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Jamie Collins

By: Jamie Collins

Happy High Heel Friday, TPS Nation! How about a grandiose vision to signal the start of the impending, paralegal freedom festival? Today, we’re featuring the cover story from the latest and greatest edition of KNOW: The Paralegal Magazine, written by yours truly! Let’s just say it’s a work of vividly descriptive, paralegal non-fiction, personally re-lived anywhere from 1 to 20 [thousand] times per day! Enjoy.

Reprinted with permission from KNOW: The Paralegal Magazine www.paralegalknowledge.com. (Go subscribe!)

Let me tell you about a grandiose, recurrent vision of mine. I have a fabulous office, complete with a full-on wall of windows overlooking a lake/ocean/beach/private island, with some classy mahogany furniture to fill it, a lovely array of colorful art hanging on the walls, and a cool, six-figure salary filling my bank account. Oh yeah…life…is…good.

Beach Window

Let me tell you about my work day. I don’t send faxes or spend dreaded hours at the copy machine a/k/a duplicator of vengeance repeatedly stammering words such as, “please work,” “just one more copy” or “come on…this is the last page,” or uttering expletives I’d rather not share publicly, and I certainly don’t spend my time performing mundane tasks, like manually opening new client files, putting stray papers into their red well file homes or cleaning a certain someone’s office, along with my own. Oh no. My tasks are far more appealing. In the paralegal land of milk and honey, I only respond to discovery requests, prepare medical chronologies, summarize depositions, write demands, entertain a phone call or two from interesting people, prepare trial binders, talk strategy, and assist the trial team.

Ahhhhhhh. It’s grand. Well, it is in my mind, anyway. Then I hear a loud thud, as another new client file makes its way down onto my non-mahogany, non-island overlooking desk, as I sit peering out my window into a concrete covered parking lot, filled with cars, and an onslaught of incredibly egotistical, non-auto fearing, gray geese. That thud signals that it’s time to set up yet another new client file, make umpteen thousand copies at the duplicator of dread, and fax letters to here there and darn near everywhere, before heading back to the fun stuff. Back to reality it is.

Now, depending on what type of week/month/hour/millisecond of the day I’m having, the visions come to me more frequently. I find myself in that coveted, imaginary office, elevated into the ranks of glory, soaring fifty stories above the ground, staring down at the clear, crystal blue water rippling with the wind, and typing away intently at far more appealing tasks, as I ponder the moments left between here and now and the next “black iced tea with no syrup” I’ll order at the local Starbucks drive thru of happiness during my next trip. Perhaps you take the imaginary journey, too. Perhaps you’re in that windowed office of glory living the dream right now. It happens – just not to many of us.

The rest of us find ourselves working in small firm USA – population: most of us. We are surrounded by all of the daily nuances of helping to run a flourishing practice. We copy mail, set up new client files, wrangle that dreaded copy machine, field phone calls until we find ourselves internally pleading to be stricken with a sudden onset of full-on laryngitis from excessive verbiage spewing, send faxes by the handfuls, and often moonlight as the “I can fetch whatever you need” girl (or guy), be it donuts, documents, an attorney, some lunch or a front row parking spot right in front of the courthouse.

Yep, the masters of the mundane task – that’s us. On some days, those mundane tasks nearly push me over the edge…the edge of sanity that is. I’m sure you can relate. But on other days, I see if for what it truly is: an opportunity to become intimately involved in every single aspect of every single file for every single client that comes my attorney’s way. I will be calling, faxing, copying, highlighting, redacting, and fetching whatever it is that is needed. I’m here to tell you that on certain days, it’s the most glorious position one can hope to have. Notice I did say “some days” not “every day.” I am an optimist, but one who lives in reality, notwithstanding my deep seeded desire for a wall of windows overlooking a private island, of course.

Sure, being the grand task master can make one a bit crazy. It can send you right up to the brink of insanity, where you stand peering over the edge of the car covered, concrete parking lot, making a mental note of how long it would take you to leap, promptly followed by a quick, mental inventory of the fifty million tasks that would surely go undone if you ever did. It can make you internally plead to have the strength to instantaneously transport yourself aboard the Star Trek Enterprise, contemplate venturing off to join the circus or begin to seriously consider purchasing a one way ticket to a career somewhere…anywhere but here.

Then it comes – the day that makes it all worthwhile. The day when the culmination of all of those super crazy days all pieced together have somehow woven themselves into an intricate patchwork of something meaningful, appreciated, worthwhile, and significant. A day when all of those seemingly small tasks performed since the day of file conception have made you the resident expert on the case. The day when those around you, the attorneys, clients, and staffers, fully comprehend that you are the grand master of the big tasks, the small tasks, and every single one in between. You’re the go to gal. The one they call in when time is tight, sanity is low, and there is ample room for defeat or glory, depending upon the execution performed by the legal golden child – that’s you.

It’s on those days, my friends, when I trade in that grandiose vision for something better. It’s called reality at small firm USA. The reality that what I’m doing matters. It matters to me, our clients, my attorneys, my law firm, and most importantly, a worthy cause. That I stand ready, willing, and able to make copies, send faxes, and fetch the occasional glazed donuts at 5:30 a.m. for cocky television producers from L.A. or to transport an attorney to a deposition, so he can continue to copiously study his notes during the drive, all in an effort to make things run smoothly, ensure that the office is a happier place, and make a difference in the lives of my legal family.

Sure, it isn’t always grandiose. There are red wells, manila folders, reams of copy paper, a slew of files, a multitude of incoming phone calls, and a paved parking lot beckoning me from the periphery, but I would argue that what I lack in gold bars in that non-existent safety deposit box and non-existent walls of windows, I make up for in accomplishment, pride, happiness, personal gratification, fulfillment, and personal achievement. So today, tomorrow, three weeks or three seconds from now, when you find yourself uttering expletives at the duplicator of doom, as you intently plead for it to copy the last page of that fabulous 500 page scan, open new client files until your hands (and brain) are virtually numb or talk until your jaw darn near detaches and slams down on top of your non-mahogany desk – remember…to have pride.

Pride for all that you do; the big tasks, the small tasks, and every single one in between. Each and every moment you spend in that law firm is a moment you are helping to make a difference. A moment when you are becoming something bigger than yourself. A moment when what you do can and will majorly impact a client’s file or a firm’s bottom line, a verdict, a final outcome, a life, your professional reputation or your future. So to the big task, small task, and every single task in between, my non-mahogany desk is just waiting for the next thud as a new file makes its way into my inner circle. Is it personal? You better believe it. Am I on the case? You betcha. The resident expert is just waiting to turn that next file into one heck of a case, give herself the opportunity to help transcend a courtroom, and turn that culmination of crazy interworkings into a truly remarkable career.

Just bring it.

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Can you relate, TPS readers? Do you have a window office? Wish you did? Perform mundane tasks? Wish you didn’t? Hit that comment button and tell us all about it! We’d love to hear from you.

Have an absolutely fabulous weekend outside of the legal fence! We’ll see you on Monday. Until then, keep clinging to the grandiose visions, my paralegal friends!  See you soon.