Barely (Para) Legal

Law is a solemn profession. I'm a distinctly casual individual. Law is conservative. I'm crazy. The resultant friction amuses me, so I talk about it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ah...a quiet Monday.

Except not. Just as I went to type that the phone exploded into noise.

There's a weird activity pattern in the law office. Usually when all the lawyers are gone, the place is pretty quiet. Unless they take their assistants with them, in which case the whole thing is bedlam.

Still awaiting final grades in two of my classes. I can't believe there is almost a month intervening between now and the time that I have to go back to school...and yet, curiously, there's at least one entry per day on my non-work calendar between now and New Years'. No rest for the Barely Paralegal, I fear.

All in all, as I said, a quiet Monday, relatively speaking. The most irritating thing on my horizon at the moment is the fact that my printer has sold itself to Satan, and my copy of Word keeps trying to default print to Adobe, which is stupid, and annoying, and also the MOST pointless feature I have EVER encountered, since there is ALREADY a "create Adobe PDF" button on the damn TASK BAR and no need to "print" to the damn program too. Ahem.

if anyone actually does know how to fix this problem, comment it up. Because it may be small, but it is relentlessly driving me insane.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Law 666 Final Exam

Name: B. Paralegal

1.) How prepared are you for your exams?
a.) Very prepared -- I studied all last week.
b.) Somewhat prepared -- I've reviewed old tests & quizzes.
c.) Somewhat unprepared -- I wish I had spent more time on this.
d.) Ridiculously fucking unprepared, and surprisingly unconcerned about it.

Answer: D

2.) How do you feel about take-home finals?
a.) I love them -- they more accurately reflect the real-life usage of the material covered in the course.
b.) I like them -- they mean I can organize my own time instead of having to attend class.
c.) I don't like them -- they're usually twice as hard as in-class assignments and take four times as long to complete.
d.) I converted to Islam, just so I could swear a fatwa out on them. Death to the take-home finals!

Answer: D

3.) How does it make you feel when professors try to get you to turn in take-home finals before the finals date listed on the syllabus?
a.) I think it's great; we get done sooner!
b.) It's OK; they need time to get them graded.
c.) I don't like it, but what am I going to do about it?
d.) ARRRRGH! NOT! SO VERY NOT! HATE! (incoherent with rage)

Answer: D

4.) If you answered "D" to one or more of the above, how the hell do you think you're going to survive law school, missy?
a.) I don't know.
b.) I don't fucking know.
c.) I don't know, and I don't care.
d.) I have no fucking clue, and I don't give a fuck; semester is over, pass the [insert intoxicating beverage here]!

Answer: D

If, like me, all your answers were "D", you, too, may be barely paralegal. Good luck, everyone; I'm going to crack open a Mike's Hard Lemonade and toast myself, for not actively laying waste to anyone during this difficult time.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

You know, people have this idea about what lawyers are, how their personalities work. Lawyers are super-organized, right? They have their shit together. They keep their paperwork in order and alphabetize their files.


On my shelf is a hated, hated stack of paperwork, one that grows and diminishes but is never completely gone. My nemesis, there are nights I think I can hear it chuckling in the dark office, even though my house is miles away. I swear last weekend I saw it gleaming with an eldritch glow. Unholy. Unredeemed. Out for revenge on me, because it has heard the cries of the stacks of unsorted paperwork on my work table at home, and knows that I am the cause of all their suffering...

It is...the Miscellaneous Documents Stack.

The MDS is all the stuff that somehow gets orphaned from its file. Sometimes paperwork comes in after the file is closed; more often, an attorney hid it under a pile of menus and back copies of the Law Review, then dumped it on top of the file cabinet and slunk away like a cat that's just shit in the hallway. They know I'll find it there. Furthermore, they know I'll go and file it for them, even though the file in question has already gone to archives and started the process of carbonization. I swear, in the back room at Archives it smells just a little like coal. (Did I mention that our archives another county? Thirty miles away?)

Still more often, it comes about because certain attorneys, and I name no names, seem to think that their law school education removes from them the responsibility of ever, ever having to operate a 2-hole punch again in this life. They think if they just dump the new correspondence and pleadings in the middle of the file, unsecured, that some jerk without a J.D. will punch, resort, and file their shit.

They never consider the fact that before that jerk, namely me, gets the file AFTER it's shifted around from desk to desk and cabinet to cabinet, and that WITHOUT FAIL one lonely, measly document -- usually missing any indicator of what case it belongs to -- is going to waft itself somewhere unwarranted and end up taking a good 45 minutes out of my day to locate its parent file when at last it comes to light, quivering and shaking. And believe me, forty-five minutes in an airless, windowless room, crammed full of enough paper to crush me were it all to simultaneously decide that shelves are lame and the floor is where it's at, looking for a file that, with my luck, someone has reopened and hidden in the corner of their office floor, is exactly what I wanted today! I was psyched! That's why I wore a sweater and three-inch heels; it makes the sweating and clambering up and down the rickety stool even more fun!

Don't believe that Type A, organized lawyer crap. They hire their organizers/minders/nose-wipers. What did you think a paralegal was? Hint: attorney nanny. Don't believe me? Wait until you overhear a grown man asking his assistant, plaintively, in the voice of a three-year-old waiting for Santa: "Where am I supposed to be, today, again?!?" (Feel free to add the unspoken "Mommy!!!!" at the end of that statement, as it's definitely there in the subtext.)

