Saturday, December 13, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Or, Maybe Not

Okay, it's holiday time and you know what that means.

Office politics and more office politics.

Do you or don't you gift the boss?  Even though your boss makes about 20 times your salary - or more - is it appropriate to reciprocate with a small token?  That is presuming that she gives you a gift.  But that's another post for another day.

Do you or don't you gift your co-workers?  And would that include your cubicle mate whose loud perfume sends you home with a headache every day?  

Are you expected to attend the holiday party?  Even if you don't really want to see Suzy get on the table and sing karaoke while she's three sheets to the wind.  Should you skip it this year because last year you mistook the boss's husband for her son?

Do you give in to temptation and eat every holiday cookie, cake, lunch and dinner that's offered in the office or do you stick to your guns and call on your inner strength.  This one is a 'no-brainer' for me.  I'll take "cookie" for 500.

Do you decorate your cube like a giant gift box or do you simply opt for a small bow in order not to offend any religious beliefs?  

Whatever you decide, good luck because I can't help you.  I'm still trying to figure it out for myself.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Are Legal Secretaries Being Stretched (and Stressed) to the Max?

As the role of the legal secretary evolves, it seems that more and more assistants are being asked to do things that used to be the responsibility of other departments within the firm.

Because most/many/all of the younger associates do their own typing (when is the last time an attorney dictated a brief for you to type?) and often don't know all the ways to utilize their assistant's skill sets, we're moving farther away from secretarial "duties" into the realm of accounting, billing, paralegal work, you name it.

Not that I'm complaining.  I am very grateful to be gainfully employed and I'm willing to do whatever is asked of me.  But, often I feel that I'm not able to give as much attention to tasks as I have in previous times, because I'm constantly swapping hats.  

Preparing binders used to be "billable."  But as clients became more and more legal savvy and hired teams of in-house attorneys to check and double check everything the law firms bill for, there are fewer tasks that fall into the "billable" category.  And those things get passed down to - you guessed it.

And there is no such thing as one or two or even three attorneys per secretary - the average these days seems to be one secretary for every five attorneys and that has been extended, at some firms, to ten to one or a "pool" of secretaries with no assigned attorney at all.

To be honest, I don't see things changing any time soon.  I also see a whole new crop of younger men and women, and increasingly men, who are recent college graduates with ambitions of a legal career stepping into legal secretarial roles at a lower salary than a "seasoned" secretary.

So, what happens to the seasoned secretary?  She/he either continues to take their multivitamins, sharpen their skills set, learn new ways to work and get with the program or. . .let's not think about that.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

All Day And A Night by Alafair Burke

If you didn't get a chance to read this book over the summer when it was released, put it on your fall list of "things to read."  Alafair Burke's most recent novel doesn't disappoint.  You will want to read it, "All Day and A Night."  Another winner.  Got secrets?

"The latest story dominating New York tabloids—the murder of Park Slope psychotherapist Helen Brunswick—couldn’t be further from Carrie Blank’s world handling federal appeals at one of Manhattan’s most elite law firms. But then a hardcharging celebrity trial lawyer calls Carrie with a case she can’t refuse. Anthony Amaro, a serial killer convicted twenty years earlier, has received an anonymous letter containing a chilling detail about Brunswick’s murder: the victim’s bones were broken after she was killed, the same signature used in the murders attributed to Amaro. Now Amaro is asking to be released from prison.
Carrie has a reason to be interested. Her older sister, Donna, was one of Amaro’s victims. Determined to force the government to catch Donna’s real killer, Carrie joins Amaro’s wrongful conviction team with her own agenda.  On the other side of Amaro’s case is NYPD
Detective Ellie Hatcher, who, along with her partner, J. J. Rogan, is tapped as the “fresh look”
team to reassess the investigation that led to Amaro’s conviction. The case is personal for
them, too: Ellie wonders whether they got the assignment because of her relationship with the lead prosecutor, and Rogan has his own reasons to distrust Amaro’s defense team.
As the NYPD and Amaro’s lawyers search for certainty among conflicting evidence, their investigations take them back to Carrie’s hometown, where secrets buried long ago lead to a brutal attack—one that makes it terrifyingly clear that someone has gotten too close to the truth.  ("All Day and a Night" )"

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Falling Into A New Work Pattern - Change Your Mood With the Season

Everybody loves summer, right?  

