Confessing for a Living

Amazing story by Hannah Rosin about her former friend and colleague Stephen Glass, who became infamous for inventing many of the stories he wrote for The New Republic. My favorite detail is about Glass's current job at a personal injury law firm, where he works under a man named Paul Zuckerman:

When clients come in, Steve helps the firm get them ready for trial. The first thing he does is tell them who he is. He says he worked at a magazine and he lied and made up stories and covered them up. He says he got caught, that Hollywood made a movie about it and that there are many people “who dislike me and rightly so.” He has done this about a dozen times a month, for the last decade, meaning that the conference room in the firm’s modern, exposed-brick office has become his equivalent of Zuckerman’s dingy room, where Steve confesses, over and over again.

Zuckerman has Steve do this so the clients won’t find out about his history themselves and because he has to explain why Steve can never appear in court. But there is a deeper reason. In the firm’s lore, personal-injury work is like evangelism. “We are dealing with people who have not only been injured; they’ve been broken and need to be made whole,” says Zuckerman. In order to do that, the lawyers need to know the whole truth about a person, even secrets they’ve never confessed to anyone. But the clients are often afraid to disclose the truth because they fear it will hurt their case. So the lawyers have to work on them. “You can lie to your priest and lie to your wife,” Zuckerman says, “but you can’t lie to us.”

Incredible that this man, made famous for lying, now has to tell the truth about himself over and over again, in order to get others to do the same.