Psycho Temps

Today's entertainment is the antics of the most psychotic temps and consultants who showed up at your workplace. And no disrespect meant here: We couldn't get by without the good, hard-working temps and the agencies that provide them. But we all have a tale or two about the not-so-good ones. ... Let's hear it for Psycho Temps!

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  August 11, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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Here's a much more interesting subject from yesterday's blog-

"A question for the professionals (especially lawyers) here. I'm really curious, not trying to be sarcastic. Why did you want to become lawyers? Is it the money, the power and prestige, the desire to help people, a love for the law? I don't understand why anyone would want to work 10-15 hour days. Unless you only sleep 3-4 hours, how do you have time to live a life outside of work?"

Posted by: | August 11, 2006 07:20 AM

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 8:29 AM

I'll answer the alternate question. I went to law school because it can lead to so many other careers and a law degree has a lot of opportunity. Not all attorneys work 10-15 hour days. when I graduated, I looked for non-profit jobs and jobs in the governemnt that have flexibility. I currently work a flex schedule for the governement. If I ever left, I'd probably go work in-house for a company, where you work more humane hours. Just b/c you went to law school and are a lawyer, doesnt mean you gave away your choices to have a flexible career.

Posted by: DC Attorney | August 11, 2006 8:33 AM

I am not sure what it is like in DC, but I have been practicing for 8 years in a large firm in the Midwest and can count on one hand the days I have put in 10-15 hours. While the money is very good, it does not compare to that of doctors and corporate managers and executives. I continue to practice because I love the law - it is intelletually challenging and fun. I went into a part-time clerking position while my children were small but could not wait to get back into practice when they went to school (I work a reduced schedule that works great).

The only problem with being lawyer is the judgmental comments from people who have no idea what lawyers do on a day to day basis. Like any profession, we have "bad apples", but on the whole, lawyers are great people who are very involved in their communities.

Posted by: Midwest Lawyer Mom | August 11, 2006 8:53 AM

Thanks DC attorney. Now can we hear from some attorneys (and non-attorneys) who are driven to work the insane hours?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 8:54 AM

I like the alternate question, too. I'm an architect, so it's certainly NOT about the money since most of us are very middle middle class. But the 10-15 hours a day I can certainly relate to. The projects are fun and interesting, bringing together a multitude of abstract ideas while working with a lot of different people at the same time. It's a very challenging yet rewarding effort once it's all said and done. I just LOVE what I do and never get tired of it (And, FYI Leslie, in most cases many Architects have control issues on a psycho scale - which makes it all even more interesting!)

Posted by: Tracy | August 11, 2006 8:57 AM

Tracy,
I used to work for AIA (the American Institute of Architects--which I'm sure you know what it stands for, but others may not). And one of the things I learned there is that architects have some of the highest divorce rates of any profession. Probably because of the extremely long hours...and the fact that it occupies so much time and creative energy.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 9:00 AM

...I wonder what the divorce rate of lawyers is? Do some occupations have LOW divorce rates?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 9:02 AM

Since my office has never hired a temp, I'll answer the law school question too.

During high school I signed up for a business law elective to fulfill a social studies requirement. At the last minute the teacher pulled out, and I was dumped into a criminal law class instead. I found the subject so fascinating that I got my bachelor's degree in criminal justice. From there, going to law school just seemed like the natural thing to do. At that point I had not considered what it might be like to actually work as an attorney.

Right after law school I married a military officer and ultimately spent six years practicing law as a member of the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps. When we left the Army and returned to Chicago, I was stunned, horrified and appalled to discover what life in a private sector law firm was really like! Long hours, glaring partners, no family friendly policies, and worst of all -- really boring work. Had that been my first post-law school experience, I doubt I would still be practicing law.

My years in the JAGC taught me that there was a better way, and I quickly jumped back into government practice as a civilian attorney for DoD. While the excellent vacation and retirement benefits are a plus, my most valuable benefits are the flexibility of a 40-50 hour workweek and the ability to drop what I'm doing to go take care of a sick child, no questions asked. What I lost in salary I more than made up for in sanity!!

Posted by: IL attorney | August 11, 2006 9:03 AM

I went to law school because I was already working for a law firm as a CPA managing their tax practice. I worked the 16 hour days from January thru April and liked the work. I found that it was not the best think for my family. I too wound up working for the federal government for sane hours and better benefits. Now April 15th is just another day.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 9:11 AM

Yes, but I happen to be married to my soul-mate, which means he's an architect, too. So we're in God's Groove together.

I had meant to add to my previous post that the 10-15 days comes in 4-5 day segments (depending on where a project is in it's process) and are broken up with a few regular days or even half days of down-time in between so I can recharge my energy and plug back into family life.

Posted by: Tracy | August 11, 2006 9:14 AM

Wow, why so much disgust for attorneys? I went to law school b/c my Dad is a lawyer (in house counsel for a small company--he was ALWAYS home for dinner with the entire family, never worked weekends, and I can count on my hand the number of business trips he took in his now 35 year career.) I saw that he absolutely LOVED his job, was paid well and I wanted that too. My mom was a fed (non lawyer). I now have the best of both worlds, working in the govt (and so does my husband--we met in law school.) Not everyone works at a big firm putting in 10-15 hours a day. In fact, I've been out of law school now 5 years and every one of our friends that started in a big firm has now moved to either govt, a smaller firm with better hours, or started their own practice. And, people that put in the 10-15 hour days probably love it. If that doesn't motivate you, fine, but for some people, that makes them happy.

Posted by: another JD | August 11, 2006 9:30 AM

sticking with the alternate question, I'm married to a lawyer. when we met, he had his own practice and was a nervous wreck. just like any other small business, he either had no work and therefore time to market himself, or lots of work and no time to market, which made for very uneven work flow. he also felt lots of pressure for every case to succeed. like others here, he since joined the govt and is very happy. the work is meaningful and stimulating and the hours are very sane. we can commute together, have 2 hours a night with our son before bedtime and another 2 hours to ourselves. we may not be making a boatload of money, but it's well above what a lot of folks manage on, and we wouldn't trade the family time for twice as much money.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 9:31 AM

I used to work for a legal temp agency, so while we occasionally used temps in our office, for the most part my horror stories came from the temps we had out. There was one who falsified her time cards, working for a major law firm. Another downloaded x-rated material onto her desktop and got the whole 'net setup for the company shut down. A lot of unhappy lawyers that day. One of them walked into the managing partners office to complain that a paralegal had been on break too long. And then there was one who was using her computer to have x-rated chats through aim, for a fee.

We also had a temp call to say he had been arrested by metro cops and to ask if we could issue him an advance to bail him out. That was fun!

Posted by: AMH | August 11, 2006 9:34 AM

Hey architects and lawyers are not the only two professions which have to put in long hours. I work in a Graphic Design studio, our business is very client driven. When our clients cannot meet their own deadlines for copy or proofing, guess who gets to burn the mid-night oil trying to get the files to the printer or programer so the collateral can be overnighted by the printer to a convention or website can be launched before the press-releases are sent. We try to temper the occasional long hour days with flex-time and using comp-time between projects.

Posted by: dcdesigner | August 11, 2006 9:34 AM

Another JD--where did you get the idea that "there's disgust for attorneys"? I think it's just curiosity as to why someone would choose a career/job that could in some circumastances leave very little time for a life outside work.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 9:35 AM

Another job with insane hours, at least in the beginning--journalism. When I first started, at a small newspaper in the midwest, I worked Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving, etc. (the newspaper comes out every day!) Usually 12 hour days. I loved it and I never had to just sit in a cubicle, so it was fun and interesting, but I'm glad I've moved to a paper where I have some holidays free!

Posted by: journalist | August 11, 2006 9:45 AM

"(And, FYI Leslie, in most cases many Architects have control issues on a psycho scale - which makes it all even more interesting!)"

You all have Howard Roark/FLW complexes, eh? ;-)

Posted by: NYC | August 11, 2006 9:45 AM

My husband and I are both lawyers - I have a part-time fed job where I get to work on great cutting edge issues and still see my kids. My husband works the traditional big firm long hours job and generally hates it, but he is still there because of the money. Of the people we went to law school with most of those of went the big firm route are unhappy (if still there) or have moved to something with fewer hours. It's a pretty good example of the market at work -- he gets paid at the top of the lawyer scale for a lot of hours and little flexibility. He has been looking for a new job, but we want to have additional kids through fertility treatments and it's hard to find something that pays enough that we could keep our relatively modest Rockville home and still afford an unpaid maternity leave (fed benefits for working employees aren't as great as everyone thinks) and child care. I'd say you have no business attending law school if you know so little about the practice of law that you think the majority of lawyers work big firm jobs.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 9:45 AM

"...I wonder what the divorce rate of lawyers is? Do some occupations have LOW divorce rates?"

Years ago I read an article that said engineer have very low divorce rates. Might be related to engineers, in general, tending to have more conservative lifestyles/values?


Posted by: kep | August 11, 2006 9:52 AM

I can't believe you all hijacked the blog like that! You all are too much!!!

DC Attorney and Midwest Attorney Mom provided answers that are similar to mine. I don't work long hours either, and I work for the government.

Now for today's actual question, when I was a temp attorney, one of my co-temps was a Harvard-educated attorney who somehow managed to turn legal temping into a (somewhat) lucrative career, after crashing and burning as a firm attorney (I won't get into details because I don't want to ID this person). This attorney picked fights with people; once a woman stepped to him acted like she was about to hit him. He scarfed down the free dinners provided by the firm for temps working late, and he loaded more into a container so he could have a free lunch the next day as well. He would calculate and recalculate his temp earnings (temp attorneys work long hours, do boring document review work and make potentially lots of money) on practically a daily basis.

Yes, he had issues.

Posted by: momoftwo | August 11, 2006 9:52 AM

I hesitate to admit this and sign my name given the posts over the last few days, but I also am a lawyer. I went because reading, writing, and analysis come naturally to me, I enjoy them, and therefore thought law could be a good career for me. I worked in the economics area for a few years after college and found it too mathematical for me. I ended up loving law school and thought I'd made a good decision.

I went to a big firm after law school because I'd put myself through and needed to repay my loans. I liked the people, but not the hours or the subject matter I ended up being pigeon-holed in. I also realized that life didn't get better as you got more senior. Because of the fees the clients pay, they expect you to be at their beck and call. Yet I continued to work the long hours because, if that's what everyone you're exposed to is doing, you think it's normal. After five years I left for the government just so I could become a specialist in the area I was interested in and get a job back in the private sector doing what I wanted. I also wanted to give the government a try because by then I'd married someone who worked for the government (not a lawyer), and I saw that he had normal hours. I found that I enjoyed having my nights and weekends, and my loans were paid, so I stayed.

Posted by: Sam | August 11, 2006 9:54 AM

momoftwo, our contract attorneys were a source of constant amusement. They also brought in the big bucks for the company, so we were a little more lenient with them. And most of them were wonderful people to work with. But a few of them...well. We had an aggressive attorney who scared an entire room of other attorneys so much they had to fire him on the spot. Plus, after spending so many hours together doing such boring work, we had several cases of romance gone bad.

For the most part, though, we really liked the attorneys and were thrilled when our "favorites" got offered the job of their dreams (happened occasionally).

Posted by: AMH | August 11, 2006 9:56 AM

I think the Temp question is a little mean. While I do not work with Temps, my wife and son work in retail and encounter them on a regular basis. Their stories suggest that many of these folks are desperate for work, try their best and are treated dismissively by their managers and full-time coworkers. Why pick on them?

Posted by: Jonathan | August 11, 2006 9:56 AM

In three years with my current employer, I've trained many temps, unfortunately. Some have turned out very good workers. There are a few however, that need maturing before entering any kind of workforce. This most recent & current temp, decided on her second day on the job to bring a book and attempt to read while being trained. More frieghening is her candidness...I asked her how she was feeling, she said was a bad night. I mentioned, ohhh..sorry..sounds personal and I then said that I understood and left it at that. She proceeded to tell me that her and her fiance had a condom break last night. Now, one positive thing that says about her is she practiced safe sex. Bravo for that! But seriously, how on earth would anyone feel that comfortable enough to tell such a personal story to someone they've known for less than 8 hours? In a professional environment, that was highly tasteless and pretty immature. It's one thing to gossip with girlfriends or guy friends around the water cooler, but being a brand new employee, woah!! TMI (too much information)!!

Posted by: AUS | August 11, 2006 9:56 AM

Most of my fellow law grads who stayed with the big firm sweatshops have several failed marriages, difficult relationships with their children, and substance abuse problems.

At least 10 of my fellow grads are now judges. The pay is relatively low compared to the private sector, but they are very happy being major players.

Posted by: Marlo | August 11, 2006 9:57 AM

To Kep:
Engineers aren't conservative. I am one, and I married one, we're the most liberal, outspoken, oddball people you'd ever meet. I'll tell you why enigineers don't divorce. We're smart. We solve problems. We fix things. We realize that fighting doesn't fix things, so we work towards solutions. Engineers have to do this every day at work, so we know how to do it at home.


Posted by: K | August 11, 2006 10:01 AM

A friend of mine didn't know what she wanted to do, so she went to law school. She enjoyed it well enough, I guess. She finally secured a position, and worked for a while, then met another lawyer and got married. She now has two children.
To get back to the blog - she decided she didn't want to work after having kids (although she was offered a PT position at the firm she was at - I would've taken it in a heartbeat!).