Sun, longer days, warmer weather, eating lunch outdoors, taking walks and getting more outdoor exercise all contribute to a better mood.  Or so some experts say.

But the change in seasons, i.e. moving from summer to fall,  can also be a great time to implement new habits at home and at work.  

Since you can't get out, perhaps you might consider joining an indoor gym or yoga class near the office.  

Remember all that "spring cleaning" you did?  

Well, somewhere between vacations and getting kids back to school, your "to do" list at work may have gotten a little longer.  Why not purge some of those files that have piled up?   I mean, is anybody really at the "paperless" law office completely?  Highly doubtful.

It's also a good time to take some lunchtime seminars and webinars.  Indoor activities that will increase your skills and allow for some networking time.

Add a few new fall pieces to your work wardrobe.  (That's for another day and another blog post.)

And last, but not least, the pumpkin spice latte is back!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Are Male Secretaries Treated Differently?

There are quite a few male legal secretaries in the workforce.  I don't know the exact numbers.  And, in large cities, like San Francisco, the numbers are increasing.  It's a new day and there is no longer the expectation that every secretary will be a woman.

With that said, I still find there's often disparity in treatment in the expectations of male secretaries versus the expectations of work product and behavior for female secretaries.

It has been my experience that attorneys, male attorneys in particular, relate to male secretaries in a more, how can I say it, "respectful" manner.  They're not as quick to resort to a loud tone of voice and they're less likely to expect them to do tasks such as getting lunch or coffee.  (By the way, I have no problem with getting lunch or coffee, or whatever it is that my attorneys need.)  Their time is billable and mine is not.

However, I do become increasingly frustrated when I see male secretaries surfing the internet for endless amounts of time (never bothering to hide that they're not busy) and attorneys who turn a "blind eye."  And, in fact, stop to "chat" with my male colleagues while they're surfing.

It's as if the male attorneys see the male secretaries more as "peers" than "staff."

I don't think it's my imagination.  I think the "good old boys" network is alive and well and still lurking in law firms.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Tammy" with Melissa McCarthy - Harmless, Weekend Fun

"Tammy" with Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon

What better way to wind down from the work-week with a movie.

And it doesn't always have to be a blockbuster, or an indie with a serious underlying story or a thriller with a complex plot.

This weekend I went for pure fun!  Don't believe the critics.  Everything isn't for critique - sometimes you just want to laugh.

Melissa McCarthy plays "Tammy," a woman who loses her job and her husband in the same week.  That's not funny.  But the adventure that she embarks on with her grandmother (played by Susan Sarandon) -- I know, Susan Sarandon playing Melissa McCarthy's grandmother -- I still think of Susan Sarandon as 'sexy.'  

Anyway, it's entertaining and a great way to unwind with a bag of popcorn, a soda and a box of Raisinets.  

You can't take everything seriously.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

Perks at Work - Do They Matter?

With all the hype surrounding the World Cup, many offices are showing the games in conference rooms and lobby areas for employees to watch.

Naturally, the intent is not for you to spend the entire day sitting in front of the TV watching the action, but it's nice that some firms actually think that there's more to work than work.  There's that thing called "employee satisfaction."

My office, for example, provided breakfast on yesterday while streaming the USA match.  No one took advantage of it, and most people noshed and watched for about 10 to 15 minutes and then went back to their offices and work stations.

Which brings me to the topic of "Perks at Work."  Do they matter?  I say, "Yes."  Some people say that instead of "Bagel Fridays" or "Happy Hours," and "Free Lunches," they'd rather have more money.  I say that money isn't everything.  I like at least having the perception that my employer sees me as something more than a "worker bee," but a human being who appreciates a "lifestyle firm."  Now those words "lifestyle firm" are almost an oxymoron when it comes to the legal field, but there can be at least the notion of a balance.

So, hat's off to all the partners who think that a happy worker is a productive worker.  Even if they enjoy the "perks" as much or more than the folks in the trenches do.  Perception is reality, right?

Monday, May 26, 2014

After the Interview - Now What?

I recently had a long discussion with a friend about proper etiquette in the digital age.

She told me about an interview she had gone on and how she really wanted the job.

The discussion turned to the topic of how or whether or not to say "Thank You," after the interview.

