ATTENTION: This is a rant. The following post is intended to be absolutely relatable and 100% humorous to all of those brave, paralegal souls working faithfully in the legal trenches. Read at your own risk…and enjoy!
By: Jamie Collins
Put on your seatbelt, TPS readers. There will be no sugar-coated pleadings associated with today’s rant. Our topic is a delicate one that brings a paralegal’s mounting frustration from the daily grind just beyond the outer rungs of hell, bubbling up to the surface of reality.
I am a paralegal. I love my job; at least the part of it where I’m actually doing paralegal work. In fact, very much so. That being said, I currently find myself trapped in a paper prison. It’s just me, and fifty million pieces of paper swirling into makeshift mountains before my eyes; their sharp corners attempting to take a small chunk of my soul, along with each and every inadvertently laid paper-cut etched upon my weary body, as I attempt to ascend it – Mount Papermore, that is. In heels. And half sane.
Now those of you working in Big Law will likely not be able to relate to today’s post (unless you departed the ranks of small firm paralegals to enter through the glorious gates of “staff and supply heaven,” where rumor has it, there are fully-stocked soda machines, kitchen clean up people, helpful secretaries, legal assistants, mailroom clerks, and even chefs). But every single paralegal on the planet working in Small Law will be ready to swing by the store tonight to pick up a pack of rainbow markers, and a few bottles of purple glitter to create colorful poster boards and stand alongside me, stretched ‘round the block, in a glorious showing of paralegal unity (and sanity), after reading today’s post.
Back to the happy part. As a litigation paralegal, there are many things I love. I enjoy hunting down key pieces of information, determining what needs to be done on each case, drafting letters, pleadings, discovery responses and requests to darn near perfection, preparing demand packages, chatting with clients on an endless basis, entrenching myself into case strategy, preventing crises nearly every fleeting moment of the day, and organizing files into the ranks of Mr. Clean’s personal portfolio, all the while saving the sanity of esquires, fellow staffers, and myself…every chance I get.
But today, we’re not here to talk about that.
We’re here to talk about the other half.
ALL of the other tasks; ones we’ll chalk up under that fun paralegal category known to the skilled, experienced, “lifer” paralegals as falling into the genre of being “a helpful team player, who does all other duties, as assigned” because that’s what we do – whatever needs to be done at any given moment. We’re paralegals – we find a need and fill it. You call, we haul. You ring, we bring. We guard esquires about as closely as a member of the Secret Service guards the President. On most days, we do okay. We get by. We’re happy to ascend paper mountains and stretch our own sanity, in the name of law.
But there are a select few days per year when one’s paralegal sanity is stretched about as thin as a severely damaged piece of dental floss, as a result of the multitude of new files to be opened (labels created, manila folders shuffled into it, information logged into the computer, the preparation of statute cards, and on…and on…and on…), the onslaught of manual filing to be placed into its “never to be found” folder homes, tucked safely away within the esquire’s (needs to be cleaned again) office, endless reviewing, logging, and scanning of each day’s mail – all, of course, while “pitching in” to pick up a call (or three) at the moment you become pretty darn certain you’ve been instantaneously beamed aboard the second floor of a Sallie Mae call center in the middle of India, unbeknownst to you. Ring, ring.
We’re talking about those types of tasks; the ones that prevent us from doing the real paralegal work we love to do. One thing is for certain, the work is all necessary. Every single bit of it. There is simply no escaping the timeless arts of “folder creation” and “filing done fast,” if you are a paralegal working at a small law firm. As paralegals, we’re normally happy to perform all of these tasks while confined within the walls of the windowed, white walled Paper Prison, but there are a few days each year when we depart the land of compliant bliss, after opening one too many a file, and we essentially hit the “what the hell am I doing with my time” wall. It is as though we’ve been thrown overboard by the esquires, into a bottomless (non-billable, non-collectable) paper pit.
You with me, small firm paralegals? How in the heck do we ever get anything done? Seriously? Ever? Anything? How we manage to rake in even $14.50 toward the firm’s productivity under this scenario is absolutely nothing short of astonishing. If any of you are lucky enough to have an abundance of legal staffers to help you with these particular types of tasks – run right out and buy ‘em a gourmet cupcake…and fast!
Some people say, “Hey, if they’re willing to pay me to make folders and do filing, I’m all for it!” On certain days, I can go along with that theory. Probably on most days. But the problem is, those of us who actually seek to do the most we possibly can with our knowledge, skills, and abilities are typically not happy affixing labels onto the front of folders during an 8 hour shift in the paper mill. We want to be the best. We want to hit the grand slam. And often. We want to learn more, accomplish more, and up our game. That’s pretty hard to do when you can’t make it over the mountain, to get one heel into the batter’s box. This is the frustrating predicament in which we find ourselves in small law firms everywhere.
Thankfully, when those ultra crazy days come (and you better believe they will), the consistent passage of time assures us that even those harsh, sanity-sucking days of paralegal frustration will each last only 24 hours. What a blessing.
The next time this happens to you in small firm, USA, remember to keep in mind that there is really only one reason why it bothers you to the core of your being. It is because you desire to become the best. You are seeking glory. You want to walk onto the legal field yet another day, and into the batter’s box, to hit the next grand slam.
And if you open up those new client files fast enough – perhaps, one day – you will.
I’ve got one last question — purple glitter or silver?
Half Glittered & Fully Crazy
Have an absolutely fabulous day, and upcoming weekend, TPS readers! If you like today’s post, do us a big favor — and click on those stars below to let us know about it! Think of it as your way of contributing a poster board to the campaign!
We’ll see you on Monday. Until then, remember…you ring, we bring – you call, we haul. We wouldn’t have it any other way. (Unless of course, we were making “the haul” to Hawaii!) We’ll see you soon.