Being new, and having been through "new guy" status a number of times, I take everything with a healthy grain of salt until I'm there long enough to form my own picture of office politics. The most important thing is to not take sides and keep your head down. Turns out, this has served me well at my new digs...
Recently, several of the staff and a couple of the Associates went out to lunch on one of the rare non-rainy days. Since the Office Manager ("OM") wasn't with us, talk inevitably turned to her. Apparently, things aren't as rosy as I previously believed. Turns out the OM didn't work at a law firm for many years before she came here, but rather came along with the current Managing Partner ("MP") when he joined the firm from a corporate post, where she was his secretary.
It's important to note that I have nothing against secretaries, either legal or corporate. God knows they have saved my ass any number of times in the past. Nor do I have a problem with promoting someone from secretary to manager. But I DO have a problem with promoting a corporate secretary to law firm manager. Seperate worlds with entirely different skillsets.
So, while chit-chatting at lunch, it became clear that everyone in the firm (except MP) has a low opinion of OM's abilities and leadership quality. Most of the problem stems from the fact that most of us have spent many, many years in law firms. OM hasn't worked in a law firm for nearly 20 years, and has very little idea how things have changed during that time. The biggest complaint was her complete lack of urgency about anything. She accepts the idea of bureaucratic red-tape delays as normal, and makes no effort to speed up anything, regardless of how badly the attorneys need her to.
So, I've encountered my first hurdle. Fortunately, I'm the new guy, so I can play stupid and bypass her as much as possible. Make it a "normal" thing for the attorneys and the Main Office people to consider me her independent equal.
The hardest part is that she's actually a very nice person, with good intentions, and I like her personally. We get along great. She just doesn't grasp how different law firm life is from her previous career. I will have to do some not-so-nice things to make life easier in the long run, especially for new paralegals that get hired if we expand. So I'm conflicted, but will have to somehow get over it. Fortunately, working with lawyers this long has made me aggressively pushy out of self-defense.