gainfully employed

This time last week I was an unemployed bum, spending all of my time in my parents’ basement drinking copious amounts of wine and reading and rereading Virginia Woolf. Now, though, I have two, possibly even three jobs: filling in at my old job as receptionist and switchboard operator at the local college, working as a paralegal secretary, and, potentially, doing evenings at the video/music/book store. I am feeling pretty damn accomplished, having filled my only goal for the summer: get ridiculous amounts of jobs and work constantly.

I had my first day at the law office today and it was interesting. My boss, henceforth referred to as The Lawyerman, seems to like me very much — probably because his mother went to the college that I currently attend! During my interview I fudged the truth and pretended to have a budding interest in law, and so he seems to see himself as the gateway into my new future career: he nurtures my ignorance and indulges any spark of curiosity that I show.

It’s going to be depressing, though. He practices civil law — divorce and custody cases, mainly — but also has a contract with the state as a public defender. I spent much of my first day reading through case files and feeling progressively more despairing about the state of humanity. I am trying to look on the bright side: now I’ll have a good response when asked what I did this summer. “Oh, I wrote court depositions for murder cases and talked to drug addicts and spouse batterers on the telephone! What about you?”

My degree in English Literature is insufficient preparation for this job — I am baffled and adrift in a sea of legalese — but I already I know more about law than even constant repeated viewings of Law and Order had taught me. And who knows — maybe I really will suffer a life-changing epiphany and end up in law school.


~ by Not Alice on June 7, 2007.

3 Responses to “gainfully employed”

  1. Try to remember, as you slog your way through other people’s tragedies, that they are OTHER people’s tragedies. Not every couple gets divorced (and not every couple who DOES get divorced does it in an ugly and spiteful way – I know this from personal observation); not every guy is a wife-beater; not every drug addict is incorrigable. There’s a good chance it’s going to be hard for you to keep this in mind, mired as you’ll be in the vortex of it, but it’s true.

    Besides, just think of the insipration you may find for your writing!

  2. Re inspiration: my favourite teacher at school said the same thing — she actually used to work as a paralegal secretary and she said, while it’s routinely devastating, it’s “quite rich fodder for our kinds of brains.” That’s two voices of wisdom telling me to think of my writing whenever the job gets devastating. Clearly good advise then; I shall work to keep it in mind.

    One of the hardest parts so far is one I expect I’ll get used to: the lies! I am constantly lying to people about the states of their cases and whether or not my boss is in. This is a pretty common aspect of secretary work, I know, but it’s very emotionally painful for me to lie blatantly to very desperate people. I start to feel like a morally depraved human being after telling the same person for the fifth or sixth time that day that, I’m sorry, but Lawyerman is [in court/with a client/visiting the jail/in a phone conference/in a meeting/out of town], when, in fact, he is sitting in his office within hearing range of my desk. I think I have miraculously grown a conscience in my old age — this sort of thing would never have bothered me when I was a precociously amoral fifteen-year-old. But now I am eaten by guilt and sort of worried about my karma or my soul.

    At least it is interesting. That’s really quite remarkable: that it is interesting. But so hard on the mind and the emotions! Hopefully it will help to inure me to the various small tragedies of the world.

  3. Is there any way you can talk to Lawyerman about his actually TALKING to his clients, instead of asking you to lie for him? That, too, would do me in; I’m not above the white lie here and there, but making a practice of it really does have a negative affect on the soul….

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