Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Per Diem Life

If you're a new attorney, everyone wants experience before you can get hired anyplace. How do you get experience? One way is to do per diem work.

Being a per diem, as I've told people, is like being a relief pitcher in baseball. You're the relief attorney for a proceeding when the firm or attorney who has the case can't appear for whatever reason (appearances in other places, life circumstances like being sick or going on vacation, maybe even taking the day off to get badly needed sex; I don't ask questions). You get the necessary information from the attorney you're appearing for, show up to the court/site of the deposition or other place you're going for a legal matter and do what the attorney is asking you to do. Before I started doing it, I was told "it's really simple." Parts of it actually are. A lot of doing courthouse stuff is paperwork (kind of like doing transactional work); actually the practice of law in general involves lots of paperwork, which is why you have to be a detail oriented little cuss if you want to become or continue being a lawyer.

You also do lots of waiting. Sometimes you get out very early (like before 11 a.m. or even 10:30). Other days, you'll be there closer to 1:30 p.m. or even have to come back after the 1 o'clock lunch break. Bringing a book to read & a fully charged phone helps. Or you can see about saving books in iBooks and reading them on your iPhone (assuming you have one).

You also, it seems, have to be more of an extrovert than most attorneys are. Some cases require you to call out case names to find your opposing counsel. In my experience, you're not told what the opposing attorney looks like. No one tells them what you look like. You have to find the guy with your code, exchange your information, do what you came there for (if the judge approves, of course) and then you go home not to handle that matter again. It gets even more interesting if both sides have per diem attorneys covering for a case.

I wonder how people did this stuff before cell phones; I prefer it when people write down their numbers so you can text them. It's extremely effective; I highly encourage people to do it. This way, you are covered if you're doing multiple appearances in different places (which it seems many attorneys who go to court are doing).

They also never give you a manual on how to do this stuff. You have to wing it, rely on the kindness of other attorneys in the courts who know where they're going/what they're doing or ask the court staff (the security people especially are awesome & the court officers are good resources since they'll also keep you safe from the occasional unruly type). I actually created my own instruction manuals for navigating places I've been to so I know for next time what room a particular proceeding will be in or what room a judge is in. Taking pictures of posted directories for your knowledge is also good.

Let me also say if you don't have one, get an attorney secure pass if you're going to do court appearances. You'll spare yourself all the waiting in the security line (and those get really long sometimes).

Overall, it's actually a job with advantages. You actually do legal work (unlike in document review). You don't get micromanaged on things (not in my experience at least & I HATE micromanagers with a passion). You're almost never in the same place twice so you get to travel around quite a bit, meaning you will know geography and the public transit system a lot better. You work for yourself & apparently, if you do it right you can make a good living at it. You also get to network with people, see the legal system in action (though it's a far cry from television shows) and find out that you're not nearly as incompetent as you might have thought you were at first blush. Those acting skills can also come in handy, particularly if you've had improv training.

Maybe if you are bold, you can meet cute guys & try hitting on them. A few have hit on me in the course of this work, which I always find weird since it's not like I'm in makeup or some fashion show piece like I would be if I were modeling. If I were in lingerie or a bikini or something, I'd expect some dude would try hitting on me; that's part of being in the show & the performance aspect. I'm not expecting it in the courthouse when I'm in business attire (yes, I managed to find stylish business attire that was also professional for court; professional doesn't have to = frumpy & I'm always happy to see other fashionistas in court).

I'm a little shocked no one has told attorneys to use courts as pickup scenes. Plenty of mothers and older women have told their kids and younger women around them to try picking up guys at church. My mother even suggested that to me; however, I find it sleazy & disrespectful if you actually believe in that faith. Also, how do you know that guy is even devout? He could be doing the same thing, using church as a place to pick up women without actually being a member of the faith.

The idea of having lustful thoughts about someone when you're in church or court just creeps me out. How could do your work if you're over here thinking about hot some fellow attorney is? I don't expect guys to not have hormones (just like I'm not going to say I don't have them) but nobody wants to feel like they're being evaluated as a sex object when they are someplace to engage in a legitimate job. At least I could tell you about classy, proper ways to pick up women in that setting and ways that are tacky, insulting and plain creepy.

I guess in some ways looks can be an advantage in legal work (outside of entertainment where looks help nearly everyone); this is what I've heard but not sure I've actually seen it in practice yet. Perhaps I will sometime.

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