So now they have two law school loans to pay off, but only one salary.

It's been very difficult for my friend - and they're trying to buy a house, but are having a hugely difficult time (they live in the NYC area - hated having to move out of the city, but certainly couldn't afford to stay). They can hardly afford a house an hour outside of Manhattan.
Doesn't sound prestigious or wonderful to me.

Posted by: atlmom | August 11, 2006 10:04 AM

It doesn't sound prestigious to live in NYC vs Newark? Does to me.

Posted by: Don | August 11, 2006 10:07 AM

I am just a lowly dogsh*t secretary in a big law firm. I am older than most of the partners here, but can add my 2 cents worth to this blog as a spectator instead of a participant. Most, if not all, of the attorneys who come to the big firms do it for the money. Greed, greed, greed. They see the big dough the partners make and want a piece of it but they don't count on the long years of work to get there. The work is boring as hell, hours are long, your long hours on weekends and holidays go to fill the pockets of the partners. There are many, many here with marital problems, they have screwed up kids, dysfunctional relationships. My boss, a senior partner, has been physically in the office only 4 days since May this year. He travels a lot but his wife has the Mercedes and the granite counter tops and a charge card at Nordstroms so I guess she's happy. Shop till you drop. As for me, I leave at 5:30 on the dot and go home to my own house, my piano and my knitting bag. If I could make this salary working for a Catholic priest I would, so I guess I'm no better than the mercenaries I work for. Just doing my best to stay off welfare.

And I can tell, all the lawyer jokes are true. We have one who left his wife in labor, sitting outside in the car while he stopped to drop off work before he took her to the hospital to give birth.

Posted by: Northwest DC | August 11, 2006 10:13 AM

I don't think the temp question is mean in the least bit. Of course there are temps that work hard and are of value to the workplace but as the question suggests, there are many out there who come across as morons. Temps are not cheap and when they come in late with demands for a long lunch hour and paid parking, or text or talk on their phone all day, or completely ignore instructions in can be frustrating.

Posted by: B | August 11, 2006 10:14 AM

Leslie has officially hit the bottom of the barrel and has nothing left to say about "balancing work and family".

I've done lots of "temp" work and I love it. Why? Because I can get a great hourly rate and I don't have to be tied to an office culture and all the politics, fear of reviews, gossip, backstabbing, etc. that comes with it. I do good work, I'm professional, and I've been offered a job at 90% places I've temped. I turned many of them down because I didn't want to be a "permanent" worker there. I don't like that so many people think "temps" are subpar workers. I temp so I don't get stuck in a boring rut like so many people I see in the offices I've worked in. And I can take six weeks vacation per year if I want to!

Posted by: Love temping | August 11, 2006 10:15 AM

Hahah, one of my coworkers at the temp firm told us a story about a partner who was blackberrying to work 5 minutes after she gave birth.

Posted by: AMH | August 11, 2006 10:16 AM

Re: lawyers: I actually put in my two cents in yesterday's blog, before I saw it had been re-posted here. It's there if anyone's interested.

Re: temps: I had a series of temps in my first legal job, when my secretary went out on long-term leave that wound up being permanent. Most were perfectly fine, although by the time they learned the systems, they'd be moved somewhere else (I found out later that HR was using me as the "proving grounds" for temps they were trying out, as I was very low on the totem pole).

But the last temp I had was, well, not exactly the sharpest tack in the box. I had a series of minor problems with her, which we discussed and she tried to correct (she was very willing, just not that competent). Then one day I needed her to send two faxes -- one confidential one to our expert witness, one to the other side's lawyer. Given my prior concerns with her work, I tried to make things as clear as possible -- I wrote up the cover sheets for her to type (back when lawyers hand-wrote and secretaries typed -- wow, feels like another lifetime), clipped each one to the appropriate documents, added yellow stickies to be extra clear, and explained that the one was a confidential document so she needed to make sure each fax went to the right place. Yep, you guessed it -- somewhere in the typing/clipping, she got the cover sheets switched and faxed opposing counsel our confidential expert's material.

The good news was, we weren't sued for malpractice, and the case later settled with no apparent ill effects. The other good news was, once I discussed this with HR, they stopped the parade of temps and assigned me a permanent secretary, who was fabulous.

Posted by: Laura | August 11, 2006 10:17 AM

Well I posted my answer to the why you wanted to be a lawyer question on yesterdays blog before I looked here - bummer!

But here's my story about being a temp. After college I was between jobs and temping answering phones on the evening shift at a car dealership. The sales people had to go through me to make long distance calls, and one of them would always try to strike up conversation with me when he did. He was the stereotype of a sleazy used car salesman, and was condescending to boot. One night he called and asked what I was doing. I told him I was reading, and he said, "Well, I guess you didn't do too much of that in college, did you?" I was so amazed - he clearly assumed that because I was temping answering phones, I was some bimbo who couldn't make it through school. I was so taken aback that I didn't answer right away, and he then asked what I was reading. It just so happened that I had brought some ridiculously academic book that evening so I took great pleasure in reading him the ponderous title before connecting his calls. Oddly, after that, all of his incoming calls got dropped, sent to the wrong extension , or otherwise lost...

Posted by: Megan | August 11, 2006 10:18 AM

One more comment about lawyers' long hours: Many law schools can cost as much as 150K (on top of college costs, of course). Even if much of that comes from government student loans, not higher-interest private loans, it's still a lot to pay off.

This, for many lawyers, helps explain why they put up with long hours, or express interest primarily in the jobs that really pay.

And we could get into the "Why not go to a less expensive school?" question, too, but that's another topic, which deserves more time than you guys surely want me to give it here.

Posted by: Mass. Prof. | August 11, 2006 10:19 AM

For someone completely different (!), I, too, am a lawyer. But I'm a solo (and also Of Counsel to another small firm) for reasons alluded to above. The income is less but the sanity and morale is fantastic (during intense litigation, however, it can be troublesome -- but that's only temporary (which may be the only word in this post to match the actual blog topic of today)).

I'm very entrepreneurial and tend to attract entrepreneurial clients. Large firms tend to use their regular rainmakers and don't groom the younger associates and/or younger partners to bring in the business. That, unfortunately, does not allow these attorneys to develop the skills to be independent. Which, I guess, is the point.

Law is my second profession (first was computer programming in the old (very old) days. I love it. I'm also single and childless, which I also love.

As for divorce among attorneys, my observations (not meant to be gross generalizations) show that litigators (especially the ÃœBER-control freaks) go through marriages like flour through a sifter.

As for psycho-temps, there are plenty of psycho-everybodies out there, whether temp or not. It's easier to weed out the temps than the managing partners. If you've got the wherewithall to be able to make a choice, do it. Otherwise, learn the skills that allow you to continue to work where you are without losing your sanity or your dignity, which I recognize may not always be easy. I've been there, and now I'm here.

Posted by: sooze | August 11, 2006 10:19 AM

I was the third temp in a position in five days at what is now my permanant job. The first came in for one day and called the next and siad she wasn't comfortable with thejob (it requires a lot of computer skills). The second one went on a smoke break her second day and never came back. By the time I got here, they were taking bets on how long I'd stay - I wonder who won.

Posted by: RebeccainAR | August 11, 2006 10:20 AM

Oh come on, why so defensive about the topic?

In the small high tech businesses I have worked in for the past decade, we hire a lot of temps and consultants. I've had more issues with the latter, I have kind of an attitude about some of these guys in suits who charge a TON and tell you what you pretty much knew already. The worst was a guy hired to write a required OSHA report who mostly sat around and openly used our phones to solicit his next customers and did very little. Then when us worker bees finally ratted him out, insisted it was really because the radical feminists got on him for reading Playboy at his desk - we didn't care what he was reading, one of the women just mentioned that because he was wasting time reading magazines instead of working. But I have also gotten really annoyed with other highly paid consultants my company has hired who get a ton of respect from the boss just for saying things the regular workers have been trying to tell him for a lot less money. Or one guy the boss told to get me some marketing info for a project, he made a big show about getting me less information than I was able to get myself with a little Googling. Or the other one who mostly sat around regaling people with old war stories. I am sure there are valuable consultants but I have mostly not seen that type.

Temps, mostly they have been great and hardworking. But the exception was at one company where we kept going through temps whose job it was to answer phones and do a little word processing and filing. I've been amazed how hard it is to find people to do that. One person had no idea how to file and just stuck documents in random folders to get them off her desk. We "lost" a whole lot of important documents that way before we figured out she was doing that. Another left after ONE HOUR. Well at least he did no harm but I was amazed he even came, he seemed to have no idea what the job would be. Another woman basically ran a side real estate business from the front desk, tying up our lines. She lasted about 3 weeks...

Those are my stories.

Posted by: Catherine | August 11, 2006 10:20 AM

I think the balance/war subject has finally run it's course. I hope so. Now that we know where everyone stands and are suspicious of each other, let's forget it all go back to doing our jobs/raising our children.

Posted by: Over? | August 11, 2006 10:21 AM

To turn it around--I worked in office where we had a WONDERFUL temp. She was college educated and way overqualified to do what we were asking her to do. And she totally spoiled us with her initiative and excellent work! We were sorry to see her go...

And, when I first got out of school, I worked as a temp in a government office filling in for someone on leave--and it was a lot of fun, I learned a lot--and they even threw me a GOODBYE PARTY!!!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 10:23 AM

Every bad story that is reported today about a "temp" could be told just as often about people in "permanent" positions.

This is the dumbest topic yet. Leslie must be on vacation.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 10:23 AM

On the lawyer issue, as others have hinted, I think that the initial questioner might have some misconceptions about the law. When I worked at firms before I had kids, I didn't mind too much what were an average of 10 hour days and working some but certainly not every weekend. And I think there's a very small percentage of lawyers outside of the big firm, DC/NYC culture who average much more than that.

My impression is that the profession as a whole is not that much worse than other high level professional jobs in terms of time commitment. As someone mentioned, architects aren't far off the mark, and my brother in law and father certainly outpaced my former hours when they worked retail management jobs. None of these jobs are particularly family friendly.

I too am a government lawyer, and the family situation is better but not perfect (I can't go under 100 percent and get any benefits -- no it's not the federal government).

And one mistake I made when I was choosing a career that I see in a lot of other women is we're pretty unrealistic and blind to the impact of future motherhood on those choices. I don't anyone who really thought that out much when they were picking a career.

I'm kind of sorry I let myself get talked out of teaching, for example, simply because having summers and a freer afterschool schedule would be so great now for my kids. Did others give this issue more thought or do you think things are changing?

Oh, and one more example that sticks with me is a discussion I had last year with a female medical student about motherhood. She had it all worked out. Her kids would nap all afternoon and stay up until 1 am when she got home so she could play with them and then they'd sleep late too. Since she's already made her bed in terms of career choice, I didn't have the heart to tell her I really didn't see that working out (I don't know, maybe her kids will be a heck of a lot more malleable than mine).

Posted by: janei | August 11, 2006 10:24 AM

I meant: it didn't seem so prestigious that they are paying two law school loans and can't find a house to live in an hour from manhattan (don't know where you picked up Newark from my post).
My friend's husband works in Westchester, while they live on Long Island, so it's probably an hour and a half commute.
They have two kids and are living in an apartment - there is nothing wrong with apartments, but they really really want to buy a house (I live in a house, and don't know what the big deal is - I'd much prefer a condo).
In any event, I grew up in the NY area. I live in a city now, and my husband's commute is about 10 minutes, while mine is about 30. My sister's commute in the NY area is 1 1/2 hours, and that's only because she doesn't have to take a subway. DEFINITELY not my kind of lifestyle...

Posted by: atlmom | August 11, 2006 10:26 AM

"I'd say you have no business attending law school if you know so little about the practice of law that you think the majority of lawyers work big firm jobs."

But, as Sam noted above, s/he took a big firm job to pay back loans. How else are you supposed to pay back $100-150,000 of debt? I want to work in non-profits or the government and enjoy reading, writing, and analysis too, but I don't want to be forced into a big firm job because I cannot afford $1000+/mo payments on a 40K non-profit salary. A friend who worked for the government as an attorney also pointed out that law degree govt jobs don't qualify for the up to 60K in loan forgiveness, so that's shot!

A law degree is a great asset, intellectually and potentially financially, but I think that debt can be too much of a burden to overlook (and even the public interest scholarships and loan repayment programs are either extraordinarily competitive or, as far as I know, are limited in duration and amount they pay to your loans).

Posted by: pmk | August 11, 2006 10:27 AM

"Every bad story that is reported today about a "temp" could be told just as often about people in "permanent" positions"

Yes, but we've already had the "horrible co-workers" and "horrible bosses" days, so temps are just next on the list. No worries, everyone gets equal air time for being rotten. Not saying this is a particularly exciting topic, just that there's no need to be so defensive for temps, they're not getting special treatment.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 10:30 AM

We had a temp for a day who was the most startling-looking person I've seen in a long time. I believe that he was probably a drag queen or transvestite in his off-hours (I'm not up on the terminology), and to his credit, he did try to tone down his appearance. Very light eye makeup, though it was definitely visible. The big thing was that his beard and mustache were drawn on with makeup, which smudged a little by the end of the day, and it's hard to hide the effects of estrogen treatment with a button-down shirt and tie. I almost think he would have looked less odd if he had just come to work as "she".
We're a small office with very little front-desk traffic, and he was as sweet as can be, so it wasn't a problem.
However, I wonder if his double-take appearance wasn't why he didn't have a permanent job, as he told me he wanted.

