May 20, 2006

Welcome to the Real World She Said to Me

by PG

In actuality, being a summer associate is to being a real law firm associate as being Santa's elf : being a sweatshop worker, but I've nonetheless started reading associate blogs for wisdom about the experience. For example, Legally Blonde Elle has found an "Added bonus: Now that I'm full time our secretary has added my name to her voicemail as someone she's a secretary for. I take this to mean I actually have someone who does things for me as opposed to someone I convince to do my proof-reading, mailing and other random non-billable things for me."

I met the secretary assigned to me yesterday and while she's a very nice and helpful woman, I feel a bit strange about our relationship. When I worked before law school, I certainly didn't have a secretary and I'm pretty sure the receptionist was paid as much as I was, or at least her time was more valuable. Because I am going to be out of the office all day next week on an assignment and our summer coordinators had told us that our secretaries should be informed of our whereabouts so they could inform others, I e-mailed my secretary and gave her my cell number in case anyone called her looking for me. She replied saying that I'd need to set up my phone to forward calls to her, and that she would instruct me on how to do this. But Elle's post makes me worry that perhaps my secretary thinks I'm expecting her to take care of "random non-billable things for me." It's weird enough having her do my timesheets -- wouldn't it make more sense for me to input my hours directly myself instead of forwarding them to her?

Time itself is different in working at a law firm than it was at my previous job. At Old Job, the tasks didn't require a massive amount of thought; I'd have to think of where to get information, and how best to present it, but that was it. I started blogging because between the work and the lack of interaction with other people, I was afraid my brain might dry up and blow away from the dearth of verbal challenge, which was the form of mental exercise that 16 years of education had accustomed me. I'm sure that I'll eventually have to do something stultifyingly, couldn't-a-monkey-do-this dull in legal work, but the process of doing research to find cases that help our side demands a lot more of my grey matter, and I've already had a moment of anxiety that I'm not up to it.

Last night, Elle complained, "I was at work until 8 p.m.," and while I don't have the list of aggravating factors that she does (the Pistons game is true for everyone, but I can make an effort to find a sports bar Monday for Spurs-Mavs Game 7), I was at work that late as well. No, not to be a summer associate gunner -- just to get the work I had been assigned done. My brain froze up trying to make a case in the opposing side's brief work on our behalf, and I sat staring at it past 5pm. If I had gotten a lot accomplished already and still had to work late, I'd be annoyed too, but having something not quite gel is something I've heretofore only dealt with in calculus and contracts, not in an office.

I've gotten plenty of warnings that summer associate work won't prepare me for the rigors of being a real associate, and that's finally managed to disturb me. If it's going to take me two hours to analyze a case when my brain theoretically is young and peppy, how long will it take when I'm, like, 30?

May 20, 2006 02:54 PM | TrackBack
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