A. Big Shot Attorney and the New Litigation Paralegal

Once upon a time, when I had only been at my job a few months, I had occasion to bump into the managing partner in the lobby. I was standing there with my direct boss, and the managing partner said: “Who is this? I don’t believe I’ve ever met her before.”

The problem with the exchange is that the jerk HAD met me before. Twice, actually. The second time just one month prior, when I spent an entire Sunday helping him on a project. This was a project that involved multiple face to face exchanges between just the two of us, not something where he only passed by once and saw me in a sea of other faces in a large conference room.

The law firm is not so large that he should be forgetting the names of any employees, and he certainly should make it a point to remember the person who came in on a Sunday just to help him out at the last minute.

But he didn’t. Because I was faceless and nameless to him. A cog in the wheel. The help. I was a paralegal slave, not an actual team member. I remember that day and how irritated I was to come in. When it was over, I told myself that I did a good job and that it would be worth it later because I worked on a big, important project for one of the biggest shot attorneys in the entire organization. I was wrong. He didn’t even remember who I was. It was like it never even happened.

And that was another day I wasted away from my family helping a stranger get ahead. Someone who would never even remember my sacrifice or my hard work.

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A. Big Shot Attorney Goes to Lunch and Sends an Email About the Meal

Chowtown, the restaurant across from our building, now serves lunches. I had not been there before the 4:00 drinking hour, and decided to try it out today.

My lunch was superb:  grilled mahi-mahi with a half dozen spears of fresh asparagus. The chef was flexible, as he was willing to substitute olive oil for butter in the sauce (a lemon-butter sauce). Each asparagus spear was of just the right size diameter (which, of course, may mean only that it was what was available in the market today). More important, it was cooked to a perfect degree of doneness, as was the fish.

The meal as described (I ordered no beverage) was $20 plus sales-tax – less than what my stupid bitch paralegal has been paying to have a ham sandwich with no tomatoes, a coke and chips from Jimmy Johns delivered to me on Sundays.

Based admittedly on but one lunch, I recommend this restaurant in the event you ever feel like food instead of alcohol for the noon meal.

P.S. Different matter. I have found that the little bag of groceries I took home last evening from the 2nd floor refrigerator was not mine. (The casserole was delicious, though. There was also a package of shredded cheese in the bag, and you can have that back). Will the rightful owner please contact me today? I won’t be in the office for the next month and a half. My wife told me I needed to bring “that poor girl’s tacky Tupperware” back to the office. Mission accomplished! Well, it’s 3:00 now so I better head on over to the links!

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ASAP Projects for Litigation Trial Paralegals

I have been thumbing through some old emails for old time’s sake and one glaringly obvious commonality that they all share is the use of the word “ASAP.” As in, nearly every single assignment I have ever received from a lawyer has been sure to add that I need to complete this assignment ASAP. Well of course it does.

After all, everything a trial litigator touches has an immediate and far-reaching direct impact on the life and well-being of EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THIS PLANET. Ask them. They will tell you.

Isn’t an inflated sense of self-importance one of the key indicators of insanity? It is certainly delusional, that much is certain.

Talk about living in a pressure cooker. You know what’s even more demoralizing? When you get in an hour early, skip lunch, and miss your child’s school function in order to complete an ASAP project, only to find out at 6:00 p.m. that your entire day was a giant waste of time because your boss forgot to tell you that he didn’t actually need you to finish the ASAP project after all. It turns out something more pressing has come up.

Looks like you’ll be rolling out that cot under your desk.

Congratulations. You’re a litigation trial paralegal.

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A Litigation Trial Paralegal Fits in Cardio

For those of you who think you will be chained to a desk all day long and lapse slowly into a sedentary lifestyle, take heed. According to my handy fitness tool, it is not uncommon to easily rack up four miles on a typical day at the office. How does it happen?