Posted by: Bethesda office | August 11, 2006 10:31 AM

"Every bad story that is reported today about a "temp" could be told just as often about people in "permanent" positions"

Sure, but a few days after an unsymapthetic post (and largely the thread too) on blue collar workers, picking out the people who are lowest on any workplace's totem pole is not the best move. "Let's make fun of all those crazies without health insurance or job security, hahaha!"

Yeah, ok. A few people posted about liking temping, that's great for them, but for a lot of people they have to do it because they cannot find another job (in an office, a factory, whatever) and would much rather have a permanent job with benefits. So yeah, let's make fun of some other people with few options and little mobility. Happy Friday.

Posted by: pmk | August 11, 2006 10:35 AM

When you've been a temp for a while, you see some really poorly managed offices.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 10:35 AM

this blog sucks a lot of time :) UGH!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 10:35 AM

Can employers be surprised that they get what they pay for? In a free market, near-minimum wage will buy near-minimum skill.

Posted by: rudeboy | August 11, 2006 10:35 AM

"How else are you supposed to pay back $100-150,000 of debt? I want to work in non-profits or the government and enjoy reading, writing, and analysis too, but I don't want to be forced into a big firm job because I cannot afford $1000+/mo payments on a 40K non-profit salary."

If you really want to work non-profit or government, go to a public law school in the area where you want to practice. That was the best advice anyone ever gave me. I ended up only taking the first part - public law school - and wish I had taken both to heart. My loans are about $60k, and my public law school was actually on the expensive side. Had I stayed to practice where I went to school, I would have had the opportunity to work at a great environmental non-profit. Moving made it harder to break in to a new community, but I'll get there eventually.

Having a big-name lawschool on your resume can be great in the job hunt, but you can get an excellent education at a public law school, and you can make a lot of connections in the area where you go to school that can help you find the job you want.

Posted by: Megan | August 11, 2006 10:36 AM

To B, this free for all about temps...how about a free for all for office managers, directors, CEO's....geesh you want to talk about unprofessional and uncaring people...look at some of these world leaders.

Ignorance is bliss...and has no prejudice.

Thanks

Posted by: Frankey | August 11, 2006 10:36 AM

I was told the temp that covered my desk at a title company while I was on vacation showed up in a leather bustier the first day. When she was handed a sweater to wear over it, she refused. She was told to go home and change. She went home but never returned.

Posted by: Suzy | August 11, 2006 10:38 AM

blah blah BLAH! Get over yourselves! I don't give a rat's a** WHY you wanted to be a lawyer! Worst Blog Ever!

Posted by: Child of a lawyer | August 11, 2006 10:39 AM

True, but I haven't seen too many temps paid minimum wage. Most of our temps went out at $10 an hour (for which we charged $15 an hour -- we made very little money on admin/sec. temps. Contract attorneys made anywhere between $25 - $45 an hour, and that number is always rising.

Posted by: rudeboy | August 11, 2006 10:40 AM

"Can employers be surprised that they get what they pay for? In a free market, near-minimum wage will buy near-minimum skill."

There are a wide range of "temp" jobs and many pay far more than minimum wage. Depends on your skill set. Most people would be shocked if they knew how much I make "temping", on top of taking off weeks at a time between jobs. If you have the right skills, you can write your own ticket.

Posted by: MCT | August 11, 2006 10:43 AM

I went to law school, in large part, because I never considered not going to law school. I grew up thinking of the law as a respectable profession, something that smart people who didn't want to be doctors did instead.

Make a little money. Okay, a lot of money. Wear nice suits. Go to court every once in a while--just like on television. Mom and Dad sure would be proud!

I never thought I would end up a temp.

I never thought I would end up a temp for--count 'em--eleven years.

So much for my ridiculously-expensive, high-octane, Ivy League education. That Ol' Boys Network? Not me, my friends. One earns her J. Press, all-prep seal of approval the old-fashioned way: she's born into it.

Life of a temp--read, contract attorney, to those in the trade--put simply:

Big firm, big case, lots o' documents to read. Handsomely-paid Big Firm Associates don't want to read all that nonsense. Big Firm calls legal temp agency. Doesn't matter which one--they're all the same. "We need fifty temps," Big Firm cries. "Smartest ones you can find."

Temp agency sends over fifty temps. Some bitter thirtysomethings who never found a real job. Many twentysomethings naive enough to think their dream job is just on the horizon. Disproportionate number of blacks--between one-third and one-half (big firms have plenty of women, many gays, but few blacks--and even those must have high Ivy degrees).

"Review these documents," Big Firm tells the temps. "We have to produce them to the government at the end of the month."

Big Firm appoints an associate to be the Babysitter. Babysitter isn't happy. She didn't go to Yale to babysit a bunch of temps in a windowless room in the basement.

Of the fifty temps, Babysitter will fire twenty. Too much talking, too much web-surfing, too much flirting, too much malaise. Babysitter bans iPods, largely because she can. She institutes a "no talking" rule, largely because she has no one to talk to. Twenty more temps quit. There's always another gig at Another Big Firm. Temps swap temp job leads like baseball cards. See ya, Babysitter!

The ten temps who finish, the ten who actually took pride in their work, the ten who hope against all hope that Babysitter will tap one of them to be Chosen and Big Firm will hire one of them, will find themselves out of work at the end of the month. Babysitter might ask one or two to stick around for another week to help with "clean-up"--which sometimes means, helping write a privilege log, and other times mean, actually cleaning up.

"Thanks," Babysitter tells the ten. "It was really nice having you." The ten temps realize Babysitter is the only lawyer in Big Firm they met.

Real lawyers meet lawyers. Temps meet Babysitters.

The ten temps go home and try to figure out how to put this latest project onto their resume.

They hope the temp agency calls with another assignment. Soon. Or, before Mom and Dad call.

Posted by: D.C. Temp | August 11, 2006 10:44 AM

Pmk, you've got a really good point. I think too many people go into massive debt getting a degree (of any sort) without looking at the possible ramifications down the road. My former roomate and her husband both paid for Harvard grad school (divinity and social work) through loans --they loved the education, but I don't know that they'll ever be able to buy a house. And I had a friend at my first job who stuck out the big firm life for years to pay back $150K in debt, before he was finally able to quit to do what he loved (FBI agent).

But as someone else noted, if you think and plan ahead, you don't have to take on that much debt. It's definitely harder for law or medical school, where the school know they can charge an arm and a leg because of the future salary potential of their graduates. But it still can be done. My stepfather went to University of MD night school for 4 years, while holding down a full-time job. I chose to go to a state school instead of an Ivy (at the time, $3K vs. $16K) -- I wasn't even sure I wanted to be a lawyer, much less a big-firm lawyer, so I sure didn't want to lock myself into a certain salary range just to pay back that kind of debt.

It's true you won't be able to go to Harvard for that (although some state schools are pretty good). But the folks who want the Harvard degree are generally the big "name" firms that you don't want to work for anyway.

Posted by: Laura | August 11, 2006 10:45 AM

8:54 wrote: "Thanks DC attorney. Now can we hear from some attorneys (and non-attorneys) who are driven to work the insane hours?"

They won't be writing in....they are working! Look for their entries in the overnight or weekend hours.

Posted by: Dad of 2 | August 11, 2006 10:45 AM

Back in my law firm days, we have a temp who used our messenger service for personal matters. She would prepare a package, take it to the messenger desk, and tell them to charge it to some random client account number. The messenger desk just did it because this is how every other delivery worked. But at beginning of the next month, when we were going over billls, we found a slew of deliveries charged to one of our clients that did not make sense. Luckily, the lady at the messenger desk remembered who had ordered these deliveries, and the temp was still there, so we were able to talk to her about it. Her explanation was that she thought it was a firm service, and she did not know the account number she had given was a client's. She thought the firm just paid for this stuff like it paid for coffee and soda. Needless to say, she was fired.

Posted by: Rockville | August 11, 2006 10:53 AM

to K,

I apologize - I wasn't very clear in what I wrote. I was an engineer (now in public health) and am also very liberal. I found my fellow engineers to be very smart, interesting, unique, creative having a wide variety of political views. In terms of conservative, I was thinking more of lifestyle than politics. Even though I am very liberal, my lifestyle is pretty conservative(aside from an addiction to whitewater paddling:)

Posted by: kep | August 11, 2006 10:55 AM

Thanks to the poster who listed journalism as a tough career with long, odd hours. I spent my first six years working in this field and never had a holiday off and worked overnight hours, the entire time.

While fun, it eventually burns you out. Most do it for the love of information and doing something interesting while not sitting in a cube every day. But the long, odd hours and lack of a life do wear on you as you get older.

You also don't work in this field for the love of making money! When I started I was making mid-fourteens and when I left I was making high-thirties. Luckily, communication/journalism skills are highly transferrable and now I am able to work normal hours at a non-profit while making a decent living. I am not rich but again I do interesting work every day that has a higher purpose.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 10:59 AM

This is one of the things that irks me a little about how Leslie "frames" these subjects. It's very slanted .. tell us your horror stories, immediately pitting sides against one another.

I've been on all sides of this issues ..as a temp, as a "big firm" attorney, and now in government, so I'd like to think I speak from experience.

As a temp, I found the temp agencies to be very bottom line and very cut-throat, and overly eager to fire temps for even the slightest violation of a written or informal code. Law temps are 50-60 (if not more) dollar an hour cash cows for these temp agencies, so they also encourage (and in some cases demand) commitments of 12-14 hours a day, sometimes 6 or even 7 days a week. There were definitely co-workers I knew who took advantage of things, especially on larger production projects where oversight was somewhat lax. By the same token, I saw a lot of maltreatment of temps by "full time" law firm personnel who thought we were their personal whipping boys and girls.

As for firm life, I would echo would others have said. It's a hobson's choice ..take the 100K out to get the law degree but then be almost compelled to take the 'big firm' job just to pay down the debt. I think the 100K+ figure is more common in big cities like DC and NYC, but nevertheless, even at 25-50K of debt (and in some cases with college debt added on), it's tough to not see big firm life as a necessity to just pay the bills.

As for good old government work, I agree, you tend to get more experience, responsibility, and sanity with a trade-off in your paycheck every 2 weeks. It's a choice I was more than happy to make.

Posted by: Yet Another Esq. | August 11, 2006 11:21 AM

"While the money is very good, it does not compare to that of doctors and corporate managers and executives."

I'm coming a little late to the discussion about lawyers, but I had a chuckle when I read this line. Most doctors do not come close to what lawyers earn. My husband works at a regulatory agency and earns way more than I do, a doctor. It's really only certain specialties that earn the big bucks (cardiothoracic surgeons, plastic surgeons, ENTs, some orthopedics, OBs). I am highly specialized and still don't earn what people would think. And partners in law firms earn in the mid to high 6 figures and some earn in the 7 figures. Not one doctor I know earns more the the mid 6 figures. And believe me, of all the professions, doctors deserve their compensation. We go to school for 21 years and train for 3-7 years (at about minimum wage by the way). We work long hours too. When I finished training I was earning less than 6 figures. My husband after college did 3 years in law school and came out making more than me. I will say too that most of us don't do it for the money. I was top of my class at college and I could have gone into business or law and made much more and my life would have been easier. But I wouldn't trade what I do for anything. I love the patients, I love helping people when they are at their most vulnerable and I feel good about what I do. My kids think I'm the best thing ever (both want to be doctors, neither would ever consider law). Believe me, when people find out how much I earn, they are surprised. But no complaints. I still earn more than many so I feel blessed. Oh and by the way, I had an electrician come in to install some lights in my house and he earns more per hour than I do.

Posted by: doctor and mother | August 11, 2006 11:22 AM

I would be happy for doctors to make more money, but please let's not oversstate the case. The 21 years of education that you alluded to include first grade through twelfth grade.

Posted by: To doctor and mother | August 11, 2006 11:39 AM

Doctors make plenty of money. No need for more. I think there is a glut of lawyers out there, so big firms can get away with treating them like cattle in temp jobs. The cool think about being a lawyer is that you don't actually have to practice law - there are a lot of things you can do with a law degree. But the competition for good paying jobs is really stiff, especially the big firm jobs that nobody on this blog seems to want. Believe me, there are plenty of people who want them and compete for them fiercely.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 11:45 AM

We had a temp who was fired for sexually harassing our IT guy...she was pretty scary 'cause this guy was not easy to intimidate (he is 6'2" and roughly 250 pounds).

Posted by: single western mom | August 11, 2006 11:47 AM

Doctor and mother, now your comments made me chuckle - I guess it's all a matter of your perspective and where you live! I'm a lawyer who is definitely not in the sixes and I think my salary is excellent! To me, and to most of the people I know, anything in the six figures is really good, and mid 6 figures (by which I assume you mean in the range of $500k?) as an annual salary seems like a fortune. But I'm the child of a teacher and non-profit employee in a western state, so I suppose that's why. Anyway, it made me grin to think of how we all perceive such a tricky issue from such different standpoints.

Posted by: Megan | August 11, 2006 11:52 AM

"And partners in law firms earn in the mid to high 6 figures and some earn in the 7 figures."

from doctor and mother.

Most partners in law firms do not make anywhere close to the mid 6 figures, never mind 7 figures (maybe it is different on the East Coast). There are a few rainmaker equity partners that may make in the mid 6 figures but new to mid-level partners make much less.

