And You Will Know Me By The Trail Of Dead I.T. Guys

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Published on: March 25, 2011

I intended to continue my mini-saga of My Biggest Weekness, which I guarantee Part II will be out within the next 24 hours and all the gritty details of my toothless grin will come out into the open! (Wow, that really sounds like, “Next, on The Young and the Restless.”) I also would like to announce the possibility of a complete renovation to this site. So much so, there may even be a new address! I will keep you informed. But for now, I need to get this off my chest while it’s still singeing a hole in the middle of it.

Like most of the Information Technology support staff that I’ve ever encountered, our IT guy at our firm is, well, cantankerous. 24/7. Not only that, but he puts us paralegals on perhaps the bottom of the priority list every single time we have an issue. This is because of three assumptions I’ve created in my head:

 

  1. The end-of-the-year performance review is essentially graded by the partners and higher level associates. Therefore, if the IT Guy is not at their beck-and-call to fix the emergency of “Why is my computer screen so dark?” (“Your monitor is off, sir.”) then he doesn’t get a good bonus/raise.
  2. There are ten paralegals who are constantly needing updates and having computer issues, mainly because the firm is too parsimonious to upgrade the PCs and get us AT LEAST Windows Vista. There is only one IT guy.
  3. The IT Guy used to be obese. Now he is a string bean and thinks he’s hot shit.

So, IT Guy constantly pisses me off. For one, as is true with Point #1, it takes him all day, sometimes multiple days, for him to get back to me. This complaint of mine is gimongous, because much to his own chagrin of the paralegals constantly pestering his scrawny ass, we are the ones that do ALL OF THE WORK for the attorneys! An attorney needs an ECF done? Who do they call? An attorney needs documents to be scanned and added into our terrible database client? Who do they call? An attorney needs a burrito to be ordered from Chipotle down the street? Who do they call? So, as you can see, it’s the paralegals, not the attorneys, who should really have first dibs on the IT Guy’s time. Somehow, this change just hasn’t happened yet.

Another thing that really chaps my khakis is that when he remotely logs into my PC (which, by itself kind of annoys me… he is too lazy to walk ten offices down to sit at my desk so I can talk to him while he’s fiddling away,) without fail he will close every window I’m working on. The impetus for this post was that he logged into my computer to install Adobe Flash because I needed it … for … um … YouTube research. I had been asked to research the news about Japan’s nuclear infrastructure and write a memo concerning the subject. I was halfway through when IT Guy virtually pushed me aside (no pun intended) and took over my cursor. Really, all he needed to do was to type in a password into a box and hit OKAY. Instead, what does he do? Yeah, you guessed it.

This time I actually call him at his desk and yell at him, “Why the hell did you do that??”

“Well, didn’t you save it before I logged in?”

“No! Why would I do that?”

“Your training instructor told you to back everything up on the server and to set every document for auto-save. Or were you just not listening?”

Oh. My. God. Training was like a year and a half ago when I first started and was a blizzard of knowledge about the firm. My complaint to my boss didn’t fly either. She just said that there must have been a reason that he needed to clear the windows. And now I get to retype this damn memo that you deleted because you wanted to see the desktop. I could be playing Desktop Tower Defense the rest of the afternoon.

Oh, and hey, guy, I know you technogeeks love your acronyms. Well, I just printed one up and stuck it on my wall just for you:

 

Effuit

 

Constantly Losing Enthusiasm

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Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: March 11, 2011
So, what’s the topic of today’s lesson… Well, I guess we should talk about proactivity in the workplace. Most of you already know all about this, but it’s probably worth restating. While being bored, investing in things that might help your coworkers (hell, even your evil bosses) is always a cool way to pass the time and helps you get noticed. As an example, a couple weeks ago, I got a new neighbor when a new partner (actually, our firm has some weird title for what he really is) moved here from out of town. He kind of reminds me of a rhino, so we’ll call him Rhinoman. Anyways, Rhinoman is very ferocious at times. When he is frazzled or when he is in a hurry. And especially when he is talking to his wife over the phone. Thank god we are not his wife.

One day, he is freaking out because, well, I really don’t know. But he is screaming at his very nice Vietnamese administrative assistant. He wants her to fill out a PDF form on her computer. But, unfortunately, her previous boss evidently did not rely that much on computers, since her skill level puts her in critical danger of operating a can opener. Once Rhinoman had decided to stop tormenting his assistant and grump back to his messy, brief-strewn cave, I ask if she needs assistance. She happily accepts and within minutes, I had prepared the PDF for printing. She pulls the form out of the feed and hands it to her boss. Over the day, I receive about twenty emails personally thanking me for helping her coming from all these assistants I barely even knew!

