In the months that followed, Steve developed, discovered or disposed of business in San Francisco, while she, without pretext, left the city at noon on the third Friday of every month.

Roy, the partner responsible for her supervision, noticed and was disturbed by the fact that she never sought his permission to “leave work early,” but he wisely decided not to confront her.

She would surely point out that, at the end of every month, she had billed more hours than any of her cohorts — and that clients billed for her time paid every penny and paid it on time.

Steve stayed with her in San Francisco. She stayed at Steve’s 750-square-foot “beach closet,” which opened onto the sand of Miramar Beach.

Linda and Howard owned a beach house with three other couples two hundred yards north of the closet, and they held an open house on the third Sunday of every month.

She thought about her conversation with Carol and how Carol thought they were both “strivers.” It wasn’t true. It might be true for Carol, but the Best Person thought of herself as a skater.

Thanks to her grades, test scores and her teachers’ recommendations, she was accepted at all the highly selective colleges to which she applied. The same thing happened when she applied to law school and then again when she was ready for a job.

During a Sunday open house, Judge Linda sought her out.

Linda said, “I know this is coming out of the blue, but our longtime traffic commissioner is talking to me about giving up his position. The commissioner serves at the pleasure of the judges, and I’m the presiding judge, so I’ll be responsible for organizing his replacement.”

The Best Person wondered what this had to do with her, “Traffic commissioner?”

 Linda continued, “Hear me out.”


“Obviously, you like it here. I like having you here, and I hope you’ll be part of our community. I don’t know how serious you are with Steve, but you seem to enjoy each other; however, I doubt you let yourself be defined by your boyfriend.”

“I haven’t had that many of them.”

Linda agreed, “They can be a lot of fun, but they’re also a lot of work. In any event, there is going to be a law job opening up and you could get it.”

“Traffic commissioner?”

“It’s not what anyone aspires to in law school. But think about it. It pays a living salary. You control your own docket and the work is easy. No one loses sleep over a speeding ticket.

“When members of the public appear before the commissioner, it might be their only contact with the court — ever. They expect, and they are entitled to, your full attention and they want to be treated politely.

“So, you’re polite and attentive and you make your best call. You do the same thing several times and then you go home.”

As a polite person, she tried to hide her incredulity, “Over time, that doesn’t sound very satisfying.”

The judge replied, “I agree and that’s the beauty of the job. I’ve listened to you and my sister talk about how hard you worked to land your extremely high-paying jobs — jobs at which you are each dissatisfied for different reasons.”

“I didn’t work hard to get the job. I worked hard at subjects that are fairly easy for me. I think there’s a difference.”

The judge continued, “Well, fine. You didn’t work hard for a job that’s not satisfying. If you were traffic commissioner, it would be another job you didn’t have to work hard to get, but it would be a job without pretense.

“If you’re traffic commissioner, your main function is to act as the liaison between the court and the public; the job doesn’t pretend to be a potential source of anyone’s existential purpose, which is what you and Carol are talking about.”

“If you can’t find meaning in your work …?”

Linda said, “You find it somewhere else. Hell, maybe children or maybe one of the hundred other things you could do very well with the time, energy and financial wherewithal a job like this provides.”

“But …”

Linda said, “Yeah, you can but, but, but … There are plenty of reasons for you to be disinterested. Just process the possibility in the back of your mind or on your cloud, or wherever your generation does that kind of thing.”


Linda said, “There’s nothing to lose.”

“Okay, I guess.”

On her sixth anniversary with the firm, Roy took her to lunch to review the previous year and to talk about the next. It was going to be a lunch he wouldn’t forget.

He decided to take her to the Tadich Grill, largely because he liked being recognized by name. She had been going to Tadich’s with her Uncle Bruce for as long as she could remember.

The maître d’ greeted Roy deferentially by his last name; he greeted her affectionately by her first name. When taking their drink order, she asked, “The regular?” The regular was a concoction she made up for herself when she was still wearing Mary Janes.

Roy didn’t ask her what she was drinking because he rightly suspected it was non-alcoholic (the acknowledgement of which might diminish the pleasure he anticipated from the first of at least two Martinis).

When their orders for lunch had been taken and Roy had his drink in hand, he went right to the point:

“Today’s the day, and if you are one of those associates who started the year before you did, the news isn’t good. Only two — Rose and Paul — are going to be offered a partnership.

“A couple of others will be offered a contract position and that’s it. I don’t know if this means more partnerships will be offered to your group or if it will be more of the same next year.”

By temperament she didn’t waste words, so she didn’t reply to what Roy had said, nor did she relieve the discomfort he experienced from her silence.

When the sand dabs she had ordered were served, she was, as usual, an enthusiastic and appreciative eater. She didn’t appear to be disturbed by what Roy had told her.

But she was — as he was about to find out.

— Brian Burke is a certified family law specialist practicing family law and mediation in Santa Barbara. A researcher and educator in the field of divorce and family conflicts, he also is the creator of the Legal Road Map™. Click here for more information, call 805.965.2888 or e-mail Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.