By: Jamie Collins
Without shedding any light on the general topic of this post, I’m going to take you through a bit of “a day in the life” of yours truly over the past day and a half. You’ll just have to keep reading to see what we’re going to talk about today, folks.
I typically take off Wednesdays (during the summer) to be with my son. The boss asks me if I can instead take Thursday off this week, so I can attend an important client meeting with him at 3:00 on Wednesday. My response? Sure, no problem.
My favorite co-worker asks me if I want to go to lunch with her tomorrow. My response? Sure. (Followed by “is something up or you just want to go” in an e-mail from me to her). She indicates that nothing is up and just wants to go to lunch. Sounds awesome! Sign me up for lunch tomorrow.
Have to get a confidential mediation statement out for a case that is set for mediation on Wednesday for one of our clients. The boss tells me he is having another attorney in our office handle it for him. Now, this seemed a little odd, but upon further inquiry to seek the reasoning behind the switch, it made perfect sense.
Receive a text from my dad asking if he can spend time with my son, Gavin, tomorrow and keep him home from summer camp. This happens fairly routinely, so I don’t think much about it. Of course he can. Gavin will be thrilled.
Getting ready for bed and trying to decide what I’ll wear for “the big new client meeting” tomorrow. I decide it is way too hot out to wear a suit, so for once, I’m going to just wear a nice button down shirt and dress pants. (Those who know me know that new client meetings or important events = suit for Jamie, but that time, it wasn’t happening). He asks: “Are you sure you don’t wanna wear a suit for a new client meeting?” I tell him: “It’s just not happening – it’s way too hot for that.” I’ll be sure to throw on some nice jewelry and it’ll be just fine. I even throw a pair of my pretty, black high heels into a bag to take along to work, since I recently injured one of my toes drop kicking a large book and a high heel walking marathon is not in my future anytime soon. High heels to go? Check!
Dad arrives at our house to watch Gavin, with a bag of breakfast burritos from McDonald’s in hand.
I hug them both goodbye and head out the door. Me and the bag of heels head off to the office.
Co-worker confirms our lunch date today. I tell her we’re still on.
Co-worker comes into my office and tells me her attorney pulled a “just real quick” (a/k/a one of those last minute requests/projects) on her, so we’ll have to take a release downtown to have it signed by a client. We can just eat lunch downtown and take an extended lunch per her attorney. Sounds like a plan! She asks my boss if that’s cool and he says it is. No worries. A fun lunch outing is on the way.
Co-worker comes in and frantically starts rushing me out the door while I’m in the middle of composing an e-mail, stating: “Come on, we’ve gotta go.” I ask her why she’s being so weird and rushing me and we make our way out the door.
We arrive at the Sheraton in downtown Indianapolis, where we’ll be meeting the client to sign the release. We run into a lady near the front desk who asks “Are you here for the paralegal convention?” We reply that we’re not and she looks a bit puzzled. I assume it’s because we both look like paralegals — because we are paralegals. We move into the lobby in pursuit of the client.
Co-worker indicates that she believes the client will meet us in the lobby. I (a paralegal who is very task oriented) decide to seek further information from my co-worker about this mission. “Is she meeting us here in the lobby?” “Does she have a room here?” “Is there a set time you are supposed to meet her?” “Do you have her phone number?” “What did they tell you?” Co-worker is looking around the room and seems a bit uncertain as to where we’re meeting her, but is looking around. She tells me: “I think we’re supposed to meet her in the lower lobby,” and we proceed there.