Other than feeling really good about this (and feeling like I’ve finally boosted my karma up just a tad,) I realized I’m “in” with the assistant circle. That’s a hard one to crack too. Whenever I used to go into the lunch room to eat the lunch I brought from home and there was a crowd of them sitting around the tables, I never felt more unwelcome. I think that’s the reason I now eat out every workday.

So, you’re probably wondering where the sarcastic twist is in here. Let’s get back to the point of proactivity. I’ve always tried to be proactive in my job(s). In my eyes, I’m helping the company grow from the inside out with my own creativity and initiative. It’s being (wait for the Harvard business blogger term) an “intra-preneur.” God do I suck. However, trying to help a K Street firm is impossible. It’s like buying the present for the person who has everything. After probably a month of considering (this is a month’s worth of unbillable hours I’m talking about,) I landed on something. Seeing that my resume reflects a kind of “Jack of All Trades” aspect, I came into my current field with absolutely no prior legal experience. Now if I know next to nothing about law, I might as well try to be more useful to my bosses. Like actually be able to do things that a normal paralegal would be able to do. Such as anything that doesn’t have to do with a…

THREE-HOLE PUNCHER.

I decided on doing a bit of CLE, which stands for Continuing Legal Education. Maybe I could get my firm to, um, sponsor me financially so I could learn from outside classes (on a conference call) and then get, **cough, cough**, ‘certified.’ That would help my practice immensely in the end… Or at least that’s what I made everyone who’s important believe. I brought it up to those in charge. The attorneys in my practice nearly fell over with approval. I guess they were really happy how much excitement I showed. I gained full approval and began my classes the next week. I’ve actually always liked learning. That’s actually not true. I hated it in grade school through high school. I don’t know my high school GPA because until recently, I didn’t know it existed and I probably scored a 1.1 on my SATs. But, come college, it completely turned around. So, that’s my story on that. Big nerd all of the sudden.

So, I get really psyched about taking these eight classes I somehow swindled my firm into and began the first class. Once I get through, though, I realize CLE really stands for Constantly Losing Enthusiasm. Through the entire class, the woman who is instructing is obviously doing this from her kitchen dinette. Her little labradoodle is continuously barking in the background, interrupting the flow of the show the entire time. At one point, she starts asking why she does not hear any questions from the audience. Now, one of the procedures of these classes is that we are put on mute so that WE don’t interrupt the flow of the show… hmmm. Anyways, the instructor begins to get more and more annoyed that we aren’t responding after each segment of her incredibly intriguing presentation of the history of law, which I believe started at Habburabi’s Code of Laws and went through each decade since. We then learn during one of her spats that she doesn’t believe anyone is listening to her because it’s all silence to her. She finally blows her lid and barks, “If you aren’t going to pay attention, I’m just going to leave this presentation!” Click.

Suddenly, another voice comes on. It’s the moderator. “[Instructor?] Umm… [Instructor?] Are you there?”

After a few minutes, the instructor comes back on and gives the excuse, “Sorry, my portable phone died.”

Uh huh. I am so glad I get to listen in on so many more of these classes.

DAILY REASON FOR LIVING RATIO: 1.96

Lawfirm Dossier #52 – Mr. Clean

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Comments: 6 Comments
Published on: March 7, 2011
So, today is an excruciatingly boring day. The one thing I was excited about was the energy & environment seminar I was attending, yet it ended up having nothing to do with my practice and went over by about 45 minutes. So, I thought I might begin illustrating the characters I work for (or with.)

Outside of Pear Bottom is another fine young chap bred from another Ivy League school, perhaps was a member of the polo league, studied the lute and performed medieval dance routines for his grade school talent show.  I may be laying the sarcasm on a little too thick, but it only comes where it is deserved. He is a first year associate and was hired late last year to our energy team (essentially taking up half of my duties.)  So, I would suppose this guy has been around for at least half a year, if not more. The reason I call him Mr. Clean is because in all of that time, he has not adorned his office with one thing. Not one helpful office organizer, not one symbolic diploma or framed map of antiquity, not one life momento that he does not prove that he plugs himself into the wall after he gets home from work. Nothing. Even his desk, when I walk in, is a barren wasteland. It’s like the surface of the Moon, but without the moon rocks. I don’t even know what he does when he needs to take a note.

But, his personality is almost as strange. For one, I have actually never seen him on foot. He keeps the door shut to his office all day and then, poof!, it is magically open and he has disappeared. He is an impecible dresser, although I don’t have much taste for turn of the 20th century British barrister casualwear. And strangest of all, I think his vertabrae are unified as one. When I walk into his office, he will be at his computer, but he swivels around, not moving any part of his upper torso. It’s a strange thing to imagine, so I have utilized Microsoft Paintbrush to help illustrate my point.

