Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gathering the Evidence to Fire My Secretary

I've blogged before about the vast incompetence that is my secretary.  It's difficult because I like her a lot as a person, but she is just not cut out for this job, at least in my opinion.  Or at least to work for me.  If anyone wants to keep her on, I won't oppose, but I don't want her working for me anymore.  Someone else can take on this trainwreck.  I am not terribly demanding, either, as far as bosses go.  I just expect some level of proofreading, spelling and grammatical capabilities, learning and remembering things we have done in the past, and interest in the job.  Yes, law is boring sometimes.  It's even boring to me.  But still, you have to do your job.  She has displayed no interest in remembering things or learning about what she is doing. 

She's worked for me for I think around five years (I can't really remember exactly when she came into the mix), and probably done at least 100 court filings for me in that time, yet she still doesn't understand completely what it's about or how to do it.  This is a huge part of her job, filings.  For example, when you file a motion, there is usually a motion, a memorandum/brief in support of the motion, and exhibits.  Some jurisdictions require a Declaration from the attorney authenticating the Exhibits or other statements within the memorandum or motion.  Some jurisdictions require a Notice of Motion, where you set the date with the Judge to hear the motion, for example. the Northern District of Illinois, which is WHERE WE ARE.  This is pretty basic stuff.  You do it a few times, and you should get the program.  Oppositions/responses to motions are generally just a brief and exhibits.  A Declaration if necessary.  Easy peasy. 

The electronic filing system at the various federal district courts around the country is not consistent.  (I find this ridiculous, by the way.)  It's much more clear in some jurisdictions than in others under which category you need to file your document.  But still, it is not rocket science by any means.  And, if you screw it up the clerk of court calls and tells you to refile it.  No big deal.

My secretary is generally incapable of figuring out the category under which to file the document, even when I repeatedly tell her to READ THE TITLE OF THE DOCUMENT.  90% of the time, the title will tell you what it is, which leads to the category.  For reasons unknown to me, she has trouble just reading the title and figuring it out.  I have to deal with shit like this:

Example:  Document we are filing is an Opposition to Motion to Compel Documents on X.

This is how the conversation goes:

My Secretary ("MS"):  Is this a motion?
Me:  Does it say it's a motion?
MS:  It says motion.
Me:  You aren't reading the entire title.  It says Opposition to Motion.  When the other side files a motion, we file an opposition/response to the motion.  That is what this is.  (Note:  I have explained this to her probably 100 times since she has been working for me.)
MS:  Well, would it be filed under motions?
Me:  I don't know.  I don't know the electronic filing of this district by heart.  Why don't we click on "Motions" and see what we find.
MS:  (scrolling through the list at warp speed)
Me:  Wait.  Hold on.  Go slow and read through them.  No, I don't see any response or opposition selections.  Try Responses and Replies.  (Note:  I knew it would be in Responses and Replies, but I usually try to prove this point.  This happens every time.)
MS:  (scrolling through the responses and replies list at warp speed)
Me:  (silent, waiting for her to see the Opposition to Motion selection)
MS:  I don't see anything.
Me:  It's there.
MS:  Reply?
Me:  No, read the title and look for the one that looks like the title.
MS:  (after a few minutes)  Oh, Opposition to Motion?
Me:  Right.
(We go through add the exhibits and such, etc.)
MS:  Do we need to link to something?
Me:  Yes, we need to link to the motion we are opposing.
MS:  Which one is it?
Me:  Find the one that has the exact same title as the one we are filing.
MS:  It's not exactly the same.
Me:  Well, yes.  Their's says "Motion for....."  and ours says "Opposition to Motion for..."
MS:  That's the one?
Me:  Yes.  That is the motion we are opposing.  Per the title.  That's the one you link to.

I'm not going to continue with the madness because it is so incredibly frustrating to me.  Please be aware that I have gone through this with her probably 30 or 40 times in the past five years.  We've filed tons of Oppositions to Motions.  Tons!  Filing motions is just as ridiculous.  Honestly, nothing sinks in.  She is supposed to make my job easier, yet she makes it much more difficult.

So, in any event, beginning March 1, I started my "diary" of the daily screw ups, things she should know by now, instances where I have to explain things three or more times, instances where she gives me the wrong things, and log of the personal calls, which have gotten out of control.  (She sits right outside my office, and I am not deaf.)  I obviously remember things generally that are screwed up or taking too long or not meeting my standards, but I decided I needed solid examples of things before I have an informal job performance evaluation with her.  I need to be able to bring up a specific filing (which trust me, she won't even remember) and have a discussion, or a specific project (which again, she won't remember), and discuss where she went wrong.  So, I'm writing it all down.  It's been a month and I've got 10 pages. 

I am going to log two months worth of things (March and April), and then have a long talk with her in early May.  That will give her around six months to improve before we have our Compensation Committee meeting toward the end of the year to decide her fate.  I'm not even sure why she wants this job, since she clearly has so little interest in any of it.  I would prefer not to have to either fire her or get assigned to a new secretary.  Either is awkward for me.  (I'm a nice person at heart, and would really hate to have to fire her, but if she can't do the job I have no choice.)  However, even the other secretaries know she is incompetent, so they can't really blame me for being sick and tired of this.  She also this month filed the wrong brief for one of the associates I share her with, so that is definitely going into my evaluation.  That's just inexcusable, particularly since he e-mailed her the exact path of the brief he wanted to file.  She just wasn't paying attention.  She's done the same with me -- not read the e-mail I sent to her, which specifically laid out for her what to do.  I could, of course, demand that she be fired right now.  This employment is "at will," so we don't even have to give her a reason.

But, since I'm nice, I'm going to see if she responds to my self imposed performance review, since we really don't have hardcore performance reviews where I work.  (I have given her feedback as we are doing things, yelled at her at times, told her to proofread better, etc., but it's obviously not working AT ALL, so apparently I need to drag her into a conference room, shut the door, and tell her what's what.)  She's gotten a bit too comfortable, I think.  She needs the terror of me and her in a conference room where it might hit her that she could very well lose her job. 

Anyway, we'll see how it goes.  No matter how it ends, I'm a bad guy.  It's great being a partner.        

1 comment:

  1. This has been a long time coming. You are so very nice and of course she wants the job - she gets paid well, gets amazing bonuses/gifts, can screw up all the time, talk on the phone all day and nothing bad happens to her.
    It comes down to insubordination - you tell her over and over what she needs to do and she continues to eff it up.
    I can't believe you're giving her 6-8 months more honestly but you do have to have a case built so as not to have to pay out unemployment when she does get canned.

    Good luck to you. I would've lost it by now.