I tried to dictate this rant to my secretary, but she already left for the day.
Most days fly by as I respond to hundreds of emails and a non-stop barrage of phone calls from pissed-off clients, which means I barely have time to take a piss. Other days, I surf the web, looking for girls I went to high school with who are now working in porn (I’ve found three in my four years as a BigLaw employee).
But if there is one consistent thing I can count on, it’s that my secretary will NOT be there when I need her.
One evening last week, I finally finished marking up a credit agreement that had to be delivered to the client the next morning.
I instant messaged Nancy, my practice assistant (ludicrous PC term for secretary).
“Nancy, I’m going to drop off a markup to you in a few minutes.”
I got an immediate response.
“Nancy is signed off.”
I opened my door to find Nancy packing it in for the day. It was 5:22 p.m.!
But this happens all the time because the secretarial workday runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Secretaries punch in and out like factory workers (does anyone know if they’re part of the Teamster union or something?). Unfortunately, that schedule doesn’t quite mesh with the workday of an average mid-level associate, which begins around 10:00 a.m. and ends late at night when internal organs start to fail.
Letting the secretaries leave at 5:30 p.m. is like allowing the busboys at a busy restaurant to leave right after the appetizers. Late afternoon/early evening drafting and turning of documents is the main course of associate life. Secretaries are a vital cog in the law firm machine, and they sit near us so that we can literally drop things on them the second we are ready to, which is usually around five or six post meridian!
With Nancy gone, I thought about calling document services, but it takes more time to check their work than to markup the document. And besides, have you ever tried to fill out one of those pink document submission questionnaires? They have more questions than the Bar exam.
So that left yours truly.
I don’t mean to sound cocky, but that kind of grunt work is beneath me. I’m not a first year. Asking me to input my own changes is like asking Vince from Entourage to go back to auditioning for Mentos commercials.
I know I should have asked her to stay late, but my sweatshop of a firm doesn’t always afford me enough time in the day to plan for evening support. And besides, isn’t the ability to anticipate a vital quality in a secretary?
So I hunkered down and did my own work. Then I sent out the redline to everyone on the distribution list. Then I resent the email with an apology for not attaching the proper redline. After that, I sent my secretary an email. It read: “GOING FORWARD, YOU LEAVE WHEN I SAY YOU LEAVE.”
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