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

April Foolery

Categories: Uncategorized
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Published on: April 1, 2011

Directions For Sticking Head In Oven

Categories: Uncategorized
Comments: 3 Comments
Published on: March 15, 2011

If you have had the chance to read back on a couple of my earlier posts, you might have come across the part where I talk about a nose hair incident. I try to play it off as if it isn’t me who is the subject of the story. Well, guess the fuck what. It is me. It happened right around the time when I first became a paralegal. Before that, I had been an internal consultant for the firm, working on a pre-litigation matter for five months prior. I bitched and whined enough that they gave me a full-time job with benefits and the stellar title of “litigation paralegal.” It would only take a couple of weeks for me to realize the true worth of that title.

 

The first case assigned to me was where I was also introduced to my first (and, probably, last) boss. Pear Bottom.

Pear_bottom_2a

 

 

I worked with a pretty cool girl on this case who was a few years younger than me. Hell, everyone at that time was a few years younger than me. I felt like a complete kindergartener because every paralegal was like 3-6 years younger than me AND knew what they were doing. Anyhow, this one case was about to go to trial and there was a TON of evidence. It was ridiculous for how small a matter this was, how much each side was able to dig up during discovery. Not only that, how many copies of each binder the partners wanted us to make. I recently oversaw the off-site storage of all these files and I think I counted ten copies of each set. I think there were like, at max, four attorneys addressing this case. It still to this day beats the shit out of me why attorneys think they need all of these precautionary copies. “Look out, one of the others might without warning dissolve into the ethers!”

 

Pear Bottom rode us hard in the final weeks leading up to the trial. This was still while I was actually enthusiastic about my new title and, ahem, “ready to make a difference in the work place!” Please say some of you have gotten that feeling as you start your new job… With this feeling, I really didn’t notice how much of a douche bag ass Pear Bottom was being, but Team Member Paralegal was certainly pointing it out. After every call she’d get from him, she’d say, pretty audibly, “what a rancid dick!” During preparation, he would call us on our phones and ask us to trek into his office after he had received one of the 600 page binders we’d assembled for his majesty. On his desk, it is turned to page number 473 and he is squinting down at something on the perfectly printed page.

 

PB (after looking up at us): “Good job on the five volumes of binders, but did you fail to pick up the enormous error on the fourth page of the table of authorities of the exhibit to the pleading for the respondent’s request for motion to quash the defense of the statement for the recipient of the medal of honor?”
US: “Ummmm… no. What did we miss?”
PB: “Of course you didn’t. [Exasperated and overly dramatic sigh.] Middle of the page. Fourth paragraph. The font seems to be smaller than the rest of the binder. You know what? Make the rest of the paragraphs that size. Yes, I like that size. Go fix it now. Please and thank you.”

 

So this was how it went down pretty much all the time. Thinking back and remembering how I tried so hard to please him makes me kinda chuckle now.

 

Time for trial finally comes. Pear Bottom and Team Member Paralegal are preparing to fly off to Blankity-Blank for the trial. I’m to “man the forts,” which later meant do absolutely nothing, since they would have all one gazillion binders with them. We are all meeting in Team Member Paralegal’s office before their flight getting the logistics down and I ask, “So, PB, what is the time frame I would expect for you guys to call if you need me?”

 

He looks at me, hesitantly, and then gives me that kind of slow pat on the shoulder that has enough force to let you know to move out the room with him.

 

“Let me talk to you for a minute.”

 

Outside in the hall, he looks at me very seriously. I mean, very seriously, and says, “You have a hair coming out of your nose that’s almost down to your upper lip.”

 

My eyes could not have gotten wider. No one in my entire life has ever told me something like that, much less a boss I barely knew. And not only that, but I’ve never had a nose hair come blatantly out of my nose. Not that I know of…

 

PB: “I swear, you need to go to the bathroom and fix it.”

 

So, I walk-run to the nearest men’s room to scope it out. Guess what, there is no nose hair. This, I swear. I feel like I had been punk’d or something. But by a District of Columbia bar certified attorney?? Is that some sort of sick joke? I even asked Team Member Paralegal and she told me there was none. If there was, she would have noticed. So, still to this day, I have no clue why Pear Bottom decided to pull this weird prank on me. Or even if it was a prank. Hazing maybe? I don’t know. Do I really want to spend that much energy on figuring out ‘office comedy?’

I Am Better At Hiding Than They Are… At Vision

Categories: Uncategorized
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.

 

Some Days, Drinking Apple Schnapps Under the Covers Would Do

Categories: Uncategorized
Comments: 13 Comments
Published on: March 3, 2011

The wind was blowing way too hard this morning. The kind that knocks your earbuds out of your ears and chills your soul. That was probably my first hint that this day was going to be a Monday falling on a Tuesday. On my route to the Metro, I am accosted by a worker/custodian inside the pharmacy I used for a shortcut. I believe his rant stems from the point where my attaché inadvertently hit a bunch of neatly stacked lady wipes. Well, what are lady wipes doing on display in a store anyways? And why is this guy so angry?? Doesn’t he realize I could be a… I don’t know, a mystery shopper or something??? I really didn’t used to be this… negative.

