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?

Bravo, Pear Bottom

Comments: 3 Comments
Published on: April 26, 2011

So I’ve been a bad paralegal blogger. You see, this is a two-pronged problem here: One is that paralegals are supposed to be helpful to attorneys; Two is that bloggers are supposed to be either insightful or snarky. I can’t say that I’m either of the latter, but I know that I haven’t been the former lately which pulls me to the conclusion that

Unhelpful Paralegal + Blogger with Not Much To Say = Really Lame Guy to Be Around

Of course I don’t believe this to be true, since I do constantly carry my stenopad with confidence and always have my jazz hands ready to be pulled out. However, this past week has just been really boring. That’s what it comes down to. Sorry, folks. No posts when no entertainment. Well, that and my life is starting to be consumed with preparing for this LSAT, the supposed key to all my dreams and wonders. Unless I find “the shoe shine business appealing,” as Pear Bottom puts it.

Ahhh, Pear Bottom… You haven’t really graced many posts in a while, have you? Well, Pear Bottom, why don’t you jump start my blog? I knew you would. Yesterday, as 85% of attorneys here seem to do, he is in a tizzy on the phone. He tells me to get to his office.

Ándele.

Today he has a chunk of cream cheese on his tie. I decide not to point it out. I don’t want to ruin his morning. Or mine.

PB: Paralegal, we have a filing.

Me: I believe that’s what it says on our Shared Calendar, sir. [Not like I need a refresher course in Outlook or a mental aptitude test just yet…]

PB: So, how should we file this?

I hate it when he does this. He’s throwing me a curve ball here. Now is he seriously asking me my own opinion for once or is he testing me? Considering past behavior (reprehensibly presumptuous by all social norms, but perhaps not by attorney norms,) I have to take that he is testing me… As if he already assumes I have decided to become a lawyer and it is his job to hone me for the road ahead. Ass.

Me: Umm… Well, like we normally do? I make five copies of the original, take them to the courthouse and give four of the copies to the clerk for filing and have one time-stamped for our own files?

PB: We already filed it. I sent another paralegal when you were out of town last Friday.

Me: Then what’s the problem? Why do you need me?

PB: Because we forgot to give the court the pleadings.

This completely blows me. This is, if you read the blogs of Paralegal Hell, Grumpy Humbug, or Superlegal Fun, what seems to be a common theme with attorneys as a lack of common communication skills, or even common sense, that nearly all humans attain by the time they have lost all their baby teeth. I begin to wonder how many filings my firm has done and how many Pear Bottom has done. Then how many times a nearly impossible task, which is to send someone to court for filing and return without handing over a document to file with the clerk’s office. Knowing Pear Bottom, I had better not ask the hows, whos, or whys of the situation. He might stomp on the ground and grow horns. You never know…

Me: Okay, I’ll go over to the court right now. [Since it’s obviously an urgent matter…]
PB: No, I’d rather you UPS it.

Guys, this is just getting weirder and weirder. First a freak-out episode on the phone. Then Pear Bottom telling me a filing is needed. Then telling me, without explanation, the motions did not somehow land on the clerk’s desk. Now, he’s asking me, instead of going out to the court to “re-file” the pleadings, just UPS it. I can’t wrap my head around the contradiction here between needing someone to go to the court on Friday and then just “un-urgently” having the documents shipped 4 blocks away on Monday.

Okay, so I printed and stuffed the documents into their nice little UPS legal envelope and sent it on its fun little ground transportation run about a mile down the street. Now, skip forward until today, mainly because the rest of my day was boring (as I precluded at the beginning of the post.) Come UPS’s first round in the morning and a slightly familiar envelope is handed to me. From the printed address label on the front, all I can make out is my own return address. The court’s address has become illegible. The envelope, however, had seen a much better day when it left my hands yesterday.

Ripped edge. Smudge marks that I think might be truck oil. My favorite is the boot mark along the back. The contents of the package are indescribable. Something even I would be ashamed to give a court clerk. Pear Bottom. Oh, Pear Bottom. Do you know how content you make me in this job of absolute desolation? Sometimes… however seldom, I just need to thank you. So, here’s to you, Pear Bottom. Bravo.

