Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I Refuse To Spend One More Second Trying To Prove That Dodo Birds Do Not Exist

I spent hours yesterday researching a question that I knew there was no answer to. The endless quest that lawyers are repeatedly asked to go on: the quest to disprove a negative. This question is very different from trying to prove a positive. To prove a positive, all you have to do is find some cases out there that stand for the proposition for which you want them to stand for. An example might be: "Find a case saying that there is an attorney client privilege." This would be no problem because (1) the attorney client privilege actually exists, and thus you can be fairly certain that cases exist discussing the privilege and (2) it's relatively easy to prove that something that you know exists actually exists.

Disproving a negative, however, is much more difficult to do. It happens when you are given the following assignment by an incredibly annoying senior associate: "Find a case saying that there is no privilege between party x and y." This is basically the equivalent of being asked to prove that Dodo Birds do not exist. It is impossible to prove that Dodo Birds do not exist, because all one can say, despite endless hours of research, is that one has not found any evidence that Dodo Birds do exist, so the annoying senior associate should infer from the lack of evidence that Dodo Birds do not exist. Of course the annoying senior associate would never do that. Instead, the annoying senior associate would say, as they do all the time, "I know there has got to be a case out there saying that Dodo Birds do not exist. Keep Looking."

This kind of pointless searching for a needle in a haystack that you know DOES NOT EXIST is one of the most frustrating aspects of working for a law firm in which you have no say over the nature of your work assignments. It is so ridiculous and demoralizing to waste hours on something you know is so completely and utterly INCONSEQUENTIAL, and such a god damned waste of your time, energy, and intellect. There are about 1,000 things I could think of that I would rather do, including doing my dishes (which I hate), running 8 miles, catching up with friends, and applying for a new job.

The major thing that pissed me off about this last night was not that most of what I was assigned to do was a complete waste of time, but rather that the bullshit work took time away that I could have applied to actual worthwhile projects. For example, I found out last night that two clients that I am representing in asylum proceedings, who are currently residing with their abusive parents, are showing signs that they may harm themselves unless they are removed from the situation. The problem with removing them is that if we do it too soon, it could result in the girls being returned to their abusers, a result which would be devastating for the girls.

I am so upset about this case, and I want to do everything that I can to help them. However, my work insists upon filling up my time with one bullshit project after another, despite my protestations. When I say that my time is filled up and that I can not possibly take on another case and still be able to complete all my work up to the standard that I would like to complete it at, they shake their heads at me and say that I can take on more work. And guess what, as recently as Friday I meekly accepted yet another assignment. I knew that I would not have enough time to do everything that I needed to do this week even without that additional Friday assignment and I told them that, but it made no difference to them. No difference at all. They did not give me a choice, and I accepted it... at least on Friday.

Well fuck that and fuck them!! It is flat out impossible to do an excellent job when you are asked to do 500 things, or even 6, at the same mother-fucking time (no offense to the mamas out there). I wish I was one of those people who could blow things off or get by with the bare minimum but I can't. I care about my work product and I want to do my best, even if it is on a bullshit project. But I know my limits, and what can you do if you tell people your limits in all honesty, and they refuse to respect them?

Last year I made myself sick and depressed, worked all the time and had no life. But I just don't have the energy to do that any more, nor the patience. My life, and working on issues and for people that matter to me, are far more important than making some senior associate think I'm a star because I can slave away without complaint (I have actually never been able to do that) searching for proof that Dodo Birds don't exist. I already know that Dodo Birds don't exist, and I just can't fucking bring myself to spend any more time trying to prove it, especially not when I have more important things to do.


Miss Nibbles said...

Best of luck with the dodo birds.

Miss Nibbles

Bean said...

Reminds me of stupid college projects. I hated those...sounds to me like your senior assoc. is a Dodo! They DO exist!