Friday, August 26, 2011

My Secretary - D Day Next Friday

I'm told she's been bothering the office manager about her raise. As I said, end of August is the end of her six months "formal evaluation" period, that she requested. She must believe she is going to get a raise. As the partner (way, way up the totem pole from me) who is in charge of this kind of thing told me, "At this point it isn't about a raise -- it's about whether she keeps her job." I honestly don't like that this is kind of up to me, but it is. I'm a partner, and I really can fire her if I want.

I'm unable to deal with it by Wednesday, due to various other responsibilities related to my job (you know, to make sure the firm is making money so we can pay people like her and that sort of nonsense), so we are doing the formal evaluation next Friday. Also, I'm worried it could go badly, and if it does, I will not be able to focus on things enough to get my work out and meet my Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday deadlines. So, I requested a Friday afternoon evaluation. It could be upsetting for many of us -- I really don't know. As I've said, I like her. I would like nothing more than for her to be able to do this job. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem capable of doing it, after five-six years. (I truly can't remember exactly when she started, but I think it's been six years.) Yet, despite informal criticism from me and the senior associate she works for, she's not getting it. The fact that she thinks she deserves a raise tells me she isn't getting it.

It will be the office manager, me, the senior associate she works for (who apparently turned in an evaluation that was basically identical to mine, which is a relief for me, since it makes clear that I'm not expecting too much or being overly hard on her), and her. The newer associate she works for is not included, because he's new. However, he also said many of the same things. I've let this go on for too long, although, to be fair, as I said, she was supposed to be laid off a couple years ago, but we didn't do it due to extreme personal issues, because despite that we are lawyers, we are all nice, compassionate people.

But, it's D-Day now. This is what happened today:

Last evening after she left (she leaves at 5), I sent her two emails with things to do.

The first requires a bit of background. We have a folder on the network that contains three Word docs with all the attorneys' information. One has bar admissions, so when other secretaries put together pro hac vice motions, they can just copy and paste it in, because you always have to include courts admitted. Another document has CM/ECF logins and passwords, which is what you need to file documents with the court online. Once you pro hac into a court, you have a login and password and don't have to reapply each time, so it is important to have these on file, since we regularly end up in the same jurisdictions. I have about fifteen of these. These are needed if something needs to be filed. The other document is everyone's Illinois bar admission number. Three documents in the folder, all very clearly named.

At around 5:30 last night, one of the secretaries called me, because we were filing a Complaint and she needed my CM/ECF password to file my appearance. She said "It isn't in the folder." So, I hunted it down and sent it on to her. I then immediately sent my secretary an e-mail and said "Please update my CM/ECF in the [] folder. It looks like it has never been updated." That's e-mail number one.

E-mail number two dealt with a new case we just took over from some other attorneys. As such, we've gotten files from them, our local counsel (who has been on the case for awhile), and our client. I'm talking thousands of documents. So, me and the paralegal have been trying to get it all organized so we can see what we have, and have split it all out into the relevant discovery folders. However, the naming conventions are all over the place, so it's a mess. In e-mail number two, I asked her to go through the requests for admission, interrogatories (and responses), and requests for documents (and responses) and rename them with dates so they are all consistent so I can see what is there. Easy enough.

At around 10 a.m., she came into my office with the printout of the "bar admissions" Word document from the folder. "I don't know what you're talking about." Let me be clear -- there are three documents in this folder. One is named "CM-ECF" or something like that. It couldn't be more obvious. I informed her she was looking at the wrong document. She said "Oh, I have that information in your [] folder." I said "Great, just copy and paste it into that document then, so it's there, so the other secretaries can file appearances for me if need be." We then briefly discussed e-mail number two, and she seemed like she had a grip on what I wanted her to do. However, she said "Well, who named them all like that, because I'll go talk to them and set them straight." I've told her we took this case over from other attorneys about ten times in the past week. And frankly, I usually name the discovery files created internally because I'm creating them, so if she wants to give me a talking to, I'm all ears. I explained -- again -- that we had a glut of files from various sources and that was why I needed this done, because it's a PITA for me to try to figure out what are duplicates and what we are missing. I figured the CM/ECF deal would be about a two minute task.