Update 2:53pm:

Oh, wait. Did I just almost give Pear Bottom a compliment right there? Just as I finished this post on my non-networked computer, he calls me into his office for some spring cleaning. I had the intention of leaving work early to go look at apartments. Now I get to put this shit away under non-billable time. Bravo? Nope, I still hate you.

Ooh, I'm Pear Bottom! My office has space now!

 

On the Matter of the Theory of the Lawyer

Categories: Day at the Firm
Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: April 20, 2011

It’s always a problem of no.

Those two, little, consecutive letters within the English alphabet seem to trip me up more times at work (and more generally, in life) than the bare fact that my love of vodka spills over the edge of my personal life into other aspects of my life. “No” is the word that SHOULD be created in the depths of my larynx, echoed through the acoustics of my mouth, and then enunciated through my moving lips more often. Especially when four separate attorneys call within a five minute time period asking for their own personal pet projects to be completed at the same time. Instead, the disconnect occurs. Instead of saying perhaps the easiest word in the entire English language (as “no” is the ninth most common first word a baby will say,) I end up saying way too many syllables and way too many words, thereby creating a completely different outcome than the meaning of a simple NO. It would be something like, “Of course I can do that for you,” or “I’d be happy to,” or “Let me drop to my knees and –” Well, you get the picture.

So, it’s of course a day like any other. Waiting around, dawdling until about 3pm when the first call comes in. Well, this call actually has to do with a case I’m on. Hooray. Something worthwhile. Second call is a response of sorts to an email I sent out at 9am… yesterday. “Um, I really didn’t understand what you were saying in your memo, so would you mind coming to my office and explaining it to me with diagrams drawn out in crayon? Preferably in creme brulee and summer harvest. I like those colors.” The last call came surprisingly from Mr. Clean, whom I really had come to believe had been discontinued by the firm and dismantled for system parts in preparation for the pending network OS upgrade from Windows 95 to Windows XP next year. I supposedly was wrong.

“Hello, Paralegal, how are you?”

“I’m doing pretty good [I actually prefer to use poor grammar with Mr. Clean.] Yerself?”

“I am… well. I have a task that requires your immediate assistance.”

“Well, unfortunately right now, I’m –“

“I know that you have experience with PDFs and the building of them from Word documents [It only takes a press of a button…] I would like to ask you to create one of these Adobe-based files out of my social security information and send it to [some strange foreign person whom I am certain does not work for a law firm.]”

“I’d be happy to do this, Mr. Clean. [Dammit! Why didn’t I just say no?? Dammit dammit dammit dammit!!!]”

“Wonderful. I would enjoyably prefer you CC me on the email you forward to [Mr. Weird African Guy Whose Name I Cannot Pronounce.]”

Well, I really would be happy to do this for you, Mr. Clean, because you are only proving to me more that you are a robot. While Artificial Intelligence is capable of logic, it must be first learned. Obviously, Mr. Clean hasn’t been hoodwinked by our fine Nigerian business partners yet.

Then again, can you really steal the identity of an unliving and unloving thing? This theory will obviously be put to the test.

Despite the “when it rains, it pours” axiom I have gotten so used to by the sheer amount of work that drops on my desk suddenly each work day, I’ve come to realize something so much more important to the well-being of myself as well as the course of my future. You see, in a little over a month I will be taking the LSAT. Yes, I know what everyone is thinking… Oh, Jesus, we’re about to lose another one to the Dark Side. But, I really have no interest (at least, as of the posting of this blog) to become a lawyer. Lawyers, as I have mentioned in past posts are by and large the most unhappy and miserable people on the face of this planet. Why would I subject my cynicism to any more darkness?

The truth of the matter is that I want to take the LSAT just for self-satisfaction. Something to do, almost, to see how well I can score. Pear Bottom always boasts about his incredible score and continues to this day to tell me that I would never get into the top 5 schools if I had a score lower than his. And that included Georgetown. And if that’s the case, as Pear Bottom rests his pudgy hands on his widened belly, he gloats that I would never find a job as an attorney at my current law firm. Ho Ho Ho!

Where Pear Bottom is mistaken is that Georgetown is not in the top 5, but is currently ranked 14th. Well, you can’t always win, can you? So, yeah, I’m not even wanting to go to law school. And with attorneys like Pear Bottom giving me that kind of reinforcement, it makes becoming an attorney about as attractive as camel toe. Yet, I’d love to go into his office to tell him I got just one point above his.

