Posts Tagged With: hate being a paralegal

A Look Inside the Book – Are You Sure You Want to be a Paralegal?

The Beginning of Chapter One:

To begin, we should take a good, hard, sobering (ahem) look at the personality characteristics of litigators. Why do you hate working for lawyers? I will break it down for you.

Who Are Your Bosses?

  • Alcoholics;

Psychology Today weighed in on the subject and concluded that:  “The ABA estimates that 15-20 percent of all U.S. lawyers suffer from alcoholism or substance abuse.” (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/therapy-matters/201105/the-depressed-lawyer).  To put this number in perspective, consider that The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates the rate of alcoholism among the general population as 7-10 percent.

The American Bar Association reports that “as many as one in five lawyers is a problem drinker – twice the national rate.” (http://www.americanbar.org/groups/lawyer_assistance/resources/alcohol_abuse_dependence.html)

As late as October 29, 2014, The International Journal of Law and Psychiatry study is still being quoted to measure rates of problem drinking as 18 percent for lawyers who have practiced anywhere from 2-20 years, and a whopping 25 percent for lawyers who have been working for 20 or more years.   (http://www.chicagolawbulletin.com/Elements/pages/print.aspx?printpath=/Archives/2014/10/29/Alcoholism-Survey-10-29-14&classname=tera.gn3article).

Working for alcoholics can potentially make your work life completely toxic and dysfunctinal for obvious reasons, but consider this.  What if being in an environment for years on end where the culture encourages and feeds toxicity starts to affect you?  What you are exposed to on a daily basis becomes your normal sense of reality.  Functioning among bosses who forget everything they ever told you and forget to tell you key pieces of information you need to know to do your job (but then punish you for not knowing what they forgot to tell you), will make you a nervous wreck or an alcoholic yourself.  For a few years, I was probably both.  I honestly did not realize how toxic my job was until I quit drinking myself.  That subject is probably best reserved for another book entirely.

  • Unhappiest Workers in America;

In that same Psychology Today article that is linked above, it is reported that a Johns Hopkins University Study found that lawyers have the highest rates of depression among more than 100 different occupations.  Careerbliss.com routinely puts out a study about the happiest / unhappiest jobs in America and guess what tops the list for unhappiest?  Associate Attorney!  Also worth mentioning is the fact that Legal Assistant was closely followed as the Number 7 Unhappiest Job in America.  In my mind, it should be ranked right behind Associate Attorney.  (http://www.careerbliss.com/facts-and-figures/careerbliss-happiest-and-unhappiest-jobs-in-america-2013/).  For more commentary on the unhappiest jobs in America please read:  http://abovethelaw.com/2013/03/unhappiest-job-in-america-take-a-guess/

http://www.businessinsider.com/unhappiest-jobs-in-america-2013-12

http://www.forbes.com/pictures/efkk45ehffl/no-1-unhappiest-job-associate-attorney/

  • Assholes; and

There are plenty of attorney jokes. The hard data to back it up might be found in Bob Sutton’s The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. It will come as no surprise to anyone in the field that the legal field is an occupation that is rife with over-bearing assholes who engage in constant psychological abuse towards their staff members and co-workers. They may do it by assigning demeaning, meaningless “emergency” tasks that chip away at your spirit little by little, or they may do it in obvious ways such as barking at you like a dog in front of their clients for you to fetch things.

  • Psychopaths.

Kevin Dutton’s The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers can Teach us About Success, lists lawyers as second on the list of occupations that attract the most psychopaths. That is completely believable and certainly comes as no surprise to me. As an employee, the factors that you should be the most concerned about are detachment and lack of empathy. What do you think it will do to you on a daily basis to interact with someone who fails to exhibit human emotions and normal characteristics? I promise you the result is not going to make your life better.

(http://www.businessinsider.com/most-psychopathic-professions-2012-11)

Now you at least know who you will be working for.  But what does it really mean?  Name calling is great, but what exactly are all these alcoholic, depressed and unhappy, asshole psychopaths going to do to you to make your sheer existence a living nightmare?  Let me count the ways.

Why/How the Work Itself is Toxic

Here are my best explanations for how the law firm turns into a practical nightmare for the paralegal.

  • Your Work Isn’t Meaningful;

There are so many studies that support the idea that most workers just want the chance to be engaged in something that matters. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-leadership/how-to-completely-utterly-destroy-an-employees-work-life/2012/03/05/gIQAxU3iuR_story.html).   Paralegals certainly fit this characteristic.  You start out all bright-eyed and optimistic at the law firm, thinking that you are going to do good work and make a valuable contribution.  You might work like a dog to get a case shaped up and actually achieve that goal of making a valuable contribution.  Then, the partners will do one of the most demoralizing things that they can do to a paralegal, which is arbitrarily reassign teams and you will watch as your work disappears to another team, and the lazy paralegal who inherits all the work and research you did will get the credit for your hard work and contribution.  Your reward is that you get to keep your job and do it all over again from scratch.  Congratulations on your hard work and effort.  No one cares what you did, what you are doing, and what you are going to do.  Just shut up and keep the seat warm.

