Throwers, Screamers and Ladders

My law firm is a relatively quiet place compared to the stories I’ve heard. When I showed up for day one meetings and introductions, I was shown around the office. I met almost everyone in the office on a totally superficial and meaningless level while touring the several floors of office space. A few names stuck for coincidental reasons. I don’t remember who it was, but someone I met says, “This is a nice place to work, there aren’t any throwers or screamers.” I didn’t respond to the statement at all. I did think about it later. Throwers? People hurling things around the office when they are upset? Can’t they save it until they get home or somewhere else? And screamers, what kind of screaming? Long strings of profanity laced criticism/expressions of frustration/psychotic outburst/demonic possession? There’s something in the statement that I infer that is more disturbing than the bad behavior. If there are screamers and throwers at other places, that implies that the behavior is tolerated to some degree or endured for some reason. Perhaps it’s because the thrower or screamer has seniority, meaning they are a partner or managing partner and no one wants to speak out against the behavior. You wouldn’t dare call out the behavior to the other managing partners and make it their problem, would you? Obviously, by saying, “We don’t have screamers or throwers,” also implies the person has seen it and left where ever it was that the work place breakdowns were taking place. I must say I sympathize with the screamers and throwers to a degree. There’s nothing like venting a little rage. But in front of your colleagues? Now you just look like a little kid, like the professional baseball players that watch the third strike hit the outside corner and then argue in the umpire’s face.

Any who, the firm is a quiet place. I understand people come and go and are not in the office every day due to depositions/court appearances/ lunch dates/ legitimate reasons to not come in to the office/ playing hooky. What I mean is the nature of a law office requires people to hunch over their computer screens 90% of the time, such that any chit chat or conversation is extremely limited. It’s hard to do your work and chat at the same time. The nature of the work requires a lot of focus. I’ve also worked in a small office temporarily with one attorney. We talked more, usually about clients or work related legal questions. Occasionally topics would wander. The distraction was just enough to keep you from going insane. Distractions in the firm are minimal. The occasional person knocks on the door to ask something trivial. Even lazier people call on the phone instead of walking the 100 feet to my office.

As a clerk, you’re expected to beg for work until you establish some kind of relationship with associates, attorneys, or partners such that they feed you a steady stream of billable, mindless work that the associate, attorney, or partner would rather not do. Such things as document reviews and writing reports. Some document reviews can be interesting, but that’s maybe one third of the time. Reports are about as interesting as they sound. I think of the “TPS Reports” referred to in “Office Space.” I don’t think I’ll get those in today, sorry. Once you pass the bar, the firm decides whether to hire you as an associate. If hired, you will continue to do the mindless work the other attorneys and partners don’t want to do. Get used to your position on this rung of the firm ladder. You’ll probably do this for two to three years, unless you are a blue chip and can get on the field early. That’s when the crazy hours start. Figure on being in the office twelve hours a day on average to hit your ten billable plus your commute. That’s your day. That $120,000 is going to look pretty sweet after taxes sitting in your bank account; because that’s the only thing you’re going to have time for: depositing your check and going to bed. That’s assuming you can fall asleep since your mind is still stewing with legal conundrums and clients. At least you can afford to order Chinese every night.

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