Posted by: Midwest Lawyer Mom | August 11, 2006 11:57 AM

*I'd say you have no business attending law school if you know so little about the practice of law that you think the majority of lawyers work big firm jobs.*

I don't know why you included this statement. I was questioning what motivates people to go into professions that require extensive amounts of personal time. I never said anything about law school. I'm not a student or a lawyer, so forgive me for asking something that you seem to think I should know about.

For all of the others providing answers, thanks for your time and input. It sheds a little light, especially the part about needing to make a lot to pay for the education.

I have always thought about work in terms of doing something that I can do well (to be able to experience job satisfaction) and make enough money to support my lifestyle. The lifestyle I am interested in centers around living in a decent neighborhood (mostly meaning crime-free and feeling safe) with decent schools, and having enough free time to enjoy my home, my family, my hobbies, my friends, time to read, watch movies, go away for a weekend occasionally, take a vacation once a year (nothing extravagant, mostly within driving distance).

I am mathetically inclined rather than creatively (writing, etc). I think I would have been a great tax accountant, but I didn't want the tax season hours - bookkeeper hours are more my style. I also have an aptitude for computer programming/analysis, but no interest in being called to work during the night and/or weekends. I ended up working for a fed agency doing analysis work after years of lower level positions.

I would love higher pay - wouldn't we all :) - but not at the cost of my free time. After reading this blog for a while now, I thought that there were quite a few posters looking for balance. and there have been many references to 60-80 hour work weeks. This is what drove my question. Why are you working that much - for money, prestige, love of the work, doing good for others, didn't know what you were getting into and hate it?

since most of today's responders aren't working those hours, I'm wondering if all the past references have come from the spouses of those with insane hours. Perhaps the SAHMs who feel isolated and overwhelmed?

I believe that I am now done with this blog. there just seems to be too much judgment, justifying individual life choices, and arguing and not enough discussion about balance for people in this country at all levels. I'm not annoyed, angry, or bitter - just have better things to do with my time.

Psycho temps - what in the world does that have to do with balance?

Posted by: origposter | August 11, 2006 11:58 AM


"Psycho temps - what in the world does that have to do with balance?"

It has as much to do with balance as "devil bosses" and "devil employees."

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 12:03 PM

"The 21 years of education that you alluded to include first grade through twelfth grade."

That's right--but since I knew I wanted to be a doctor, I had to work my ass off to get into a good college and work my ass off in college to get into medical school. At my college 400 people started off as "pre med" and only 40 applied (were allowed to apply, need to have the grades and test scores to get the dean's letter). The weeding out was horrific and the classes tough. I didn't party much either. You don't need to get good grades to get into law schools--the top one's yes.

And here in DC, partners in big law firms earn do earn the mid 6 figures at least. My husband, at a regulatory agency doesn't even come close. But his hours are reasonable and he loves what he does.

Most doctors do not earn enough. Think about what we do and what we have to do to get here. During my 6 years of training, I worked 80 to 100 hour weeks at $30,000 per year (surgeons worked over 100 per week). Our malpracice insurance premiums are outrageous even in lower risk fields. Many coming out of medical school owe over $200,000 a year such that there aren't enough grads going into primary care. Can you imagine owing $200,000 and then coming out into practice after sacrificing your youth to your studies at age 30 earning $90,000 a year? Sure that may seem like a lot, but it's not when you owe that much and work so hard. My husband's first job was in a high powered large firm and I worked harder and more hours. At least what I do means something. Associates at large firms do a lot of nothing (I know b/c my husband did this for 7 years and then moved on into the non-profit sector).

Posted by: doctor and mother | August 11, 2006 12:05 PM

One thing to remember regarding temps and contractors -- they don't make what you pay the company for them. They make half, or less than half. I know a consulting company that hires good and experienced people for $50/hour (which is good money, don't get me wrong), but a little galling when these good and experienced people find out that the consulting company is being paid $125/hour for what they do. I agree that someone is getting rich here, but it's rarely the worker.

Posted by: Contractor | August 11, 2006 12:10 PM

D.C. Temp - You captured the experience perfectly. The other thing I forgot to mention is the fact that if temps (at least the legal ones) were treated with a modicum of decency and humanity (i.e., let them listen to the IPods, chat, if kept w/in reason, etc..) Babysitter wouldn't have to fire so many of them. The denouement for the ten remaining is bitter indeed. You played by the rules, worked the extra hours, NEVER complained and your big prize is the same pink slip that the other 40 got, only a few weeks later. Rarely do you get a thank you, any sort of recognition or appreciation, which (I think) adds to the bitterness.

A final note .. any enterprising temp who wanted to make the big leap would surely pitch one of these "dungeon" experiences (so called both because of the treatment and the aforementioned windowless experience) as a reality show. I spent many an hour thinking how interesting that particular fishbowl was to live in.

Posted by: Another Esq. | August 11, 2006 12:15 PM

I guess psycho temps/coworkers/bosses/etc have little to do with "balance." But I love stories, good and bad ones. I started reading this blog because I loved reading what all the posters had to say not because I was looking for a support group or the secret to managing my life. Its a blog, not the Wall Street Journal. And I don't think that anyone is being "picked on." I fail to see how a lack of job security makes outrageous behavior any less chuckleworthy. If people are so outraged at the content of this particular blog, then follow the orignal poster's action and find something else to do with your time. sheesh!

Posted by: whats the big deal? | August 11, 2006 12:15 PM

Boohoo, you are only making 90K a year when you are 30. Think about who is paying your salary. People scraping by working 2 jobs so they can make ends meet and have health insurance. People who sign up to be doctors are there to treat patients and provide a public service, not get rich off their patients. If you want the big bucks, become an investment banker.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 12:29 PM

I did temp work for a short while, so my horror story is from the temp side. When I went to work as a proofreader at a government contractor, everybody treated me like an idiot! At the time I had a college degree and months of full-time work experience. On person actually tried to explain to me what a copier was. In addition to the overall feeling that I was being treated like a trained chimp, people would routinely ask me to do the admin's job. Like "she's a temp, we can get her to do some filing and typing" even though I was hired to proofread. I wanted to say "I'm not an intern! I was hired for my skill sets, not to do all the work no one wants to!"

It was also no fun not knowing people there and not being included in the fun (the holiday parties and lunch breaks). That's one of the perks of permanent employment.

But temping did pay the bills and got me some work experience, so it wasn't all bad.

Posted by: Meesh | August 11, 2006 12:33 PM

I'm not sure that doctor's are there to provide a public service any more than lawyer's, civil engineers or anyone else who expects to get paid for their work. Doctor's go through a large amount of highly specialized training and wish to get paid for it. I'm not saying that those people who work 2 jobs aren't valuable also, but its a matter of balance. 90K these days is not what it used to be and certainly not with malpractice and loans and definitely not in DC.

And to be honest people are nastier these days. People expect more from physcians and the number of people who want or desire treatment is up. You lose people from what may be the most important lines such as primary care because of low pay, and end up with more people needing emergency care because of it. We spend such a small fraction on preventative care compared to say end of life care it makes me sick.

It may not be fashionable but why shouldn't the engineers, scientist and doctors of the world make more considering how much more training they had and how much harder their jobs are. And cer

Posted by: Jonathan | August 11, 2006 12:35 PM

I have lived in the same area all of my life, worked in only 2 offices for the past 26 years, so my life and work experiences have been somewhat limited. Thus, I really this blog with great interest.
Yes, there are some opinions I don't agree with, but frankly, there are a lot of ideas expressed here that I have never encountered before.

I skip the posts that are boring or irrelevant to ME, but I don't dismiss the possible value of them to others.

We can all learn a lot from each other.

Posted by: Marlo | August 11, 2006 12:35 PM

That's the thing about temping. People tend to treat you as a non-person in some offices. It seems like you don't even have a name. People just call you the temp. I temped a little in my younger days, and can relate to the great description of working as a temp on a big document production at a big firm. It is spot on. But I also got a permanent job from such a gig, good experience, and years down the line, I am glad I went through it. It was a kind of initiation. In hindsight, it makes me laugh a little.

Posted by: Rockville | August 11, 2006 12:41 PM

"People who sign up to be doctors are there to treat patients and provide a public service, not get rich off their patients."

Wow, that's a pretty nasty comment. I would venture to say that those people who go through what we go through and taking into consideration what we do for a living, deserve to be comfortable. No one I know who is a primary care doctor gets "rich" off of their patients. Try owing $3000 in student loans a month and "only" being paid $90,000. And FYI--if you see the reimbursements from medicare/medicaid and insurance companies for some of the high tech stuff I do, you'd understand how messed up society is. I saved a patient's life and was paid $30 for my services. I think doctor's deserve to be the best compensated of all of the professions and we are not. If I did want to be rich, I would have gone to law school. Or become an electrician :-)

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 12:42 PM

"It may not be fashionable but why shouldn't the engineers, scientist and doctors of the world make more considering how much more training they had and how much harder their jobs are."

It's the last part of the sentence that really gets me -- how much harder their jobs are.

Harder in what sense?

Not physically. Manual laborers certainly work harder in that sense.

Longer hours? Nope. Investment bankers, lawyers, etc pull pretty long hours. As do people working 2 jobs trying to make ends meet.

Intellectually? Being a college professor or a teacher certain provides a great intellectual challenge.

Dealing with the Public? Have you ever worked in retail? Tough to say customers are harder with a doctor than a "lowly" cashier.

Not saying doctors, scientists, and engineers don't work hard and aren't valuable but so are a whole lot of people.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 12:46 PM

Thank you Jonathan. Very well said. You must work in an ER. Over the last several years I've noted a lot of patients coming into the ER for primary care stuff (rash for 2 months, prescription refills, colds, etc.) and yes, these people treat us like servents. Many also don't understand that ERs are there for urgent and emergent issues and if you are there for something non-urgent, you're going to wait. Primary care docs are also feeling overwhelmed. They refer a lot of stuff to ERs that they didn't used to. They are pressured to see more patients just to meet their payroll/office/malpractice expenses. There was a recent study that showed that doctors real incomes have not risen in over 4 years while their expenses have increased and in some specialties incomes have gone down.

When I needed some simple legal work done, I was charged $300 per hour. I make way less than that and I did feel a little sting of jealousy. How many people tell their lawyer, no I won't pay or sorry we're only going to give you $30. But that is what insurance companies and medicare/medicaid do. You buy a car, you pay for it. This country has decided that medical care is a commodity just like anything else and therefore people should expect to pay for it. This is why we should be looking toward the government paying for a basic level of care for all.

Posted by: doctor and mother | August 11, 2006 12:48 PM

I don't think anyone is questioning the pay of doctors and lawyers. Just whether the pay is the motivation for the level of work required or if other factors are involved.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 12:50 PM

I have been temping on and off for ten years - I get benefits like health insurance, vacation pay and a 401(k). Part of the problem is that offices don't use temp agencies that retain their employees. You have to pay a little more but you get a better quality of temp.

What I love about temping is that I get to meet all types of people and learn so much.

Posted by: Temp not to hire | August 11, 2006 12:51 PM

"Harder in what sense?
Not physically. Manual laborers certainly work harder in that sense.
Longer hours?"

Actually, yes, many doctors do work harder physically. I work 12 hour shifts in an ER and my body hurts after every shift. Often I don't get to eat and rarely get to go the bathroom. Think about a surgeon who operates 12 hours a day. And I'd venture to say that keeping up with the changes is medicine is a big intellectual challenge. I read many journal articles a month and take many hours of continuing education to keep up with a field that changes everh 18 months.

Again, I love what I do. I love helping people and I love the intellectual stimulation. But many doctors do sacrifice a lot. Many of us do not have confined hours and it does impact on our family lives. We are not amongst the best compensated of the professions, but I'd say we work very hard.

And I work in an ER. People can be very nasty and demand things they are not entitled to. And yet, we have to be nice to them. Just like in retail. Most of us understand that some patients are in crisis so behave badly but others are not and are just rude.


Posted by: doctor and mother | August 11, 2006 12:54 PM

Well, if doctors and lawyers and social workers get paid a lot, so should teachers and social workers and nurses. They too work hard. THey too have physically and and mentally demanding jobs. They too, have good educations. They, too, have to deal with people who are not always so nice.

But I do agree the system is screwed up. Not sure how to fix it, though.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 1:03 PM

I have a pharmacist friend who refuses to work as a retail pharmacists because the customers are so rude and the companies treat them so poorly. Retail can be very difficult for some people to take.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 1:04 PM

I'm sorry it irritates you that I said doctors, scientists and engineers work harder and certainly they are not the only ones but it is true. I would say intellectually they work much harder than teacher's (maybe not emotionally though, I'm 26 and things seem to have gotten crazier). I'd be willing to say that the average engineer works harder than the average college professor of the fine arts. Engineers and scientist truly make the world go round. Anyone here really know how their computer or tv works? Even a radio? Enough to build one, or integrate it into another component? How about the code behind your computer? How about the signs of building degradation? How to make penicillin or how it works? Almost all the little things we use everyday were designed by engineers. They design things we use all the time. Without engineering and science this country would quite literally collapse. Without engineers there would be no tractors to harvest food and no trucks and trains to move it. The cities would starve.

I have worked retail, in fact I worked at a McDonalds for a year and at a Hechingers (hardware) for a year. It's tough and I'm a lot more patient with customer service and such at these places because of it. But partly because of the mystique of the doctor they are expected to be all knowing and all healing. People come in with ridiculous expectations or modicums of knowledge scrapped from the web to people who have spent years learning and understanding and get upset when they are wrong or need to be referred. It is simply life.