There are tables of vendors lined up in the lower lobby and I can clearly tell it’s the monthly meeting for the Indiana Paralegal Association, as I am a member and receive the e-mails about the meetings. Before entering the building, I had no idea their meetings were at the Sheraton, but it’s obvious they were. You see, I can’t ever attend the monthly meetings due to timing issues and the distance between my office and downtown where the meetings are held, but I can readily see from a mile off that the paralegal meeting is what’s taking place in the lower lobby. I turn to my co-worker and say: “We’re in the middle of paralegal world – this isn’t where she’ll be. Where are we supposed to meet her?” Again, still completely confused as to why my co-worker, a very savvy paralegal, seems to have no information and such a major disconnect about our big, release-signing mission. She says: “I think this is where we’re supposed to meet her.” I think to myself “That’s odd, but I have no idea who this client is, so perhaps she’s a paralegal or something.”
My co-worker then looks at me with a serious face and says: “Let’s just go into this room and sit down.” Now, my reaction at this point goes a little something like this (part of this is aloud and part internal…okay in reality, this part was all aloud and I was really serious): “We are not going in there.” She persists: “Yeah, we’ll just go in there and sit down.” At this point, I cross my arms and lean against the wall as I sternly tell her it’s not happening. It’s a paid event. We are not crashing it. You have to pay and register. We clearly did not. She can meet us out here in the hallway. We are not going into that room.
In that moment, my co-worker realizes that there is absolutely no way she’s going to talk me into that room to “crash” the paralegal meeting, much like one would “crash” a wedding. She turns to me and says: “Well, actually, we are here to go to this. The firm paid for me and you to go here today to have lunch.” I respond: “What? They paid for us to come here?” (still completely unsure of what is going on and where in the world this release signing, missing client is and why she seems to have no idea when or how we’re meeting up with this client). She says: “I’ll prove it to you! Let’s go up to the table.” At this point, I’m taking her about half seriously because she is, after all, proceeding to walk up to the table. She gives her name and our firm name and I see that we are both on the list. I now realize something may be up, but perhaps we really are just there to have lunch. I’m not sure what’s going on.
So we create the name tags for ourselves and walk into the banquet room. What do I see? A room full of people and one of those big, round tables covered in a white table cloth at the front, left side of the room with my husband, son, and dad seated there. It’s in that moment that I know this was all a big ploy to pull off the world’s biggest, paralegal surprise.
Now, in all honestly, I’ve gotta say I’m not a very easy person to surprise. My intuition usually tips me off, my radar goes up, I suspect something isn’t what it seems or that someone is trying to deter, lure or surprise me. In this situation, I had absolutely no clue prior to walking into the room and seeing that table of family members. “Completely Clueless Paralegal – Party of One.” That was me.
A moment later, a few admired and respected, high caliber, attorney friends approached me for hugs and hellos (those people who always appear at all of the important events in my life). Yep. They’re here – something is up. A minute later, two of the supervising attorneys from my law firm arrive at our table and have a seat to my left. I now definitely realize that something is up and it’s apparent that whatever it is – it’s got something to do with me. They have managed to pull off the world’s biggest, paralegal surprise.
I pick at my salad, as I wonder what’s about to unfold. They do the standard welcome and announcements and begin the lead in for the first award. Yep, it’s an award ceremony…and it’s my bio that is being read over the microphone. I’d recognize it anywhere. The award: “New Member – Paralegal of the Year.”
There are no words to express my genuine happiness in that moment. The surprise journey to get me there made it all the more fun and exciting. Looking back, I now realize all that my firm and family had to orchestrate in order to get me there. There was: the phone call from the IPA President to ask my firm to get me there, the fake client meeting, the rerouted mediation, the lunch date, the secret planning, coordinating, and scheduling efforts, the inquiry from my husband regarding my lack of suit for the “big client meeting,” my dad asking to watch Gavin for the day and calling my attorney friends, and the rush out the door with the co-worker (on a real quick) to get the imaginary release signed by that client who was never going to meet us at the Sheraton Hotel, because she did not exist.
So, to my firm, I say: “You got me – and you got me good.”
To the Indiana Paralegal Association, I say: Thank you for honoring me in such a meaningul way with this prestigious award in front of my respected colleagues and peers. I am truly humbled and honored.
What an incredible day.