Tuesday, January 18, 2011
J'Adore New York - Book Review
J'Adore New York
by Isabelle LaFleche
Harper Collins 2010
The international law firm Edward and White in New York City is expanding. It sends out a compelling advertisement to its 45 offices in Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas.
We are seeking talented and ambitious associates from our international offices to transfer to our ever expanding team in New York. These positions offer the opportunity to work on high-end transactions with the world’s leading corporations, financial institutions, and governments. The New york office enjoys a collegiate and partner-directed, not partner-dominated, work environment, which offers excellent career development opportunities.
There are only 3 job vacancies available at the NYC office. Catherine Lambert from the Paris office is lucky enough to get one of the coveted positions.
I don't normally read chicklit but when you read the blurb of a novel that combines french haute couture and large american law firms, you have the makings of a fun, bitchy and non-stop story.
If you want to know what really goes on in a high flying law firm, then you should read this novel. The bitchiness and back stabbing starts on page 1 and it doesnt let up until the very last page.
Catherine Lambert is thrown into the fray and must either sink or swim on her own. On her very first day in the office, she is sent out of town to conduct a due diligence review for an acquisition client. Amongst the documents Catherine finds a letter that indicates the CEO and the CFO committed fraud.
The second day on the job, Catherine meets Antoine, a securities lawyer who is transferring to Paris soon. He dumps all his workload onto her desk but sweetens the deal with a request for her to help with an intellectual property protection and counterfeiting investigation of the Dior brand. Dior is Catherine's MOST favourite brand.
Catherine also meets her paralegal assistant Rikash. An impeccably dressed Indian man, who is overtly gay with a penchant for French haute couture, Rikash and Catherine had previously bonded over the telephone.
Other characters that Catherine meets include Bonnie, the head of mergers & acquisitions, Nathan, a cocaine snorting lawyer, Scott, a managing partner of the firm and Harry the head of the entire litigation department. And then there are Mel and Jeffrey. Both represent large clients who are given to Catherine to deal with. One has an IPO (intial public offering) that is about to be released. The other is a hedge fund manager from a large financial firm.
In a matter of days Catherine comes under great pressure to make enough billable hours, and she watches both her social life and shopping life disappear. To make things worse, she also has to find her own apartment and that is not a billable expense.
Bonnie becomes the boss from hell as she demands that Catherine do all the demeaning business that a personal assistant would normally do, including picking up Bonnie's drycleaning.
The hedge fund manager turns out to be a sexist bastard and within a few weeks he has invited Catherine to a gala that he claims his wife is involved with. At the gala, the wife turns out to be the ex-wife. Mel gets drunk and gropes and propositions Catherine in a very obvious manner. When Catherine turns him down, he threatens to get her fired. The next day he sends an email to Scott and Harry (copied to Catherine) saying that she engaged in inappropriate behaviour in his presence - specifically becoming intoxicated and embarrassing him. He sees no point in staying with their firm and will be taking his business elsewhere. To Catherine he sends an email saying - Too bad you didn't exercise your good judgement last night....
Jeffrey's company is preparing to go public and Catherine is hard at work preparing the prospectus and the IPO. Jeffrey wines and dines her and showers her with jewellery. She thinks she is in love until the day he gives her a ring and asks her to move some shares from his portfolio into another name so he can sell them and make a profit. The rules say that shares are locked for several weeks after an IPO opens for this specific reason - so that the company shareholders dont use insider trading to make a profit.
Catherine is shocked. She calls Jeff on the phone a few days later, turns on her dictaphone and asks him to explain the details of his scheme. Without committing herself, she decides its is time to get out of NYC and starts looking around for a new job.
The head office decides to have a retreat for all partners and Catherine is forced to take a weekend off to attend. Fortunately she meets up woth Antoine (still at the Paris office) and their relationship flares up again. She tries to meet the legal counsel (head lawyer) for Dior who is staying in the same hotel but is unable to do so. She made an appointment to meet with the lawyer but the lawyer skipped town early the next morning.
When she returns to NYC, Catherine complains to Rikash about the Dior lawyer who skipped out on an appointment. Rikash promises to fix the situation and the very next day Catherine gets a telephone call from Paris from the Dior lawyer herself - the very one she had the appointment with.
Catherine is asked to fly to Paris to attend an interview. It turns out that Rikash had fedexed Catherine's resume to Paris on coloured paper that turns out to be the colours of the brand new Dior couture collection. The Dior counsel tells Catherine that the head of the Intellectual Property dept of Dior is retiring and Catherine's resume looks as if she has the required skills and experience. Catherine is thrilled and she and Rikash break open a mini bottle of champagne to celebrate.
Isabelle Laflèche worked for over ten years in Toronto, New York City and Montreal as a corporate attorney in a large law firm and on Wall Street. In 2005, she was responsible for the business affairs of a Quebec based fashion designer where she developed her penchant for haute couture. This is her first novel. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.