As for my medical expertise, I'm not a doctor. My wife's a nurse and I'm getting a PhD in a hard science. I'm probably not going to make anything near what my education should provide based on time and effort but I love what I do.

Posted by: Jonathan | August 11, 2006 1:07 PM

"It was also no fun not knowing people there and not being included in the fun (the holiday parties and lunch breaks). That's one of the perks of permanent employment."

But this isn't true of all temping situations. I've been treated like a "permanent" employee at most temp jobs I've had. The thing is, I'm not that interested in socializing on the job, so holiday parties and all that aren't "perks" to me. A piece of birthday cake now and then is fine. I usually find a few pals among the people I work with and often keep in touch after I've moved on. As long as I'm treated with respect, I'm happy. Usually I'm the only person in the office who can do what I've been hired to do, so I'm deferred to and allowed to run the project my way. On my last job, my boss made a point to introduce me to everyone up the chain and completely integrate me into the company. Some didn't realize I was a "temp" until months later.

As for the temp agency taking half of what the company pays for my services, it's not always that much. My agency takes 1/3. I know because I'm friends with the woman who used to run their office. Also, if you do several jobs with an agency, they are more flexible about salary negotiation.

Posted by: Another temp | August 11, 2006 1:13 PM

Why is this devolving into a spitting contest about who works harder (and I guess gets to complain more?). That was 2 days and 435 posts ago in the "blue collar blues" blog.

As someone who took out the loans and has had the varied work experience (temp, full time private and full time public sector) that lawyers tend to have these days, I don't boo hoo the fact that I took out money to pay for school, it offered tremendous VALUE to me. Law school taught me how to think analytically, read and write concisely, and balance my world-view. That is not everyone's experience, but it was mine. While it's true that because of this debt it took me longer to achieve certain material milestones (i.e. buying a house) I learned a very valuable lesson along the way .... you cannot measure your "happiness" by what you get from your employer every 2 weeks. If that is what is motivating you to get up every day and go to work, you're in the wrong job. Many lawyers make less than electricians and many retail clerks deserve more money. It's unfair, but the reality of our society.


I'm fortunate. I've had choices and been in a position to further myself educationally in ways many others could not, and I recognize that. Part of the reason I try to not complain too much is I remind myself that I am far more well off than many others, even if I "only" make about 75K a year.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 1:22 PM

I don't mean to imply that other jobs are valueless or don't work hard. My father in law is a lawyer and lord knows I wouldn't want to work the hours he does. But he does it to provide a certain level of comfort and living to his family. And he (luckily) will be able to retire before he gets to 60 and enjoy it.

Posted by: Jonathan | August 11, 2006 1:23 PM

Many occupations make the world go around in some way. And some people have specialized training that makes them unique.

If you have a loved one in handcuffs, you'll give me a call.

If your aged parent is victimized, you'll give me a call.

If your Constitutional rights are violated, you'll give me a call.

Etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 1:24 PM

I agree with you Jonathan. Scientists have it really rough. Not only is your compensation not where it should be, but many scientists I know do post doc after post doc because of the dearth of tenure track jobs available. I have friends at the NIH who've been there a long time. It must be a nice place to work--check it out.

And I think nurses work really hard. Their compensation has grown a lot in the last 10 years. Not enough nurses so they benefit by getting sign on bonuses and pay raises. I've known of nurses getting $100,000 though I know that's not typical. Personally, I think if someone wanted to better themselves, work in a profession that does good things, one should consider nursing or physician assistant's school. Tuition paybacks and other programs can make it doable. There are also a number of family friendly options for nursing. My sister in law does agency work and sets her hours and gets paid very nicely such that her husband doesn't work.

And teachers deserve decent compensation too. Probably better than they get now. But comparing what teachers do with what doctors do is ridiculous. I'm from a family of teachers and they work 8 to 3 and get holidays and summers off. Part of the reason their pay had been historically low is because it has become a female dominated profession. But even so, I have seen first hand that teachers do not even come close to the training, hours and hard work of physicians. I do think social workers are underpaid. They do a very difficult job and don't get compensated enough.

Posted by: doctor and mother | August 11, 2006 1:26 PM

A word on behalf of teachers - my mother was a teacher, and she stayed up late many a night grading papers and making lessons plans. Teachers' work doesn't stop during classroom hours. And while maybe they should get paid less because they don't work ten weeks in the summer and a week each in the spring and winter (don't begrudge them holidays since most people get their fair share of paid holidays), I doubt it should be THAT much less than what others are making.

Posted by: Sam | August 11, 2006 1:37 PM

That's a very nice notion of what attorneys do...i.e. victimized parents, etc. however my experience has been that the law is a business, and our legal system is very, very screwed up...largely contributed by the fact attorneys can be greedy and seek to bill as much as they can regardless of whether the "billed" time is necessary. I have seen a number of lives ruined financially by frivolous lawsuits that get settled because it's more expensive to actually seek justice and have a hearing. In these same situations, the attorneys that are supposed to representing the client don't care about their well being and continue to milk these people dry for legal fees despite their dire circumstances. Not trying to start a fight, but many lawfirms and legal situations aren't what you see on Ally McBeal, LA Law, etc.

Posted by: To 1:24 Poster | August 11, 2006 1:38 PM

I will not be heading to academia after I get my phD. I'll go back to consulting before I do that. Science is getting the tiniest bit better, at least for those of us willing to work in corporate science.

Nurses can make good money or at least better money but the reason places are offering bonuses and high salaries is usually because conditions are so bad. My wife loves her job and even better for her, when she gets home her job is over. Patients don't call you at home, she can't take home paper work. She works three 13 hr shifts a week. Spends a lot of time recuping from her shifts but still. It's hard and patients can be crappy or overbearing or entitled (the worst she says). But she helps people. She definitely says the biggest problem is not pay but personnel. There just are not enough nurses. It's also hard to predict flow so hospitals are in a bit of bind. Can't have so many people that you lose money, but need to have enough in case of crisis.

Posted by: Jonathan | August 11, 2006 1:39 PM

This post is NOT about lawyers.

I had my first interview to become a temp on 9-11-01, at 9:45 am, 4 blocks from the White House. They asked if we could reschedule for sometime after Doomsday. It was a while before I got my first assignment.

As a kid fresh out of college entering the market right then, all I wanted was a job. They never taught us how to handle details in school, as temp work often demands, so I sucked at it. I messed up faxes, lost messages, misplaced orders, and every other administrative snafu imaginable. But it was the only thing available. Eventually, things worked out and I got a great job, though not through temping.

Given my sucking at the job and the lack of other options, I probably looked miserable and psycho to all the "regulars" with cushy salaries and benifits that I worked around. But for most temps I knew, it was a feeling of limbo, working off a weekly timesheet with no guarantees. I'd imagine this holds true in many settings, for many people.

My take-away message: take a temp out to lunch. Ask them who they are, where they see themselves in 5 years, whatever. They'll really appreciate it, and they'll be less likely to screw up your faxes.

Posted by: EJ | August 11, 2006 1:39 PM

Victims! all of you!

get OVER yourselves!

Posted by: yourallvictims | August 11, 2006 1:41 PM

"law is a business" - as is medicine in this country; yet many lawyers, doctors and other do their work because they love it and feel good about it.

I would think we could all get past the idea that professions pay according to their social value or some other "meritous" system - isn't it overwhelmingly clear that they don't? So what's the point of arguing which professionals desever more money - most of us who are professionals have chosen our field for a reason, whether because we enjoy it, we want the salary, other benefits or whatever. And as the poster at 1:22 pointed out, we're all lucky to make what we do.

Posted by: Megan | August 11, 2006 1:42 PM

What is it with the plight of lawyers? They can shove it for all I care.
As a former dogsh*t Legal Secretary, I'll tell you that big firm lawyers treated Secretaries and paralegals like crud. They would demand all kinds of unbelievable hours without siging off on our overtime. (it ALL had to be charged to a client, you know)
The first years were the WORST, though. They all pranced around like newly crowned princes and princesses, some not even familiar with sending an e mail attachment out. I was blamed for a legal memo that was lost in a first years computer. After I offered to get the IT staff to assist them, He told me NO in an e mail and demanded I retype the 15 page memo with all revisions, footnotes and formatting. reluctantly, I did---but not perfect. he reported me to my superior and I finally lashed back. I had the e mail and I used it. I also had my IT department friends pull an internet search history on him and on my last day, I e mailed his blog excerpts about his job with the firm to the managing partner.
I wonder if he got fired.....Hope so.

Posted by: FormerLegalSecretary | August 11, 2006 1:52 PM

I'll weigh in on the temp line...

I worked as a temp for a long time before any of my jobs went permanent.

You should be awarey, most companies have no incentive to hire a temp as a full time employee, and in fact are often penalized for a "temp-to-hire" position. They are charged an exhorbitant "finder's fee" for a temp-to-hire.

Since I've worked in HR, I'm also aware of the difference in what we were paying the temp agency vs. what the temp was receiving. In one case, they were charging us $28 an hour and our temp receptionist was making $8. (I accidentally found out what she was making when she recruited my brother to the same agency.)

I dropped her an anonymous note telling her to hold out for higher pay. When she did, they threatened to find another temp to do the work. She was worried, came and talked to me about her concerns (not knowing I was the one encouraging her to ask for more.) I asked her if she like working there and wanted to stay, she said she did. So, when the temp agency called to say she "wasn't available any longer" and they were going to send over another temp, I went and got her on the call with me and said, "She's here and she says she has no problem with staying here. Is there some other problem I should be aware of?" They hemmed and hawed and finally said she could stay but it would cost us more. I pointed to our contract with them that allowed us to request a specific temp if they were available, but we couldn't be charged more for personal choice. The agency rep wasn't real happy with me, and I was concerned that our receptionist was going to have problems getting another assignment when ours was done. She assured me she didn't have any intention of working for them at the end of that assignment, she was moving out of state (which was why she was temping, the move was delayed), but would I be a job reference? I was and we missed her terribly when she left.

She was, to this day, one of the best receptionists we ever had and I wish we could have kept her. Our company would have paid the "finder's fee" for her with out any hesitation.

Posted by: Just Sayin' | August 11, 2006 1:53 PM

Rockville wrote at 12:41: "But I also got a permanent job from such a gig, good experience, and years down the line, I am glad I went through it. It was a kind of initiation. In hindsight, it makes me laugh a little."

Watch it, Rockville, or we'll be hearing about your granite countertops again!!!

:-)

Posted by: Dad of 2 | August 11, 2006 1:54 PM

EJ hit the nail on the head. Temps are essentially like "guests" in your home .. the onus should be on the "host" to try and make the guest feel welcome. If the guest trashes the place and steals the silverware (or sends things out under the corporate account, scans internet porn or takes 3 hour lunches and only clocks for 1) ..you get to kick them out, but don't assume they are going to do that.

I think if employers and people who manage temps (and again speaking from experience on BOTH ends of this equation) extended some common courtesy and warmth, they would have far fewer of the problems that have been mentioned today. Will you still get bad apples? Of course. Some people are going to take advantage of your good will, but doesn't it make more sense (both common and business) to treat people like human beings rather than disposable parts?

Posted by: Another Esq. | August 11, 2006 1:55 PM

I'm also a lawyer. When I was in high school in the Midwest, many of my friends and classmates wanted to go on to be lawyers and it was a career interset of mine from early on. Then I went to Georgetown. Partly because I was not a very studious student, partly because I had to work 20-25 hours a week through school, my grades were pretty bad. Law school was out of the question. So I went back to my home state and embarked on a graduate study plan for an eventual career as a history professor. Got very good grades, met the woman who eventually became my wife and realized that a law career was more likely to be interesting and afford me a liveable income than hitting the professorial job market at age 40. I began law school at age 30 and did an internship in a prosecutor's office. I loved it! A criminal practice gives you lots of interesting-- and often entertaining-- stories to tell at parties. A job in the office opened up before I'd finished school and as a result, the day I was admitted to the bar they hired me and I was trying a homocide. All in the same day.
I don't work much beyond a forty hour week, unless I have a particularly complicated jury trial I have to prepare for. I don't make nearly as much as a state employee as I could in private practice, but I know how much my check is going to be every two weeks, I have almost free health insurance, a good pension and I don't have to go out looking for business. The cops do it for me! Sometimes I will get a case for prosecution that is hard to leave at the courthouse (say, a child abuse case or someone who has really screwed up her life and that of her family because of drug addiction) but I have generally forgotten what I was working on by the time my car leaves the parking garage at the end of the day.
If you want a practice where you don't have life outside the office, there are plenty jobs out there like that, but you don't have to take them if you are willing to make some trade-offs-- and do a litle looking.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 2:02 PM

EJ said: "They never taught us how to handle details in school, as temp work often demands, so I sucked at it. I messed up faxes, lost messages, misplaced orders, and every other administrative snafu imaginable."

This is called organization. How would someone get through school without it, let alone a job? Did you misplace homework, term papers, mess up tests, lose books? Same thing. Life teaches these lessons, not school.

That said: I have temped before and was GOOD at it. So good that I was hired by some of the companies I temped for. For a variety of reasons, from company going out of business (not my fault, honest!) to funding, I moved on from the companies. Occassionally, I would temp to fill in gaps in my freelance work (web designer) and the impression from employees was that I was no more important than the office furniture. Tough to take when I knew what a good job I was doing and my previous experience temping. Because of the general negative connotation of 'temp', I preferred to be called a 'contractor.

