(33. – 963.) Escape Velocity by Susan Wolfe – I have been waiting for this book for years. Ever since I read The Last Billable Hour I have been hoping Ms. Wolfe would write another book about lawyers in Silicon Valley.
Georgia Louise Griffin, a newly
accredited correspondence school paralegal from Arkansas, has driven to California to seek employment in the legal department of a tech firm. She does not want a life in the family con artist business. She understands the challenge facing her:
Her father probably knew as well as she did that it was nearly impossible to achieve escape velocity from the life you were born to, from a father you loved who was counting on you. Her father had just been biding his time, waiting patiently for her to grow up and quit stalling. He probably still was.
She does use some of the “special skills” to help her get a job at Lumina Software. It is a publicly traded Silicon Valley software company with a market cap of around $3 billion which has not been meeting expectations in the market.
I was immediately captured and hoping for the plucky Arkansan to succeed. Later in the book I realized she is far more than plucky.
Unfamiliar with business and legal acronyms Georgia uses clever word association to remember them. AP, instead of “Accounts Payable”, becomes “Always Pigheaded” because of the obstinancy of a woman in the department.
She is attracted to Ken Madigan, the 6’5” lean and handsome head of the legal department, but she is set on keeping their relationship professional.
Lumina’s CEO, the abrasive Roy Zisko, has cut costs and is pushing the employees to do more and more. The company had prided itself that it would only Ship When Ready its products . However, Zisko pushed the latest product to be shipped before ready and there were significant bugs which have cost sales and caused doubt in customers. An update is scheduled which also has bugs. Zisko will not hear of delay in release of the update until it is debugged. A confrontation is looming.
Georgia is almost immediately in senior meetings as a note taker. She is good at being unnoticed during the meetings.
At the same time she is very observant.
Not many books delve into the interplay between management and boards of directors of large public corporations. When business is not going well there is significant tension.
Zisko will not allocate resources for additional staff to meet deadlines but will spend several million dollars on changing the office design to open structure to show he has put his stamp upon the company.
She comes up with an idea for a lawsuit before the International Trade Commission (ITC). In her mind it becomes the Ingenious Tricky Countersuit.
Can Georgia help with the problem of inept to even incompetent supervisors and heads of department? Can the “special skills” of con artistry be adapted for use in Silicon Valley?
Wolfe is one of the few writers of legal mysteries to set out the multiple files worked on daily by corporate and private lawyers. In most legal mysteries the busy lawyers somehow focus all of their attention on a single file. In Escape Velocity the legal department is facing new issues throughout the book. They have to prioritize the different files coming at them. There is little time to savour success or despair over failure as another file or files await. I find the juggling that must be done more realistic and more interesting than the traditional single file mysteries.
I enjoyed The Last Billiable Hour. I loved Escape Velocity and will have another post on Georgia and Ken. They could easily be the lead characters for a series. I regret there were 27 years between Wolfe’s books.
****Wolfe, Susan – (2014) - The Last Billable Hour; (2014) Who is Susan Wolfe?; (2017) - This is Susan Wolfe