certain number of hours per year but then did not provide me with enough work to meet that billable requirement. Nor would they allow me to perform real attorney work because I was a Staff Attorney. As such, I could be honest, bill a few hours and be fired or I could be dishonest and pad my hours, keep my job but feel guilty about it. I wanted to work but I wasn’t allowed to. It was the lawn mower issue all over again.
I became anxious and depressed. My marriage suffered. I spent my days arguing with a co-worker through long email chains about whether God was real or not. I surfed the web. It was there and then that I discovered a certain website called StarTrek.com. I start posting on the message board and became a member of the community. When the members migrated over to another website called SisterTrek.net, I did too. And so began my foray into the world of internet trolling. I had a shame-based personality. I was anxious and depressed because of my job. I felt overpaid, useless and stuck. Finally, I had unlimited access to the internet. That combination of situations made it impossible for me not to troll.