Tag Archives: attorneys

File from hell, day 2

11 Nov

So I haven’t quite made the file from hell my bitch yet, but I’m working on it. I think the file is running scared. It should be.

Yesterday just got better and better. (Insert sarcasm here.) I got another email from Boss A that he was missing a section of the nurses notes from the hospital record. Oops. Seems the copy service skipped a small section of pages when they copied the 2000+ page production for me, and I missed it. It’s bound to happen sometime. My bad.

I do feel like I should defend Atty A a bit after my tirade yesterday. Yeah, he should have checked the scanned file to see if it had everything he wanted before he left, or just asked me where to find what he was looking for. But it’s not his case, he was not all that familiar with how everything was set up, and that was what he was used to.

I mentioned it to Atty B since it’s really his file, and he just said, “Oh, he’s just grumpy, don’t let it bother you.”  Nope, doesn’t bother me.  If I took crap like that personally, I would have flown this chicken coop a LONG time ago.  I just need to know what he wants done going forward.  You know, a little communication?  Novel idea.

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Ambushed

10 Nov

Getting ambushed is so much fun.  Today I got a lovely email from Boss A, who is attending a depo out of the office.  Apparently, he copied the scanned discovery file to his laptop before leaving, without looking at it to make sure it contained what he expected it to contain.  A little while ago I got an email proclaiming that the production should always be included with the scanned discovery responses, and now he’s there without it and I must do it ASAP!  (His exclamation point, not mine.)   

Yay.  I love getting emails yelling at me for something that I haven’t done as a matter of policy at all during my tenure at this firm, AND I cannot defend myself until he comes in the office.   If he had looked, he would have seen that the production was scanned as a separate file because it’s a bazillion pages long.  Not only that, but he would also find that the production was bookmarked by bates number and document description.    

And if that isn’t enough, if he was looking for a key policy document produced by the hospital, he would have found that it was scanned all by itself.  Because it’s important.  Just to add more fun to this already delightful situation, he hasn’t been the lead attorney on this file.  I’m not sure if he is jumping in so they can tag team this case, or if he’s just filling in for depos.  I’m pretty sure none of this would be happening if this had been his file from the get-go and he was familiar with it.  

Instead, I am the scapegoat for the moment.  I’m probably going to tell him that I haven’t been scanning the production with the discovery routinely, and he will tell me I’m wrong.  Clearly, he knows what I’ve been doing better than even I do.  And because one paralegal has been doing it this way, he assumes that it’s supposed to be done that way across the board.   

I would have an awesome defense to all of this because of the aforementioned production file that was scanned, EXCEPT that I can’t find the hospital’s production to verify that I have their production scanned in its entirety.  I suspect that the only thing that was produced other than the medical records was the policy document I scanned, but now I can’t be sure and cover my ass.  I hate an uncovered ass.  It’s the worst thing EVER.    I suspect I will find the missing production in an attorney’s office.  Just a hunch. 

This is the file from hell anyway because it’s got a bazillion records, multiple parties, and every time I try to tame this beast, something comes up and I’m pulled away.  But now I really hate it.  Me and this file?  Oh, we are going to tango this afternoon.  File from hell, you are going DOWN.

What I Wish That Attorneys Knew

1 Nov

The article by Paralegal Pie, “What Do Attorneys Wish that Their Paralegals Knew?”  got me to thinking, “Oh, there are so many things I wish my attorney knew.”  The list could be endless, but here’s some I have come up with for now:

1.  We cannot read minds.  I really wish I could, then I might actually know what’s coming up in this case, and figure out what you’re trying to tell me when you sent that vague email or the note you scrawled with such horrible penmanship that I will need a decoder ring to figure out what it says.  Sadly, I was not given such awesome psychic talent, or a functioning crystal ball, so you’ll have to forgive me and stop giving me that annoyed look when I dare show up in your office door and ask you a question.  I would have emailed you, but my chances of you actually responding are less than the chances that I might get a raise this year.   Pretty damn slim.

2.  Figure out how to change the toner in the printer and add paper to the printer.  Pretty please?  It’s really not that hard and would save both you and me, and any other staff member within earshot, a lot of time and spare us all the headache.   Mmmmkay?  It would also be super helpful if you figured out how the coffee maker worked, too, but I’m not going to push my luck.