Please examine Exhibit A:

 

Mrclean

 

And, yes, he does talk like that. I also think he might be a drone from the great Attorney Queen. In any event, Mr. Clean normally does not know what to do. I’ve noticed on the docket of one major case I work on he has had to retract and resubmit a pleading on more than one occasion because he forgot standard points of procedure in the body of the certificate of service. But, oh well, I guess we all have to start somewhere, right, Mr. Clean? So, please stop making me come to your office so you can tell me to copy a page out of a century old book so you look as smart as you dress.

I Am Better At Hiding Than They Are… At Vision

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Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: March 5, 2011

That’s a quote from perhaps my favorite workplace TV character of all time. Dwight Schrute. In the context of this, he refers to hunting deer with his dad and, inevitably, spins the idea into some sort of twisted workplace metaphor. I relate to this, though, not because I’ve ever been deer hunting (most people from my home state of Texas shake their head when they hear this), but because in my job position, ears and eyes are open and gunning everywhere down these halls. And the owners of them will use them to their own great advantage. I recognize now the importance of laying low to keep your sanity and sense of self worth from not melting into marshmallow fluff. At least for a few hours.

When I first started working here… God, that seems so long ago (14 months to be exact), I actually was a really excited guy. I thought that this would be a great place for me to learn about the inner workings of how law firms work and get a glimpse of what life could be like after law school. Well, if I went, that is…

In any case, I was that like that overachieving little snot you hated in high school when I first started working. Wow, how time can change things.

So, the first vulture to catch onto my eagerness to work was Bitchy Boss. Do you remember me touching on him from my last post? Well, his name really isn’t Bitchy Boss. It’s actually Pear Bottom. You see, the etymology of Pear Bottom stems from the rather obvious. His structural integrity forms like the fruit of the pear persuasion near his nethers. The circumference down there, I’d guess, is perhaps twice as large as it is near the top of his torso. If you still need a mental example, think when Danny DeVito playing Penguin.

Penguin_1

 

 

The first couple of months I worked at the firm, I got a nice little cubicle that reminded me of being at the zoo, but on the other side of the bars. It was situated on the same row as my practice. By fate, Pear Bottom’s also in this practice. I remember he was the one out of all the others I got the most work from. And it was actually interesting in the beginning. A lot of it was research, which I actually find fascinating most of the time. He would always ask if I pulled the article off of Lexis (even though I found it on NYT.com) as if that was the only website that existed. When galactic apocalypse occurs, Lexis/Nexis will be the only one left pinging.

But I digress. The research soon tapered off because the one case came to a settlement. I was then introduced to something that has become an inextricable part of my life.

The three-hole puncher.

I do not think I would be shocked if one day I woke up and found my right arm had been replaced with this vile office tool. So, I’m on binder duty. Indefinitely. I realized how I never had time to even breathe between one binder project and the next. He sat down the hall from my cubicle-cage and would CONSTANTLY walk back and forth, eyeing my general vicinity. The pieces came together when I saw him eyeing the five large D-ring exhibit binders (even with incredible front pages designed and printed out by moi) that were waiting to be picked up by Office Services. Next thing I know, I get the phone call.

Pear Bottom: “Can you stop by?”

Just one side-note on one of the major annoyances I hold with attorneys. I said that Pear Bottom walks constantly back and forth by my desk. Is it really necessary for him to call me on the phone to come into his office? Especially when I am getting reverb echoes through the speaker because I can hear his actual voice talking. Like when a guy calls into a radio station while the same station is playing in the same room he’s in. I know lawyers like to feel important, but just tell me to stop by when you walk by one of the twenty times you do before lunch.

So I knew it was in the interest of my mental survival to get far, far away from this attorney. But, these guys are smart, I think, so you have to be subtle. Subtle and crafty. Over time and by growing strong relationships with the right people in the office (e.g. office supervisor, IT dude, office manager, all of office services staff, etc.) I had built enough confidence that I could begin asking favors. I made up some ridiculous excuses, like I’m allergic to something in this part of the office, or I broke my toe during a softball game, I was able to acquire an empty office (AN OFFICE) in the back of the library where nobody goes all to myself closer to the elevators and further away from Pear Bottom.

I think for three months, Pear Bottom knew I was still in the building, because I would respond to his messages, but did not know where I was sitting. One day while I was chatting with him about how the Texas Longhorn football team was going to suck this year (last year), he tried to tactfully interject, “So, where, uh, where did they exactly stick you?” I told him, the library and he looks at me with little empty eyes and says, “Uhhh, where’s that?”

I am a legal chameleon.

 

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