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Yves and I reminisce about how differently we saw and continue to see this story: the corporate lawyer, a Cornell Law graduate, with an open door to what seemed like a living life. Only to wake up one day and realize the Wild West has been domesticated.

The demons of the night stop howling and a weak sun pushes back some of the darkness of the offices. It’s morning at the most prestigious law firms on Wall Street, and capital markets lawyers have started showing up.

They are all well dressed and groomed. They take the elevators past the busiest and least cared for floors and gaze enviously at the bustle and billable hours of their litigation and bankrupt counterparts. They must continue to their own floor – the superfluous department.

The Superflu Department is a quiet floor. Phones are rarely heard, many offices sit empty, and client meetings are non-existent. The lawyers exit the elevator and take meandering walks to their offices, stopping too long to talk to their secretaries before sitting down at their desks. They plug in their laptops, turn on monitors, get desk phones, cell phones, blackberries, iPads, tablets ready and wait for the onslaught of pings, messages and calls that never come.

New lawyers have been hired as summer associates during the golden age of 2021. The summer of 2021 – when Plutus turned his golden smile on our markets and rained down on us a ray of warning endless and billable hours. When anyone with a bachelor’s degree from Silicon Valley or a fraudulent biotech company could squeeze liquid gold from the aquifer in exchange for just their translucent actions. The aquifer is deep and has channels throughout the country; the rich liquid flows endlessly from the Fed’s tap and sprinkles even retailers with gold. And the PSPC — those big words run by celebrities — who could drink gold just by saying “We’ll pay you later” — and their constituents eagerly threw roses at them because it would pay off. And they were right; everything was profitable.

Then in 2022, the aquifer dried up. The waters slowed their tides and then suddenly dried up as the Fed faucet turned off and began to draw its gifts into itself. Where these waters flowed are the empty, cavernous arteries of our markets – swollen and stagnant. Barren, dry, empty but for cave dwellers who feed on the remains of grease and dead insects – these arteries are the offices of the lawyers of the financial markets.

These halls are the promenade of our frequent trips to the break rooms, lounges and neighboring offices. We wander these halls, almost blinded by darkness, hoping to bump into another lawyer to start a rehearsed conversation about the market, the Fed and the SEC and when things will pick up again – it will surely be in January. , where bankers pushed all their offers in an attempt to secure a bonus that is a lost cause for 2022.

Corridors sometimes open into hallways – the many halls on our floor once used to signify power and taste to our customers. In every lobby of our company there is a television set for 24/7 coverage of the markets with experts repeating the conversations we have alone with ourselves at odd hours of the night. We quickly pass these screens lest we hear of more slowdowns and more capitulation. The only exception is when we all step away from our desks to gather for ominous speeches from our Overlord – the Imperial Fed – to bring us another interest rate hike. Not so long ago, we started covering our televisions with black sheets.

Lunch time. Lawyers come out with empty briefcases. We have plenty of time for lunches; sumptuous lunches taken away from the office in quiet establishments away from the typical haunts of the financial intelligentsia. But we have to eat our lunches alone — eating them together would be an admission of the hours we haven’t worked and our failure as shepherds of the economy. We take headlong walks after our lunches and rush back to the office, muttering to our colleagues to get back to work on matters that have long been dormant.

Back in our offices, the lawyers have taken up strange pastimes. Desk shelves are now dotted with high-maintenance tropical plants and kinetic moving sculptures. Associates took to pruning expensive bonsai at their office; the partners started crying under their desks. Many of us stare sadly out our windows and dream of those Depression heroes who jumped out of our windows when everything fell apart. Late afternoon turns into evening and lawyers peek from their offices to see who will break ranks and go first. Often we wait past dusk so that our litigation and bankruptcy counterparts don’t see us as we sneak into the office. The building closes and the darkness of the office begins to push back the sun. And we have to go home to recite to our partners the demanding work we did that day.

The lawyers arm themselves with sheaves of papers and letter openers and begin their descent towards the lobby. They will stand in formation at the exit of the building to fend off the terrors that lurk between the tall edifices of Wall Street. The last dim light of twilight fades and the demons of the night resume their howl.

Hugo Amador (he/him) is a junior from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Yves Darkbloom (he/him) graduated from Cornell Law School. They can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] respectively. Hugo’s column, Caged birds always sing takes place every other Monday this semester.