This article gives me chills!
This article gives me chills!
I am in the middle of reading The Everything Store, Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon and I was just compelled to post. The thing about working for any organization is that it is designed to exploit you until you drop. You quit and then they will just find someone else to replace you, no big deal. You pack up your things and it will be as though you were never even there.
I am not even 150 pages in, and there are two points that have already reached out and slapped me in the face. The first point was that when Bezos began the company, he expected everyone to work constantly, sacrificing everything else to build the company. If it is your company, that definitely makes sense. If you are just working in a company, you are a fool to let yourself get exploited like this. Killing yourself to make someone else richer is not what life is. The days where loyalty and hard work are rewarded are long over. I believe the official name of the department is Human Resources, but we should just call it Central Office of Exploitation. The moment you quit running at 8 mph on the treadmill is the moment you get replaced. The book even explicitly states that if anyone had the gall to hint at a work/life balance they wouldn’t get hired.
On page 101 we have a direct quote: “Then the steely-eyed founder replaced them with a new and more experienced group of believers. Watching the company move on without them gave these employees a gnawing sensation, as if their child had left home and moved in with another family. But in the end, as Bezos made abundantly clear to Shel Kaphan, Amazon had only one true parent.”
This is how every law firm feels about its employees too, folks. This struck a chord with me because I remember all too well how it stung when I realized that I had given my heart and soul to an organization who did not care about me the way that I cared about them. In particular, I remember sitting across the desk from a named partner (and my direct supervisor) and he brought up the word “sacrifice.” I told him in no uncertain terms that my days of sacrifice were over. I was not prepared to make personal sacrifices for someone else’s company anymore. No additional bonus money or overtime pay was in it for me, so there was no point in it. He didn’t get it. He needed me to work 60 hours a week, that was all he cared about.
I remember another conversation with a partner at a different law firm. This guy looked me in the eyes and said “You can have all the overtime you want. I want to see how hard you can work.” I tried that out, and when I compared my paychecks, I was dismayed to find that after just ten hours of overtime I was actually working at way less than my hourly wage after the taxes got through with me! I went to the bathroom and vomited after I thought about what all those hours really meant. I figured I had generated an additional $2,000 for the firm in billings and got to keep a whopping $16.00 an hour for my trouble. It makes me sick to this day.
When you sit back and think about how you sacrificed your personal health, your relationships, and even your very spiritual growth to help a law firm generate thousands of dollars only so you could pretty much just afford to treat yourself to one nice meal on Saturday night, I’m sorry but that tends to make me feel like a real asshole. I would rather sit home and have a few friends over for burgers instead of the scrap money.
And in small towns, they conspire to cap your salaries, you know. I was told as much by Mr. Overtime before I got hired. He named the other two big firms in town and told me to “Check them out, I’m sure they won’t give you a better offer. You think we don’t talk to each other?” These men sit around the bar at their golf club and make gentlemen’s agreements that they won’t pay their paralegals more than $55,000 a year so that no one can leave and do better elsewhere (as best I can gather). The lawyers will tell you that “the market is bad,” and then drive off in their $120,000 Porsche. The market is bad because the top dogs in town conspired to keep the market bad, and there will always be someone new to exploit for hard work in exchange for peanuts.
My greatest wish for paralegals (and all employees, actually), is that everyone quit being an employee. We all need to leave and take our skills away and work as independent contractors for an actual living (and fair wage according to our skill sets) for other individuals who value what we have to offer. Because the organizations sure as hell don’t value us. And they never will.
An associate lawyer asks: “Are we any better than slaves?” This is a condition that is plaguing the legal field. It is an absolute cancer.
