Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Office Space 101

On my very first day at AF, I was given a very simple assignment by an upper level associate: (1) spend a couple of hours researching a topic, (2) highlight the most pertinent sections of the relevant case law found, and (3) make copies of said findings.

Research?  Check!  After all, I bounded out of law school bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and with the Help Lines of both Lexis Nexis and Westlaw burned into my memory.  

Highlighting?  Check!  Having already discovered the cavernous supply closet, I was ready for action in yellow, orange, green, pink, blue and purple. 

Copying?  Wait.  Hold the phone... I mean, I knew how to work the copy machine... kind of... but, having just sat through a new employee meeting in which I was told to "implement my support staff," I didn't know the protocol.  Also, my legal assistant was scary.  She was an ornery sasspot and knew pretty much everything about a job I knew nothing about (that would be my job).  And, she had, like, kids my age... How was I, twenty-five year old blondie, supposed to tell her to make my copies?  Shifting nervously from black patent pump to black patent pump (and yes, I still remember exactly what I wore that first day), my trepidation must have showed.

"What's the problem, [Irish Maiden Name]? Why are you still doing the Nervous Dance in my doorway?"  

"Um. Well, the thing is...  So, right... Um, so do you want me to make the copies?  Because I totally can!"

"[Irish Maiden Name], does [Best Assistant Ever] have a JD?"

"Um... not that I know of."

"Okay.  Do you have a JD?"

"That's what they tell me, sir."

"Perfect.  Act like it.  You don't make copies." 

After winning over [Best Assistant Ever] with drinking stories and bitchfests my undeniable wit and charm, I promptly forgot this conversation and sank slowly into the comfortable routine of those who are lucky enough to have someone watching their back on the administrative front.

Tra la la la la!  What a naive little fool I was!  Now, I recall that First Day Exchange at least once during the work day... oftentimes as a prelude to my dirty little fantasy in which the mail meter and I role play as the photocopier and Michael Bolton in Office Space...

Yep folks, still got that JD, but its the strangest thing... Turns out, it doesn't know how to send certified mail. Or collate.  Or even open my correspondence to check for junk mail.  OUTRAGEOUS, I KNOW!  But it seems that in my new reality, I do indeed make copies.  Many, many copies.    

Thusly, I find myself, once again, asking "why didn't anyone ever force me to learn this shit?"  Because while the Pythagorean Theorem is groovy and all, I really just need someone to teach me to print labels.  I propose a School of Life Seminar entitled "Put the Kabash on Being a Bratty, Entitled Twenty-Something Wench and Learn the Eff How to Mail Merge Already,"**

**"Fitted-Sheet Folding, Section II: That Martha Video Did Nothing For Me" will meet afterwards.++

++ Seriously, I can't believe there are that many people out there that actually know how to fold a flipping fitted sheet.  


  1. I lack admin skills as well, you should have seen me as I tried to teach my MIL how to mail merge (since I'd done it once before, obvs *I* was the pro!) to print our wedding invite labels = disaster = me wanting to strangle her.

    Also the fitted sheet? No idea, how the heck do you fold a fitted sheet??

  2. First day of my first internship, they asked me to fax something. I had no idea what I was doing! Until our VP waltzed by, noticed my confusion, and taught me. Thank goodness for him!

    Fitted sheets? Own me. And I'm totally okay admitting that. No matter how many tutorials and videos I watch, I have no idea how to fold those darn things!

  3. Ahem. I cannot fold a fitted sheet, print labels, send certified mail (I even have trouble with UPS and FedEx), weigh mail for postage, or use a copier. (I can "make copies," but using the copy machine to the fullest of its abilities? Not a chance.) I still look like a five year old when I try to use the fax machine. And I have a master's degree.

    They should teach this stuff in grad/professional school*, firreal! =)

    *OK maybe not the fitted sheet part.

  4. Mail merge? My assistant walked me through certified mail via her cell phone one Friday night, amused at my ineptitude. However, I have no clue what mail merge even is. . .

  5. Fitted sheets are my nemesis. They usually end up in a messy ball that in no way resembles a folded sheet. But, I'm okay with that.

  6. I can totally appreciate the awkwardness of asking your "support staff" to do something for you, especially since she's older. My instructional aid in my classroom last year was older than my mom, and I always felt weird giving her jobs to do. She wasn't nearly as happy to help out either, which made it worse!

    Just the thought of mail merge AND folding fitted sheets gives me a headache!

  7. I'm kind of the opposite, I've always just done everything myself. As it turns out, I'm really impatient and I like things done they way I like them. So, I never really utilize any support staff. It made it easy when I worked at boutique firms with few staff members. I am slowly trying to use my legal assistant and paralegal now that I have both at my disposal, but it has been hard to. just. let. go.

  8. It's such a weird thing! I've never actually had a support staff person, but that doesn't mean it was any less awkward when I had to ask the only administrative assistant in our office (who worked for the Dean, not me) how to mail merge, print labels, work the fax machine, etc. So awkward to even ask someone older than you to do any kind of favor for you. But our AA was so helpful and sweet and talked me through it and then I became an expert.

    But the fitted sheets. Still can't figure it out. I give up.

  9. Mail Merges and labels are challenging if you have Office 2007 aka. the devil. I wish I had taken class in college on how to survive in the workplace. My phone (landline) does all kinds of cool stuff too and I can't figure it out!

  10. How to fold fitted sheets: give up, leave them crumpled, pour yourself a glass of wine

  11. You crack me up. I'm a lawyer too and when I went from a firm to in-house, I quickly discovered lots of things I didn't know how to do - e.g., making labels. Oh, and I don't know how to fold a fitted sheet either. When my mother in law came to visit and folded one, I was in shock at how well it turned out. Next visit, I am asking for a lesson.

  12. I filled in for my husband (then boyfriend) for a few weeks at the teeny tiny law office where he worked while he was out with mono one summer. The attornies called me their "pinch hitter" at first. Until it took me an hour and a half to get a piece of certified mail ready to go. Then they were all "We can't wait until (husband's name) gets back! Hope he gets well soon!"

    CRINGE. That was three years ago and I still get kind of sweaty thinking about it! I feel your pain!

  13. Well, I spent the first 3 years of my professional life in an admin capacity, and I still don't know how to:
    - Mail merge or make labels (although I had a separate label maker and I LOVED that machine. I labeled EVERYTHING!)
    - Work a copier to it's full potential. Actually, anything more advanced than one copy.
    - send certified mail
    - change the toner in any copier or printer
    - forward a call to the correct person without dropping the call or sending it off to the black hole of the voicemail system
    - Oh, and I have NO IDEA how to program my voicemail. NONE!!!

    I'm a pretty independent person so I rarely ask for help although I probably should given I broke the copier last week.

    Also, the people who know how to fold a fitted sheet are just liars. That particular skill is so far beyond my realm of comprehension...

  14. You're smart, people love you, and DOGGONE IT KATE, you can use the copier! xoxoxo

  15. My JD sporting hubby cannot figure out how to make a new folder on our computer. He calls me over every time and it drives me crazy. I don't even like to think what would happen to him without an assistant.

  16. Oh man, I totally feel you on the awkard-ness of having an assistant and asking them to do something that you could do so easily if someone just showed you how. Plus, my assistant has a disability which makes it even harder for me to ask her to do anything for me like copy, fax, or mail. I've pretty much just taken it upon myself to do those things now, but I think sometimes she gets upset that I don't have her actually do her job. But it takes ten times as long to walk to the copy than it does for me!! Ugh.

    Wow, I just sounded like a total b*&ch! I'm going straight to hell.


happy little comments!