Fare thee well

I survived the trifecta of family time!  (For those of you who missed the earlier post, we had family obligations three weekends running, the third or which ended Sunday.)  Phew!

Family drama aside, I got some sad news today.  Well, not “death of a loved one” sad.  Or “world tragedy” sad.  But sad all the same.

The news itself arrived yesterday by office email and unfortunately the meeting today confirmed there’s nothing to be done.

The firm, in its questionable wisdom, has decided to do away with local word processing staff.  All “document services” tasks will now be centralized in an east coast office.  Effective Monday we will no longer be able to walk down the hall and chat with the wonderful people who save our collective butts regularly.  😦

Of course it wasn’t just our office; others with their own local WP people will lose them too.  But ours were the best, damn it!  And they were our friends.

In an effort to channel some of the frustration and anger this announcement raised, I started a reply to the Office Administrator, who sent the email.  Then I got a brainstorm and emailed all the secretaries in our office and asked whether they wanted to add to the email.  In the end, the email was about two pages long and included excellent comments from several secretaries.  I knew others had already called and spoken to or left messages for the OA as well.

While I was still compiling the emailed comments into a reply, the OA sent another email inviting all the secretaries to join her and the managing partner for a meeting today to discuss the change.

Today’s meeting was instructive, helpful and ultimately disappointing.  This is how it will be.  MP stated if he could change it, he would.  But since he can’t, we all need to figure out how to make the new system work for us.

There was much back and forth among the participants; a lot of grousing; some positive feedback too.  In my opinion, the worst part of the meeting was the secretary in the row in front of me who kept interrupting and/or talking over other people!  I came away from the meeting feeling not necessarily better about it, but resigned – this is how it’s going to be.  As I explained in a subsequent email, they’d given me something to think about, and while I’m still unhappy about losing friends, I will try to adopt a positive attitude toward the change (which is not at all in my character!).

It should be interesting to see how this develops.

Work environment is a big deal

We’ve all read or heard stories about hostile or toxic work environments.  When you must spend the majority of your day, five days a week (or more) in the workplace I think it should be as pleasant as possible.  No one I know wants to work.  Well, some of the attorneys I work with might be an exception.  They truly seem to love what they do. 

I’ve been blessed to work in mostly good places throughout my career.  Sure, I’ve griped about micro-managing supervisors, low pay or lack of benefits – who hasn’t?  But overall?  For almost 30 years I’ve worked in offices.  Most of them were comfortable, some more than others.  Some of my bosses were memorable. 

There was Ruth, the first attorney I ever worked for – when I had no idea how to be a legal secretary.  She was a great mentor!  Later, there was Marty, a deputy attorney general who didn’t want the “newbie” secretary.  But we clicked quite well.  He used his contacts to get me help with my divorce.  In that same office I worked for a man whose name escapes me.  Probably because our personalities clashed like cymbals.  Eventually I came to BigLaw where I felt completely out of my depth.  I learn quickly though and almost 15 years later I’m one of the most senior secretaries (in terms of longevity anyway).  I’ve worked with L the entire time and also with B for most of those years.  Add in the two associate lawyers I support and I have a substantial, sometimes stressful workload.

BigLaw’s work environment is alright.  (We won’t talk about their policies this time.)  The office is light and pleasant.  Sometimes the climate control gets wonky – or I suppose it could be the menopause kicking in.  And the coffee’s free!  I enjoy my job.  I like the people I work with, and while I’ve had many opportunities over the years to change jobs, I’m still here and still mostly happy about it. 

I like to think I contribute to the positive work environment.  Some of you readers know a bit about my sense of humor.  Well, one way I try to lighten the mood in the office is I post a cartoon on the fridge every day.  To make the cut a cartoon has to either make me laugh out loud or cause me to go “Huh?”  Think Gary Larson’s The Far Side.  Or Sunny Street by Max Garcia.  I shared these two recently.   I double dog dare you not to smile! 


