Most per diems I know and am friendly enough with will joke around and we say we all need our heads examined, and we probably do. While the majority of attorneys in our city are suited up with their leather briefcase or stylish Tumi bag, sipping gingerly on a coffee on the way to their climate-controlled offices, many of us are rolling hand trucks or bench-pressing stacks of motion papers while scribbling or stamping our names and cell numbers on calendars spanning several floors of a courthouse. Early mornings before Court, we may often engage in hand-to-hand transactions on street corners and other places with strangers handing us working copies of motion papers or have representatives from service companies frantically searching for us to hand up their firm’s motion papers that day.
Our daily morning interactions are often text messages by other attorneys, not with friendly good morning greetings and salutations, but things like, “Here on Sapienza” or “where are you?! I’ve been waiting all morning in the PC Part?” informing us that they are on a case with us (one of multiple we have on that day) and we are just concerned that we make all the motion calls on time without defaulting.
Like Bill Parcells, every day we have a game plan mapped out as to the exact court parts we will hit, in what order, go back to on second call, and how much time will be spent in each down to the minute. We can’t afford any interceptions. If we do encounter them, sometimes we morph into a Louie DePalma character from Taxi dispatching another per diem or per diems to back us up and cover those court parts until we get there. It’s a lot of moving parts and we hustle. Fortunately, I’m a Type A personality and multitask like an olympian, otherwise I would never have been able to make it thus far.
The other day I had to ask for a case to be second called so I can place adhesive exhibit tabs (which I told the judge I had in my pocketbook) onto the motion papers so they would be accepted by the judge per his rules. I’ve been also known to, on occasion, carry the following: a heavy-duty stapler, white out, color coded metal clips so I can separate stacks of papers based on judge, metal binder clips, rubber bands and a 2 hole punch. Like a Boy Scout, who should always be prepared, or a walking Office Max, these are essential tools to a successful per diem. Needless to say, my self-inking name stamp that saves time writing my name and number on every calendar number on which I am appearing – I never leave home without.
No one, including our clients, really has any clue what goes on behind the scenes on any given day. Understandably, clients just expect results. They want a yes gal or guy. They just want to be told, “yes I can cover this,” “of course, I got it handled,” or “sure, I can appear.” They don’t know that in order to successfully cover their case we have to simultaneously e-mail, text, IM or Whatsapp with our ear listening to the calendar numbers in a given court part or bounce like human pinballs among 3 different court parts on the same floor to see what numbers on the calendar they’re up to.
In the end, though, we get our clients the results they desire. Once our case is called and we approach the bench, it’s like Sinatra taking the stage at the Copa room at the Sands in 1966. All the frenzied running around is suddenly a distant memory and it’s just us, as per diems, doing what we do best and using our God-given talents to churn the wheels of justice and advocate on behalf of our clients. And, speaking for myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My way.
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