If the South wasn't so damn anti-union, I could shut down the entire legal system by organizing the paralegals (hell, I'm not classist: let the legal secretaries in on it too!) and getting them to strike. Picture downtown Nashville full of lawyers, their shoes untied, their ties askew, their briefcases empty, crying out as with one voice, "What am I supposed to do NOW?!" Picture the screams of agony as they attempt to locate their own files! Picture the river of blood as their papercuts well up as one papercut and they realize that they never knew how difficult it was to run all the mail in the thirty minutes remaining before pickup time! For your visualization pleasure, throw Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World" over this mental montage of disgruntled entitlement!

Life is beautiful. Union-related revenge dreams? Even more so.

Maybe those will slack off a bit once I'm done with finals. But I doubt it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The legal community sometimes reminds me of a weird cult, like some town in British Columbia or wherever populated entirely by Fundamentalist Mormons.

Everyone knows everyone. The people in my office aside, I can hardly go five minutes without running into someone that I know, or, worse, someone who has known me since I was knee-high to a small thing, whose name I couldn't tell you on a bet. Everywhere I go it's "Hello, Miss Barely! How are you this morning, Miss Barely? How's school going, Miss Barely? How's your dad, Miss Barely?"

This is even less fun when it happens first thing Monday morning, like today. I keep expecting someone to boom out "How is your period treating you today, Miss Barely? Got that heavy flow under control?"

Admittedly, this familiarity can be pleasant. It's better than being a faceless number in a call center like I was for years. It's nice, sometimes, to have everyone know you, like the work version of Cheers. But at times, when a girl is still all stomach-crampy and not really feeling the whole "out of bed and at work" thing, sometimes she'd rather be a faceless number than have to smile broadly at fifty people before ten a.m.

Then there's the matter of work clothes. During my Hold Music period, the call center years, it didn't matter what I wore. Once in three years at my last job was I told that I couldn't wear what I was wearing, and even then I wasn't sent home, just told not to wear it back to the call center. When I telecommuted, half the time I wasn't even what most people define as "dressed".

I went this weekend and was basically forced to drop nearly $100 on winter-weight work clothes, because I didn't have anything nice enough without holes or visible stains. I wear heels. Every day. I wear lipstick. And eyeshadow.

Someday I expect someone -- I'm not sure who, that's never clear in this particular anxiety nightmare -- to come up to me, probably in the courthouse, and declaim at length that I am a fraud; that under this headwrap there are foot-and-a-half long dreadlocks, that under my dressing table there are trashy British bondage novels, that under this veneer of sophisticated civilization lurks the heart of an unrepentant, tree-hugging, authority-disrespecting hippie, who would wear jeans every day and smoke in her office if she was given half a chance.

Sometimes I feel like a spy, or a plant. Sometimes I wonder how it is, exactly, that I became a person who doesn't have to walk through the metal detectors to get into public buildings. I suppose it's because if I ever were to pull anything of an unsavory nature, everyone who had been there at the time would be able to chorus, "We know who it was! It was MISS BARELY!"

I guess it's a good thing that, among other things, I'm a rational pacifist.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Interoffice Memo
Re: Things paralegals are definitely not supposed to do

Please be advised that paralegals at The Firm will not:

*listen to extremely obscene rap music in their offices without benefit of headphones
*sing along with said rap songs, especially the parts about slapping hos and making money
*wear tie-dye skirts and shirts with racing stripes that don't cover tattoos to the office
*yell "Oh, fuck it," and stomp out to have a cigarette
*keep deer bones on their desks
*check their personal voice mail every fifteen minutes
*give computers belonging to their employers the finger

Any behavior such as this is to cease immediately. This means you.

Thank you,

If you can guess how many of those things I've done in the last hour, you get a cookie. (Actually, I think the only thing in the office is a stale biscotti. But you're welcome to that.)

Behavior like this is why I am, and will probably remain Barely ParaLegal. I can fake it relatively well, but that doesn't mean that I have the professional temperament that keeps me from calling bullshit "bullshit", keeps me from openly swearing out people and machinery that inspire my ire, keeps me from wanting to rock out to whatever the hell I feel like when I'm drafting documents. Probably the only reason I get away with it is that I'll probably inherit this place someday. Well, that, and the fact that it's Saturday and the office is deserted. I don't try to get away with that shit during banker's hours, except giving the finger. I do that a lot.

My finals for my first semester of Paralegal Studies are next week, and since most of them are take-home, I'm chained to my computer, writing a lot of nonsense tangentially related to probate and appellate procedure while cursing, smoking, cursing, cursing along with Ludacris, cursing over IM to my friend the Kemetic Wonder, deleting curse words from the text of my take-home finals, and occasionally looking at questions like "Define incidents of ownership and identify their effect on a decedent's taxable estate" and yelling "Are you fucking kidding me? Do I look like a fucking tax attorney? Do I even look like I'm fucking a tax attorney?" while fumbling for my coat and preparing to Brenda-stomp out the front door and into the arms of my sweet, sweet cigarette. This is not to say I don't like my job, or my schooling. But a soundproofed office I could smoke in would not come amiss.

If any of the attorneys walk in to do some Saturday-night research, I'm fucked. That, or I'll find out that these besuited Republicans actually like to bump to some Luda when no one's looking. I don't know which would be more disturbing.