Posted by: Stacey | August 11, 2006 2:11 PM

Yes, those high=powered attorneys do treat their staff like crud. They also think because you don't have a law degree from Hah-vahd or Yale you're totally illiterate. One liked to insult me to my face, thinking I was too stupid to realize I had been insulted. Another yelled at me for being away from my desk and missed picking up his phone when I was down the hall GETTING HIS COFFEE! Can't be two places at once, Oliver Wendell. No wonder people hate lawyers -- they are not in touch with reality. Many of the attorneys here are married to other attorneys. I think they have to marry each other because nobody else can stand them. One attorney couple here has the most obnoxious little brat I've ever seen. It scares me that some day that kid will become a judge and he'll reinstate execution by guillotine.

Oh, yes, our Firm hires temps in the support category. One made personal long distance calls while covering my desk when I was in computer training. When I was billed for the calls, I tracked the dates and found out I wasn't even at my desk on those dates. The temp covering for me made the calls and charged it to my account.

Posted by: Northwest DC again... | August 11, 2006 2:12 PM

Victims! all of you!

get OVER yourselves!

Posted by: yourallvictims | August 11, 2006 01:41 PM

That should be posted by: you are all victims since your is possessive, not a contraction for you are. We can get over ourselves if you get a dictionary.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 2:13 PM

How can you people find the time to write and read these things? Are you doing this on the job, i.e. cheating your employer by spending all this time on personal things? Education and hard work are the keys to getting a good job -- necessary, but not always sufficient, conditions. Grow up. Get lives.

Posted by: Dorothy from Columbus | August 11, 2006 2:21 PM

I find it interesting about how some lawyers treat their secretaries. I know my father and father-in-law worked like the dickens to keep some of their secretaries. Good secretaries are incredibly hard to come by and apparently so are people who treat them well.

Posted by: Jonathan | August 11, 2006 2:25 PM

Dorothy, put down the megaphone and step away from the podium. Contrary to what you seem to think, you can't shame anyone into working.

And by the, stop beating your kid and having intercourse with the dog!

Wow, it IS fun to chastise people for any possible offense they may be committing! While you're at it, stop spying on me! Hee hee!

Posted by: To Dorothy from Columbus | August 11, 2006 2:32 PM

"Are you doing this on the job, i.e. cheating your employer by spending all this time on personal things"

Wait, are you the one who did Walmart's training on "time theft?" Good grief.

Posted by: hmmm | August 11, 2006 2:36 PM

The posts by Doctor and Mother, as well as Jonathan actually made me think of a new idea for a blog. Something that might actually have to do with Work-life. Medical balance.

My spouse has what doctors consider a "managable" disease. We have to balance about 3-4 doctors appointments a month, 2-3 ER visits a year, 8 medications, and the expenses/copays that go with all that. That doesn't include the genaral fatigue and pain she feels regularly.

Fortunately, she has a good job that is understanding, but mysteriously, she hasn't been promoted in 3 years even though her reviews are all stellar...

Often times her appointments require me to drive her because of this or that test...or lots of bloodwork that can make her a little dizzy to drive.

This has a big inpact on both of our careers. As thirtysomethings trying to get ahead...it is very difficult. Not to mention the fact that it can be a full-tim job just manageing doctors and medicines if she has a serious flare-up. FMLA leave can only go so far...

I can't even get started on the whole health care issue. In my opinion, she has the right to LIVE, that isn't just a privalage for the rich. However, her co-pays alone cost alot.

As a result of our experiance...we of course have a lot of respect for doctors. However, I think the challenge here is that many doctors are not good at actually dealing with the patient's emotions. "Bedside Manner" is lacking in so many. We definately have our favorites who we love to see, but there is 1 doctor that we dread going to, but can't find any others in that specialty taking new patients. She treats us like idiots, and she actually told my wife "you're a ticking time-bomb" - with no solution, no additional information, nothing...just made the comment at the end of the appointment and walked out.

Anyway...these things came to mind as I have been reading the blog, maybe it is more than one topic...but at least this time it actually has something to do with the title of blog - work-life balance.

Posted by: Idea for next week | August 11, 2006 2:41 PM

A general comment about disease. We are extremely advanced in diagnosis of disease. We are extremely deficient in our ability to treat many diseases.

Posted by: Jonathan | August 11, 2006 2:42 PM

I have a great deal of respect for my secretary and always thank her for her help, try to be considerate of her time (she supports 3 other attorneys) and NEVER yell. The other thing you learn in the law is that the so-called "support staff" are the real brains in the outfit (see prior post from former law secretary) and control the gears, if you piss them off, it's not going to work out well for you.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 2:46 PM

Dorothy from Columbus - I'm sure you'll write back, sweetie - how dare you show up on a blog while the kiddies are playing out in the pool? Don't you know that's dangerous? What if one of the precious ones drowned while you were indulging yourself by chastizing others on this blog? What qualifications, beyond the "necessary" education, do you have to be holier-than-thou?

If I'm stealing from my company by reading this blog and writing this post, they're stealing from me by forcing me to spend my lunch hour at my desk. I can flake out for a few, or I can go postal. The boss may not know it, but he prefers option #1.

Posted by: NYC | August 11, 2006 2:47 PM

Dadof2 - give it a rest, will ya? Have a good week folks. I'll be on vacation next week.

Posted by: Rockville | August 11, 2006 2:48 PM

To the person with the spouse with the "manageble disease" -

My late husband was on disability for the last 3 years of his life. Most of his prescriptions were for "experimental" drugs which were not covered by my health insurance.

If you haven't done so already, I strongly urge that you seek legal help (yep, from those greedy lawyers) to determine if your wife qualifies for some kind of benefits.

Best wishes.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 2:53 PM

Good point Jonathan, however, we may be deficient in our ability treating disease, we shouldn't be deficient in our ability at treating humans, each other, wiht respect and dignity. I am amazed at how often my wife is treating like a peice of meat on a conveyer belt at the factory. Poked, prodded, tested, talked about like she isn't even in the room.

Posted by: idea | August 11, 2006 2:55 PM

You shouldn't be thinking about anything but work while you're at work--thinking about what you're having for lunch, your family, errands you have to do, and so on is the same thing as "stealing from the company." While you're at work the only thing that should be on your mind ever is WORK!!!! (OY!)

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 2:58 PM

But if I think about work at home do I get to bill that time?

Posted by: to 2:58 poster | August 11, 2006 3:03 PM

Idea,

Its hard since the medical field is not truly competitive. You have a limited scope of who to see based on plan and expertise. We have found some great physcians who have excellent bedside manner and treat us with respect. And because of that, we refer friends to them which increase's their business. But it is especially hard around doctor's if you don't have a medical background. You don't know what is important, what questions to ask and really what is going on. I've been lucky in finding physcians I like and whom I respect. I'm also lucky to live in a big metro area with a lot of doctor's and decent coverage (suprisingly good for a phD student). Balance a manageable disease that requires large commutes and lots of doctor's and meds is tough. This is an issue the elderly face everyday.

I'm pretty young, but my folks brought me up to respect the people around me.

As for my job and time, I have a job where it is hurry up and wait, that is spend 3 hours putting together an experiment then put it in a piece of equipment and let it run till done. I'm also reading some papers to keep up to date in my field but I'm still going to be waiting for something to get done, with nothing I can be doing in the meantime.

Posted by: Jonathan | August 11, 2006 3:07 PM

I might also point out that in the medical pharmacology class I took, the professors made it a point to remind the students that they are treating people not numbers and that helping a patient understand what drug they are getting and why is vital to improving patient care and quality of life.

Posted by: Jonathan | August 11, 2006 3:13 PM

The reason I wanted to become a lawyer is quite simple. I love the law. It is stimulating, sometimes flexible and sometimes rigid. The law challenges me. On the other hand, I am one of those long-hour working temps. This is, however, just a means to an end.

Lawschool was fun and challenging and I encourage those who are interested to go for it! I only have one piece of advice. Make sure it is truly what you want to do. You don't have to practice law, but make sure you want to go to lawschool.

Posted by: TempTown Lawyer | August 11, 2006 3:31 PM

Thanks Jonathan, I would be curious to know how other people handle taking care of elderly relatives while working.

We are lucky to have a great Primary doc...it's the specialists that are tough.

Anyone know a good Reumatologist???

Posted by: Idea | August 11, 2006 3:33 PM

Re. the temp-excluded-from-office-camaradarie thing...Part of that is attitude, obvoiusly, but a while back long-term temps at Microsoft sued for benefits and I think they won. I'm not going to get into details, but there was a lot of backlash from companies, including excluding temps from company parties, teambuildings, etc. so they wouldn't make the temp/full time employee distinction fuzzy. So I'd say that some companies might be reacting to that too. Not that I'd justify it. Actually, the company I worked for was less cynical in their reaction to the ruling in that they apparently just hired everybody full time rather than making temps a second class.

Posted by: Columbia, MD | August 11, 2006 3:33 PM

When I graduated from college I did not have a job so I temped in a law firm as a receptionist. I had worked in a few office on campus in college, so I had basic office experience. After I had been there for two months temping, one of the partners came up to me and asked if I would consider being her secretary, as I was always punctual, my desk space was neat and organized, and I had sucessfully helped out on some overflow projects. I took the job. Now, four years later, I'm working in a different firm as an Executive Assistant making great money and my job is flexible enough that I am going back to school. Not all temps are psychos. Some of us are really good and knowlegeable.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 3:37 PM

Thought others might enjoy this NYT piece about Americans and vacation after last week's discussion...

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/10/fashion/10vacation.html?ex=1155441600&en=603cb6a25ad36453&ei=5087%0A

Posted by: Megan | August 11, 2006 4:02 PM

You shouldn't be thinking about anything but work while you're at work--thinking about what you're having for lunch, your family, errands you have to do, and so on is the same thing as "stealing from the company." While you're at work the only thing that should be on your mind ever is WORK!!!! (OY!)

And now we hear from PSYCHO boss or co-worker. Yikes!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 4:03 PM

I am an engineer, but have worked temporary office jobs during college and grad school. This was white collar, non-professional work.

On a TEMPORARY basis, this worked well for me. I got to sit in an air-conditioned office, perform simple tasks, and get half-decent wages. Best of all, when I left the office, the job stayed behind, no responsibilty.

To those complaining about treatment of temps, just keep the attitude that all you owe your employer is an honest effort, and all they owe you is your hourly rate.

Posted by: Preschool Dad | August 11, 2006 4:06 PM

I am a lawyer, but a human being first. I worked hard to get where I am. I worked my way through law school (OSU) late in life after an abusive marriage. Today is my day off. I can't have children and wish I could, and can't believe the cruelty of the remarks about neglecting children or (I can hardly write this) having sexual intercourse with my dog. I thought those of us who read the Post were supposed to be progressive people, with some sympathy for those less fortunate than we are and some good manners. This is very disturbing. Let's elevate the level of discourse, please.

Posted by: Dorothy from Columbus | August 11, 2006 4:09 PM

Anyway, where did any of you get the idea that we are paid to do personal things like blog here. That is cheating, and stealing from your employer, be it Wal-Mart or whoever.

Posted by: Dorothy from Columbus | August 11, 2006 4:10 PM

Rules for incoming first year lawyers:

1. Treat your secretary with respect and he or she will jump through hoops to make you shine for your partner. Remember, even the temps may have gone to college and are just doing this for experience.

2. Befriend the IT staff. The staff Paralegals and Secs have already done this if they're smart. Your comp crashed and you need help at 2am? you have a friend.

3. You may be just above pond scum on the attorney scale, but don't take your fustrations out on the staff. They get it from everyone---management, partners and other staff members.

4. remember, STAFF KNOWS EVERYTHING and if you want to know something--be NICE. The attoneys that actually befriended staff members got some nice benefits because of it. They were privy to information that most didn't know. you NEVER know when gossip comes in handy. It's a dog eat dog world. You have to know how to play the game.

Luckily, I escaped the perils of law firm life. and I'm so happy I did.....

Posted by: FormerLegalSecretary | August 11, 2006 4:12 PM

Doctors job is harder because...

Physically...they need fast reflexes to dodge the projectile vomit.
Longer hours...all depends on the specialty. The biggest hours issue in being "on-call" 24/7 for you patients. When junior has a cold the pediatrician gets a 2 am phone call from the frantic parents. When Pop ate to much spicy food and has heartburn its the cardiologist who gets the middle-of-the-night wakeup call.
Intellectually...Doctors have to know an incredible amount of information, have excellent ability to recall something they saw once 15 yrs ago, and be excellent problem solvers. The internet has made this much easier. After the exam when the doctor tells you to get dressed and he'll be back in a few mins to discuss the exam. What he's doing is sitting in his office Goggling your complaints hoping to find a diagnosis. (My husband actually did this as a 1st year med student and made a diagnosis that the surgery resident couldn't figure out)
Dealing with the Public...well I've worked in retail and know how frantic some people get when the "hot item of the season" is all sold out in the color that best matches their skin tone. Can you imagine how much more frantic these same people are when they find out that the hospital gown they are required to wear only comes in puke-green? And no its not the nurse to bears the brunt of this indignity because these people always insist upon talking to the boss (in this case the specialist doctor treating them).
And the number 1 reason why doctors jobs are harder...
When the retail clerk makes a mistake the wrong color blouse gets ordered.
When the teacher makes a mistake a paper has to be corrected
When the investment banker make a mistake his client losses some money
When a doctor makes a mistake someone dies. This tends to add a bit to the stress level of the job and makes it "harder".
And FYI its not the doctors who are getting rich off the blood, sweat, and tears of the working man. It's the medical insurance company, malpractice insurance company, and litigation lawyers. (As a whole, lawyers are just like other people some good some bad. But I think any who have ever run an ad with the words 'Injury, death, car accident, hospital, or doctor' with 'call me' and 'I can help' should be rounded up and shot. I think this also goes for the lawyers who take idiots that are too stupid to realize that coffee is hot and burns when spilled on you as clients. And no it's not McDonalds fault that your kids are fat...it's your fault as a parent.)