What are you waiting for?! Go buy the book!

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Categories: Paralegal | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

On Bondage and Slavery

From time to time, I review the internet search results on my WordPress stats to determine how people are finding this blog. This week, poor litigation paralegal souls were somewhere out there pounding into the computer:

  • hate being a paralegal need a new job
  • jobs after being a paralegal
  • i hate being a paralegal
  • i don’t want to be a paralegal anymore
  • why i hate being a paralegal
  • hate being paralegal
  • psychopath lawyers
  • i hate my attorney

You hate it because to be employed under a lawyer is essentially to be a slave, or to live in bondage.

Slavery: severe toil; drudgery.

Bondage: captivity; restraint; prison.

No, you are most likely not physically whipped daily and raped by your master (probably, but I have heard some stories…). But, if you are typing those above-listed search terms into Google, you are most definitely being psychologically abused and you are a slave to your job if you have any financial commitments whatsoever. The boss knows this, and their behavior worsens because they know how difficult it is to find other work.

I hate to break it to you, but the second you have to ask another grown-up if you have their permission to go to a funeral, take care of your sick child, or go home for the holidays, you have just entered into slavery. What sort of place allows you to go out in the yard one time a day for an hour? Don’t they call that prison? Don’t you have to do something really reprehensible to wind up in prison?!

I don’t know when it became acceptable to live this way, but it makes me absolutely sick. Knowledge workers should not be voluntarily subjecting themselves to slavery. I am extremely suspicious of lawyers who require their paralegals to be sitting in a desk directly outside their office at all times. This is not a boss who wants a productive worker who is achieving measurable results. This is a boss who wants someone to yell at, play fetch with, and degrade in front of clients and co-workers. I know, having been that dog for the longest six months of my entire life.

How did this happen to the American people? How did so many of us become working slaves? It baffles me. Thoughts?

Categories: Paralegal | Tags: , | 9 Comments

Bullying in the Law Office

The first article I have linked below discusses the pandemic of bullying within the law firm. Even though it speaks about relationships between partners and junior staff members, we all know the trickle down effect that this takes on staff members. This isn’t just whining because “somebody was mean to me at work today” (insert pouty face here). The Forbes article linked below reported that “45% of individuals targeted by bullies at work suffer stress-related health problems.”

Obvious signs of bullying could be getting yelled at by your boss in front of your co-workers or clients, or being made to run back and forth playing fetch with your boss, while your co-workers remain seated around a conference table and glance away uncomfortably, to avoid meeting your eyes.

The not so obvious signs that you are being bullied, may surprise you.  Have you ever gotten physically sick before or during work, but knew that you did not have a virus? We used to call that “anxiety vomit,” and it can kill a bitch. How about this one that Forbes lists:  “Falsely accusing you of errors is another common tactic.”  I know every paralegal in America has experienced this little phenomenon!

Another good question to ask yourself is:  Do you spend your time off work recovering from work?  Do you stare lifelessly at the television, or ever try to read something and find yourself unable to concentrate? Do your friends or family members complain about your obsession about your job? My God, Forbes just keeps hitting these out of the park! It is almost as though the author is writing from INSIDE THE LAW FIRM! The call is coming from the inside!!

What does Forbes say is another sign that you are being bullied at work?  If you have an impossible schedule, with lots of last-minute tasks! Paralegals, are you reading this right now?!?! Bueller? The internet is absolutely full of personal stories from paralegals who have been bullied in the law office, including an entire worksheet over on Paralegal Pie for what bullying is and how to cope. If I had been smart enough to do my research about this field ten years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache.

The saddest part of all is when the old-time staffers start to emulate their boss. Et tu, Brute? My personal experience with the subject is that there is no fixing this, and your only solution is to take your skills and talent, along with what is left of your humanity, and head out for new opportunities. The firm management is not going to fix your problem. You think the big bad wolf is going to turn into a little lap dog because of you? You’re dreaming!

Employees just shouldn’t have to get the crap kicked out of them every day in the pursuit of being able to almost pay all of their bills. Yet it happens. Over and over again, all over the world. I wish I could make it stop. I wish I could give jobs to all these good people who get abused at work.

http://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/the-new-lawyer/comment-debate/12295-Bullying-pandemic-in-law-firms

http://www.forbes.com/2008/03/22/health-bullying-office-forbeslife-cx_avd_0324health.html

http://www.paralegalpie.com/paralegalpie/2012/03/bullying.html

http://www.wedolegal.com/Bullies.htm

http://www.bullyonline.org/cases/case52.htm

Categories: Paralegal | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments

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