Posts Tagged With: litigation paralegal

“I Hate Paralegals”

According to my stats, the second most popular phrase that people are typing in to the Google search bar to find this website is “I Hate Paralegals.”

I can only assume that these searches are generated by asshole lawyers, and I just thought I would like to remind them that we hate them too.

Actually, I really don’t anymore.

But I do remember. I remember how awful most of you were – not just to your lowly staff, but to your own family members and to each other, and your clients too. I don’t hate you anymore, but I still think most of you are absolutely awful human beings, and I am thankful that I don’t have to get in the mud and dirty myself with you anymore.

I guess that’s closure or progress, or time healing wounds. I don’t know. I’m glad I don’t have the hate, because hate is ugly, and it blinds you, but it also lights the fire that makes you keep running until you don’t have to run anymore. Because you’re somewhere else now.

And you are happy, and not struggling right now, and all is well and light in the world.

We go up, and maybe, just maybe, we don’t come down again. Because we were already down so long that when we finally pick ourselves up, God himself smiles upon us and says, “You made it. You don’t have to worry anymore. You made it out. You found another way. And I will not let you fall now that you have made it out.”

That’s what I think. Things are not handed to you, but I think that when you fight and make it out, after awhile, you get to be safe. The psychological torture ends.

 

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Categories: Paralegal | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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!

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

Is Your Boss a Jackass?

Legal Professionals:

I know, it is probably blatantly obvious to you that you are working for a jackass. But, just in case you aren’t sure, I’ve created this test to further confirm your suspicions that you are in fact, working for a donkey. What does your boss do in the following situations?

1. Opposing counsel finally produced a CD of documents (approximately 10,000 pages) in response to your motion to compel. What does your boss do?

a. Barks at you to send the CD out for blowback copies and then asks you to get sandwiches and coffee. That’s it. Because you are apparently really a waitress, not a legal professional.

b. Barks at you to send the CD out for blowback copies and then asks for status updates every two hours.

c. Develops a keyword search list and has you OCR search the .pdfs for responsive terms. Then, you print the docs and organize them chronologically into a working notebook. Meanwhile, chunks of documents are assigned to other staff members to review.

2. Depositions need to be scheduled. What is the normal process?

a. You are tasked with just randomly picking dates. Your boss can’t seem to understand why this never works and why opposing counsel is always calling to object to the random dates.

b. You coordinate with other A. Big Shot Attorney’s paralegal for dates and then send notices once dates are agreed upon. When your boss changes his mind about taking the depositions at 10:00 p.m. the night before they are scheduled, you scramble the next morning to cancel everything. Then, at 9:30 a.m., he decides to re-notice all of the depositions for next week.

c. You coordinate with other A. Big Shot Attorney’s paralegal for mutually agreeable dates, notice the depositions one time, everyone shows up and the depositions are taken as agreed.

3. Your boss just had a secret meeting with a key witness in one of the firm’s biggest cases. Guess what else? The witness gave him a large stack of Tear the Roof off the Sucker Documents. What does your boss do with the documents?

a. Leaves them in his car. For a whole year. When he gets noticed for trial, he asks you where the Tear the Roof off the Sucker Documents are. You have no idea what he’s talking about, of course, because you aren’t allowed to drive his Porsche. He yells at you about not being able to buy a new light jet with the settlement money.

b. Your boss leaves the documents in your chair with no instructions and refuses to answer any questions or emails about them for three months. He just doesn’t feel like dealing with it right now, okay?

c. Your boss tells you about the meeting. You are then able to update the master witness and exhibit lists. The Tear the Roof off the Sucker Documents have been scanned in and the originals are filed away in the vault. You are a badass paralegal, and your boss just might get that jet after all.

4. There is a big hearing coming up. What’s going on in the office?

a. Your boss waits to start prepping until the day before the hearing. He throws papers around everywhere and then tells you to clean it up.

b. Your boss starts prepping a week before the hearing and tells you what exhibits and notebooks need to be assembled. You arrange everything perfectly. You think. Until he comes in one morning and decides to re-arrange the order of the notebook tabs. After you spend five hours doing this, he takes one look at the notebooks and changes his mind. The original way was better. Back to the drawing board!

c. Your boss starts prepping a week before the hearing and tells you what exhibits and notebooks need to be assembled. As you get closer to the deadline, your boss adds his new exhibits to the BACK of all of the notebooks. Then, he takes you to the hearing with him.

5. You are finally going to use two of your vacation days. What does your boss do?

a. Calls you the first day within three hours of the office opening to ask you where he put some documents (this is not a typo).

b. Sends you a whole bunch of passive aggressive emails asking for status updates in cases he has refused to talk about for the last six months.

c. Leaves you alone and hopes like hell you come back.

If you scored:

Mostly A’s: I’m sorry. Your boss is a donkey. There just isn’t an easy way to break this news to you.

Mostly B’s: Your boss needs some work, but there may be hope yet. Try to get him to tap into that humanity that probably lurked somewhere inside that soul of his years ago. Tell him: “Do you remember my first day of work?” I said: “Good morning.” You said: “Grunt. err. sniffle. snort.” “Can we go back to the way we were then when things were fresh and new?”

Mostly C’s: Your boss is amazing! Are you hiring? 

 

 

Categories: Paralegal | Tags: , | 6 Comments

What Lawyers Really Think of Paralegals

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.”

http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-jd-as-sub-paralegal-qualification.html

 

Categories: Paralegal | Tags: , | 5 Comments

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.

Categories: Paralegal | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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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