We all know that lawyers are busy people, right?  As are the people that work in law firms and do the hiring.  That said, is it no longer appropriate to send "thank you" notes to the interviewers?

These people have taken time from their busy day to, at the very least, pull your resume out of the flood of those received, or in most cases, select it from the email collection (or however it is that they manage to get your applications these days, since you almost never apply directly to a person).  So, is it a good idea to drop a line or email to say "I appreciate your time.  I hope to hear from you soon," or is that old-fashioned and annoying?

Personally, I would tend to err on the side of old-fashioned.  You can gauge the climate of the office when you're there.  If they appear to be more "formal," then a written "thank you" is appropriate (in my opinion).  A more relaxed and collegial office might lend itself to an email "thank you."

Bottom line.  Like your mother always said, "Remember, to say "please" and "thank you."

And for those of you on the job hunt - Good Luck!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Monster Bench by "Knits for Life" (Only in San Francisco!)

"Monster Bench" San Francisco Ferry Building
Lorna Watt, Founder and Designer, Yarn for Life

Yarn bombing has taken the country by storm.  

And just when you thought you'd seen it all, turn around, in your very own backyard, so to speak, and there you find the "mother of all yarn bombs."

This "Monster Bench" at the San Francisco Ferry Building is one of the many creative and uber-amazing projects of Lorna Watt, founder of "Knits for Life."

Needle-less to say, she's a local treasure!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's That Exciting (or Dreaded) Time of the Year: Staff Appreciation

This is the week that allergy sufferers dread.  The week when you have to get on that crowded train or bus with people carrying armloads of beautiful bouquets of flowers.  

Or the week that everyone in your office got flowers, candy and gifts except you.

Or the week that your office gave you a free lunch or brought in a clown or whatever they did to make you feel like they couldn't go on without you.  Which we all know, after the "recession" isn't true, because if you don't want your job, somebody else sure does.

Which is why I'll keep the complaining to a minimum.  

I don't really have anything to complain about.  I work at a firm where at the very least the administration acknowledges that we're still celebrating "Administrative Professionals Week" (formerly "Secretary's Week," formerly "Secretary's Day").  

It sort of surprises me that we still celebrate it because each year it seems more and more like most law firms and companies really don't want to do it.  

Personally, my appreciation is truly in my paycheck.  But, I'm only human so when someone asks you what you got, you'd like to be able to say "A trip to the spa."  As opposed to, "Nothing."

And since the actual day was yesterday, I suppose there's no need in me sitting here holding my breath for that gift certificate that's probably not going to come.

We should be grateful to have jobs.  I know I am.

Which brings me to the burning question, "Why do I feel so badly right now?"

Oh well.  There's always next April.

And who decided to make "Staff Appreciation" right after Tax Day?  Talk about a one-two punch.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Emoticons At Work

It is widely believed that emoticons have no place at work.  They are viewed by many as unprofessional and childish.

That said, I'm guilty of being one of the people who uses them.  I don't put a flower next to my signature text or add cute little puppies or even sad faces.

But, I have used a "smiley" face to soften my response.  By that I mean often when one of my bosses sends me a request that I can't get to right away (because I'm doing something for one of my other five bosses), I will reply with something like "Once I complete my filing, I will turn to that."  (smiley face)

My purpose is to let the person know that I'm not putting them off or exasperated that I'm being stretched too far (because that would never be the case - insert sarcasm here) but because I want to "de-escalate" what could turn into an email exchange that goes all wrong.

Which is a big problem with email exchanges.  They often go all wrong.  If the person is close-by or doesn't have their office door closed, I will often stick my head in the door to let them know that I received their request and will get to it as soon as possible.

The art of communication is a lost art.  And I'm going to go out on a limb and blame email in part for that.  Although the biggest offender is texting!

Seriously, I've read so many articles in the last few weeks about how emoticons have no place in the office, that I've decided to include a cartoon caricature of myself right next to my name in the "From" line.

Just kidding.  Smiley Face.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What's the 4-1-1? "212" by Alafair Burke

Sorry I've been a little absent from the blog lately.  You know how sometimes that thing that happens "5 days a week" gets in the way of things we really want to be doing, like blogging.

I have managed to get in some reading though.

