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By: Jamie Collins
Greetings, TPS readers! Today, I’m here to share the juicy tidbits of an inner-office exchange, which occurred somewhere in the specific location of: The United States of America. Since hearing this legal staffer’s story, I just can’t quit thinking about it. I find myself teetering in a 50/50 split between states of utter disbelief and absolute personal amusement. By the time you’re done with today’s post, you’ll completely understand my choice title for today’s post.
We’ll refer to today’s featured legal staffer as “Jane,” as in Jane Doe for purposes of personal anonymity. Jane works in a busy office for a larger law firm. On one day in particular, Jane realized she needed to seek help from the company’s IT department, and more specifically, assistance creating a customized “report/spreadsheet” that would pull together various pieces of vital information from the firm’s database, to put it into a meaningful format for the firm’s decision makers. Keep in mind this project was actually assigned by the firm’s “Godfather,” making it not only a priority project for anyone associated with it, but one which needed to be completed successfully, and pronto, in order to avoid the imminent beheading of all legal and IT folks involved. You with me here? It was important. A really big deal.
Jane was the “go to and get it done person” for this task. Since the project was a major IT undertaking, and not a legal task, she was merely the point person to see it through to completion.
Given the situation, Jane obviously knew she needed to promptly approach the IT guy to seek his help. So she sent him a friendly and professional e-mail, describing what was needed, advising him the request was being made at the behest of the “Godfather,” and stating she was available (and happy) to meet with him to confer, in order to more clearly elaborate on what was needed. In other words, this project was coming down the legal food chain, from high up on the mountain, via the “Godfather,” to Jane, flowing down to Mister IT guy, who (at least in theory) was waiting in the wings. Jane received the following response:
There is no way we can do this type of spreadsheet with the way things are currently set up. [No kidding, this is why Jane approached him in the first place.] This would take so much time and effort. I will not be able to meet with you about this.
[This is my favorite part]. Since I am never going to be able to meet with you, if you want to send me an example of exactly what you want the spreadsheet to look like, I will try to put something together.
Now the fact that this spreadsheet creation would be complicated does not at all surprise Jane. That’s the whole reason the auto-generated creation was requested in the first place, because this project, when done manually (if even possible), would consume days and days of an attorney’s time each and every time it was needed, which would apparently be often – hence the request.
Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that it was the “Godfather” who sought this information in the first place – not Jane. She was merely the messenger.
Perhaps my favorite part is the IT guy’s use of the word “never” as in – I am [insert your best Taylor Swift singing voice here] never (ever, ever, ever) going to be able to meet with you. Never. Like even if you work here for the next 20 years, because I have creatively (and perhaps far too honestly) opted to use the choice word “never” in response to your priority request. Never mind the fact that you work directly across the hall from Jane. A brisk 15 foot walk.
Now, I’ve got to say that any “normal” busy person attempting to articulate the difficulty associated with the project would have likely chosen words such as:
“I will not be able to meet with you [select any one of the following, entirely appropriate responses]: today/anytime soon/in the next week or two/anytime this month/right now/until we finish this big project we are working on/I’m not sure when.
But for kicks, let’s just go with “never.”
Message received. The person Jane needed was too busy to help or didn’t care enough to meet with her in order to discuss a highly complicated and important project. Surely, there were many details to discuss.
This happened to Jane, but it could happen to any of us. I have approached many, many esquires, business owners, and really busy people in my time, and on occasion, they have attempted to covertly duck out the back door into hiding, escape into a lengthy lunch break to avoid having a necessary meeting, given me a look that would indicate he/she would actually prefer to be instantaneously teleported through the floorboards to a place far, far away from the discussion of the task/project/issue at hand, or even responded with a verbal tone and that ridiculously glazed over 100-yard stare to silently indicate he is not actively listening to one single word coming out of my mouth regarding the task/project/issue standing in the paralegal roadway…but I can honestly say, I have never (as in: ever, ever, ever) had anyone tell me, in writing, verbally or otherwise, that they were “never” going to meet with me. How about you?
Has anyone besides Jane ever had someone offer up an outright refusal to meet when it’s 100% appropriate and needed? Perhaps you had something a bit different happen, but equally as bizarre in your corner of the legal universe. If so, we’d love to hear about it! The hotline for “Free Group Therapy” is officially open for business!
And in case you’re wondering when I’m going to stop writing posts, sharing information, discussing issues, freeing a small piece of my paralegal soul writing rants, and calling things like I see ‘em.
The answer is: never (ever, ever, ever).
Seriously, if you have something to say about Jane’s experience or an interesting story to share of your own, hit that comment button! We’d love to hear about it. Let Jane know that she is not alone. (And even if she is, she sure does keep great company!)
Have an absolutely fabulous time charging out of the legal gate and into your captivating weekend retreat, where you shall frolic among the fully-sane, under-stressed, non-law managing people! We’ll see you next week, when we’ll be featuring a great piece written by one of the Founder’s former coworkers. Pack your bags – we’re heading to Africa!