Posted by: cw | August 11, 2006 4:15 PM

Dorothy - you must be comfortable in your glass house. You are the one who told other people to "get a life." I agree that discourse should be elevated, so practice what you preach, Buckeye ...

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 4:17 PM

To Dorothy from Columbus: These blogs are targets for immature 'trolls' who like to hide under cover of anonymity and throw out insults, scathing remarks, snarky comments. Take it with a grain of salt. I take all blogs with a grain of salt. One that especially hurt me was the one who called me 'ugly and demented' because I chose not to have children. That person has never met me and I consider myself lucky for it. Perhaps the Post should put on a disclaimer that 'only those who share the narrow-minded ideas of the moderator may offer comment.' Blogs are just inconsequential forms of entertainment, like horoscopes. Take them with a grain of salt.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | August 11, 2006 4:19 PM

Well, I could understand it if this was some evil right-wing website, but I expect better quality of discussion and civility from POST readers! We are supposed to be tolerant, progressive, empathetic, etc. How does this make us look? Mother Jones readers don't have this problem or say these kinds of cruel words. I mean, it sounds like Carl Rove or something! I am especially embarassed about what the lawyers are saying, as I am a lawyer myself.

Posted by: Dorothy from Columbus | August 11, 2006 4:28 PM

Dorothy from Columbus, a lot of people post thoughtful and interesting comments here. Your debut post was both attacking and condescing to others, so perhaps you should take your own advice.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 4:29 PM

Hey, a BIG shout-out to all the former dogsh*t big-legal-firm support staff who have commented here today. Maybe I'll be able to stop feeling like such a failure now. I just couldn't tolerate those first and second year associates. Really, they are kids with huge senses of entitlement. Man, it was awful.

Posted by: no-collar mamma | August 11, 2006 4:42 PM

Me thinks Dorothy is more interested in stirring the pot and humoring her (more likely him) self ..

As for "cw" ..you win, Doctors rule ..the rest of us drool. We should all bow before the awesome responsibility, stress level, inadequate compensation and breadth of knowledge you have. Is this true of ALL doctors by the way, or just the completely self-centered? Seems to me many doctors make their money off of such important procedures as nose jobs, breast implants, and liposuction, not sure how much value that is providing to society. Obviously, ICU and emergency room doctors are another story, but don't go lumping the podiatrists and cosmetic surgeons in with the rest of the lot.

As a lawyer, I am ashamed and embarrassed (morally) when, for example, legal "skills" are used to lower awards to those who suffer permanent injury b/c of faulty products, or lawyers who defend polluters, but in this country, everyone is entitled to a lawyer, so what am I going to do? Instead of getting on your (very) high horse about what an awesome responsibility you have, accept the fact that we all have stress in our chosen profession. Not every doctor has to deal with death on the surgery table, and not every lawyer has to deal with foreclosing on someone's home or bankrupting some poor mom and pop who didn't shovel their sidewalk properly. Some do, some just write wills and do divorce settlements.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 4:43 PM

Hey Idea,

I know where you and your wife are at. I'm in my early 30's and have RA too. Mine onset in early childhood so I have years of dealing with Reumatologist and have some real horror stories.

One once told me that I would be in a wheelchair by 30 since I was refusing the treatment he insisted I had to have (which I didn't) and refused to discuss it with me while talking to me as if I had the intelectual abilities of a chimp. I've also found some very good doctors. My MIL also has RA and has had alot of success with using acupuncture for pain management. I also have several doctors in the family which has helped a great deal in finding good doctors.

If you want to pick my brain about Reumatologist or just want to vent some about living with RA send me a message at werner_chris at yahoo dot com.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 4:44 PM

Two comments: First, not all lawyers treat their administrative staff poorly. I work in a small firm, and everyone from the managing partner down to the receptionist is treated very well. All of the attorneys here recognize that the admin staff are professionals too, and that they're an integral part of us getting our jobs done well and on time. Lawyers who treat their admin staff poorly usually end up with poor performance from their support staff.

Second, there is no question that being a doctor is "harder" than most other professions out there. If I have an emergency at work, or if I make a mistake, the worst that happens is someone loses some money (and maybe I get sued). If my husband, a surgeon, has an emergency and makes the wrong decision, someone dies. He often has to make quick, life-or-death decisions regarding a trauma or a problem that arises during a surgery, and there isn't always time to go look up the answer - he just has to know it off the top of his head. Lawyers, and most other professionals, need to know the process by which to find out the answers, so they can find them quickly. Doctors, especially ones who work trauma, need to know the answers right away.

Posted by: Seattle lawyer | August 11, 2006 4:45 PM

I have to say, having worked as a summer associate in a big firm, and now a young associate in a small firm, I have no idea why anyone works as legal support staff. They totally get treated like crap by lawyers young and old alike, often work the same long crappy hours without the good pay, and feel just as responsible for the quality of their work. Far as I can tell, good legal staff are like gold and are totally undervalued. Every now and then I see a situation where an attorney seems to really value his/her staff and treats them accordingly, but that sure seems to be the exception (and in the event that I ever have any staff working for me, I certainly hope I can treat them the way they deserve...)

Posted by: Megan | August 11, 2006 4:46 PM

I should have said that in my current firm, I think the lawyers treat the staff very well, but the staff still end up with the long hours and stress without the pay. BUt I would guess that as Seattle lawyer says, small firms in general treat their staff better. I think I'm still scarred by my summer experience with the big dogs

Posted by: Megan | August 11, 2006 4:50 PM

Not every doctor is a surgeon.

Not every mistake made by a doctor is life or death.

What about when a prosecutor makes a mistake and prosecutes the wrong person for a crime? Or lets a serial killer go?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 4:52 PM

It's a form of hell. I don't think anyone ever wakes up and says, I want to be a litigation paralegal when I grow up. But it happens because people need jobs and lawyers need paralegals. It's a job. If you are good at it, and have a decent boss on a decent team, it can be interesting work. And in a city like Washington, it can pay well enough. But yes, it can be hell on earth.

Posted by: legal support staff | August 11, 2006 4:52 PM

Ok, I promise I'll quit after this one, but I'm so restless today I can't stop myeslf.

In response to Dorothy, I think it's a real mistake to make such assumptions about the readership of the Post, this blog, and right and left wingers in general. This blog has some regulars who appear to be conservative politically and are polite and thoughtful contributors, and some liberals who are nasty and snarky (and probably some count me in that bunch, though I do try to play nice), and vice versa. Politeness doesn't follow political lines here or anywhere else, as far as I can tell.

Posted by: Megan | August 11, 2006 4:56 PM

CAn you believe that some people think doctors are arrogant and have God-complexes? Go figure.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 4:56 PM

Ok that last post was meant to make some of the doctors posting on here laugh. Didn't mean to step on the toes of the sensitive.

Yes some doctor are the scum of the earth just like some lawyers are, and some of everyone else. Doctors are not the only people with important jobs (by the way I'm not a doctor)

And apperently some people chose to read selectivly passing right over that disclamair about not all lawyers being evil and jumping all over the fact that I dislike "ambulance chasing" laywers.

Actually its the whole litigagous culture we seem to have in the US right now that I dislike. I hate that everything has to be blamed on someone else. If I slip on an icy sidewalk it has to be someone's fault. I can't sue God for making it snow or myself for deciding to wear those heels instead of my boots. So I'll sue the store for having the poor judgment to open in a location where it snows, the bag boy for being to lazy shovel as fast and the snow falls, and the manufactuer of the deicer as it didn't clear the sidewalk of 100% of the slush upon instant contact. Hummm...maybe I can sue the shoe company as well. After all isn't it poor design to have made the soles slick instead of providing aggressive tread. And maybe I can sue the mall too for causing willfull harm by sell those shoes in a region where it snows. Oh and by the way when I fell I bruised my hip and sprained my ankle. I was find 2 days later but I think I deserve a million $$ for emotional suffering since the bagboy lauged at me.

Posted by: cw | August 11, 2006 5:11 PM

I agree with "Idea for next week." Two of my three children have auto-immune illnesses, much like what he describes. They are doing well and LOOK FINE, mostly. But the balancing act in a family with chronic illness is very tricky. One aspect that few know is that if a child is diagnosed before they turn 18-21 AND carry their own health insurance the portability-coverage law DOES NOT APPLY. Balance takes many ingredients, but even though we are solidly middle class, the money/insurance/coverage/copay costs accumulate over time. Our balance? Save for college (2 of three nearly done). Drive old cars. No vacations. Really: no beach week, no Disneyworld, etc. Just day trips here and there and we are generally happy.

How about it, Leslie? Look at health in the family-balance ball of silly putty (push here, pull there; rob Peter, pay Paul, etc.)

Posted by: Balancing family ills | August 11, 2006 5:13 PM

Dorothy, one thing to keep in mind: from the number of postings today, it seems like there is a huge number of lawyers on-line. Which means a number of us live by the billable hour, not the time clock. Personally, I log in when I need a mental health break or when I'm eating lunch -- times when I am NOT billing my clients. So the only one paying for my time on this blog is me (perhaps interfering somewhat with my own personal search for balance when I need to stay later to make up for the time I waste doing this, but that's my problem, not my firm's or my clients').

Posted by: Laura | August 11, 2006 5:26 PM

To cw and Seattle,
Obviously I agree with y'all. As an ED doc, I do make life and death decisions, treat trauma victims and abused children as well. That may seem "stressful" to outsiders, but it's what I'm trained to do. The toughest parts for me are 1) telling a parent that their child has died or won't live and 2) being treated like a servant by staff and patients. In all fairness, I have received my fair share of thank you notes (love the thank you notes).

And being in the profession, I can tell you that many of us are human and not arrogant. Surgeons tend to be the most arrogant, but as long as he or she has the stuff to back it up (intelligent, skillful), I give them a pass. It's the stupid and arrogant ones that pisses me off. And there are stupid and arrogant docs out there. I know that we should seem more compassionate doing what we do, but think about this. Many docs are stressed with too many patients and too much paperwork. And those in private practice are watching their compensation dwindle. Sure there are dermatologists and plastic surgeons that cater to the rich who pay full price. But most of us are paid whatever insurance companies will pay. And many of us take on charity care. I have voluteered in homeless clinics and spend countless hours volunteering at various other venues (do it because I like it, don't need kudos).

As I said, I feel priviledged to do what I do. I am ok with my compensation (well, I just took a big paycut to work in a related, but lower pay field).

And it pains me when I hear about patients who have to endure unfeeling physicians. Especially those with chronic conditions. I hope "idea" finds a rheumatologist with more compassion, I'm sure they're out there. By the way, rheumatologists probably don't make what even internists make even though they are highly specialized.

And I like the idea of a blog day to discuss balancing one's life with a chronic condition. I also was going to say that you should check into disability benefits, but someone else already suggested it. I'm surprised your specialist didn't mention it.

Posted by: doctor and mother | August 11, 2006 5:34 PM

I come from a family of engineer/programmer types--both parents--though I'm not one. Yes, they do seem to be, overall, more stable than most groups I've encountered. It seems to be because, overall, they have simple desires and lives that fulfill them. Many are a bit shy, and the firms that depend on their science-y types often know they have to protect their money-earners, though there are exceptions.

My parents wanted a family, fun toys to play with (their jobs gave them this), colleagues with simillar interests, and a few good close friends. They have these, and seem pretty happy, though Dad's now retired. Also lot of engineers are dedicated book-readers, and have rich internal lives. The work and the ideas, not the constant pats on the back, seem to motivate them.

Engineers can make great parents. Especially the dads. I've seen this over and over: engineer dads totally devoted to their kids.


Posted by: LM | August 11, 2006 6:01 PM

Caution on the disability piece. That is for people who are so debilitated they cannot work. Many with chronic ills conduct themselves with full and productive lives. My children go to school, play sports, etc, against a backdrop of immune medications, inhalers, physical therapy, etc. When auto-immune conditions flare, people do land in the hospital and sometimes, die. But as in the case of Type I diabetes and manyconditions, most of us want and expect to work. Besides, disability must be established -- in an adversarial setting with attorneys and testimony.

The balance piece for the blog could focus on living well with chronic disease, options for advocacy (leave, insurance, part-time options). For example, I am part of a push for children carrying their asthma inhalers on their persons and NOT stored in nurse's offices.

I expect that others here balance either their illness plus family and work or that of a child. If we talk about this, perhaps we can be kind and supportive AND practical.

I would hate to see the meanness of "your illness is not as bad as mine."

Posted by: Hi Docmom and Idea-guy | August 11, 2006 6:06 PM

Ok I lied, one more to add to LM's post on engineers - they make great spouses too (or at least my engineer husband does).