I've talked before about how much I enjoy Alafair Burke's mysteries since I discovered them last year.  

So, I thought I would work my way back to the beginning of the Ellie Hatcher series before Ms. Burke's newest book ("All Day and Night") comes out in June.

"212" came out swinging.  Non-stop suspense from beginning to end.  If you've got to commute, at least have something great to read while you're on the train.

When a bodyguard is killed in the Manhattan penthouse owned by his billionaire boss, Sam Sparks, the case gets under Detective Ellie Hatcher’s skin. But she has to set aside this unsolved crime—and her suspicions of Sparks, which land her a contempt charge and a night in jail—to investigate the murder of an NYU coed, who was being harassed online, and her roommate. Then a real-estate agent who moonlights as a call girl is found murdered after being tortured in a first-class hotel, and Hatcher and partner J. J. Rogan find a common thread in what seem unrelated cases. In the third in the Ellie Hatcher series (after Dead Connection, 2007, and Angel’s Tip, 2008), Burke skillfully portrays her protagonist’s relationships—with victims’ families and persons of interest; with her partner; with her female boss, Liuetentant Robin Tucker; and, especially with ADA Max Donovan, whose love provides her only respite from the work with which she’s obsessed.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Don't Worry, You've Taken the Day Off!

Am I the only person who worries about work when they're not at work?

Taking the occasional personal day is supposed to "recharge" you, right?  

So, why is it that whenever I'm off on a work-day, I'm worried about what's happening at work?

In part, it's due to the fact, that even though all employees get personal time off, vacation, sick leave, etc., co-workers don't seem to be really happy for their cube mate when they're not in the office.

In fact, I've noticed a bit of resentment on the part of my peers.  This isn't just in my office.  I've noticed it at other firms too.

In fact, at a previous job, when I was taking FMLA to take care of my dying mother, there were folks in the office, you know the ones, who were convinced that instead of taking my dear mum to chemo one day a week, I might be at the spa.  Hardly.  But that does nothing to stop the rumor mills, back-biting and sometimes downright sabotage.

Also, I'm noticing more, perhaps after the recession, secretaries, "grouping" together.  A friend and I talked about it  at lunch the other day.  She made an interesting observation.  She said, "Have you noticed they're almost like holding hands on the playground?"

She said it's called "playground psychology."

I'm not sure there's anything that will change the dynamics of office workers or stop being from begrudging their co-workers from having an extra day to do laundry.  But I sure wish we'd stick together more as "sisters and brothers in the trenches."

Remember, we need each other.  And don't worry so much about your colleagues' having a little "R and R."  We'll never make partner.

Happy Friday!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Fun Stuff - Functional Stiletto

For the shoe-lover.

This Scotch Tape Dispenser in the shape of a Stiletto.

Do you need it?  Probably not.

Do you want?  You know, you do!


Available on Amazon


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"In the Blood" by Lisa Unger

I surprise myself sometimes.  

For a girl who used to be afraid of the dark as a kid, I have become quite the mystery lover.

However, I might need to invest in a new night-light.

I'm not talking "thriller light," I'm talking, plot so thick, scenes so terrifying, that I don't recommend this book for bedtime reading.

Now, that we have that out of the way - why have I not heard of Lisa Unger?

This story had me hooked from the first page. Talk about adrenaline - I was downright afraid to go to sleep, yet couldn't stop reading!

I finished "In The Blood" last night and have already convinced four of my friends to get the book. If I can't sleep at night, why should they?  Seriously, it's a great book. 

Because, even though law firm life might make for a lively day, it does nothing to bring the night to life like this!

Caution:  If you're a "newbie" mystery reader, you might want to limit your reading of this particular book to daylight hours.

"In The Blood" by Lisa Unger

SYNOPSIS:  LANA GRANGER LIVES A LIFE OF LIES. She has told so many lies about where she comes from and who she is that the truth is like a cloudy nightmare she can’t quite recall. About to graduate from college and with her trust fund almost tapped out, she takes a job babysitting a troubled boy named Luke. Expelled from schools all over the country, the manipulative young Luke is accustomed to control­ling the people in his life. But, in Lana, he may have met his match. Or has Lana met hers?

