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Have you had your day hijacked recently? Ha! Of course you have — you’re a paralegal! Let’s face it. We as paralegals are planners. We make to-do lists, organize things (and attorneys), and draw up masterful contingency plans, day in and day out. It’s in our nature. Yet, all of our “planned” days seem to spin out of control, be it via a crisis, a project, an attorney, or another co-worker. We become casualties of to-do list hijacking.
Well, wave your to-do lists loud and proud, paralegals! Today I’m here to share a relatable story in your honor. This one’s for you.
One morning several months ago as I pulled open that large, white door to exit my humble abode, a bitter chill swept across my face, and I bundled my coat more closely around me. As I began the jaunt out to my car to complete the most thrilling endeavor of removing the thin layer of snow from my cold, little windshield, I looked down and saw the most bizarre thing. It was a plump little robin hop, hop, hopping down my driveway, alongside my car.
I have but one question: What is wrong with this picture? Seriously, a robin and snow? What? That question was then followed by a short series of thoughts, including: (1) “What in the world is a robin doing out when it’s cold and snowy?” and (2) “Oh, my gosh, he must be in a state of complete bird shock. Poor little fella. It was 70 degrees just two days ago and 30 today! Welcome to Indiana.” That’s when it dawned on me that we (me, you, and this bird) have a lot in common. Yep, me, you, and Mister Robin.
I cannot count the number of days in the last 15 years when I’ve had work thoughts swirling about in my mind as I showered, blow dried my hair, pulled clothes and two matching shoes from the dark closet, got dressed in my finest paralegal attire, and drove myself to another fun-filled day at the big show a/k/a my law firm. Yep, “a plan of attack” for the day — raise the sails and rally the troops — I’m coming in strong with a list of what I’m going to do today. Ha. How many days has that plan actually entered the land of full fruition? Um…give me a minute here…actually maybe a few hours…or even a few days. Wait a minute — has that ever happened? [insert blank paralegal stare here]
As organized and goal-oriented paralegals, it’s in our nature to try to plan and prepare for each day’s journey as we make our way across the paralegal map, so we can manage to get all of the moving pieces into that paralegal puzzle. Yet, very seldom is our “plan” (I’m using that term really loosely) actually followed. Why? I know I don’t need to tell you, but for the benefit of our student readers and newbies I’ll elaborate. It’s because we work for attorneys, at a law firm, with clients, and a vast array of projects, vendors, responsibilities, and crises at any given time.
You can “pretend” you’re going to make up a to-do list, which you will execute like a legal- tactical assault ninja once you enter the doors of your law firm. Ha. That’s when it happens. You confidently swing open that glass door, stride through the office and into yours, and plop your paralegal behind down on that chair, only to discover that you have a one-way ticket aboard the runaway railroad. You find yourself in the paralegal twilight zone as your attorney, and sometimes others, commence to running around the office like chickens with their heads cut off, you receive about seven random client calls in a row, you’re told that the court clerk is holding on line 1 to schedule a conference, that the deposition for tomorrow was just cancelled last minute so you’ll need to call the client to advise her not to show up, your co-worker walks in with a random question about how to perform a particular task, and there you sit, Madam Planner, behind “torpedoed” eyes. For a brief moment, you believe you actually heard someone call out from the periphery of your paralegal mind, “All aboard the runaway railroad. Next stop Crazy Town.”
Thinking back to my friend, Mister Robin, I came to the realization that if he were a person, he would most assuredly be a paralegal! Why, you ask? Who else on the planet could have awoke with a birdie to-do list that consisted of flying around to find some birdie friends, locating a great birdfeeder that’s filled with an abundance of delicious seeds, basking in the sunlight, fluttering around in a few bird baths, and hanging out in a few select tree tops to sing (annoyingly), but instead, find himself hop, hop, hopping down my driveway, with intent, alongside my snow-covered plants and car on a mission to survive? Only a paralegal Mister Robin, that’s right!
Me, you, and Mister Robin have more in common than you might think. We roll with the punches. We allow our to-do lists that don’t always get done as planned not to make us completely (using the term loosely) crazy. We embrace challenges. We seek new projects and endeavors boldly. We calm crazy chickens with their heads cut off. We field 20,000 phone calls with a full serving of friendliness and grace, harness the crazy, and appear calm, all the while screaming internally, but bearing a smile. More importantly, when others would give up, walk away, and throw in the paralegal punch card, we wake up with that “pretend” to-do list, yet again tomorrow, even when we know our attorney just purchased us another unsolicited, one-way ticket aboard the runaway railroad, with no return trip scheduled. Yep ,just me, you, and Mister Robin.
I’ll save you a seat on the train.
About the Author
Jamie Collins is the Founder of The Paralegal Society™, a forum created to educate, motivate, and inspire paralegals. She works as a senior level Litigation Paralegal at Yosha Cook Shartzer & Tisch in Indianapolis, Indiana, and writes a popular column for KNOW: The Paralegal Magazine. You can reach Jamie at: firstname.lastname@example.org