for April 18, 2005
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for today's rant...
[Inscrutable Links: John Peel Says "Hi". FM106.3 Staff List. FM106.3's 1988 playlist.]
After leaving law school - because I realized there are a lot of cheaper ways to be bored out of your mind - I found that one handy way to keep food on the table was to work as a legal assistant. So for a year or so I found myself working as a legal secretary (the term in use at the time although nearly blasphemous now) in a large, prestigious law firm where most of the lawyers graduated from the law school I had just left. My specific job there had me floating around to different departments as needed so I got to know the place pretty well. And let me just say that the problem with most law firm-based TV shows is that the lawyers are not nearly crazy enough to fit reality.
I'm going to be careful about leaving out names and locations because these are, after all, lawyers but tell me would you believe a lawyer show with this cast of characters?
The managing partner. I actually worked with him the most and have a lot of other stories about him for another time. But the most interesting thing about this managing partner was his ongoing not-exactly-secret affair with the office manager. They tried to keep it a secret, they really did, but it failed miserably. We all pretended not to notice while amusing ourselves with stories of their failed attempts. For one thing, they used to take long lunches together. They would try to fool everyone by leaving at different times, but then they would either forget or get rushed and return together. But even if you missed that clue, any day following a "long lunch" the partner would start this obsessive hair-combing thing that he would keep up for the rest of the day. We're only talking about 6 or so hairs here, but he would comb them constantly for the rest of the day as if all of his guilt cells were in his hair follicles and needed only to be scraped clean.
Another giveaway was during vacations. He would take frequent vacations and business trips and usually the whole office knew where he was going. She would take the same days off claiming that when he's not in the office, there's not as much work for her to do (oh, so that's what she called it). There was one time that everyone in the office knew he was attending a conference in Atlanta. The same day he returns she also returns and spends the next several days talking about her vacation and complaining about the weather - in Atlanta. Another employee actually found them in a "pantyhose and Dockers around the ankles" moment one day after hours, but by then it was news to no one.
The senior litigation attorney. This firm had a senior and junior specialist in nearly every field. The senior litigation attorney was actually one of the nicest lawyers there but I swear I never saw him do anything. Nothing at all. When walking by his office, one was most likely to find him staring at his right shoe. For a long time I thought perhaps that was some lawyerly meditation device, but his meditations never seemed to produce anything. I was expecting he'd suddenly come out with a bad novel or something, but nothing. Although he was the most fun to work for...
The junior litigation attorney. Apparently he was doing all of the work that the senior attorney wasn't. He was always busy and busy to a nearly insane degree. His nickname around the office was "last minute." Usually no one saw him all day while he was in his office furiously doing something. Then at 4:58 p.m. he'd appear with an armful of documents saying they had to be delivered to another firm a half-hour away before 5 today. Then he'd say to hurry back because he has another set to be delivered an hour away - also by 5 today. We had attempted a few times to give him some lessons in basic physics, but he considered any delay on our part (even taking a moment to smirk) as the sole cause for the lateness thus exonerating himself and setting up to repeat the scene the next day.
The senior corporate attorney. I actually didn't do very much work for this attorney because he spent most of his time schmoozing outside the office, but he was a player in my favorite law firm story One morning I was in early because the managing partner asked me to come in early to do some work - then he didn't show up. The corporate attorney was usually in early and so he could work alone so he was surprised to see me when he turned a corner. While walking by he said, "Oh hi. You look nice today" then froze in place as if turned to stone. I was trying to figure out why he stopped walking then he stammered, "I mean, you look nice in that color" then somehow he managed to turn three shades paler. I was trying to remember CPR basics and wondering how to dial an outside line to call 911 and then it occurred to me - he's thinks he sexually harassed me! He thinks he's in legal trouble because he said I looked nice. Ever bad at timing, I started laughing. The poor guy says, "I mean..." then put his hand over his mouth, ran for his office and shut the door without finishing the sentence. I considered very publicly setting up an appointment with the litigation attorneys for later that day, but why pick on the only sane guy in the building?
The senior patent attorney. This was easily the most interesting person around the firm. Think the doctor from Back to the Future with a major paper fetish. There was a strong movement to try and get a font of holy water installed outside of his office to ease the mind of anyone who had to walk in there. The office was covered on every surface with piles and piles of folders, boxes of weird contraptions, papers, and jars of fish food. There was a small winding path through the office for anyone haphazard enough to actually try and enter. The maddening part was that he knew exactly where everything was and could find it in a flash, even if it was at the bottom of a pile that was buttressing three other piles. I actually believe that if I had gone in one day and asked for an original copy of the Declaration of Independence where Ben Franklin signed as Ben "Boom Boom" Franklin, he would have found it. The fish food was there for another reason. There was a large fish tank in the back of the office. There was much debate over whether there were any fish in there, or ever had been. The "water" in the tank was the color of black ink and thick like hair gel. Yet he could be spotted pouring fish food in it several times each day. The leading theory was that as a patent attorney he was perhaps experimenting with new life forms that eat fish food and make really good piles.
Although the pay was pretty good, the supplies to feed my soda addiction were always free and the head messenger there would later marry me, my law firm experiment didn't last very long. Next time I'll explain what went wrong.
All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.
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