Another way I’ve found to elevate office spirits is my toy collection.  Yeah, I know I’m 56 years old, and yes I still have a toy collection.  What’s your point?  Attorneys I don’t even know have stopped at my desk on their way to somewhere else and played.  Some attorneys have brought their children by to visit.  It’s good clean fun for everyone!  And warms my heart.

The collection has sort of evolved.  Some of the items are branded with the firm name, others came in the gift bag Grammy gave me when she visited last summer before my surgery.  The happy face mug originally held a floral arrangement I received as a thank you from a summer associate last year.  If you look close you’ll see a souvenir bottle in the back with a very faint outline of the Space Needle.  I got that on my first wedding anniversary when Hubs and I had dinner in the restaurant at the top.  Watching people do double takes or slow down as they walk by to take it all in is the highlight of my day.  So here you go – enjoy some virtual frivolity: 

My desk - 2

Stealth Secretary

Today I had my annual performance review.  Not to worry…it was fine.  My supervisor called me her “secret weapon.”  That’ll make you feel pretty good about yourself.  Then she proceeded to skim over the comments made by the four attorneys I support.  I’ll eventually get a copy of their comments so I can read them in depth, but today she gave me some of the highlights. 

At one point she quoted one of the attorneys who mentioned my assistance on a pro hac vice (pro hawk veechay) motion with very little oversight.  Paraphrased, he commented that I had the necessary skills to handle a more litigation-heavy work load, and my supervisor turned back to me and said, “Your secret’s out.” 

It wasn’t really a secret.  I worked for an Attorney General’s office for around 8 years in litigation so I do have the skills.  When we moved to Washington though I had been out of litigation for at least a year and I started with BigLaw in the environmental department, which was fine by me.  After years of dealing with inmate civil rights litigation I was pretty burnt. 

I’ve been with BigLaw for 15 years this September and for most of that time I’ve had only minimal exposure to litigation – thank goodness!  Now however, management has higher expectations for secretaries and ALL secretaries will need to have some familiarity with litigation.  So I’m ahead of the game there I suppose. 

My organizational abilities were also given “exceeds expectations” marks.  Now if only I could make use of those at home – sigh.  I’m not even as organized as some other secretaries I know; I just like things in a certain order, so I know where to find what I need. 

Other comments included my collegiality.  Okay, I confess.  I knew that collegiality was positive and means something like “plays well with others” but I looked it up anyway.  The thesaurus had this to say: “mutually respectful, uncompetitive.”  Yeah, that’s me all over. 

Have a fabulous weekend!  I’m gonna get a pedicure tomorrow to celebrate!  Oh, did I forget to mention I got a raise?  Go me!  😉

P.S.  I did NOT add the tags to this post and I’m not sure how they got added since they’re  advertisements.  My apologies.  (If anyone out there knows how they got added and how I can prevent it in the future please let me know?  Thanks muchly.)

Holiday Madness

Last night was the firm’s holiday bash, the first one I’ve stayed after work for.  In past years the firm held the winter fete at a downtown hotel and everyone glammed up some.  But back in those days I lived across the Sound and one way it was more than 2 hours.  After that commute and working all day I was not inclined to stay late for free finger food and alcohol.  And I never had the budget to stay overnight in a Seattle hotel.

My first foray into after hours socializing was fun.  Hey, the free Cabernet was excellent!  I had at least four glasses. 😀  Hard to tell for certain, as at least one time a wandering waiter refilled my glass before it was completely empty.  Besides, I wasn’t really counting.  IT WAS FREE!

The finger foods and hot appetizers were okay.  They had jicama!  And yes WordPress that is the correct spelling, so there!  I love jicama!  Plus there were other crudites, several kinds of cheese, crackers, and bruschetta – yum!  I could have eaten just the crunchy, garlicky toast rounds all by themselves!  The hot appetizers which were being circulated by waiters included a mini Yorkshire pudding (I think that’s what they called it).  It was a tiny slice of rare roast beef curled up on a dab of horseradish creme balanced on a round base that tasted sort of like bread or maybe a muffin?  Tasty!  The crab cakes were so-so; a lot of breading not so much crab but they were better than the fig stuff.  I still don’t know what exactly those were.  The texture of the round base was bread-like but in a different way than the Yorkshire pudding base.  They were flatter, slightly bigger around with a softer texture.  And they were smeared with fig something or other and some kind of cheese I think.  Hey, it was hard to hear in there and the wait staff weren’t all that loud when they spoke!