3.  We know you’re super tense about the upcoming trial, but could you tone down the attitude just a notch?  Really, we are just as concerned about the case as you are, and working hard to make sure you are prepared and have everything you need.  We want you to win almost as much as you want to win.  We probably won’t get any recognition, and definitely not any of that nice big bonus you’ll get for winning, but we still work our asses off , just the same.  So if we need to enter the sanctum that is your “war room” and interrupt your intense trial prep, it’s probably in your best interest that we do so.

4.  Do not stand over our shoulder or ask us every 5 minutes if that super important rush job is done yet.  Having to answer you constantly or move you out of the way so that we can breathe only makes it go slower.  We will happily let you know when the task is complete.  Seriously, we’ll be happy when you’re off our back.  I know you have to leave for court in 30 minutes, so rest assured I’m not going to file my nails or spend 15 minutes drinking coffee in the break room until it’s done. 

5.  I don’t take my kid to the doctor every time he has a tiny fever.  I’m really not a hypochondriac, or whatever it is you call it when it’s someone else, when it comes to my son.  If I’m taking him to the doctor because he has a fever, it’s because the doctor told me to or the kid really needs to go.  It’s not a big ol’ hoot for me to leave in the middle of the day and sit in a germ-infested waiting room with a grumpy, fidgety kid who just pooped in the last diaper I had with me.  I also don’t want to fork over another co-pay just because Junior has a fever.   So, don’t laugh & call me a hypochondriac, okay?  Because if I hear it again, I might accidentally drop that poopy diaper in your briefcase.

6.  We cannot make  clerks or medical records custodians respond to us any faster or with the answer you want by bugging them.  Really.  Calling them 5 times in one day is not going to help.  Then they’re just going to think that I am a hugely annoying douche and put my request on the bottom of the pile.  So please stop asking what the status is or to verify what said clerk/custodian has already told us. 

7. If my door is shut, it’s not an invitation for you to knock on it and see what’s going on.   And if I seem a bit grumpy or annoyed when you barge in for the third time, it is your fault, so deal with it.  

I’m sure there are a ton more, but I think I’ve mentally blocked some things to save my sanity.  Seriously, I’m not saying my boss is like this all of the time, but these are things I have witnessed or had the “pleasure” of dealing with.   So what are some the most important things you wished your attorney (or any attorney) knew?

My ramblings on trial prep

18 Oct

I have a love / hate relationship with trial prep. On one hand, it’s exciting. You have the anticipation of “doing battle” and Attorney B walks around saying things like, “I’m going to kick his ass!” and I’m all “Yeah! He’s full of shit!” (Because that sounds so much edgier than, “Yeah! I found an article that totally contradicts their expert’s testimony on the indications for the procedure!”) And I swear on my coffee mug that once I heard “Eye of the Tiger” coming from Attorney B’s laptop speakers. Honest, I couldn’t make this crap up.

Most of the time my job entails me slogging through medical records or depo summaries, while Attorney A and B are off working on other cases, or God knows what. I actually enjoy trial prep because it’s one of the few times that the attorney and I are both knee-deep in the same file, bouncing ideas off each other, and discussing the issues. We’re discussing the testimonies, and the opinions and the medical literature. We start talking about exhibits involving anatomy and timelines and, my favorite thing of all, Power Point. Yes, I am such a geek that I love to do Power Point presentations. Not those boring, bullet style only presentations. I mean the ones with highlighted testimony that jumps out at you, and pictures. Okay, it’s not all that sexy or cutting edge, but it’s way better than just a static blow up of a depo page. I get excited thinking about how we can educate the jury and help them understand the medical issues and the timeline of the events without falling asleep, or making up their grocery list in their head. Yep, total nerdfest.

Trial prep will invariably lead to MORE research and MORE background research on the experts. That can also be exciting because you may wind up with an awesome article that totally blows their expert’s opinion away or, even better, an old deposition where their expert contradicted himself. But that also leads to more stress. Usually, I’m in the middle of making sure we’ve got all the medical records subpoenaed for trial, or one of the other mundane tasks when Attorney flies into my office, or worse, calls me on speakerphone, and comes up with yet another research task or project that he’s just this second thought about. It seems that no matter how much I try to think ahead and do before crunch time, he always comes up with something else that must be done. Preferably NOW, or more accurately, yesterday. But, I may have mentioned before, I’m a masochist and I actually enjoy the chaoticness of it all. (Until I have to start thinking about how I’m going to get my kid picked up from daycare before 6 or what the hell I’m going to wear to trial without repeating outfits 4 times. Then I start panicking a bit.)

