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?

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

April Foolery

Categories: Uncategorized
Comments: No Comments
Published on: April 1, 2011

Lawfirm Dossier #52 – Mr. Clean

Categories: Uncategorized
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.
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