Legal Secretaries

As New York firms are slowly letting people back into the office after Sandy, a midsize Cadadian firm is implementing new procedures to make sure employees stay there.

No, they aren’t spanking people or playing other disturbing psychological games. They’re using electronic fingerprint IDs.

Apparently too many employees were dipping out early and taking extensive lunch breaks. The circle of trust was broken, so now everyone pays the price.

Well, not everyone, exactly. And that’s part of the problem…

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‘Help me, I’m white.’

* Gloria Allred’s “October Surprise” for Mitt Romney didn’t exactly go according to plan, but that’s probably because she never filed the appropriate motions related to the gag order in this decades old divorce case wherein Mitt Romney testified. [Bloomberg]

* This Election Day, 16 Biglaw firms in offices across the country will be manning an Election Protection hotline to field questions, because despite the bad jokes about the legal profession, “lawyers can play a really valuable civic role.” [Am Law Daily]

* “We never make decisions to eliminate positions with any discriminatory conduct.” In other news from the CYA Department, Paul Hastings really doesn’t like getting sued by former legal secretaries who were laid off by the firm. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The assistant dean of academic support at TSU’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law claims the school discriminated against her based on her skin color. Did we mention she’s white? [Courthouse News Service]

* Apparently the allegations of false reporting levied against TJSL are a “crock of crap” because the school claims the ex-employee who told on them never alerted the dean. Hmm… [Thomas Jefferson School of Law]

* A nice pipe dream: now that “the twilight of the generalist law degree is here,” perhaps law schools will move to a two-year model, with an optional third year for specialization purposes. [DealBook / New York Times]

Chief Justice Roberts: he ain’t evolving.

* In light of Chief Justice Roberts’s historic vote to uphold Obamacare, should we expect JGR to be more liberal going forward? According to Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath (affiliate link), “Do not expect a new John Roberts. Expect the conservative he has always been.” [Talking Points Memo via How Appealing]

* Law firm staff layoffs: they’re not just an American thing. Slaughter and May is dropping the ax on 28 secretaries. [Roll On Friday]

* “[A]ny robot or high school graduate can calculate numbers in a matrix to arrive at the highest possible sentence. But it takes a Judge — a man or woman tempered by experience in life and law — to properly judge another human being’s transgressions.” [Justice Building Blog]

* Professor Dershowitz’s $4 million Cambridge mansion? Robert Wenzel is not impressed: “if I lived in that house, I would want to attack Iran and most of the rest of the world, also.” [Economic Policy Journal]

* A man sues a strip club, alleging that a stripper ruptured his bladder when she slid down a pole and onto his abdomen. Ouch. [Legally Weird / Findlaw]

* Still on the subject of Torts, two attractive blonde sisters walk into a bar — and discuss who can be held liable if a man suffers a heart attack during a threesome. Video after the jump….

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Before I provide some advice on client relations that will be deemed “totally wrong” by some and “good advice” by me pretending to be anonymous, I wanted you all to know that I bought a wireless printer that allows me to send documents from my phone, wherever I am, to my printer at my office. Although I currently have no use for this feature in my law practice, and haven’t in 17 years, I hope this puts me in better stead with those of you that think I hate tech.

Now let’s talk about clients, for those of you that have some.

The core of running a practice is machines and toys clients. That you are able to do competent work for clients doesn’t matter if you are not versed in the retaining and retention of them. The retention of any client starts at the initial contact, not when they come to your coffee shop office with a check. For those of you who have practices where you never meet with clients, your initial contact with them (unless it’s them using your website as an ATM to buy documents) is even more important.

While you may be in a position where the client is only calling you, most clients are calling several lawyers. Regardless, you are now auditioning for the job. That audition begins at the very moment you first speak to the client, or the person calling for the client….

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Fair is fair is fair: Two weeks ago, I wrote about how to drive partners nuts. Last week, I wrote about how to drive associates nuts. Today, I’m continuing along the lawyers’ food chain: Secretaries (or “administrative assistants”) — it’s your turn: How can you drive your boss nuts? [FN1]

First: Your time after work is yours, to tend to your family, watch TV, go clubbing, or whatever. So you have to handle all of the other stuff — like making appointments, chatting with out-of-town friends, shopping, and the like — during work hours. Happily, the telephone and computer at your desk are all the equipment you need. So do all your shopping on-line during business hours. Talk to your friends, post stuff at Facebook, and surf the web from your office desk.

