This, I guess, is a Summer Associate abuse story, if that’s allowed. I just finished my first year at a top-50 law school. The summer job hunt was brutal, and I didn’t get an “offer” until after my last final. But at least I got something—even if it only pays $11/hour to work at an insurance defense chop shop. No complaints about that because I won’t be here forever. I’m learning how to answer interrogatories and make trial binders, which are two skills I hope will impress my next boss.
I guess the “abuse” part is the office manager. It just so happens that she is my boss’s mail-order Russian bride. Seriously, that is not a joke; you read that right. A mail-order bride manages this law firm.
“Irena” is hot, blond, Russian and, according to the receptionist, “Tom,” the owner of the firm, met her last winter through a mail-order service. They got married right away, and he made her a citizen…and then office manager about a week before I started.
That’s fine and shouldn’t concern me. Who cares if the guy wants to let his stranger bride run his business into the ground? I’m here for a small paycheck, a few lines on my resume and a lot of experience. But what I’m not here for is to be a personal assistant/travel agent.
Two days ago, I got to my desk and found a barely literate note on a neon pink Post-it asking me to pick up two packages being held for her at the post office on my lunch break and to figure out how they can extend their trip to St. Thomas by two days after they’re done with their already-planned Virgin Island cruise. I assume it will be their honeymoon.
First question: What lunch break? So far my only lunch break was on my first day.
I respectfully told Irena that I might be able to do them, if I had time. But I told her that her husband keeps me pretty busy and my first priority was work. She told me that it was a part of “work.”
The rest of day, every time Irena saw me, she would remind me about my “chores.” Each time I said, “Tom told me to do X, and I’m working on that right now.”
It turns out there was no time that day to do her list. I never had a minute to spare. I didn’t get any lunch, and the only break I had was three minutes in the afternoon to smoke a cigarette and down a Red Bull.
Of course, when Tom got back from his deposition that day, she pounced. Irena told him that I had been ignoring her all day, which I guess was technically true.
Tom immediately took her side. I showed him all the work that I had done that day, but he didn’t care. He reminded me that his wife was the office manager and that her requests are just as much firm business has his. I tried to speak up, but he told me I was lucky to even have a job this summer, and then he told me to make sure I got to her list tomorrow.
I’ve since completed the list—and I had to do most it off the clock because Tom calls my hourly wage a “stipend” and says it’s based on a forty-hour week—no more, no less.
My summer will consist of taking orders from a bitchy Russian mail-order bride with a temper worse than Joe Stalin’s all summer long. That’s abuse, right?