Let me count some of the ways:

  • Running to the parking lot to fetch something your boss left in his car;
  • Running memos around to different lawyers in the office;
  • Fetching items off the printer and taking them to A. Big Shot Attorney;
  • Going on a 3:00 coffee run for your team; and
  • Fitting in conversations while pacing the halls because A. Big Shot Attorney said:  “Walk with me.”
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Top 5 Ways Lawyers Will Make Your Life a Living Hell at Work

  1. They will never talk to you in complete sentences.
  2. They will constantly modify projects so that you are perpetually going back to the drawing board. For instance, perhaps you have just put twenty-five hours into a large document review and indexing project. Upon completion, you proudly inform your attorney that you have finished. His response? Where is the stack of emails from such and such? You know, the ones I never told you to separate, but am telling you now that you have finished the project?
  3. You will spend your life cancelling and rescheduling their tailor appointments and meetings with clients because they “just can’t deal with that right now.”
  4. They will make you invent lies for why they simply cannot do things, and you will have to keep a spreadsheet of the various lies and who you told them to.
  5. According to Psychology Today, the ABA estimates that 15-20 percent of lawyers suffer from alcoholism or substance abuse. What do you think that’s like to work with everyday?
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Everyone Wants to Quit During Trial

The above phrase was said by A. Big Shot Attorney to one of my minion co-workers upon the first onset of her nervous breakdown when she began preparing for her first trial.

The phrase is certainly true, and it was spoken with the intent to console. But doesn’t anyone find it completely disturbing? Why should a job (a job where you have no stake in the outcome) make you want to quit? I have seen paralegals hospitalized because of the mental strain and exhaustion of working with trial litigators. I’m serious, and I have even been one of them.

It happens. Why this phenomenon continually occurs in the legal field is beyond me. Look around your litigation department. How is turnover? Are they running through associates and trial paralegals every year or so? Wonder why.

People get worn out when their time is wasted and they are run ragged by attorneys who failed to plan ahead and allow proper time and enough staff to accomplish the goals that they want. I personally do not enjoy having to cancel my 7:00 p.m. flight on Friday night to go grab a weekend somewhere other than here because A. Big Shot Attorney forgot that he needed some notebooks.

People: this is a true story. I have cancelled weekend trips over notebooks. And the real kick in the teeth is that there is an 80% chance that the lawyer will never actually look at the notebooks, or that he will lose them before Monday morning. [Sidebar to you lawyers: No one thinks your inability to manage documents is funny. Everyone, in fact, uses that character flaw as evidence of your incompetency. You need to get it together and quit losing evidence].

My experience with trial was rewarding and exhilarating the first three times. After that, there was nothing left for me to prove and it honestly just became a giant strain on my relationships and consumed too much of what was supposed to be my personal time. In my opinion, it is a fool’s errand to work excessive amounts of overtime without compensation for the express purpose of helping trial lawyers get richer at your own personal expense.

The last trial I prepared for actually settled before it got to a jury. I looked around the room at every face and watched every single person become an instant multi-millionaire. And I was rewarded with an “atta girl” instead of a bonus. My co-workers were doing normal family things like actually sitting down to eat a meal together, while I was at the office re-arranging the order of papers in a notebook without getting paid for it. My verdict? Not worth my time!

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“In Praise of the Paralegal”

“Professional trained to practice with us – not serve us.” Looks like every lawyer I have ever worked with never read this article:


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New Year’s Resolutions for Lawyers

A New Year is upon us, and before we know it many of us will be going back to work in offices full of litigators who will be fired up for the New Year. I have seen this for years, though, and the fire will dwindle out by this time next week. What usually happens is that there will be one big (two or three hour) case meeting where the partner promises he is going to be more available to his staff and resolves to have one short case meeting per week to ensure the team stays on track. Then, we don’t see that guy until February.

Litigators, listen up. Make some real resolutions this year and don’t say them out loud unless you mean them. I’m serious. If all you really want to do this year is only show up hung-over on Friday morning instead of every other morning, then stick to that. More sobriety is a good place to start.