Back to the point, the revelation I incurred this past day, which should be oh so fucking obvious to everyone in my position, is that lawyers really don’t do any work. They take the support staff’s work (i.e. paralegal’s) and then they are allowed to step onto the floor of the court and speak with the judge. Now, let me see if I get this right. You go to law school for 2 years, pay out the wazoo, probably go into debt for 20 years, so you get the ability to talk to a judge. Otherwise, you really don’t have to know crap, because you got your army of paralegals to help you convert a Word document into a fucking PDF that only takes a click of a button? It lies along the same principle as the fact that 10-15 years ago we could remember about 100 phone numbers, yet today, because of cell phones and their digital address books, most of us only recall one or two. Shit, I couldn’t even tell you GF’s phone number. That’s an emergency waiting to happen…

All in all, my theory is that you pay your way through law school to inevitably set your brain to atrophy mode. And that’s what it will do. I see all these K Street lawyers in their offices reading, watching YouTube, talking to people on the phone, but I see all of us paralegals racing through the hallways like the Incredible Flash, working so hard at the computer and at the printer, if you start conversation, their head will implode. You ask a lawyer a pretty common sense question and you get hesitation. That’s because his brain has been on idle for so long since he gets all his paralegals do EVERYTHING for him, he actually has to take the time to think if he watched the news last night. Why in God’s name would I ever subject myself to that kind of existence? I already have trouble remembering names. I’d have to start post-it noting everyday objects to remind me what they’re called.

Important Objects to Remember

This Bracket’s Asphyxiating Me

Categories: Day at the Firm
Comments: 3 Comments
Published on: April 15, 2011

There literally is no better feeling than getting to work to see the envelope containing your paycheck invoice on your seat. It’s that feeling of, “Yes! That means I won’t be evicted for the next two weeks!“, “Yes! I can finally pay off a 10% of my anger management sessions!“, “Yes! I can eat something other than Beanie-Weenies and Alpo!” I’m sure the partner across the hall from me (who doesn’t even need an envelope with the tallied amount for the last payment period) has just gotten an email from his financial adviser telling him that because he set aside an automatic transfer of 28% of all new firm shares to be put into venture capital, he now has enough to buy a small Caribbean island. Well, good for him.

But, I’m not him and that is the last thing on my mind. Right now, I have money. I have something that I didn’t have 24, 12, even 2 hours ago. It has magically appeared in my bank account and now I can do whatever I want with it. Mwahahahaha– Oh, wait… Well, shit… Paralegal Hell!! Why did you have to remind me of my eternal responsibilities? Well, thanks SO much. I guess I’ll wait off on buying that one belt for work and keep wearing the same belt I’ve had since I was 14. (Yeah, if only my waist-size was still anywhere near that size. I think it’s doubled since then.)

Still, you all know that feeling of excitement that comes over you when you know you’ve worked well into OT and you’re waiting for that check that will make you feel like Scrooge McDuck diving through a pool of gold coins?

 

Well, at least that’s how I feel. And being at a law firm where you sometimes have to fight tooth and nail to find billable hours to justify your overtime, the big overtime checks can sometimes be a rarity. Well, this was literally the first check I’d received this year for work over 90 hours in two weeks. (Sad, I know, right?) Cumulatively, I had put in 119-and-one-quarter. Bam. I knew I was going to be rich! Richy richy rich ri— What the fuck? What the…. why am I only getting paid like $100 more than what I usually get paid? Where did all that time I put in on the weekends go? Where did all my money go? Where did my fucking gold coin pit go??? 

I seriously have a problem with taxes. And the government. At least right now. Evidently, it doesn’t matter HOW much I work. I am still going to end up with roughly the exact same amount because of what the government decides to take out. I couldn’t give a shit if I see my money at the end of the year. I want it now. I want it now so I can do with it what I please. Government, today is your special SUCK IT day from me and I’m sure a lot of other people out there. You are a sadist for not only taking out more than enough, but also for making your Tax Day happen on Pay Day. You made my frown go from upside down back to down. Bitches.

 

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