File Under "Administrative Extinction"

Bitter Contributor Columns, Lawyer

Administrative assistants, legal secretaries, PAs, whatever you call them. They are the silent victims of the times, quietly laid off by the hundreds, along with the Big Firm lay-offs that have plagued these past months. But these recent pink-slipped secretaries are not the result of an economic downturn. In fact, firm administrators worldwide have been lurking in the shadows for years, entirely aware of the enormous expense and futility of the administrative assistant, waiting for just the right excuse to axe them. And then it came.

Mark my words: assistants for lawyers won’t be around for much longer. We lawyers are now simply too self-sufficient, too technologically capable. There is no need for a second human being to manage our calendar, answer our phones or make revisions to our documents.  We have Blackberry calendars, caller ID and first-year associates to do the same (respectively). If you had equal parts smarts and laziness at any point in the last 10 years, you would have become a legal secretary—$70,000+ a year with full benefits, health insurance and paid vacation.  All just for showing up, grabbing the odd phone call, surfing the net and then clocking off promptly at 5:30.

But no more.

Legal secretaries are becoming a thing of the past. Like those impeccable beauties in AMC’s Mad Men, who flaunt their organizational skills and flirty file-handling, all while twirling an innocent strand of pearls next to fiercely red-lacquered lips.

Lest we forget feminism. The smart, office-savvy woman of today no longer aspires to the position of executive assistant. Fuck that. Just as smart as her male counterpart, she’d rather join the ranks of associates and affirmative-action her way to partnership.

Umm….and speaking of those lovely secretaries on Mad Men, I’m not a lesbian or anything, but can I please, please, please have one of them? Please? My secretary is a pot-bellied ex-drag queen with a platinum-colored Caesar cut, blue contacts and a five-carat cubic zirconium ring on each finger. Yes, my secretary is Liberace.

After I had written a highly complicated legal memo a few weeks ago for one of the most senior partners of my firm, a mean-spirited scoundrel of a man nicknamed “The Screamer,” Liberace brought an inter-office envelope to my desk. It contained, what I assumed would be, The Screamer’s comments on my memo draft, which I feared would rip it to shreds and call for my disbarment.

I opened the envelope and poured out its contents. Out fell a piece of plastic gag-store brown poop with a Post-it note simply saying, “Your memo sucked.”

After several long minutes of heart palpitations and chest clinching, I realized what had really happened. Liberace was playing a practical joke.

These secretaries have way too much time on their hands. I am sorry to be saying goodbye to relics of the glory days, but this is the way of the future—PDAs and Microsoft Office are sending our old administrative assistant friends to the grave.

So the next time your secretary leaves you hangin’ at 5:29.59 with a half-finished, typo-riddled document, have no fear—- your revenge is near.

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