Itinerant Lawyers

I didn’t quite comprehend how much D.C. is a lawyer’s town until I got here and started meeting lawyers and aspiring lawyers everywhere. The government agency for which I work is staffed primarily by lawyers, same with the Department of Justice and Congress, and then there are all of the big, private law firms that are recognizable by the first one or two last names in the title.

The Washington City Paper has a good feature about temporary lawyers (“Attorney at Blah”), lawyers who are hired by big firms to perform document review, often during the document-heavy discovery period of a case, and then released once the documents have all been reviewed. These lawyers basically sit behind a computer screen or stacks of documents and judge which documents are relevant to the case (most are not). This task has become more formidable, and thus requiring of more hands and eyes, with the advent of e-mail communication, which requires a lot of sifting through multiple copies of the same e-mail because of that cursed formation, the e-mail chain (speaking from experience).

As the author Arin Greenwood says, most satisfying in this arduous process is when you unearth an e-mail with a “spark of humanity” in it, something that alludes to the writer’s personal life, his dislike of a boss, or his penchant for dirty jokes. Such is the de-humanizing nature of office work that such communications become the exception and not the norm.

While I do not envy temp attorneys and use this article as reaffirmation of why not to go to law school if my heart’s not in it, I do find it interesting that some of the attorneys with whom Greenwood spoke did not seem to mind their job so much. As one says,

I’ve been remarkably happy [...] I’m making more money at this than at any other job I interviewed for and just about any other year in private practice. The work itself is mindless, which has its pluses and minuses. If I screw up, I don’t have to worry about my guy going to jail. In private practice, you never stop thinking about the case. With this, when you walk out of the door, it’s gone.

There is less culpability and less demands on time, in contrast to regular private or even government practice. I can certainly understand the “not having to take your work home with you” appeal, which was a luxury I began to appreciate after being for so long accustomed to school work.

One other thought: I could see it being very beneficial for temp attorneys to unionize, as right now they don’t get benefits and their salaries have been stagnant or decreasing for the last couple of years.

It’s only Wednesday?

Among the meager group of topics that are neither too inappropriate nor too esoteric for a typical office environment is the ontology of what day it is.  Witness comments like, “It’s only Wednesday?  But it feels like a Thurday!”  The Onion has a hilarious article that plays on this:

WASHINGTON, DC—After running a thousand errands, working hours of overtime, and being stuck in seemingly endless gridlock traffic commuting to and from their jobs, millions of Americans were disheartened to learn that it was, in fact, only Tuesday.

“Tuesday?” San Diego resident Doris Wagner said. “How in the hell is it still Tuesday?”.

It is pretty amazing, as the Onion article implies, how universal the sympathies are on this topic of conversation.  I know in past office jobs, co-workers and I have pontificated for ten to fifteen minutes about what day of the week the current one most resembled, and of course, when the topic was exhausted, there was always the weather or sports to take us through the rest of the day.

How are you?

Usually when I get assaulted with this question by someone in the halls at work, I feel like it is a formality whose answer neither one of us are really invested in. However, today, a cheery man practically yelled it to me from across the hall, and after I reflexively asked him the same back, he responded that he was “just great!” It seemed as if he had been waiting for someone to ask him that question so he could let loose his inexplicable cheer.

Daily indoctrination with the New York Times

Inspired by an encounter that my friend had with a self-proclaimed hardcore conservative–at the gym of all places!–who made the age-old assertion that the New York Times, CNN, and the gang are knee-jerk liberal publications that have indoctrinated my friend–I have decided to probe my own susceptibility to the dogmatic agenda of the Times.

If the Times is the thorough paper it claims to be–the paper of record–its editors probably insert their doctrinaire socialism in everything from front page news about Iraq to features on real estate in the Hamptons, so I can look to the few articles I read a day from the Times website–I’m not enough of a liberal yet to rely upon it as my prime news source!–and parse the impact of their subtle or not so subtle liberalism upon me and my daily life.

First up is an article I read yesterday about the difficulty of reconciling our circadian rhythms with the daily work schedule. I would have never picked up on it were I not being mindful for this experiment, but in fact, there are several pieces of the liberal agenda that are advanced in this article, innocuously titled “That Yawn After Lunch is Perfectly Normal.”

Right off the bat, it propogates that lifestyle element almost as familiar to liberals as “homosexuality”: sloth. That’s right, author Phyllis Korkki insists that being “overcome by drowsiness” after lunch is symptomatic of a suspiciously fraudulent-sounding symptom called the “post-lunch dip” which “represents a collision of biology and economics.” Though this assertion is hardly revolutionary on the surface, it is characteristic of the liberal belief that market efficiency is something distasteful and that it is best avoided by instating and even rewarding a culture of laziness by attributing it to a legitimate-sounding biological reaction.

In fact, this article relies heavily on biology, a field which we all know to be founded and made up by heathen liberals who insist that humans are a product not of an all-powerful deity but of environmental adaptation:

It is entirely natural for humans to want to go to sleep about seven hours after they have awakened

[...] First, the 24-hour cycle of the body, or its circadian rhythm, is naturally in a resting phase at this time. In the afternoon, it happens to converge with another physiological cycle — known as homeostatic — that measures the amount of time spent awake and that is also pushing for a rest.

Add the effects of food, which can also induce drowsiness, and an overpowering desire to sleep may result.

This screed goes on to advances the mantra of liberal decision-making as a solution: if it feels right, do it. Rather than try to stave off the weak cravings of the body, it is suggested to give in:

Often, these people are ashamed of their behavior because it is associated with laziness, Dr. [David F.] Dinges said. But by giving in to the urge, they are actually improving the quality of their work.

Finally, the article urges the sort of insubordinance that leads to class warfare, going so far as to praise the practices of socialist Europeans:

In countries like Spain, where siestas are part of culture and late dinners are the norm, that kind of arrangement may be practical. But allowing an hour for lunch and several hours for nap time is not feasible for most companies.

More realistically, a 20-minute “power nap” can often have a rejuvenating effect, Dr. Zee said.

Conclusion: 1 out of 1 article biased

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