Smart, sexy, sassy and driven—Victoria Rodessa just graduated from one of the country’s top law schools and joined the international firm Acker, Smith & McGowen, respected for its advancement of female lawyers. When Victoria lands a prized assignment vital to the ambitions of the firm’s powerful partners, she sets out to become the first woman to join their ranks. But behind closed doors, deviant agendas are at work. With only her intellect and guts to guide her, Victoria confronts a perfect storm of misogyny, lies and criminal intent. If she follows her conscience, she could lose everything. But keeping silent could come at an even higher cost.
While this dedication hints at the core of my novel; it is meaningful and powerfully true. I've been privileged and thankful to have been told, more times than I would have imagined, that I've been a mentor, teacher and example to those (men and women alike) who worked alongside me. These amazing, smart and talented individuals each found their own successful paths, and are busy leaving a blazing trail for the next in line to get a leg up. There are few things better! #ReaderLove
There are times when lawyers are required to work long hours, perhaps even 24 hours, to meet a deadline or get ready for trial. Often, those times impact personal schedules and plans. This scene depicts the frustration of a new lawyer confronted for the first time with the choice between personal commitment and meeting a legal deadline.
We've all heard the phrase, "it was meant to be." Signaling the rightness of an often random meeting of two people or the importance of a circumstance. The introduction of Armond and Victoria could have taken a number of directions. For me, the most surprising development, as I wrote Deviant Agendas, was that they told me where they were going. Their relationship wrote itself. Volume II of The V-Files is nearing completion and you'll want to find out where their chance meeting takes them.
I wanted my readers to visualize one of my main characters in the same way Victoria was seeing him in her mind's eye. Often, the best way to get a point across or to convey a picture is to use humor. To me, a nattily dressed dung beetle doing what dung beetles do perfectly conveyed Armond at that moment. I've received some great comments from readers on their love of this passage! Enjoy!
My muse for this section was the emotional upheaval that goes hand-in-glove with getting divorced. It's rather stunning to acknowledge the large percentage of marriages that end in divorce each year, yet people continue to return to what is often the source of their greatest pain, and get married yet again. I wanted my character to experience and convey to the reader how hard even the simplest things becomes during a divorce; like talking to the person who's been one of your closest confidantes, if not your sole confidante, for years. As my character Jenny experienced, when your spouse has been unfaithful and you've given up your career and livelihood to raise children and respond to everyone's (but your own) wishes, regaining your life can be a challenge, but it's certainly attainable.
This excerpt highlights the power and control these male characters believe they have over the women in their firm. Their conversation reveals a belief that it is their right to take what they chose from the women who work for, and depend on, them for their livelihood and chance to achieve their professional goals. I chose this excerpt because it seemed to parallel current news headlines regarding alleged sexual harassment in the workplace. These recent headlines, along with the "me too" hashtag, have once again focused attention on this issue.
I'm happy to announce that I was awarded Honorable Mention in the Legal Thriller category for Deviant Agendas by Readers Choice. This is the second award I'm so thankful to have received! In this excerpt, Victoria is experiencing a traumatic and life changing event. One that she believes will signal the end of her legal career. However, unexpected doors often open after unexpected events occur, and Victoria will forge a new and rewarding path. In that same vein, taking risks that are out of your comfort zone can lead to unexpected rewards. I certainly never expected to win this award, but I'm so thankful that I took a risk and submitted my book. Women in motion...a powerful force!
According to one of my former law school professors, law school applications are down and the cost of going to law school is up. It appears that part of the reason applications are down is because graduating lawyers are not getting sufficient return on investment to pay back their loans. The competition to get a job paying six-plus figures is fierce. This bubble reflects that market reality. Victoria, after working hard and getting top grades in law school, was rewarded (and lucky) to have gotten a job at one of the top silk-stocking firms. However, she soon realizes that she is now in competition with the hundreds of other firm associates to become a partner. It is not an unusual for associates to get so caught up in their first assignment that they forget or can't attend family or other obligations.
No matter who you are; divorce creates a huge shift in your life. Many of my friends are lawyers who practice "family law" and the stress that even they take on as lawyers is steep, and they're not the ones getting the divorce! Often the house is sold, the time with kids is severed, assets are argued over and even pets end up at the center of these disputes. I've recently become acquainted with an arbitrator who specializes in handling pet custody arrangements, and from what I've heard, she has a booming business. This book bubble scene is written from the perspective of a woman who gave up her career at the insistence of her husband and is now left to pick up the pieces of her life after he's cheated on her for years. She's fortunate in that her husband has money. But she's nonetheless dealing with the feeling of failure for giving up her promising career.