At 12:30 p.m., one of the other secretaries, X, sent me an e-mail with a pdf document and asked me if the naming convention she had gone with was what I wanted. This was e-mail number two's task, which I had assigned to my secretary. I called this other secretary and asked her why she was working on this. She said that my secretary told her she was busy, and needed help. Now, that might normally be a fair excuse, except that today was my firm's golf outing (which I couldn't go to because I had a client meeting and really didn't want to go anyway, so that worked out well for me), so the other two attorneys my secretary works for were out golfing. I thought, well, maybe one of them gave her something to do yesterday or the day before, and she's working on it. But then, odd that she wouldn't mention that to me in the morning when we talked about the email number two task. I mean, wouldn't that be a prime time to say "Gee, I've got this other thing to do for Mike or Steve, so how fast do you need this done?" Right? So, I printed out a random document on the printer behind her, so I could see what she was working on.

As I walked behind her to pick up my bullshit printout, she said "I just finished updating your CM/ECF" and "We are almost done with the naming. X is helping."

I said "Okay," but then I had to walk away. Fast. I was about to explode. This is par for the course these days. And she thinks she deserves a raise?

It took two and a half hours to copy and paste what she said she had (which I know she has because I've seen the printout and used it last night to pass on my info to the other secretary)? What? And she can't figure out that this is a lower priority than renaming the files? Honestly, do I have to spell it all out? Shouldn't a secretary with six (I can't remember) years of litigation experience be able to figure this out? I swear, if every detail isn't spelled out, craziness ensues.

And...I honestly wanted to see how she would name the files and how she would do. That's why I gave her the task. Instead, she passed it on to another secretary. X had nothing to do anyway, since all the attorneys she worked for were out golfing, but that's not the point. The point is that I gave my secretary something to do, and she had nothing else to do today, and she passed the buck. Again. She does this all the time. I think she did something related to this task, but who knows?

And she spent a hell of a lot of time -- as she does on most days -- talking to the maintenance guy in our building, who has a huge crush on her, and regularly distracts her for hours. He just comes up and hangs out by her desk. (Although, at least he's cute. The doorman who keeps giving me paintings -- who has another one for me, by the way -- is not cute.) Wouldn't you think that someone who asked for a formal evaluation and knew she was under review would try to be doing her best to appear to be working hard? Apparently not. This is not a person who is working hard eight hours a day. Hell, she comes in late every single day. I didn't mention that in my review, because I'm not perfect either, but the senior associate who she works for did, because he is an early bird, and has gotten really irritated about her rolling in at 9:20 or so every day. I'm not an early bird at all, and even I beat her in most days. I wouldn't mind if she stayed late to make it up, but she doesn't. She leaves at 5, the same time the other secretaries who show up at 8:30-9 leave. And many days, she's gone for over an hour for "lunch" or whatever she does.

I honestly feel that next Friday is going to be a disaster. I'm a very nice person, and I like her as a person, so it is going to all be hugely uncomfortable, but if she gives me any lip, which she might because she's gotten a little cocky, she is going to hear it. I can be a bitch, although I don't like to be. I'm going to try to lay it out for her in a nice way. I just have to remind myself to remain professional...breathe in...breathe out....It's never easy to give a bad review to someone. I had to do it in my previous life in consulting, and I even had to fire a guy, which was not pleasant. But, it's been awhile. I have to just not get emotional about it.

Regardless, I want a new secretary. I'm done. I have to shut my door every day because I can't stand her voice. I can't stand the blank look I get on everything I ask her to do. It's nonsense. One of our clerks just got her paralegal degree and she is super motivated. I think I'm going to try to rein her in and see if she is willing to do some secretary/paralegal work for me. I would understand if she doesn't want the secretarial, but since I am so used to not having a secretary, the administrative crap work is fairly minimal - limited to opening files for me, serving things via mail when necessary, pdfing documents, nothing too time consuming, and things our paralegals actually do as well. I am fully wanting to have a secretary that can do paralegal work, so I think it could be a good mix to give her some experience. I know she would be up for it -- I just have to sell it to the other partners, because we would have to give her a raise.

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