Posted by: Megan | August 11, 2006 6:12 PM

What exactly does today's topic have to do with balancing work and family life?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 6:14 PM

"To todocmom and idea"--your comments are appreciatied. But I would venture to say that if someone has to go frequently to doctor visits, is in chronic pain, and misses a lot of work such that their job is at risk, consideration should be given to going on disability. I don't believe that most asthmatics or type I diabetics fit this description. The vast majority work and/or go to school and do well. And disability is established by the patient's physician and is most often NOT adversarial. I've signed disability forms for debiliated people and they got it while others I refused. If those people hired lawyers and got it, that is an abuse of the system. Alternatively, the worker with the chronic illness should discuss these issues with their employer b/c there are laws that state that the employer needs to make reasonable accomodations for workers with disabilities.

Anyway, this issue of chronic disease and disability on a family's balance is important. A sick child wreaks havoc on budgets, jobs and family dynamics. There isn't a lot of societal support either. I've known people to be fired because they took too much time off to tend to a child with a chronic disase. And familes go bankrupt too.

Ugh and how repugnant would it be to have a blog where people say "my illness is worse than yours" Oy.

Posted by: doctor and mother | August 11, 2006 6:35 PM

To Doctor and Mother: Good comments. But you cannot live on disablity, let alone raise a family.

My children's ills come from an inherited immune disorder (lots of CVID and RA, SLE, Scheroderma and Crohn's clustered in my big extended family.)

Sometimes disablity is what a person ends up on, but you can be very ill and still able to work.

Your comments about what chronic illness in a child does to families are spot on: I don't have "leave" to use on the children, but parse it out like so many others. Carefully, with finger's crossed.

Advocacy for insurance portability/flexibility, part-time work, and some mix of work-plus-disability support -- all would make sense for families with chronic illness.

Cancer does garner support within the community. I really know who my friends are, given the episodic and ongoing nature of chronic illness.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 6:53 PM

My internet at the office was not workign today! Not sure if anyone will read this but...

Decided to be and love being a laywer because I am a HUGE nerd and love the law and the logic behind it. (case in point, I have taken three, yes, three bars, just to be licensed in certain jurisdictions, for no real reason!) I took several years off between undergrad and law school, so I was so excited and ready to be back in school and LOVED it (and miss it now too, especially at the end of August when it's back to school time!) I don't work crazy hours and I think that you study so much in law school that what is "normal" to you changes (I mean, I NEVER studied in undergrad and suddenly in law school I studied for like 12 hours a day during finals!!)

I think that what is most frustrating is people's misconceptions of lawyers of being huge a--holes only concerned about money - while, yes, there are some out there, there are many who are not. What is more annoying is that I am proud of what I do and where I am in life, but when I was still waiting tables (to help with those student loan payments), when told that I was lawyer by day, people I was waiting on would look at me disappointed and say "oh, really?" Wow - thanks.

As for temp jobs - I actually had one fantastic temp job - was hired to work on a trial with a senior associate who treated me with respect and like a "real" associate (at about 1/3 of the pay) and he tried hard to get me a job, but the firm had a similar rule against hiring temps, but he and others helped me find a permanent job from there.

As for bad temps - at my first job after college, we would hire temps that could not understand how to fold pieces of paper into thirds, but I think it was just a matter of not caring - at all.

Not sure if I am going to read this blog anymore - I normally just watch from afar, as I am single and have no kids and a long-distnace relationship (so my work/life balance is figuring out how to work in the trips to see the SO), but I have found people so judgmental and nasty this past week.

oh and anyone who has not learned to treat "support staff" with respect is a moron - I learned that way back in college when I planned events and the house keeping guys could find me anything in a pinch when i needed it!!

Posted by: Arl Lawyer | August 11, 2006 10:32 PM

Is there anyone who thinks that you should treat support staff with respect just because it's the right thing to do and not because it could benefit you in some way?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 10:44 PM

While I say that I don't work that late, I also wonder how people with kids do it. I work until 6-6:30 normally and it takes me about 30-45 minutes to get home. On nights that I go to the gym, by the time I come home and take a quick shower, I sit down for dinner and it's 9pm. I am sometimes amazed at how you all do it. (FWIW - my Mom's a nurse who worked 7-3:30)

Posted by: Arl Lawyer again | August 11, 2006 10:45 PM

Arl Lawyer: For what it's worth... I've notice this blog tends to go south right around lunchtime. So that seems to be a good time to check out. Periodically I might pop back in, quick scan to see if anything good shows up but it's usually the morning larks that are worth the visit.

Posted by: Tracy | August 11, 2006 11:07 PM

To Arl lawyer again, if you're still checking in.

I work a reduced schedule for the government so no longer have crazy hours, but can still offer suggestions.

You don't exercise after work any more. I gave it up entirely at first out of sheer exhaustion, but am now exercising to exercise videos after the kids go to sleep.

You find a great spouse who will do his share and, when your work is crazy, even more. I'm in the office working on the brief this weekend. Yesterday my husband did the grocery shopping and took the kids to their swim lessons. Today they're doing church and he's taking my daughter to her piano lesson make-up.

You cook enough on weekends so you can get through most of the week. On the other nights you resort to hot dogs, frozen dinners, quesidillas, etc. Even on weekends you don't cook anything too complicated, because then you miss valuable time with your family (though they can help with some things).

You stagger your schedule with your husband to minimize time in day care.

You don't waste valuable time on this blog, such that you have to come in on the weekend to make up time you took reading it during the week . . . . . (See, Dorothy from Columbus, there are repercussions that come other than the employer losing time. I'm actually giving my employer more time over this weekend than I squandered last week. I'd have to be in anyway, but will probably have to put in an hour or two more to make up for not focusing earlier this week.)

I don't know how single moms do it. But I guess there's always a way.

Posted by: Sam | August 13, 2006 10:38 AM

Sam, Good suggestions, but even with your reduced workload, I can't help notice you still worked both days this weekend.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 13, 2006 11:06 AM

Call it procrastination and lack of focus on my part (see, I'm on here again because I'm having trouble getting started on the next argument). Whenever I have a lot of writing to do and get a writing block, I can't focus and procrastinate. That would be the case whether I'm a lawyer, a student working on a research paper, etc. After I file this next week (or sooner, when I'm in the non-thinking stages of putting it together), I will hopefully be back to normal. Working like a demon during working hours, not surfing the internet or checking this blog, running out the door right on time to pick the kids up and never looking back. That's my normal week. I've just had a lot of trouble with this particular project.

Posted by: Sam | August 13, 2006 11:52 AM

Thanks to the poster who said support personnel should be treated with respect because it is the right thing to do, not because of what it can get you in return.

To the poster who wondered why anybody would want to work for lawyers in a support position: I never wanted to do it. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a nurse or ballerina. (Don't we all?) When I was in high school my mother said 'learn to type, you'll always have a job.' Having worked for a big accounting firm and several Government jobs, I have the skills and experience to go for the big bucks. The salary is highest in the big law firms solely because it's 'combat pay.' We have good benefits, well-appointed offices, lots of opportunity for overtime if we want it. The biggest draw-back is working for/with lawyers. Arrogant, overbearing, entitled, whiney, stuffy, eccentric, not in touch with reality, over-educated in some areas and lacking in common sense in others. They couldn't function unless some lowly support staff was there to help them dial the phones, call the taxis, get the coffee. I'm surprised some of them can dress themselves in the morning. Boy, could we tell you stories!

When I retire (28 months and counting) I'm going to open a half-way house for burned-out legal secretaries. We'll hang pictures of our lawyers and throw darts at them.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | August 13, 2006 12:47 PM

A story about being a temp.

I signed up with a temp agency one summer in college. My first assignment was to a large computer company, to cover the phones and front desk for their sales office while their regular admin person was out on vacation.

No one spoke to me civilly. The salesmen would pose in front of my desk while checking if there were any messages for them. I think I was supposed to be amazed by their virility or something. Next, they'd assure me they were the best salesman, pose again, then swagger off. The office manager liked to tell me about how she thought she was developing a mental illness/issue. I sat there while she told me things I wouldn't share with anyone by my sister or closest friend. Oh, but she was too busy to tell me where the ladies room was or how to get to the cafeteria. I had to wander to find those myself, in both cases coming accidentally up to secure R&D areas and getting reprimanded for it.

These people didn't seem to believe I was human. I went to one other temp assignment, not quite as bad but still dehumanizing. I quit the agency and got a job working the cash register at a liquor store at a semi-dodgy location on the DC line. I had to deal with the occasional drug addict, but the great majority of the customers and staff were very nice people who treated me well. The manager showed me where the ladies room was the very first morning. I also was paid slightly more than the temp job (plus all those free t-shirts with ads for beer on the front, woo hoo!).

Posted by: Terry in Maryland | August 14, 2006 9:55 AM

boring, boring, boring, what could be more boring than all those lawyers writing about themselves

Posted by: Anon | August 14, 2006 12:51 PM

The only thing more boring than lawyers writing about themselves is people posting blog comments without the nerve or dignity to sign their names.

Posted by: Terry in Maryland | August 14, 2006 12:52 PM

Hmmm, lots of stories about temps but not too many from temps about the - uh - interesting bosses one can land. Like the one who came back from lunch so loaded he had to hold himself up on the doorjamb or wall before taking his (all afternoon) nap. Or the one who would show up at 11:30 and not provide any tasks until 4:30 - and then be angry that I wouldn't stay to do all the work that "had" to be done that day. Or the one who wanted me to move all the secretary's things to another office and set it up so that it looked like she'd been demoted on her return from vacation. Or... Those are the ones who make you think that there's many a reason they don't have a regular person on the job for very long.

If you don't get a good temp, you aren't working with the right agency. And if you get lousy assignments, you aren't working with the right agency.

Posted by: Once a temp... | August 14, 2006 6:25 PM

"How else are you supposed to pay back $100-150,000 of debt? I want to work in non-profits or the government and enjoy reading, writing, and analysis too, but I don't want to be forced into a big firm job because I cannot afford $1000+/mo payments on a 40K non-profit salary."

Oh, this is silly. I graduated from Harvard with just this much debt. The federal government pays perfectly well, and I was able to pay off my loans in 12 years by living without a BMW. Really, even in the government, lawyers earn enough to pay an extra $1000 a month in law school loans. You just have to be willing, in exchange for the privilege of representing the public and doing thrilling and intellectually challenging work, to live according to the same standard of living of, well, most of the middle class.

It's not "I have to have a huge salary in a law firm or work for Mother Theresa." You can work for the federal government just fine.

I believe it's a character flaw to come out of a good law school with good grades and work for a law firm. The very best of my law school class all chose alternative paths, and are now professors, editors at the NYT, Congresswomen, Governors, federal appellate litigators, prosecutors, judges . . . . All the interesting people from my law school class took interesting jobs right away.

Says something . . . . As the novelist John Garnder once noted, if you're going to lose your soul, chances are you'll lose in your thirties.

Careful with that soul, people.

Posted by: Nancy | August 15, 2006 10:11 AM

Although the authors comments largely fail, because they are so exagerated; the truth is that many women do not want the pressure of having to be high-earning career persons added to their already
heavy burdens of caring for husbands, homes, pets and children. I thank God that my wonderful husband loves me for being a nice, good, caring person; and does not demand that I make over $50,000 a year!
Although most women are educated and very smart; not all women can, or want to be
high earners or career women. Many women don't want to work the long hours, or spend time away from home; or days away on travel; and dislike hanging out late at night in smokey bars full of forceful, loud, and boring business persons. There are also many scientific studies that show that women cannot handle this type of stress as well as men; and therefore, are much more apt to get various types of cancers, and other serious, painful and chronic diseases; like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression, substance abuse, IBS, etc.' as a result.

Women do not want to feel bad because they cannot or do not want to make big paychecks. We want to forever keep the option of being caretakers and caregivers; of being the guardians of children, pets; homes and gardens; of being the creators of moral, ethical, good and dutiful children and a better world. Someone needs to be there to care and women have been cultivated to care over the ages until it is truly in most of our genes. No one should ever look down on caregivers, as the amount of love and care in our society is already way, way below the amount needed; just go to an orphanage, and animal shelter, or a homeless shelter to find out. For the world to be a kinder, more ethical, and responsible place, we need to respect the caregivers, and not just the proud, rich and mighty. We need to save the weak. There has to be a Yin and Yan balance for there to be harmony.

Posted by: Merl | August 25, 2006 6:24 PM

Laura

You have a great sense of humor. Your story about the spacey temp made
me laugh out loud. I wish I had worked with a great supervisor like yourself when I was a temp.

Posted by: Merl | August 25, 2006 8:32 PM

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Posted by: John S | August 31, 2006 10:38 AM

Hi! Very interesting! pspito

Posted by: John S | September 4, 2006 8:44 AM

I'm don't agree with the women as caregivers post at all and find it blatantly sexist and offensive. I think men can and should be partly responsible for the home, children, pets, etc. I can tell you that women CAN handle the stress and the loud, boorish behavior. I did for nine years. I just made a decision it wasn't worth it, and moved on. I know plenty of successful female partners who kick ass at their jobs.

anyway, I just left my fancy-pants associate position and am now a contract lawyer. I love it! I should have left long ago. I don't make as much money, but the time off and flexibility makes it much more attractive to me. Plus, I took two months off this summer and traveled around Asia and pursued my real passion of photography. So, for all you associates who are toiling away and miserable at your law firm jobs, don't be afraid to take the leap. Life is too short to stay in a place simply for the money.

Posted by: bhutan | September 18, 2006 9:48 AM

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