What I don’t enjoy is when Attorney starts freaking out because he hasn’t focused on the trial until 2 or 3 weeks before he’s supposed to be picking a jury. Then he starts saying things like, “We need to get focused on this,” (duh, I’ve been working on it for the past month, where have you been?) or “There needs to be a sense of urgency about this.” Again, duh! He usually makes that last statement when I am calm and collected, whereas he is freaking out. Then I have to assure him that yes, I did subpoena everyone and their brother; yes, all the depos are summarized; and yes, there are 5 billion copies of everything you might need and more.

I really wish I could tell you what needs to happen to keep all of this from happening. But there just isn’t anything. It seems that all attorneys get stressed and neurotic before trial. You either work for an attorney who is calm and on top of things, or more accurately, trusts that YOU are calm and on top of things, or you work for an attorney like mine that flips out and you have to talk him down, but don’t appear TOO CALM or he may think you don’t have the appropriate sense of urgency. Heaven forbid.

My most practical advice for trial prep would be: Come up with a trial prep checklist or game plan well ahead of time. Invariably, I always forget one little thing I could have done before I start getting projects fired at me in quick succession. Try and sit down with your attorney and discuss trial prep as far ahead of time as you logically can. Failing that, whenever you get a chance, pick their brain about what types of exhibits they may want, further research that may be needed, etc. My attorneys want just about everything scanned. My bosses also keep their own working copy notebooks of discovery and pleadings. In some firms it may be the legal assistant’s job, but always make sure the pleadings and discovery files are in good order and scanned files are complete. Unless you’re getting updated medical records in at the last minute, make sure you have the best possible copy of all the medical records to be submitted as an exhibit, and to be used in your other exhibits. Even if you are 99.9% sure that the case is settled or otherwise not going forward, do not get rid of ANYTHING until there is an Order continuing the trial or Settlement Agreement.   Make sure you’ve got a box of supplies for the courtroom, full of notepads, multiple boxes of pens, every highlighter you can get your hands on, post -its and anything else you think you could ever need and more.

Usually, it’s the personal stuff that causes me more grief during trial prep than anything else. As I mentioned, I start worrying about being able to pick up my kid by 6 from preschool or arranging for someone to be on standby in case I’m still at the office at 6. NEVER plan anything for at least the two weekends prior to trial. Plan on being in the office the weekend before the trial date, at the very least. Also plan on eating a lot of lunches at your desk in the weeks leading up to trial prep and drinking a lot of coffee.

Also, clean out your car. Wash and vacuum it. You may end up shuttling clients, attorneys and experts back and forth from the courthouse to your office or even picking experts up from the airport. I was not expecting to be called to pick up Attorney A, the client, an expert and an associate from the courthouse one day. And all their briefcases and boxes of documents. I opened up the back of my SUV and there was the plastic turtle sandbox I had picked up at lunch a couple of days before and had forgotten to take out of the car. Mr. Turtle held more than sand that day. I think somebody had to put their briefcase in T’s carseat. Good thing it wasn’t that far back to the office.

I’ve also done kamikaze runs to the car wash and vacuumed out my car before speeding to the airport to pick up an expert I had never met or even spoken to. Otherwise, Mr. Expert would probably have been walking into the courthouse with Cheerios stuck to his butt.

And my biggest worry before trial? What the hell am I going to wear. Medical malpractice trials can frequently last two weeks or longer. That’s a lot of outfits to try not to repeat. Do yourself a favor and make sure you’ve inventoried your closet well ahead of time and give yourself time to make a trip to the mall BEFORE the chaotic weekend before trial.

But, despite the mayhem and pain-in-the-assedness of it all, I do enjoy trial prep. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to work on appearing to have a sense of urgency. Pronto.

No, really! I am organized!

22 Sep

I am trying to take a moment to collect myself, and maybe trick my brain into remembering where I put something.  I absolutely HATE misplacing anything.  I am a paralegal, for God’s sake.  Organized should be implied with the title.

