An intimate look inside the quirky world of law offices. The author's career spans over 25 years in the legal field, from naive clerk typist, to stressed-out secretary, to slightly elevated, but no less conflicted office manager. Weaving humor and pathos together, 100 Words Per Minute takes a hard look back at one woman's unintentional career in the legal field, offering a raw perspective on uncelebrated office workers whose stories are rarely told.
from "Poverty Law"
The hook of my connection to legal work was so gentle that I never noticed when the jab actually went in, twisted, and then lodged itself resolutely for the remainder of my working years. Something in me snapped, sealed like rubber to wet surface. This is something I can do. Not what I really wanted to do, but then, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Into that void of not knowing, something slick and promising formed itself over and around my will. And slowly, ever so slowly, it proceeded to seal my future.
from "Inflections and Innuendoes"
I could hear her footsteps coming down the thick, institutionally elegant carpet. It wasn’t really a sound I heard, more like a shift in air pressure, thickening and narrowing as she swathed wide steps toward her office door, and inevitably toward me. Door closes behind her, I release a short sigh, and a little bit of spittle slides out. I wipe, then continue to type. Maybe today she’ll stay in there and leave me the hell alone.
from "Noon to Six"
The elevator smelled of radon or boron, something distinctly carcinogenic. The building was a relatively new high-rise, magnificently situated on the edge of landfill, overlooking The City in all its glory. When the elevator doors opened, I did not have to look too far. Directly across stood a set of monstrous mahogany doors, decorated with bold and very gold letters announcing the firm’s title. This place wasn’t on the eighteenth floor. It was the eighteenth floor. Like Alice, after popping the small pill, I slowly walked inside, feeling overwhelmed and distinctly outsized.
from "The Interview"
Doreen McAllister’s makeup was thick, tasteful for being tasteless, and her interview pants entirely too tight. She was not chewing gum, thank goodness, but she talked as though she had something large in her mouth, something capable of spitting forth giant loud bubbles. She appeared to be someone who never knew fear. I settled hopefully on Doreen. It might have been her gravelly voice, gritty with self-assurance and fearlessness. She answered each of my questions with a languid roll of her eyes and a clever little snap of tongue that said, “Honey, I’ve done it all, a thousand times.”
The stress has grown on me. I wear it casually now, like an occasional scarf. Tempers flare, intermittently, like little wild fires sparked by the wind. But they die down just as quickly. I watch the heat rise and fall and stick to my business. Shut my door if it suits me. At any given moment, something or someone, be it a printer or personality, comes unraveled. Dissent is constant but also calming in its consistency. I walk through the maze of it, cut myself on the edges, and don’t even bleed.
My career was purely accidental. There are others like me, I have worked beside them, who had imagined working in a profession that stimulated and satisfied their well-deserved egos. But like me, they stumbled, somewhere between intention and chance. They stumbled and then stayed, for lack of any better ideas. As it happened, I swerved onto a road marked “Law Offices.” It was cluttered with diversions and unexpected side roads that cropped up like mirages, leading me farther in. For the past thirty years I have wandered loosely through the folds of this accidental career. I tried retracing my steps, hoping to find the place where I missed a step and tripped into my destiny.
But you cannot move backwards. And though I don’t often say this out loud, it really isn’t such a bad thing to have your work life choose you, instead of the other way around.
It keeps you honest. It keeps you alert.