Oh The Challenges You’ll Have

Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: May 3, 2011

Ahhh, Mondays. Especially Mondays after the Boogieman has been vanquished. Most of the office here in our DC headquarters was abuzz with the talk of Osama getting taken out by a US Black Ops team comprised of Chuck Norris and Jack Bauer. In fact, the night before, GF and I raced out to the front of the White House when we heard the news, really to find out, much to our chagrin, that it was a thinly-guised fraternity party mainly consisting of people to young for 9/11 to have any gravity on the kind of milestone it really was.

However, it was an event. With energy. Lots of it. And I’m glad we went. Not necessarily to be a part of the party, but to embrace the importance of such a milestone. Too bad it was drowned out by college kids singing “We Are the Champions” and chanting

“Osama, You’re Fucking Dead. USA Rules!”

“USA! USA! USA!” could be heard blocks away when we parked and as we finally came to the front of the White House, GF pointed out it was more like Mardi Gras. Yes, there were people there showing off their patriotism, but moreso, most of these kids thought it’d be neat to bring a case of Natty Lite in front of the White House or dress up as Green Man (from It’s Always Sunny In California,) or do little stunts to try to get themselves on network news. One guy climbed a tree and sat in between some branches, all the while wrapped in an American flag. Oh, the cameras loved him. I guess, so did mine…

Kinda a douche, IMHO

Well, all in all, I’m glad we went. Not something I’ll tell my grand-kids, but all the same. But, it was kind of one of those things that would drag you out of bed to go be a part of if you lived in DC. Or I would think…

Getting to work on Monday, I was surprised at how many people I had to tell, “Yes, look at the news. We got Osama.” And, mind you, this wasn’t at 9. This would be at, like, 11 when I asked them in my ironic fashion,

“Why weren’t you at the party last night?”

“We killed Obama??”

“No… Osama. Bin Laden.”

And what wouldn’t be complete without Mr. Clean advising me to ambulate to his annex for an assignment of the utmost urgency without later showing any sign of what has been going on in the world?

“Mr. Paralegal, how are you?”

“I’m doing good, Mr. Clean. Yerself?”

“I am well. I seem to notice more foot traffic on the street today to pick up my cereal.”

One strange thing that I have noticed is that the one displaced modicum out of his impeccably spotless office is that he has a zip-lock half full of Cap’n Crunch on his desk. Well, at least he nutriates with the finest of products.

“I must ask you to procure me documents from the EPA. It is necessary for my review that I have an itemized index of a rulemaking from this past decade, along with any comments posted by such important entities as [client names retracted for the obvious ‘duh’ reasons.]”

Now, that phrase he just used, “itemized index”, is extremely redundant and I would think it would be one of those ‘paradoxes’ which would cause artificial intelligence such as Mr. Clean to crash on the spot. Obviously the powers of Cap’n Crunch are greater than we as humans know.

So, I go out to the EPA for my task. Fortunately, it’s a place I’ve been before and I have my favorite clerk who always helps me out. This shouldn’t be any problem. Normally, a request such as his means that he was unable to grab the comments made by individuals and companies on a particular rulemaking off of the government’s vast database (regulations.gov) and needs for the clerk to physically pull them. Normally, the documents don’t total over twenty pages. I hand the clerk the docket number which Mr. Clean didn’t just recite to me, he wrote down (that part is important as it will play its role later,) and the clerk begins her search.

Index comes right up, no problem. But then the computer begins to work. You can hear it begin to whir and chug inside its government issued Y2K Approved tower. After about 2 minutes, the search for comments brings up a result of about 6000 comments on one rulemaking. I ask the clerk if she can narrow it down to just the clients I need. She does. The filtered result is now at 4500 comments. I hope to God that Mr. Clean doesn’t make me go through all of that.

I bring the documents, loaded onto a CD back to the office and tell the robot attorney. Unstartled, he tells me to search through them and pick out any of them that reference a common type of element. This cannot be done easily. I literally must open every document and peer through the comments.

