The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy; it’s that I just don’t care.
-- Peter Gibbons, Office Space
The founding partner at my firm thinks we all love working here. As someone fighting in the trenches I can say with certainty that he’s either willfully blind or delusional. The truth is he has no idea what we think of this place. How could he? He’s rarely in the building, and on the occasion he is around he’s likely holed up in his office ordering wine by the ton. Not to say that he’s a bad guy; he’s more like the Wizard of Oz before the curtain was pulled back—an enigmatic figure people respect out of some equivocal fear that emanates from his inherent authority. No one really talks to him or wants to bother him with problems and so he’s only aware of selective things that absolutely have to be brought to his attention. Everyone else just gives a fake ear-to-ear smile when they see him and go on with their work without a word.
Now here’s the dirty little secret: We fucking hate this place. Everyone has their own reasons. Whether it’s the junior associate who knows she’s better than this place but also knows she can’t sell herself well enough to make it somewhere more desirable; the law clerk in limbo because he has a P Number but the firm hasn’t made him a formal offer and he can’t get an interview anywhere else at the moment; or the paralegal who took over a stack of files but no one’s ever trained him on just what the hell he’s expected to do with them.
I hate this place for its inefficiency. Sure, the firm turns a profit and so far no one has told me to “wait a few days before cashing your check” like at the last place I worked, but the waste in this firm is maddening. Not long ago I spent several hours drafting a motion and brief in support when I was told by an attorney that my time was wasted because we had secured a default judgment against the defendant days ago.
“I don’t know why the paralegal asked you to write this. She should have known.”
I gave the file back to the paralegal, informed her of the mistake, and set to work on the next file on my desk.
“How are you not livid about this?” was the question asked by the other clerks.
I wasn’t upset because it didn’t affect me. I get paid either way. Working more efficiently or less efficiently doesn’t change my hourly rate. So why get upset? Where’s the incentive? Sure I lost time that could have been spent on other files, but it works out because I can just stay late for a few nights and earn more money.
Had that incident happened just a month earlier though, I would have been bothered. I would have spoken to the paralegal and told her to make sure she thoroughly reviewed files before handing me an assignment. She would have promised to be more vigilant, but sure enough a week later the same thing would happen.
Another thing that bothered me early on was a certain paralegal who always came in with “rush jobs.” She would walk into the law clerk office and cry that a discovery response was due immediately. I would invariably drop whatever I was doing and take the file from her. Unfortunately when I opened the file to review it I would notice that the response didn’t have to be in for another week. Meanwhile I have briefs that were due yesterday because one of the clerks decided to take a week off for exams but neglected to tell the other clerks, and the attorney who supervises the clerks also forgot to mention anything because he’s more concerned about his fantasy football league.
So yeah, I used to get upset about these kinds of things. I don’t anymore. I have no intention of staying at this firm after I graduate. I have nothing invested here so why get upset when other people don’t do their job well?
In a way it’s sad because when I first started at this firm I wanted to be efficient out of my own self-motivation. I wanted to have pride in my work… That lasted for all of three weeks. Once I realized the problems at this place weren’t getting fixed even though the same damn problem was coming up every other day, I decided that if the status quo was good enough for everyone else that I would simply have to work within it. It’s not like I’m in a position to change anything.
The founding partner however is in a position to make changes. Except that he doesn’t. He doesn’t care about any of this. Why would he? His name is on the door. We do our jobs well enough that he has plenty of Fuck You money. The firm’s inefficiencies clearly don’t hurt his bottom line enough to make him notice. If he isn’t bothered, why should I be?