Desserts included ginger-molasses cookies, mini chocolate cupcakes with peppermint icing dollops and carrot cake whoopie pies.  I had one of each.  Seriously, only one of each.

The festivities began at 4:30 and were expected to finish up at 6:30.  I know, right?  Not much of a party.  More like a cocktail gathering, which I suppose it was.  They even had some “signature” cocktail created just for the event.  At one point, S brought one back to our table to give it a try.  Everyone else at the table had a glass of that glorious Cab and S had started with the wine too.  He sipped the signature mix and made a face as he pushed the glass away.  Back to the red for him.  Everyone else took the opportunity to taste the cocktail and no one opted to swap their wine.

There was a lot of laughter and some nostalgia for previous jobs, bosses, co-workers.  One of the partners even joined us for awhile and it was not uncomfortable.  He’s a laid back guy, plays sax in a band and we had fun talking with him.  We briefly discussed Washington legalizing marijuana, our various workloads and the attorneys we worked directly with.  Finally just before 6 the first of us slipped away to catch the last train home.  I lingered a bit more because the firm had provided taxi vouchers for anyone who wanted them so we’d all arrive home safely.  After visiting for another few minutes the group began breaking up on its own and we said good night.

Back at my desk I changed shoes, stowed stuff in my backpack and called home to let Hubs know I was going to call a taxi and head out.  He offered to meet me at our favorite eatery for dinner and since I’d been pretty conservative with the food that sounded like a good idea to me.  Down on the street a Yellow cab pulled up just as I walked outside and from past experience I knew I needed to get in in a hurry.  There’s no place for the taxis to pull out of traffic so while he’s waiting for me to get in he’s blocking other cars.  Unfortunately, I’m getting in behind the driver rather than walking around to the passenger side where the traffic is.  His seat is back and on top of that it’s a damn Prius so there’s no effin’ room in the back seat for 5’10” me!  He’s telling me to close the door and I’m responding I will as soon as I’m in.  I told him he had a very small cab and I was large.  Wow, four glasses of wine makes me outspoken, who knew?  Finally I’m in and he’s merging into traffic while asking me where I’m going.  I tell him my town and he asks my name.  I tell him my name and he says “Not S?”  I replied, “No, not S.”  Then (face palm) it occurred to me he’s there to pick up the guy at our table, S not me.  I took S’s cab!  The driver said not to worry another taxi would be there for me and S could have mine.  Hey, one was pulling away as I came out and that could have been mine with S in it already.  So I stopped worrying.

It was nice to ride home in a cab but unsettling.  I’ve never liked riding in cabs because you hand control over to someone you don’t know.  I’m okay with Hubs driving.  He’s a professional truck driver with over a million safe miles under his belt.  I don’t know this middle eastern guy from Adam.  Nice turban though.  And he talked to me which I like.  Makes me feel more comfortable.  He’d been driving a cab in the Seattle area for 21 years!  So that made me feel a bit better.  But then I started watching the meter’s progress.  Thank the good Lord the firm was paying!  When he finally stopped at the restaurant where Hubs was waiting the meter read almost $80!  With a decent tip the firm was going to get a bill for over $90!

So, thanks BigLaw.  The taxi ride was a nice touch.  And where can I find more of that Cabernet please?

Please don’t let it rain tomorrow

It’s been kind of a downer week.  At work it’s been nutso crazy what with the Powers That Be emphasizing how important it is to get out the year-end invoices A-S-A-freakin’-P!  So hopefully our clients will rush them through the payment process and get us our money before the end of the year so our bottom line looks healthy.  Like they have nothing better to do themselves, right?

