Wednesday, September 01, 2004

For years, the free coffee on every floor of the office was pretty good. When I drank coffee. I don't anymore. Last year, to save less money per year than we spend on one day of summer associate lunches, the firm management decided to switch to a cheaper brand. On Monday, the "lifestyle committee" released the results of its annual survey, and "The new coffee is terrible" was #1 on the list of complaints. (My response, "The lifestyle committee is useless and should be disbanded," did not make the top ten.)

In response to the survey results, there has been a groundswell of activity in trying to get firm management to switch back to the old coffee. A petition has been circulated. Multiple firmwide e-mails have clogged my inbox. An "open forum to discuss coffee and coffee-related issues" has been scheduled between the firm chairman and the newly-formed coffee subcommittee. I am, of course, not on the coffee subcommittee. One of the firmwide e-mails posited the question of whether work on the coffee issue was billable, since the caffeine in the coffee affects productivity on client-related issues. I think it may have been a joke, but is anything here really a joke?

It amuses me that the coffee is what gets people incited to act, and nothing else. When "support staff is treated poorly by the attorneys" was #1 on the list of complaints, nothing happened. When "we don't get any feedback on our work" was #1, nothing happened. But when people realize that they're not the only ones who hate the coffee, we get action.

Plural/singular issues AL?

" When "support staff is treated poorly by the attorneys" was #1 on the list of complaints,"

Perhaps you should be the one learning some grammar.
Whatever you do, don't start giving them Tim Horton's coffee. The reason why is that, when you finally take it away from them, they will riot in the streets and go on rampage. I think it's laced with cocaine.
Um, anonymous, he had the plural/singular issue exactly right. "support staff is treated poorly by the attorneys" is a single clause. The word "is" modifies the entire clause, not the attorneys named within the clause. Thus it *is* #1 on the list of complaints. Not are. And stop correcting people's grammar. It's obnoxious.
I know its an extremely important part of my day - without the proper caffeination I'm useless.
Explain that again - why is it "is"?
Well now that depends on what the word "is" is.
> Explain that again - why is it "is"?

It depends on where you live. In America, it's common to group an entity in to one object and treat it as a singular (eg: "the support staff is underpaid"). In Britain, it's common to refer to a group in the plurality (eg: "the support staff are underpaid."

This is why you'll see Brits saying silly things like, "Microsoft are not a monopoly."
Um, no. AL's grammar is correct, regardless of where he resides. The object of the sentence--When "support staff is treated poorly by the attorneys" was #1 on the list of complaints, nothing happened--is the complaint identified in quotes. Since there is only one object, the verb is singular.

Now I'm a dork and anyone who dares continue this thread of grammar posts can call himself the same.
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Is it news to anyone that it's the little things that make associates feel wanted? Plus, coffee takes on special importance because it's the drug that enables associates to work the super-human hours that are demanded of them. As for "we don't get any feedback on our work," a sampling of the AmLaw mid-level associate satisfaction survey reveals that to be the constant complaint at every law firm, which inspires rational apathy among young attorneys.
Exactly right, AL. It's always a bit surprising to see not what gets people up in arms, but what doesn't.

By the way, where do the firm's management come from? Are they all senior partners or attorneys who no longer practice law but instead just run the office (like any other business) ?
Ummm no ... to defend the british way, Microsoft is singular because it is a single legal entity. Therefore you would state "Microsoft is a computer company". In contrast, support staff are not a single entity, they are a group of people. Therefore, the correct statement is "support staff are treated badly". If there was one support staff member it would be "John is treated badly".
Just confirming that in Britain we would say "support staff are treated poorly by the attorneys". Of course, you Yanks can do exactly what you want to do.
Even if the yank approach is incorrect :)
Methinks "support staff is ..." as staff is a single object, unless you really mean to say, "members of the support staff are..." Would you say "a collection are..." or "a collection is..."?
>Ummm no ... to defend the british way, Microsoft is
>singular because it is a single legal entity.

Of the dozens of English people that I've met, only one has ever referred to a company in the singular. Follow this link for further discussion on this topic: Click Me 
I would not say "the lawyers is" or "the accountants is" or "the members is" or "the politicians is". In each case I would use "are" (because I would be referring to groups of people). I would say "the team is" because a team is a single entity.

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