What they don’t understand is that we’re not insisting that our work give us joy, meaning, fulfillment, or self-actualization. Stephen Pollan was right when he said, “Remember: Work is the area in your life that gives you the best chance to earn money.” “You can help the world by volunteering. You can be creative through a hobby. You can get a sense of purpose and a feeling of joy by caring for your family. You can be spiritually uplifted at a house of worship.” If we say that we want our work to matter, it’s because our work has robbed us of the time that we need to take care of our need for these other outlets. We have no ability to flourish outside of work, so we articulate our life’s deficiencies by complaining about what our work doesn’t offer. But what we really want is time to be human…
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This clip about sums it up:
“Let me explain further. I don’t mean to insult paralegals out there – you do a great job (some of you) – but don’t start to think that you’re “better” than JDs. The paralegal students I taught, at an ABA-accredited paralegal program, found it hard to understand basic legal concepts, wrote like middle school kids, lacked motivation, and were doing this because they had nothing else to do with their lives. A couple were highly-motivated and smart, but most weren’t. Most were rather stupid to be honest. Most just didn’t care. The work I graded was embarrassingly bad.”
One thing they don’t teach you in paralegal school is that there are a few occasions when your lawyer will just turn into a completely unreasonable monster. One of these is when he is preparing for a hearing. You will do all that you can to “anticipate his needs,” and leave all relevant materials for him on the conference room table. You will assemble notebooks, the perfectly updated and organized file will be placed in front of him, yet he will still not be able to help himself.
He will call out to you, despite the fact that everything he needs is right in front of his face if he could just manage to read. “Get me X! Right now! I simply must have X!” You will slog into the room, and point out that “X” is the very first file in Box 1. He will grunt, and that means you are dismissed from his line of vision for this particular second in time.
Then, he will start rearranging the order of the notebooks. Yes, Virginia. All fifteen of them will get reorganized. After you do that and make a copy of each one of them, he will inform you that actually, on second thought, he needs two more copies of each. Gee, thanks for telling me when I was disassembling and copying earlier. Sure is efficient to do it your way, though! If you are lucky that will be the end of it, but most likely it won’t. Why would he let it be when he could arrange all of the tabs once more? This means you are now updating the order of fifteen notebooks. You need to go off by yourself to do this because it is harder than it sounds, and if some jackass comes around bending your ear off and breaking your concentration, you will mess this up for sure.
After that, he will decide that he needs a piece of evidence that no one in the office ever thought to obtain. Instead of working together and figuring out a plan to obtain the evidence (or hell, even letting you go out of the room so you can figure out how to get it yourself), he will interrogate you for twenty minutes on why you don’t have the evidence (usually the reason is because his former paralegal was a dumbass and so were his associates, and this was before you got involved with the file, but whatever).
My point is, once they get on an interrogation rant, that is when the monster comes out. They get focused on points that are just completely irrelevant to actually accomplishing the goal. Namely, to just find the CUSSING evidence instead of fixating on pondering about why it is missing. That type of crap used to drive me absolutely bat cuss cussing nuts. And it will you too, I guarantee it.
Ah, the things no class on being a paralegal can teach you. I wish someone would have warned me about this, because it truly is insane, and when the day is over you will feel like someone has been beating the hell out of your body. Fun!
I knew it, it wasn’t just me after all. Nothing was wrong with me. I didn’t have some fatally flawed personality that made me incapable of working in law. Turns out CareerBliss did a recent survey on job satisfaction. Guess what the rankings are for lawyers and the people who take care of them? Gee, I wonder why that is?
Associate lawyer ranked #1 unhappiest job in America, closely followed by the paralegal/legal assistant at #7. There is a very real reason for that and you don’t just have to take my word on it!
“I did everything in Vegas fitting a person of my station.”
Associate to Legal Secretary: “Was that A. Big Shot Attorney Who Just Yelled “F%$#!”
Legal Secretary: “No, that was Other Associate.”
Associate to Legal Secretary: “Good, that means I don’t have to deal with it.
A. Big Shot Attorney to Minion Paralegal: “Why the F%$# is my computer not fixed?!”
A. Big Shot Attorney to Minion Paralegal: “I am busy and cannot remember everything I give to you, and I rely upon you to bring any conflicts in work to my attention or to find someone to assist you so that both attorney’s work can be timely accomplished. Moreover, you indicated that you would do the tapes ASAP, but you left for lunch and it was not done. Please ask me if you need help. If you have any questions, please let me know.”
