My three-month temping stint at the exhibition company has ended which was really sad; I’d got to know an entire floor of new people and there were 17 of us at my farewell pub lunch (and there were only three people I didn’t actually know there lol!) My agency had a new booking for me a few days later at a small law firm, so my latest “Tonight Matthew” moment is that I’m pretending to be… a Legal Secretary! The agency tells me I will be working alongside one other Proper Legal Secretary.
I arrive on my first day…
Me: “Hi, I’m filling in as your Legal Secretary.”
Proper Legal Secretary: “Hi, have you done legal before?”
Me: “No, didn’t the agency tell you that?”
Proper Legal Secretary: (face has visibly fallen) “No, we haven’t heard much from them but we thought we were getting an experienced temp.”
Fact – pretending to be a Legal Secretary sucks when the law firm you temp at was expecting a Proper Legal Secretary with experience! I’ve hardly had time to breathe since starting, the audio typing, ringing phone and visiting clients are constant, then throw in the emergency typing that needs to be done before the post goes. You have to know how to apportion fees properly so that people get charged (the maximum possible), and this isn’t obvious to a non-legal temp. There are two Proper Legal Secretaries on holiday so the one that’s left is trying to pick up all their slack and keep me right.
After three stressful days (for both of us), I visited my Agency Lady…
Me: “Agency Lady, I think they were expecting a Proper Legal Secretary to temp for them and if you have one available, I’m quite happy to let them take this on.”
Agency Lady: “No, I never said that, I will ring Proper Legal Secretary and see how you are getting on!”
Agency Lady: “Blah, blah, blah, (because you know what agencies are like!) Biscotti came in because she was a bit worried that she wasn’t being as much help as you needed?”
Proper Legal Secretary: (I’m interpreting what I can’t hear) “Yes it would have been ideal if she had actually had any legal experience but she is doing ok.”
Agency Lady: “Blah, blah, blah well you know it’s really difficult to get actual Proper Legal Secretaries for temping and when you do, they want to charge you a fortune for being there…”
Agency Lady listens to what Proper Legal Secretary is saying and gives me the thumbs up while I’m standing there, wishing the ground would swallow me up.
Agency Lady: “Yes, well she’s a really bright girl so I’m sure she will be fine.” (i.e. “We have no one else to give you!”)
Agency Lady puts the phone down with a smile on her face.
Agency Lady: “Yes everything’s fine, she says you have picked up the computer system quickly so don’t worry!”
Interpretation – “Don’t leave, you are better than nothing!”
The man I am Secretary for is the Top Dog Solicitor, (who after 4 days, still doesn’t know my name!) He is one of these old, scary, unapproachable, serious, busy type of men, and I feel like a stupid kid whenever I have to speak to him. I get the impression he also thought he was getting a Proper Legal Secretary to cover as he will say, “Do you know how to write a brief?” or “Can you open this in Laserform?” My stock answer is “No, but I’ll ask Proper Legal Secretary!”
Most embarrassingly (so far!), he rang down for me yesterday to ask me to bring up a file I had been working on.
Top Dog Solicitor: “Err, (still can’t remember my name) can you come up and bring the Cool file with you?”
Me: “OK, did you say Cool file?” (I didn’t recognise the name at all)
Top Dog Solicitor: “Yes, the Cool file.”
Me: (panicking as I know I haven’t worked on a file of that name) “Is that spelled C-O-O-L?”
Top Dog Solicitor: ‘Click’ – he had already hung up before I finished spelling out the word.
Straight away the phone rings and as Proper Legal Secretary is tied up on another call, I have to take it and am stuck there for 5 minutes, still wondering what the hell this ‘Cool’ file is.
I grabbed a random pile of files I had been working on and took them upstairs.
Me: “Sorry, I got held up on the telephone. I’m afraid I can’t find the Cool file.”
Top Dog Solicitor: (Looks at me as though I’m stupid) “But you typed this letter to him today?”
He shows me the letter addressed to MR COLE
Me: “Oh, COLE!” (frantically looks through pile I had brought up, and thank heavens, it was there!) Just when I’d thought that I’d got the knack of understanding the southern accent… (He’s also quite posh so I think that added to my confusion!)
So, I’m eagerly counting down the five days left – I don’t know who will be more relieved when this ends – me or Proper Legal Secretary..!