When Lana’s closest friend, Beck, mysteriously disappears, Lana resumes her lying ways—to friends, to the police, to herself. The police have a lot of questions for Lana when the story about her where­abouts the night Beck disappeared doesn’t jibe with eyewitness accounts. Lana will do anything to hide the truth, but it might not be enough to keep her ominous secrets buried: someone else knows about Lana’s lies. And he’s dying to tell. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sigma Gamma Legal Secretary

I'm in a quandry as to whether or not I should belong to an association of legal secretaries.  Or any secretarial association for that matter.

I never pledged a sorority, I don't belong to any women's groups (i.e. Junior League) and I am not even in a bowling league.  I do belong to a book club.  

This leads me to the question of the day.  Are secretarial organizations still relevant?  To answer that, I suppose I would need to know the advantages of belonging to such clubs.

I do like meeting new people and "networking," so to speak.  But I tend to do that by building on personal relationships with people I've worked with, that I meet on BART, in restaurants or through vendors.

I do like the idea of getting together to compare notes about the latest technology and which firms are hiring, firing, downsizing, growing and how the legal climate is doing, in general.

But, like any group, I've always found a hard time coming into an established group and feeling like I'm part of the family.

I must say that the San Francisco Legal Professionals Association under its new leadership, has really started to do some fun things that peak my interest.  However, whenever I ask a co-worker if they'd like to attend an event with me, the answer is always, "No, thanks.  I don't like those kinds of groups."

I think one huge problem is that at the end of the day, we're so wiped out from our work-day that all we want to do is make our trek back home and get ready for the next work-day.

Another issue that I see is that there's a "generational gap."  Some of the more seasoned secretaries (I use that term to avoid putting myself in the category of "older") are comfortable with their positions and titles, while younger women and men in the field prefer to think of themselves as "assistants" and are afraid of being "type-cast," if you will by saying they belong to a secretaries association.

Even though most of the groups now call themselves "Legal Professionals," beneath the layer, they are, in fact, support staff.  

I'm proud of my profession and the work that I do.  My challenge for this year is to "step out of my comfort zone," and find a group of like-minded, similarly employed individuals with which to share camaraderie and war stories.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Never Tell" by Alafair Burke

I'm on an Alafair Burke roll.  And since I only discovered her work over the past few months, I've got some catching up to do.

My most recent read by the former prosecutor and current college professor is "Never Tell" from the Ellie Hatcher series.  

It had me captured from the very beginning.

I've said before how I love books with contemporary references and Ms. Burke delivers that along with a suspenseful storyline and a nice little twist at the end.

Highly recommended for those of you who don't get enough "excitement" at work and "amateur sleuths" like yours truly.

Detective Ellie Hatcher will be forced to uncover the truth behind the apparent suicide of a teenaged girl with intriguing connections to both New York’s wealthiest—and its most dispossessed.
This addictive thriller from acclaimed suspense writer Alafair Burke draws its details from the author’s own experiences as a criminal law professor and deputy district attorney, creating an exhilarating, true-to-life tale of crime and its consequences that is perfect for fans of Laura Lippman, Harlan Coben, and Burke’s breakout standalone thriller Long Gone.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The End of the First Work-Week of 2014

Even though this was a short week (only four days), it was nonetheless challenging.

I think some of the challenge perhaps was self-inflicted by my wanting to make a drastic change in work style, habits, etc. for the New Year.

But let's be realistic, there's only so much change that can happen in the course of turning the pages of the calendar from December 31st to January 1st.  

However, there are a few practices that can be implemented without too much pressure.

1.  Wake up 15 minutes earlier.  The extra time is good for reflection, personal time and checking the mirror one last time.

2.  Plan your wardrobe two days in advance.  A week may be a stretch, speaking for myself.  But since I'm a "day at a time" kind of gal, two days at a time should be at least a "goal."

3.  Clean up your desk at the end of each work day.  Even if it means staying an extra ten minutes "off the clock."  Clutter creates chaos.  Guilty as charged.

4.  Take a coffee break or lunch with someone in a completely different department, on a different floor and with whom you've never actually had a conversation.  Broaden your territory.

5.  Drink more water.  Hydration is important.

6.  Learn a new skill or brush up on an old one.  Don't use PowerPoint(R) often?  In your spare time, practice on a mock presentation.

Last, but not least.  Do the best you can and try not to be too hard on yourself.  We're in this for the long haul.