Personally, the resolutions that I would have liked to hear my partners make would be:

  • I will write down my logins and passwords and stop asking my paralegal what they are;
  • I will start referring to exhibits by their proper name, and especially when I am asking my paralegal to attach them to court filings (For instance, “June 2, 2008 email from A. Big Shot Attorney to CEO of Big Bad Securities Fraud Company,” instead of “You know, attach that email that is good for us.”);
  • I will not make my paralegal stay late without notice unless it is absolutely necessary;
  • I will think about what I want to do and who I need to speak with. I will only make my paralegal schedule depositions, meetings, and phone calls one time unless unforeseen circumstances occur (We could just call this a commandment, actually. Call this one THOU SHALT NOT BE WISHY-WASHY. Or even STICK TO THE SCHEDULE);
  •  I resolve to quit telling my support staff that every single task I give them is ASAP, only to let the project results sit on my desk for weeks until I look at it.

Five is a manageable start. Obviously, I could go on and on, but I know you litigators have very short attention spans. Get it together, lawyers. We don’t want to play any more lawyer games in 2014.

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7 Reasons Why Working for Lawyers Will Drive You Completely Insane

Looking back over the years I served as a litigation paralegal, there were a few things that would constantly happen at work that used to drive me completely insane. If you are considering attending paralegal school or researching the paralegal field for a possible career switch, please pay attention.

Daily tasks that drove me insane (in no particular order):

  1. Lawyer to paralegal:  “_____ is coming in to meet with me in five minutes. Can you have the contract, all the documents that have been produced by all parties, and our firm’s file ready for review?”
  2. “Out of an abundance of caution” tasks. This is lawyer-speak that translates to “I don’t know what the hell to do, so we’re just going to do everything and see if something sticks.” Nothing like spinning around in circles all day long because your boss is an incompetent moron! 
  3. “I need you to do this ASAP!” You practically have to keep a spreadsheet so you can keep track of all your ASAP projects and the reasons why nothing is getting done on them (which actually involves a second sub-page spreadsheet of the ASAP projects that bumped the lesser ASAP projects).
  4. Constantly rescheduling events that should go forward except for the fact that the lawyer just isn’t in the mood anymore.
  5. They don’t like to give instructions, yet if you don’t do something (that they think you should intuitively know to do) that they never actually told you to do, you will catch hell for it.
  6. They are completely incapable of answering your emails or in-person questions. Usually, just lead with the most critical question, because no way have I ever seen a lawyer answer a two or three part email question.
  7. They will interrogate you in front of co-workers until you start to squirm or stutter. This could go on for awhile, so never ever go to work without eating a big breakfast.
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Thanksgiving with a Lawyer

I’ll never forget one of the first jobs I ever had as a litigation paralegal. I worked for a boutique litigation firm and I was an admitted money-maker and all around superstar employee, yet I made an hourly wage and still sort of got treated as though I were working at Taco Bell instead of doing substantive legal work. Nevertheless, things were generally good until the day after Thanksgiving rolled around.

My predecessor tried to warn me, but it was something I had to experience myself. The first two years on the job, this guy would make me come in the day after Thanksgiving as if we were going to work a full day on the job. Problem was, when it would start getting close to lunch time, he would want to go home himself. He would say:  “Well…if there’s nothing pressing that you’ve got to get out today, I think it’d be okay if you knocked off a little early.”

It really was hysterical. For two years I said, “Okay, thank you. See you Monday.” The third year, after I had demonstrated my profitability MANY times over, I stood up for myself and asked him:  “You’re going to pay me for the rest of the day, right?”  You would have thought I had punched him in the face! He literally could not compute that I had propounded this question to him. He stuttered awkwardly as I looked him dead in the eye (completely unwilling to drop eye contact, talk first, or even blink) and waited through the uncomfortable (but only to him) silence.

“Yes, of course,” he finally managed to say.

By the time I had exited his office and returned to my desk, he had made a full recovery. He said:  “But let’s not make a habit of it.”

A few months later, I finally found myself a better paying job and was out of there!

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