Social Structure of Barlett and Sabol Law Officies

February 25, 1998
SOC 100X
Paper One

Social Structure of Bartlett and Sabol Law Offices

Social structure is a part of every organization, whether formal or informal. A very defined social structure is often evident in the workplace. In my workplace, Bartlett and Sabol Law Offices, the social structure is very concrete. There are many perspectives from which the social structure can be viewed. It can best be discussed in terms of statuses, roles, interactions, formal and informal organization, how members are socialized, norms, and how compliance with the norms is assured.
A brief description of the setup of the office is helpful. There are three lawyers in the office. The actual office is owned by Del, the elderly male lawyer. The two female lawyers rent their office space from Del. In addition to the attorneys, there are two employees. The full time employee is Eric, the paralegal. I am the part time employee. My duties include office management and secretarial tasks.
A look at the statuses in this workplace is key in understanding the social structure. All three attorneys are similar in the fact that they have the achieved status of having become a lawyer. They all attended additional schooling and training to reach this respected status. Eric has the achieved status of college graduate and is treated with the respect deserving of this achievement. He also has the status of paralegal. However, even though becoming a paralegal requires training, his status is considered equal to mine without my having training. My duties do not require special training, but they do require computer and organizational skills. Del has the additional status of owner and head operator of the firm.
The statuses held by the members of this workplace determine the roles in which they are involved. Role performance is fairly easy to determine. Del holds the role of supreme authoritarian on decisions that affect the entire office. He also has the role of paying the employees. The other two lawyers hold the roles as secondary authoritarians. Eric and I have roles as production workers. This means all work that needs to be done or documents that need to be produced occurs through us. I also have other roles which constitute a role set. In addition to a production work role, I have the role of accountant and file clerk as well.
All three attorneys often find themselves in a situation of role strain. Since the practice of choice in this firm is family law, many of the cases involve messy and emotional divorces and adoptions. On one hand, the attorneys are supposed to be caring and help their clients through the case. On the other hand, the attorneys have to be ruthless in the collection of fees for their work. This can entail suing clients who have been extremely delinquent in the payment of their bills. However, more often than not, the attorneys find themselves caught in a humanitarian role and allow the delinquent client to trade a service, such as office cleaning, for the payment of the fees (Zanden).
Interactions are another part of the social structure in this workplace. Del keeps his interactions with Eric formal. This is due to the fact that Eric is new to the firm. With time his interactions will become more informal. All other interactions in the office are informal. Often, interactions are done in writing and notes are left on chairs and desks. One of the female attorneys prefers non-confrontational interactions, while the other prefers face-to-face interactions. This way she feels her instructions and requests are fully and completely understood. Eric and I have very informal interactions. All information passed between us is verbal. In fact, our interactions have fallen into a daily pattern that helps to break up the long workday. This is an often found occurrence in work situations when the work performed is tedious and boring (Roy). We begin the day by discussing the list of work that needs to be done. At lunchtime, Eric gives me an update on the attorneys\' schedules for the rest of the day, then leaves for lunch. After lunch, I update Eric. Then there is the 3:00 "social break" to discuss between us things that are bothering us about the attorneys on that day.
Interactions in