That does three things for you. It gives you more free time at home, to spend as you like. It helps to pass the time during work hours. And — best of all! — it’ll drive your boss nuts! Every time your boss walks up to give you a project, just click away from Amazon.com and whisper “gotta go” into your receiver. Your boss may not notice and, if he does, you’ve just pushed him one step closer to the edge, which is, after all, the name of this game. Use your time at work intelligently; use it to handle all of your personal affairs.

Don’t just fritter away your eight hours a day at the office. Also, nibble around the edges. Leave the office at 4:55 without telling your boss. Maybe she won’t notice, and she’ll surely never come frantically looking for you seconds after you’ve left. Sticking your head in the door and saying good night would just tip her off that you’re cutting out early; don’t do it!

Also, remember that Mondays and Fridays during June, July, and August are meant to be taken as sick days. If you take them regularly, your boss will get used to this, and he’ll become more efficient, doing all of his work between Tuesday and Thursday. He’ll probably thank you for this.

How else can you drive your boss nuts?

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First, a stand-up comedy routine; then, my point.

In the early 1980s, Robin Williams performed in a nightclub. His performance was taped and later broadcast by HBO. During the performance, Williams spied on-stage a wine glass filled with a clear liquid (which was, in fact, water), and Williams was off and running:

“There are white wines. There are red wines. Why are there no black wines?

“Reggie wine! It’s a m*therf*cker! Goes with meat; goes with fish; goes with any damn thing it wants to.

“I like my wine like I like my women — ready to pass out.

“We’ll get Mean Joe Green to advertise the stuff: ‘Reggie wine! Drink this sh*t or I’ll nail your ass to a tree.’”

After HBO broadcast the performance, an African-American winemaker named David Rege (pronounced “Reggie”) sued Williams and others in California state court, claiming that Williams had damaged Rege’s reputation and adversely affected the sales of his wine. (You knew there was a lawsuit tucked in here someplace, didn’t you?)

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Thus far, the story of Dewey & LeBoeuf has been told primarily from the perspective of lawyers. On the whole, the coverage has been quite partner-focused, centered on which partners are defecting to which rival law firms. There has been some discussion, but not a huge amount, of the plight of associates.

There has been even less discussion of the support staff. But if Dewey goes under, staffers will also lose their jobs. And in this day and age of law firms slashing staff, secretaries and paralegals may have a harder time finding new positions than attorneys.

Here is one paralegal’s perspective on what’s going on at D&L….

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Last night, David Lat reported that Quinn Emanuel will be rolling out a new approach to on-campus recruiting later this year. Maybe Quinn should also consider a new approach to getting old partners in touch with young secretaries eager to party? Because the current method of accidentally sending reply-all messages referencing the secretaries’ physical attributes might not be the best strategy.

I don’t mean to be cryptic. A Quinn Emanuel partner not only emailed something inappropriate last night, but he accidentally hit “reply all” while he was doing it.

It’s gonna be easy and most likely appropriate to kill the guy. But on the chance that my wife is not reading today, I’m going to offer a defense of this leering partner. Just hear me out…

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How do you keep a client (or a boss) happy? Be “light.”

Everyone has worked with people who are heavy, and everyone has worked with people who are light. Light is better.

You ask a heavy to do a job, and he says that he will. But you’re not at all sure that the job will actually get done. You call two weeks later to ask for a status report, and you receive back an ambiguous response about what’s happening. As the deadline passes, you ask for the finished product. It finally arrives, a couple of days late.

That’s a heavy load for you, the supervisor, to bear. Multiply that by eight direct reports (in a corporate law department) or 20 associates (working under your supervision at a law firm), and the burden is unbearable. All that heaviness crushes you, and, next time around, you go in search of light people.

What does it mean to be light?

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We recently wrote about various developments at Dewey & LeBoeuf. There have been reports of the firm having some financial issues, and there have been some notable partner departures as well. Sources we’ve heard from at Dewey feel significant anxiety right now about the direction of the firm.

Let’s hear about the latest partner defections, as well as reports about how people are feeling at the firm right now….

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