Minion Paralegal to A. Big Shot Attorney: “I apologize for leaving to eat lunch before starting your tape. It will not happen again.”
A. Big Shot Attorney to Minion Paralegals: “I should not have to mess with or even think about this stuff. It may be surprising, but most of the stuff I do is very high stress and complicated. I do not want to hear about this again. There may be other lawyers that do things differently and I do not care.”
Managing Big Shot Attorney to Entire Staff: “The firm is appreciative of the great brunch prepared by the staff yesterday. The food was delicious and we always enjoy a brief time of relaxation with our staff.”
The average litigation paralegal salary in the United States seems to hover right around $50,000. I can tell you that as a trial paralegal I made a lot more than that (including base and bonuses, and rightfully so). Compensation packages should be tailored for every individual, and it is important to strike the right number so that employees stay motivated to strive to perform.
The emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual, and mental toll is very high on paralegals. The pressure is very high, and the sacrifice is very high. Remember, your trial paralegals don’t stand to gain millions when it is all over with. But the rollercoaster ride is just the same. You want to make sure that you are evaluating your trial paralegals especially closely on an annual basis and striking a compensation package that keeps them lined up to take that ride with you over and over again. Otherwise, your good people will leave you. There are just too many other opportunities out there for awesome trial paralegals to make a good living.
This one is just to poke fun at senior partners. One thing that used to happen quite frequently (or at least, whenever one of the wives got an ambitious notion) was the spreading of hilarious sales memos to staff.
For instance, the most recent one I can think of before my departure was when the senior partner’s wife decided she was going to start a business knitting sweaters and other accessories for cats. However, I have seen memos on a vast area of topics, and sometimes I break that folder out for inspiration when I am looking for new business ideas. They are not all bad if someone would just try to develop them for more than a week or so.
In any event, whatever the idea of the day is, senior partner decides that this is somehow our problem too now. He makes his secretary type the below memo and hand deliver it to every single person in the law office.
TO: All Staff
FROM: The Biggest Shot Attorney
RE: Cat Sweaters
Silly Susie, my current wife, was formerly the head cashier at Banana Republic twenty-five years ago and now she has got it into her mind to start a business helping our local pets stay warm. Attached is her business card.
If you know of anyone who has a need for cat sweaters (or even little hats which are very cute, actually, and especially in photographs), please contact Silly Susie immediately so I can keep her occupied while I am tending to other matters.
As usual, thank you for your support. I really do have high hopes for this one.
The Recovering Paralegal will now take this opportunity to say everything I wished I could say to all those bright-eyed newbie lawyers who came into the office every summer and just wreaked complete havoc.
For starters, if this is your very first job, keep it to yourself. A great majority of us have been working in some form or another since our early teen years. Some of us worked out of necessity, some of us because we desired our independence, and some of us did so because our parents wanted us to develop as fully functional well-rounded individuals in society. Personally, if you are in your mid-twenties and have never held a job before, something is wrong with you.
Law is a service profession. You will serve clients and you will serve your superiors in the firm. You need to wrap your head around this.
If you are going to work with a good group of people, they will probably have some sort of office training or orientation for you on your first day. If you are going to work in a small firm, and it becomes clear to you that there is no structured orientation hour, seek out your paralegal and make friends.
Paralegals want to help you and make your life easier. Nobody wants A. Big Shot Attorney getting irritated over stuff and throwing chairs while complaining about how stupid his dumb new associate is.
Here are some things you need to do to function in your new home:
Also, learn how to count backwards from deadline dates. What I mean by this is, if you have a response to a motion due in thirty days, count back and set tasks for yourself to get a draft to your boss at least two weeks before it is due. After awhile, this deadline will become one week before it is due, and then once you get really sharp, you can push things a little later. But trust me, nothing can make A Big Shot Attorney throw a chair like his associate handing him a brief to read the day before it is due.