When I was a disoriented law student I naively believed that when I reached the exalted status of solicitor I would, in order of importance, to entitled to:
- An office (not necessarily large, or even with a window);
- A secretary;
- A business card;
Pathetic isn’t it?
I am a couple of years in and I’ve got an office (with a window) and a business card.
The respect is nowhere to be found.
I also have a secretary, and she’s worse than no respect.
This is something I think should have been made clear in my salary offer:
“By the way, your secretary is Mrs Crankypants so you will have to do all your own admin. We feel sorry for you so here’s an extra $5,000 a year for all those extra non-billable hours you’ll spend in the office.”
I have the crankiest, least helpful secretary in the whole firm.
Mrs Crankypants has discovered the holy grail for all secretaries. She worked it out very early on that to be completely untouchable she only has to be saccharine and smarmy to one particular partner.
She keeps him sweet and the rest of the time she can be completely hideous to everyone else.
Mrs Crankypants fulfils no secretarial function because she thinks she’s a PA.
She does not word process, and if I check her work she will complain about me to the other solicitors in the group, including my partner (despite the partner telling me to check all her work because if there is a problem – it’s my fault!)
She does not photocopy if she does not feel like it. She just might do some filing, but only if it is spilling into the hallway. Any work she does do is half-baked and sloppy and basically has to be redone.
Buying her chocolates guarantees you about 10 minutes of semi-pleasantness, give or take five minutes.
My work is never urgent regardless of the pressure I’m under. Talking to her friends on the phone is significantly more important than actually attending to my meagre needs.
The slightest thing will get her back up, whereupon I’m slyly bad mouthed to the partner and my colleagues.
She is the past-mistress of undermining and destabilisation. I think she might also be trying to kill me.
Just today, I requested she printout a couple of dictated letters and have them signed for sending. She said she was simply “too busy”.
Aware that I possess absolutely no leverage in the place I did it myself – fuming. Heading to the printer, I passed Mrs Crankypants’ desk to find her languidly on the phone, to what must be her sole friend in the world, reading the fat content from a box of VitaWheats. The burden of the discussion was whether she should switch to RyVitas.
I’m burying my hatred deep in order to warm me on a miserable day. I’m still to work out how to get her. It may take years.
As the clock ticks over 9 pm, I start filing the skyscraper of correspondence in my tray and attempt to make peace with the reality that regardless of how many years I spent at university and how many degrees I have, she still earns more me, while I do both our jobs.