The train was inevitably late. Tack on another 20 minutes to get to the office. 10:25. I get to work and already see that my pseudo-fancy office phone says I have missed 3 calls. The welcoming red light on the receiver tells me that there is a message awaiting my attention, but honestly, I let that shit pile up. If you need my attention, send me an email or a text. Don’t make me jump through hoops (i.e. press four or five buttons) to let me hear you say, “Can you call me back?” I look through Missed Calls on my phone’s display for the list of needy attorneys. This is odd, nobody normally calls me before, like, eleven. That’s why I’ve started coming in no earlier than ten. While the workday supposedly starts at nine, what the hell am I gonna do for two hours while I ‘patiently’ wait for one of my bosses to urgently call me?

So, I have these three calls. They’re all from one attorney. I’m not sure which is worse in the life of a paralegal: Arriving at 10:25 to find 3 missed calls from one boss all after 9:45, accompanied by an email asking “WHERE ARE YOU???” or another boss candidly telling you that you have a nose hair drifting down towards your upper lip in front of your colleagues. I’ll probably go with the latter, but I should tell you that just by using the second person shouldn’t necessarily incriminate the author of this blog.

Aside from that point, it still is a shitty position to be in. Already yelled at by some stranger before I get to work, now I’m preparing myself to be bitched out by one of the bitchiest associates in the firm. I really wish I knew it came with the territory that becoming a paralegal didn’t mean you would be working for life-changing causes, that you would have some sort of deep relationship with these cases and lawyers, that you would become an Erin Brockovich. The reality is that you unwillingly forfeit your pride and respect for a salary and benefits. You gleefully swing around on the lowest rung on the legal ladder. Like a monkey wearing a fez.

After filling up my 20 oz. mug with three single-serving pods of coffee from the friendly Flavia machine, I decide I have enough courage to press redial. The first thing I hear after I say hello, sorry I didn’t get back to you, I was [fill in suitable lie,] is “I know you don’t really get in after 10, so I didn’t think to call before then.”

Pat yourself on the back for that one.

“But this is actually important. We need you to go down to the DC Court of Appeals to file an emergency pleading.”

“Okay, when?”

“Five minutes ago.”

I should have expected that one. This is the first time I’ve filed at this courthouse and after a year of working as a paralegal, I have too much pride to ask where it is. Instead, Google Maps would be my savior. I gather the pleadings and documents from my boss and head down to street level. I take out my only friend, the iPhone, and plug in “DC Court of Appeals” into the Maps app. That’s funny. Two different locations pop up with the exact same name. I guess it’s time for Russian Roulette. I pick one randomly and hope it’s the one that won’t lead to my head being blown off in the end.

I call for a cab and tell Mr. Driver the address. He takes me there and I walk into the huge courthouse. I am taken through security, which is just as strict as airport TSA except that along with the ability to strip search you, they also confiscate your phone and lock it up. As normal protocol, I ask the completely uninterested guard where the Clerk’s office is and he kinda points down the hall for me. So I stumble aimlessly down this half-mile long corridor, looking both ways every step until I see a small door saying “clerks office.”

I walk in, unload the big box and present all the items in an organized fashion. The lady, just as knackered as the guard, looks at me after going through everything and mentions I’m in the wrong court. Not even knowing where I am (remember, I was suppose to be somewhere 5 minutes ago) I ask her where these pleadings are suppose to go. She says, the DC Court of Appeals. I say I thought that’s where I was. She says, nope, wrong office. Fuck!

7 minutes until deadline for filing.

Since I don’t have my phone and I’m now completely lost at what to do next, I run back to the security station and have to beg the guard to give me the phone behind the 38th Parallel so I can call my boss. He asks me which building I’m in, I tell him I thought I was in the Court of Appeals.

DC Court of Appeals or Court of Appeals of DC??!?”

I should remark that off the bat he is screaming at me. Not yelling. Not barking. Screaming. So loud that I hear two other voices suddenly in the background having to calm him down. While one attempts to alleviate this erupting volcano, the other voice coolly asks where I am and confirms I am in the right building, but funny enough, the Appeals Court happens to be on a different level. Another pat on the back, Mr. Paralegal. So I, again, run through the courthouse until I get to my final destination. I get to the Clerk’s office and for the first time that day I encounter some decent people. They help me with the documents and then look at me and ask me for the fee.

The fee? What fee? I wasn’t told about a fee…

“Okay, how much is it?” As I start pulling my wallet full of one dollar bills out of my back pocket.

“$400.”

2 minutes til deadline.

That, in a nutshell is the life I lead every day. People wonder why I sleep throughout the weekend and drink vodka nonstop.

 

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