Working under attorneys, whether they be younger or older than yourself, you quickly realize that no matter what, they are right. No matter how far removed their requests are from reality, they are right. No matter how much more logic you inject into their request by suggesting another path, they are right. I don’t really understand how this happens. I’ve never experienced this in any other field or with any other type of boss. Is it a particular required class in law school I’m unaware of? Illogical Reasoning 101?

I curse under my breathe as I walk back to my little alcove in the universe that is this firm and begin this unduly task. After 4 hours and 600 comments, I pick up the phone to Mr. Clean.

“Mr. Clean, what exactly is your expected time frame on this project?”

“I would like to have it all by COB [“close of business”] today.”

“I really don’t know if that’s possible. It’s 4:30 right now and COB is in thirty minutes.

“Why don’t I send over what comments I’ve compiled so at least you can go through them.”

And then he sighs. Pause. He sighs again.

“Mr. Clean?”

“Okay, please send them to my inbox.”

New Message. Comments Attached. Sent.

Five minutes later I get a reply email: “Can you swing by my office to explain the comments?”

For his utter lack of casualness in person, Mr. Clean somehow is able to pull it off through email. I bet he’s asking his secretary to write it. However, this comes across as a major point: When attorneys act like this (casual with their co-workers), it actually makes less of a need for me to write blog posts. About them.

In his office, Mr. Clean is sitting, stooped down at nearly a right angle, peering at print-outs of the comments I sent him. As I enter, he slowly (and rather creepily) bends back to vertical position.

“Mr. Paralegal, I do not understand these comments. I asked for comments on [blah blah blah], however all I see on these pages are [bleh bleh bleh.]”

It should also be noted that he never gave me specifics on what to look for in my little mission to the EPA. He only gave me the docket code, which normally is enough to go on. Now, I was given 6000 comments on a rulemaking Mr. Clean does not want at all.

“Well, Mr. Clean, that is the docket number you gave me. And I don’t believe the EPA reading room clerk, who has helped me many times before, would not know how to pull up documents. Perhaps we mistook the wrong docket number?”

Near the end of the day, I tend to get crabby and I can easily shoot my mouth off if I think someone is accusing me of making a mistake. However, I have learned that using the term “we” is very conducive to keeping the peace with the attorney. He doesn’t realize you are still showing that you blame him/her but really are accepting you will share the blame, even if you have had nothing to do with a particular decision. Attorneys need a lot of ego stroking for them to stay comfortable.

Mr. Clean sits there for a moment, continues to look at the comments and ponders. I mean, ‘computes.’

“Okay, Mr. Paralegal, why don’t I challenge you.”

Challenge me? In what? A dual? A game of checkers? My skill of origami? What the hell… Am I no longer an employee but a pet you get to teach tricks to?

“Why don’t you procure for me the brief that created this rulemaking. It is over ten years old, so it will not be on any digital database, such as PACER or WestLaw, but you should be able to find it using your paralegal skills. I need it before I go home.”

“Mr. Clean, I can certainly get the court to pull it from archives, but if you look at your watch, it is 5:02. All courts close at 5.”

“So, call our librarian, Mr. Paralegal!”

The long and short of it is that I did call the librarian of the firm and the librarian, like nearly all other salaried staff, had left for the day at 4:30. I wrote him an email telling him it was insufficient time to be able to do anything about getting the brief tonight but that we could do so first thing in the morning. I just wasn’t up for a fucking challenge at 5 in the afternoon when I could be going home in 30 minutes. And since it’s obvious he still didn’t pick up that Osama was killed and since he has no trace of understanding humor, I decided instead to send him a really old parody post about Osama getting captured instead. Challenge me. I’ll fucking challenge you, Mr. Clean. How do you like that?

1 Comment - Leave a comment
  1. Attorneys cannot tell time, nor do they have the ability to estimate how long a task will take to finish. It’s a law of physics, like gravity or momentum.

    You should start leaving things in his office, like WD-40, that a machine would find useful. Apparently he’s immune to logic or compassion, so maybe lubrication will help.

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