The concept of what a law firm should, and should not, be may be changing. For instance, an ABS is an alternative business structure which is different than the typical law firm model. These structures can include publicly traded law firms or non-legal ownership of firms. The US has not ventured too far down this path. Australia, however, allows law firms to be traded on its stock exchange, which means that the public can buy and sell shares in the firm. The first firm to do so in Australia listed in 2007, with two other firms listing by 2013. In addition, and separate from the ABS, there are investment vehicles (in the US as well as other countries), where people can invest in the outcome of other people's litigation. This is generally referred to as litigation funding. Watch for this field to grow!
The federal court, where the State of Washington filed its litigation against President Trump, is the same system where one of my female heroines, Kat, filed her lawsuit against Highline and its Board of Directors. Our federal court system gets its powers from Article III of the United States Constitution. Ratified in 1788, the Constitution has been amended 27 times, with the first 10 amendments referred to as the Bill of Rights. It's the shortest written Constitution in the world, yet it packs a powerful punch as it's an integral part of our government, and system of checks and balances. It's easy to forget that not all countries that follow civil and common laws, have such a document. That was brought home to me a few years ago, while working in New Zealand after a series of earthquakes devastated the city of Christchurch on the South Island. While discussing the situation with New Zealand lawyers, I learned that New Zealand did not have a constitution. I recall being astonished (yes, I know, typical American). The point is that the American system is unique, and as such it's important to keep in mind that what we're watching play out in real time is centered on a short, powerful document, written more than 200 years ago, that still guides us to this day. Fascinating
I've heard many stories from colleagues who practice in the family law arena. There's no question that careful planning and perfect timing are often important for a successful start to a difficult divorce. In Deviant Agendas, Jenny chose to wait to file for divorce until her husband was in the air on his way to another country. This timing allowed Jenny and her lawyer to control the media spin, the state they filed the papers in, and gain first access to certain assets like the California home where Jenny wanted to live. Jenny also strategically prevented other lawyers from taking her husband's side of the case by meeting with and telling them confidential information to "conflict" them out of the matter. Smart move on her part.
The excitement of beginning a new job is palpable. This is particularly true if you're a new associate at a large silk-stocking law firm. Some firms give their incoming associates their own offices, laptops, tablets, phones, expense accounts and club memberships. In return, of course, the associate is expected to work an incredible number of hours for their assigned partner or group. Some of the work can be incredibly exciting and inspiring. Large firms are not for everyone, but for some, they can lead to a long and rewarding career.
Mentors have always been important. In recent years, however, it seems that "getting one," and checking that box, has become more like obtaining the newest accessory, rather than understanding the purpose and point. Recently, I was asked to give a talk to a group of graduate students on mentors. It was fascinating to learn that they were all on the lookout for a mentor. For some, it seemed like a desperate problem, "I'm in my last year and still no mentor. What should I do?" The interesting part is that many of them had asked people they barely knew to be their mentors, and they were frustrated that they didn't feel it had done anything for them or that they had achieved the connection that they had all heard about in some great mentor story. But what had been forgotten (or never explained), was that finding a mentor is not akin to a blind date, where you hope for the best. Instead, there must be that click, that chemistry, that equal interest in certain subjects, and a substantive give and take. Once you find those qualities, you will have yourself a real live mentor worth every moment of your invested time and energy.
Being involved in helping property owners and businesses get back on their feet after disasters like hurricanes, cyclones and earthquakes, I’ve heard some incredible stories over the years about what it feels like to live through a disaster. After Florida’s hurricane Wilma, many stories emerged about how it turned what was “normal” on its head. For instance, there was one about condominium owners who refused to evacuate for a hurricane in Florida. When the man tried to use the toilet in his condominium during the hurricane, his pee flew back up out of the toilet and smacked him back. Mother Nature certainly lets you know when you’ve crossed her.
You never know what the pieces of a puzzle will reveal. The only way to completely understand a person’s motivation or character or the even the real story, is to gather all the pieces of the puzzle. One thing you quickly learn in the litigation field is that each piece of evidence is important to the end result. As evidence is revealed, the direction of the story can change, leading to a result that was quite unexpected. This is one of the reason the federal rules of discovery are broad and require the parties to disclose information about the matter at issue.
Large law firms are interesting animals. It is not unusual for firms to consist of associates, non-capital partners and finally, at the top of the food chain, equity partners who own a piece of the firm. Among some members of a firm there can be power-plays, intrigue, ad-hoc teams to reach a goal, and many other manifestations of the microcosm of human desire. The partner to whom an associate gets assigned when he or she enters the firm is often a crap shoot. Wherever the firm needs resources, it’s likely that’s where the associate ends up. The associate might be thought of as a widget, and can end up working night and day to try to please their partner, and all without the promise of the ultimate goal--partnership. Instead, he or she typically gets a “we’ll see” how you’re doing in six to eight years and let you know. Yikes! By then it’s a little long in the law-firm-tooth to change careers. But often, those are the stakes and the risks associates take when joining a large law firm.
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