Everything is wrong with me
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
work. a year. damn it.
Today is a crappy day, and I'm feeling kinda down. And in sooth, I know not why I am so sad. It could be a combination of things (tired, very busy at work, broke, stopped taking anti-depressants, etc), but it also could be because today is my one year anniversary at my current position at the firm. Though I started at the firm in July of 2001 shortly after graduating to become a legal assistant, I moved to my current marketing/pr/financial research gig one year ago.

Being a legal assistant is a thankless, difficult job. You deal with attorneys who are only a few years older than you, who you definitely would have picked on in college and not let into your parties. They are mostly uber-nerds who crumble under the pressure, and, since you're the only one who's "under" them, you often get berated and brow-beaten for things that are beyond your control, or take the heat for mistakes that you didn't make, but instead were the result of bad directions given by a young associate who at the time was trying his/her best to hold back tears because the mid-level associate just bitched them out.

Of course, most of the times that I got yelled at I completely deserved it. I learned pretty quickly that I wasn't going to succeed as a legal assistant, so rather than work hard and be the best I could be, I gave up immediately and focused my energies on different things, like fantasy sports, seeing how long I can spend on the toilet pooping and reading before an attorney would come in the bathroom to find me, and, of course, eating all the cookies I could possibly eat at team meetings.

But I've moved on to much greener pastures. I no longer pull eighty hour weeks, or get calls from attorneys at 5:24pm on a Friday asking me to come in for 12 hours on Saturday and 10 on Sunday (because, you know, it's the Lord's day). I'm usually here from 9:30 - 5:30, but sometimes I'll stay late if I don't think I can make the long subway ride home without beating off first.

No longer do I share a small office with an officemate who I'm pretty sure spent most of his time plotting to poison me, since I completely disregarded his presence every time we were both in the office by talking loudly on the phone with friends about such personal topics as girls I want to fingerblast or the nasty shit I just took or how my officemate is a total dick. Now I have my very own office, although it is an inner one and its only window looks out on the cubicles stationed out in the middle area. But I disregard the presence of this window much like I disregarded the presence of my old officemate; I can be plainly seen all day by co-workings picking my nose, sticking my hand down my pants, and, when hungover, putting my head down on my desk. It got particularly nasty over the summer when I insisted that I be allowed to be shirtless or at least sleeveless in my overly warm office, but I was ultimately overruled and reluctantly forced to leave my tank tops at home.

Yes, the new job is much better, but there are a few things I miss about being a legal assistant.

1) Overtime. As a legal assistant, you get paid overtime at time and a half rates after 35 hours. And, since your base salary stinks, the overtime is where you make all your money.

The result? A culture of glorious laziness. An example:

Lawyer: "Jason, can you come up to my office? I need to you make a copy of this 30 page deposition transcript."
Jason: "Ouch - 30 pages? That might take a while."
Lawyer: "How long is a while?"
Jason: "Well, the copiers are having problems, so I'd say I can get you that by tomorrow morning."
Lawyer: "It's 11am."
Jason: "I know - I can't believe it either, but we're having some major copier problems."
Lawyer: "Just come and get it."

Then, the legal assistant can take his/her sweet time with that copy, stay late to get a free dinner up to $25, and even get a ride home after 8pm.

And this overtime gets exploited big time. People may or may not get drunk at work after hours. There may or may not people who come in on weekends hungover and watch DVD's or take practice LSAT's, GMAT's, or GRE's, all the while collecting $30/hour. Not a bad gig. I mean, it doesn't have the perks of being an internet quasi-celebrity, like hate mail or risking your job by taking time every day to write about how much you love to drink vodka, but it's still not bad.

2) Carefreeness. I don't know if that's a word, but by "carefreeness" I mean that being a legal assistant really doesn't matter and everyone eventually learns that and thus stops giving a fuck. For most, being a legal assistant is just a glorified temp job; people do two or three years, then move on to school or another job. After they leave, they're probably not going to come back to the same firm as an attorney, or need anything other than a recommendation from someone that they worked with, which they can usually get from the one cool attorney they'll meet during their experience.

The result? The eventual shirking of responsibility. Sure, at first, everyone cares about what they do, but there's quite a backlash in this profession, because so many get so worked up over so little and it gets very old very fast. As one legal assistant put it when recently getting yelled at by an attorney, "Jesus Christ - we're not saving lives here!"

By the end of my tenure, I was so burnt out that I may or may not have stopped returning calls and emails, and spent my days instead sending my resume to just about every job site on the internet, writing emails to girls I had hooked up with in college but hadn't spoken to since, and thinking about which McFlurry I would have for breakfast the next day: Oreo or Butterfinger. (Butterfinger always won. You haven't lived until you've had 16 ounces of vanilla ice cream swirled with crumbled up Butterfinger bits for breakfast. Simply gorgeous.)

3) Social element. By far, the best thing about being a legal assistant is your co-workers. What you have is a group of 60 or so people who are all the same age, come from similar college experiences, and have the same goals in life (well, most of the same goals - I know that many of my co-workers wanted success, whereas I wanted salt & vinegar potato chips). From that 60, a smaller group of 25 or so arises and will go out for drinks together.

And, more importantly, when drinking together, they hook up. Good lord. Everybody makes out with everyone, and it's wonderful. And of course, I can no longer cash in on this, because I'm "not a legal assistant" and a little "creepy" and I "look like I'm 30" so the new younger legal assistants keep their distance. Wisely so.

And now I've been working for three years, and I haven't had the word "assistant" in my job title in one year. This is a huge step. I feel like I'm growing up. Maybe I should stop concerning myself with getting high and watching "Dumb and Dumber" and starting learning about wine, going to museums, and donating money to starving kids in Guatemala or wherever.

I suppose that's why I'm feeling down (in addition to no more antidepressants). But I have to realize that all things considered, I have a good gig here at work. No long hours, decent pay, and most of the time I can stand what I'm doing. And no one asks me questions like, "Jason, why is there blood all over your pants?" after I've gotten in a fight over lunch and had to take a man's life, or "Jason, why are you soaking wet?" after I got hopped up on goofballs and jumped in the East River because I thought I saw a sexy bitch of a mermaid.

And those times, like today, when I'm a little stressed out at work? There is a dingy little pub less than three blocks away where an Irish barmaid with less teeth than toes will serve me a pint of Bud for only $2. A better stress reliever, I can think of none.

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