16 May 2005

The Job--Day One

There were no candy-apple red Swingline staplers in sight. But this most recent employment experience could definitely be called "Office Space-lite." The cubicle atmosphere is in full force: I'd have to leave my desk to see if a tornado were coming, for example. And if I brought a feng shui master in to see what could be done--well, let's just say he would probably have a nervous breakdown.

Physical imperfections aside, though, the people seem really nice. I'm not just saying that because I know people have been fired for making unkind comments on blogs about their places of employment and coworkers. They all were very friendly, both the group of law clerks (many of whom I know from law school already, like Andrew, Drew, Nick, and Nina), and the secretaries, and the "higher-ups" as I like to call them--i.e. the lawyers, judges, chief clerk, and chairman. Actually, I didn't really speak to anyone (beyond a simple "hello, I'm Tom, I'm here to be your slave" pleasantries) except the one secretary who was responsible for inducting (orientating, whatever the p.c. term is) the group starting in the afternoon, and the two guys who were in that group with me. Andrew was one of them, and he's one of the more quality people from my class, which is saying a lot. Always genuine and sincere, plus a hard worker, and he has a son who is learning piano, which means I have someone I can talk about music stuff with once in a while. The other guy--Beau--was from Cooley Law School, the other law school in Lansing. Smart guy, at least on first impression, and very easy to get along with, which is important considering we have adjoining cubicles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the whole summer. I actually feel like I'm working down south, just based on the names: Marijo, Beau, Nina, Val, Valissa. I'm expecting a BethAnne to arrive soon.

As for what I actually did. Obviosuly, I won't get into heavy details, partly because that would be boring, and partly because that would be unprofessional. I mean, confidentiality is just presumed. But I can give the basics (kind of like talking about confession when you're Catholic, haha). Today, and most of this week, at least until I'm assigned a judge, I "populated templates." It sounds so sci-fi, doesn't it? A little dystopic, even. I can just hear some steely robot voice saying "prepare the specimens for template population." Ooooo. Creepy. Or biblical: "And God said 'Go forth, be fruitful and populate templates.' Oh, and eat the fishes of the sea, too." Anyways, what it amounts to is that we get an appeal from a party as to some kind of tax decision--property, agricultural, exemptions, etc.--and before a hearing is held, we have to fill in the proper template with all the requisite information. It looks just like any judgment order when finished, with docket number and all that. And then we describe all the evidence presented and the contentions made by both sides. It basically prepares every aspect of the judge's opinion except for the actual opinion and findings of fact and law made by the judge.

The other major task is drafting motions. There are more types of motions than there were tribes of Israel (which means at least 13, which isn't a lot, but I thought I'd throw another Old Testament reference in just for fun). Drafting motions, to be honest, is a lot of responsibility in certain situations. I mean, you're basically the first line of defense in deciding the disposition of a case. Will it be dismissed? Can it be amended? Doesn't sound too dramatic, but today Beau got to review and basically give his recommendation on a Motion for Dismissal. When you consider the value of the property underlying the motion, it's pretty intimidating stuff. Luckily, it's all reviewed by at least a couple people, but still--you just don't learn that in detail in law school. For any laypeople reading this and freaking out, don't worry. It's double and triple checked before a decision is made, and, besides, us students is all real smart folk. We ain't no dummies, ya know.

Those are the main things that I'll do in my down time. But once I get my judge (it seems wrong to use a possessive pronoun there, but oh well) I'll be getting to do memos and all sorts of wonderful what-not. The kind of stuff that makes resumes look pretty.

I also have a nifty ID tag with my mug on it that says "State Contractor." It's a horrible, horrible picture--I have the expression that a beaver probably has after getting laid or dropping acid or both, this weird sort of cross between sleepy and eager. Not that I've ever seen a real beaver, much less one in that condition, even on the National Geographic channel, but I can imagine. [On a tangent, I did see two deer about twenty feet from my bedroom window tonight, and I don't live in a rural area, so how freaky is that? And me without my carrots...]

I wish I could bring you some more funnies from work, but everyone is just too normal, at least on the first day. And we were all terribly productive. I guess that's why we each were hired, go figure. At my last cubicle-esque job, there were whole tracts of time spent talking about how the coffeepot needed cleaning, or learning new things about the copier (like why copiers--logically--don't allow double-sided overhead transparencies). I'm sure we'll all become a little less proactive over time, though, and all of our various idiosyncracies will bloom over the coming weeks. For your sake, I hope they do. Or I could just start making stuff up.


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