Home’s another story.  Hubs has been in the doldrums again.  He’d pulled himself out of the funk there for awhile.  Avoiding the Ex over Thanksgiving helped.  But with circumstances and finances weighing on him, he’s been grumpier than a bear whose hibernation is interrupted.  As a result he’s not sleeping much (ha!  hibernation interruptus!) and what sleep he gets is during the day while I’m at work.  Which of course leads to more sleeplessness at night.

So tomorrow IF it doesn’t rain, I’m going to dig through the shed out back and pull out our Christmas lights and hang them.  I’ll figure out how to get power to them later.  For now I just want them up.  I need a little cheeriness and seeing them up there waiting to flash a welcome home for me will be so lovely.  Plus I need to get out whatever Christmas wrap I still have and wrap the grandson’s gift as well as the white elephant present I’m bringing to work next week.

Please keep your fingers crossed for me that it is somewhat dry tomorrow?  Appreciate it!  And if I can do anything for you, just give a yell.  I’ll be over here spiking my hot cocoa with marshmallow vodka.



Unfortunately not the yummy cocktail.  Or the scrumptious frozen treat.  But a down and dirty (see what I did there? :D) weather-related event

When we were losing the farm and looking for somewhere (anywhere but the back of the Suburban) to live I locked into OCD mode and started my research by polling some of my co-workers.  I asked them where they lived (duh), how they liked it, and what their commute was like.  It wasn’t as though my commute could get much worse than 2+ hours each way but I wanted to know what to expect. 

I discovered a LOT of my coworkers lived north of Seattle.  They expounded about its beauty, friendliness, lower tax bracket.  Commute times ranged as I would expect since some folks lived further north than others.  Most commutes involved riding the bus for a lonnng time.  Not my cup of tea.  But I knew the Sounder (commuter train) ran between Everett and Seattle because a former attorney with our office took it.  When it ran that is. 

In spite of the extremely high marks for the north, I focused my search on the south.  I wasn’t born yesterday.  In Seattle it rains … a LOT.  But unless you’re from another planet you probably knew that.  Knowing it intellectually is a bit different from knowing it up close and personal.  We get multiple flood warnings from Fall through Spring and invariably there’s a whole slew of mudslides in the area.   One of the areas hardest hit by mudslides is up north, near the commuter rail line.  This is from today’s Seattle Times:  “Mudslides have prompted several service cancellations since Thanksgiving week.” (Alexa Vaughn).  This is from a news item about train service resuming today for the Seattle-Everett route.  It also recommends watching the Sounder website as more storms are expected and conditions can change accordingly. 

The trains to and from my home in the south have been delayed but never cancelled as long as I’ve been riding them.  That’s peace of mind right there.  It doesn’t hurt that our place is only ten minutes from the train station.  So my commute went from more than two hours one way to about an hour and a half.  In my book that’s a WIN!

Now if they’d only figure out a way to cover the station platform so when the monsoons hit we don’t get drenched.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign

The kitchen in our office is more than adequate to keep the peons happy while we’re laboring away.  Well, as happy as anyone can be working for The Man.  There’s a side by side refrigerator/freezer with water and ice in the door.  It’s not the firm’s fault I have to hold my nose when I retrieve my leftovers.  We have a commercial coffee maker with a FREE SUPPLY OF STARBUCKS house blend to go in it.  Personally, I’m not a fan of Starbucks, but for some people I guess it’s a big deal.  I’d never heard of the dishwasher brand they installed:  Asko.  I’d give the dishwasher 3 and a half stars, only because things don’t always get dry.  There’s even a full size microwave oven! 

Having such a nice environment to nuke your leftovers, cook your frozen Marie Callendar’s or take a quick break is a plus in my book.  I try to treat it like my own kitchen, wiping up after I splash water on the counter or spill something; rinsing and wringing out the sponge so it doesn’t get all gooky and smelly.  You know, like that.  And I’m not alone in my efforts to keep it nice.  However, the neat freaks are outnumbered by the numbskulls who think the Kitchen Fairy will pick up after them. 

