The Difference a Door Can Make

Although I only started working at the law firm Jezic & Moyse three days ago, I have already noticed aspects of the firm that make for interesting leader and follower relationships. I am working in immigration law this summer, which is a relatively small subset of the larger firm. Most of the attorneys work in criminal defense law, but three lawyers are specialized in immigration law. My supervisor is the lead immigration attorney, but essentially, I report to all three of the immigration lawyers.

One of my observations about the leader/follower dynamic is derived from the set-up of the office. The office takes up one side of a large office building, with a double set of glass doors right in front of the elevator bay. Upon opening the glass doors, there is a small sitting area and a front desk that makes up the lobby. The main part of the office, where all the work gets done, is accessible from both sides of the lobby; this essentially divides the office in two sides, with just a narrow hallway connecting the two. Cubicles make up the majority of the space, and they snake around the office space like a maze. The back wall is where all the attorneys work: they are the only ones with an office that has a door to it. The cubicles are full of law clerks, paralegals, and assistants. (And, in the very back corner, one undergraduate intern. You guessed it, that’s me.)

The physical set-up of the office provides for an interesting relationship between the leaders and followers (or, better referred to as the attorneys and everyone else). For one, the physical space between the attorneys and their clerks means that the clerks work fairly autonomously. They seem to know what they should be doing at all times, as opposed to needing to frequently meet with an attorney. (On the contrary, I am constantly making the conspicuous walk between my corner cubicle, past a group of law clerks, and to the offices of my supervisors to ask for instructions.) The difference between the office spaces of the two groups serves as a reminder of the hierarchical structure that exists within the firm. Law clerks and paralegals have two cubicle walls and little privacy; attorneys have a window, a door, and the comfort of being able to shut both.

The immigration attorneys have a paralegal working for them who works close to my cubicle. It seems to me that she does the administrative work that is beneath the time of the attorneys: she answers phone calls from potential new clients and takes down initial information reports for cases, among other tasks. I have been directed to ask her for help when I needed basic information, such as where to find a certain form within their filing system or how to ascertain the name of a judge on a particular case. Just from my minimal observations so far, I believe that the attorneys have a lot of trust in her and her ability to accomplish the small tasks that significantly speed up their jobs.

What I think would be very interesting to observe is how the criminal defense part of the firm differs in leader/follower relationships from the immigration side. The immigration side is so small—only three attorneys, one paralegal, and one enthusiastic but inexperienced intern—while the criminal defense side has upwards of ten attorneys and probably more than thirty non-attorneys. Because I am segmented from the criminal defense side, I do not know too much about how it operates. I wonder if the difference in demographics significantly changes the relationship, although their physical set-up is similar.

2 thoughts on “The Difference a Door Can Make

  • June 12, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    Interesting to provide the context about the physical space – for both attorneys and non-attorneys; somewhat insightful about the dynamics between the two groups. But it seems that the attorneys value non-attorneys (including yourself as they took you on as an undergraduate intern). It will be interesting to see after more time there whether the physicality of the divide is really representative of the way in which the two groups interact. Seems that in the end, the two groups share a common goal (care of and outcome for a client) and that both groups contribute significantly (though differently) to achieving that outcome. In regards to the criminal area, perhaps you can find an intern or paralegal in that area with whom you can talk about these dynamics (compare and contrast).

  • June 12, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Catchy title for this reflection by the way:)

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