So I have to confess….I have misplaced original, signed authorizations we received from the plaintiff; authorizations to get their medical records which are, oh, I don’t know, KINDA important in a medical malpractice case!   I usually can put my hands on about anything in my office within 5 seconds.  But. I. Don’t. Know. Where. They. Are. ! 

My second confession:  even though I am organized (that’s my story & I’m stickin to it) I am a “piler”.   I have a pile of notes and ongoing issues for each case.  There is no official place in the file for all my notes and incomplete research projects, so they have to go somewhere.  And I really do need to have the records-to-be-disseminated and unfinished projects where I can see them.  Why unfinished, you ask?  Oh, I will be happy to tell you.  At any moment, any given project, like something to be completed before a depo in 1 week is suddenly a non-priority because the depo is being rescheduled, but the attorney has all of the sudden discovered that Oh! My! God!  This (brand new, never heard of before project) has to be done NOW.   So, half-finished research project goes to the side and it’s onto the crisis du jour.  

Really, I do try to stay one step ahead of my attorneys.  I scan their calendars once, and sometimes twice, a week to keep an eye on what’s coming up.  I try to interrogate them when I can (and when they don’t give me “the look” which means “Finish telling me only what I HAVE to know right now and save the rest for later”) in hopes of gleaning some information about what’s next on the horizon.  In their defense, they have gotten better about trying to let me know when something is coming up.  But, they are attorneys.  And letting others in on what the hell they are thinking isn’t their strong suit.  As usual, I digress.

So here I am, no closer to finding my authorizations.  I’m feeling terribly guilty that I let my desk get to the point where I may have misplaced something.  (May have?  Who am I kidding – it’s MIA!)  My office has been a whirlwind the past few weeks – handling my departed coworkers cases along with my own, 2 cases are in limbo so the piles were exiled to the other side of my office, training the new paralegal, and being told, “Hey!  You’re now the lead paralegal on this case going to trial next month!”  Super.    Still – I had them and now I don’t.  And they should have been mailed out last week with the letters requesting the records. 

I have looked through every other pile in my office to no avail.  (And cussing about my need to “pile”)  Now I am off to spend the next half hour sifting through the stack of documents to be shredded, which thankfully hasn’t been dumped in a few weeks.  I’m feeling woefully inadequate as a paralegal right now.  Please pray for me….

Hello? McFly?

14 Jul

Why don’t attorneys listen?  Is there something that happens when they pass the bar exam that automatically inserts a filter on what they hear from paralegals?  (Or other staff members, for that matter.)

Attorney A asked me yesterday if we’d received records from a certain hospital which happens to have incredibly insane requirements for their records authorization.  (Really?  A patient’s privacy isn’t protected if the release they sign isn’t in 14 point font?)  Nope, I replied.  Got rejected twice and then sent the hospital’s authorization to the plaintiff’s attorney for a signature.   So far so good, message seemed to be received okay.

Today, I was bcc’d on an email from Attorney A to opposing counsel saying we haven’t gotten any records at all from Dr. X.  I wanted to shoot an email back saying, “That’s not what I said, that’s not what I said, THAT’S NOT WHAT I SAID! “  sigh   The HOSPITAL isn’t giving us the records.  Dr. X, who is affiliated with said hospital, DID send us his clinic records.  That’s a different story than the hospital not sending records.  And as a matter of fact, we have already produced copies of those to opposing counsel.  It may not seem like a big deal, but seriously, how smart does that make us look? 

I have a belief that attorneys shouldn’t be allowed to touch the original of anything that comes in the mail.  (Not that anybody listens to me, but seriously, it would save us all a lot of time trying to find something that was on the attorney’s desk or in their briefcase the entire time.  Or stop a lot of crazy looks when they act like I’ve seen Document A when, in fact, they never sent it to me.  But, I digress.)  Maybe they should filter all their comments to opposing counsel on what records we need through me before they send it.   I know he’s been an attorney a lot longer than I’ve been a paralegal, but I think I have a handle on what has and hasn’t come in from the 50+ records requests we sent on this plaintiff than he does.   Or maybe take a look at that log of records requests that I’ve kept meticulously updated to see what has or has not come in, and what has or has not been copied to opposing counsel.

Just sayin’.