'Twas a colder than normal morning, and the damp grey mist and clouds completely covered the sun. But up on the 12th floor of abandoned office building #4253, the coders were all neatly aligned in their rows and columns, like a phalanx of billable hour soldiers, milking profit out of discovery. Nearly 100 of them were crammed into three small rooms in the northeast corner of the building, despite the rest of the floor being vacant and barren--except for the random, stray office chairs and boxes left behind by the previous tenant. You see, the coders were easier to supervise if they were all crammed into three small spaces, anyhow, so no need to make use of all the dozens of extra offices. Give a coder one of those, and he or she might be able to text his or her friends one too many times.
The foggy weather was a blessing in disguise, though. You see, this building's ancient HVAC equipment barely worked, and with the sun beating down on the office walls, the A/C couldn't properly cool a room that was normally designed for no more than 5 office workers when it was jammed with 35 bodies, 35 computers, and 35 monitors all aligned on card tables, like a scene out of the Matrix. Coder eyes, coder brain stems all lined up to generate high-margin hours from an overly-broad discovery request. But today the stuffy room was a tolerable temperature.
The project consisted of sorting through a metric ton of corporate shitpaper: whatever files a search program came up with on the hedge fund's computers that contained something akin to the word "buy." (not the real symbol, you morons, the real one is confidential!). You see, that was the stock ticker symbol that involved potential fraudulent and/or nefarious investments, but it was also a word that appeared in every report, summary, newsletter, and spam e-mail ever generated or received at this place. The job of the coders, of course, was to read each of the 3 million+ document images and tag the ones that were actually talking about the stock price. 99,999 times out of 100,000, the word "buy" would be used in the general sense, and the document was not responsive. But you really had to be vigilant, because if that 1 time came to you, and you missed it, you would almost certainly find yourself "rolled off the project" via e-mail after you walked out the door to go home for the day. But don't feel bad: although normally the coincidence that this stock ticker symbol was an extremely common word used in everyday banking language would be a nightmare, to the coders, this meant steady employment for months. Millions of clicks to be made! Hundreds of dollars to be spent on whatever molecule numbs the pain!
Very little of that money would ever go to repay loans, because coders had to pay for back rent, alimony, etc. The middle-aged coder in the back row laughed at his school debt. "I started out at $150K, and after 15 years, it's grown to $400K with interest!" It was actually more like a badge of honor in this world. The greater you were fucked by the system, the more respect everyone else had for you. I'm sure everyone here was glad to know that their non-existent future paid for lavish offices at law schools so that professors could write boatloads of "research" condemning banks for lack of transparency to investors, while earning their paychecks from a massive pyramid scheme that was flat-out lying to consumers.
The soft whisper of coding activity filled the room on that quiet morning. The blanket of fog seemed to mute the sound of the traffic outside, and all you could hear was the din of the "click....click....scrollllllll......click" on 35 computers. By the end of the day, you would be hearing the collective giggle of delusional laughter in the face of this cruel fate--the sharing of stories about law deans in the past that got arrested or sued for sexual misconduct of their co-workers and/or students, law partners that abused their employees physically and emotionally, etc. This really was a profession where a lot of mini-Caligulas and Napoleons rose to the top. But for now, it was all business.
On the empty side of the building you could aver your eyes and gaze out the window looking out the gateway to the West. You could see the mess of empty lots and vacant properties, with some isolated and scattered redevelopment puttering along. Nearby, a small team of lonely construction workers were rehabbing an early 1900s Louis Sullivan masterpiece that had been vacant for nearly two decades. They were re-laying the bricks, joking around outside, building something of beauty, not getting paid much, but getting paid more than most lawyers these days. Between where you stood and the horizon, you could almost see the high water mark of American Capitalism. That place where the middle-class wave of the 1950s and '60s finally broke and rolled back, leaving behind a whimper, running for cover overseas in tax shelters, secret bank accounts, and offshoring. Whatever boom times were left were short and of limited duration--fueled by debt-created bubbles that were bound to burst sooner or later, and leave even more destruction in their wake. This was the essence and sound of the future of the American economy: "click....click....scrollllll....click."