Over the years we’ve posted some pretty obnoxious signs around the kitchen, hoping to shame the dolts who leave their half-empty coffee mug in the sink, or fail to wipe out the microwave when their lunch explodes.  One of my favorites was, “Yo mama don’t work here.  Pick up after yo own damn self!”  Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad.  It did say the reader’s mother didn’t work here.  And to pick up their own mess.  For some reason that one disappeared almost immediately.  I couldn’t believe someone tore it down!  So I made up a story about someone liking it soooo much they had to take it home.  Yeah, I know I’m delusional.  Then there was another one that said “Maid service is not provided.  Please clean up after yourself.”  That one wasn’t so bad, right?

Our most current sign posted adjacent to the microwave: 

PLEASE be courteous and leave the microwave the way you’d like to find it. 

Thank you. 

The premise here of course is that most people would like to find the microwave C L E A N, am I right?  And the wording of the sign is polite wouldn’t you agree?  No more not-so-veiled references to the maternal unit.  Mostly this one works.  Better than previous incarnations of the same message at any rate.  And no one’s torn this one down yet! 

In the past I’ve posted cheesy signs with images of happy, dancing sponges with messages about dry sponges being happy, healthy sponges!  Hoping the humor would get through to these um, co-workers.  And still people leave the sponge dripping wet!  Having given up on that lession I stopped using the communal sponge entirely.  I keep my own sponge in the cupboard above the sink – I’m taller than average so I can reach it easily but it’s out of sight so no one else uses it.  Now my hands don’t get that nasty stinky sponge smell! 

One of the signs that’s lasted a really long time is In-the-rack-naphobia (Otherwise Known as Fear of the Dishwaser).  Pretty self-explanatory right?  But some of the drones among us still insist on leaving dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter.  This peeves me muchly, especially when the dishwasher is RIGHT THERE! 

What about those folks who open the dishwasher to put in their dirty stuff, find it full of clean dishes and do one of two things:  add their dirty dishes just like they didn’t notice those sparkling clean items OR put theirs on the counter rather than unload said dishwasher.  Seriously?  Come on people!  Would it hurt you to do the right thing?

Maybe it’s time for a new sign:

If anyone has any suggestions I can be reached at 1-800-yo-mamas.

Guess who’s coming to work?

Yesterday I mentally began counting down the time my coworker B has left before moving on to greener pastures.  Sigh.  In an effort to change that focus I started wondering who his replacement might be.  And scared myself. 

What if the new secretary is one of those women who marinate in their perfume?  Ack!  Seriously.  I can NOT handle strong scents.  I know, right?  I’m one of those douchebags.  But I’m also not good at complaining about it, so there’s that.  I’ll end up suffering with migraines rather than risk offending someone.

Or maybe the newbie will be snotty.  Probably he’ll have a Professional Legal Secretary certification; a couple of decades of experience (while still looking ten years younger) and stare at me down his nose.  Won’t that be fun?  Not even a little bit. 

Perhaps my new neighbor will be the chatty type.  Maybe she’ll want to be my bestest friend in the world!  Okay, probably not.  There has to be some “get to know you” time first right?  Puhleeze let there be some “get to know you” time!  I really don’t need a best friend at work.  Work and pleasure should be separate.  They don’t call it work for nothing now do they?  

So you might wonder what traits I am looking for in a new coworker/neighbor.   I hope the Universe is paying attention.

Dear Future Coworker,

In the interest of a harmonious outcome please:

1.  Don’t blame me for ANYTHING.  Take responsibility for your own damn self. 

b.  Turn down your music – whatever it is.  I love me some Dire Straits but not at paint-peeling levels.  Note:  some of us like to hear our own thoughts. 

III.  If you can’t laugh at my jokes at least don’t get crabby when I laugh at them.  And talk to myself.

d.  It wouldn’t hurt if you were a licensed massage therapist and offered me freebies.  Just sayin’.

 5.  Bonus points for following one or more of the blogs I like (see the sidebar).

Wow, that was easier than I thought it would be.  I guess I’m not really all that hard to get along with. 


What NOT to say to your staff … twice

Last week an email showed up in my inbox from The Big Guy back East.  Identifying information has been changed but otherwise, the exact email is re-created below for your reading pleasure.  Try to control yourselves; it’s very touching.  Yeah … touching a nerve.

To: BigLaw Staff

Cc: BigLaw Lawyers


        On Wednesday, April 25, the firm will proudly celebrate Staff Appreciation Day, and I’d like to take a moment here to thank you on behalf of all of our lawyers for your extraordinary service to the firm and its clients. Our lawyers repeatedly hear from our clients that the BigLaw staff is unsurpassed in its dedication to client service. In the hectic and challenging world in which we live, teamwork usually prevails, and we are very fortunate that you are part of our team.

        I also wish to repeat my annual personal thanks. As many of you know, I travel the “circuit” of our offices more than most. I’m thus especially appreciative of the warm way in which I am greeted in each of our offices and of the seamless and efficient support I receive throughout the firm. I am not alone in this respect, as I hear the same reports from our many lawyers who travel when providing service to our clients. Please know that your efforts are not taken for granted and that many road-weary BigLaw travelers extend you their heartfelt thanks.

        Many of our staff have firmwide duties and functions.  Although resident in one of our offices, their roles cause them to support and interact with lawyers and other staff across some or all of our 41 offices.  These roles are crucial to any successful business enterprise.  Just as is true at the office level, we are so fortunate to benefit from the quality and dedication of our staff with firmwide duties. 

        In countless ways, all of you elevate the performance and stature of our law firm, and you do so with an unfailingly positive attitude toward our common goal of serving clients.

        All the best,

       The Big Guy

Sweet right?  Thoughtful and heartfelt.  What a great message of support and gratitude.  The Big Guy liked it so much he used it at least twice.

True story:  I forwarded the email to two of my co-workers and said, “I think this is word-for-word identical to his message last year.”

So my partner in snark (sniffle, sob) chuckles and then busies himself with something.  A few minutes later the printer next to him comes to life.  B walks over and hands me the pages he’s printed – last year’s Staff Appreciation Day email AND this year’s.

They are word-for-word identical.

Well that’ll show us how appreciated we are.   Want a tip Big Guy?  Know how to persuade the Staff that you really, truly appreciate us?

Show us the GREEN!

‘nuf said.

A little history

Hey y’all, next week is Administrative Professionals Week!!  

And the crowd goes wild!!  Whoop whoop, dere it IS!  Woo hoo!

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Yawn.  Just another Hallmark holiday.  Um, not.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s what I thought too.  But being a proud administrative professional myself I saw the upcoming “holiday” as pure gold in blogging inspiration so I did some research. 

Here’s some background from the Web:    

During World War II, there was an increased need for skilled administrative personnel, particularly in the United States. The National Secretaries Association was formed to recognize the contributions of secretaries and other administrative personnel to the economy, to support their personal development and to help attract people to administrative careers in the field. The association’s name was changed to Professional Secretaries International in 1981 and, finally, the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) in 1998.

These changes in name reflected the changing nature of the tasks, qualifications and responsibilities of the members of the organization. IAAP now has an international orientation and continues to provide education and training and set standards of excellence recognized by the business community on a global perspective. The organization’s vision is “to inspire and equip all administrative professionals to attain excellence”.

The first National Secretaries Week was organized in 1952 in conjunction with the United States Department of Commerce and various office supply and equipment manufacturers. The Wednesday of that week became known as National Secretaries Day. As the organization gained international recognition, the events became known as Professional Secretaries Week® and Professional Secretaries Day®. In 2000, IAAP announced that names of the week and the day were changed to Administrative Professionals Week and Administrative Professionals Day to keep pace with changing job titles and expanding responsibilities of the modern administrative workforce. Many work environments across the world observe this event.

Apparently not a Hallmark holiday huh?  I was very surprised to learn the observance has been around since before I was born! 

Now that we’re all edumucated on the origins of Administrative Professional Week/Day I’ll return you to your usual programming.  Until next time peeps…