This law firm employee secretly automated their job and now works 10 minutes a day from home

Originally published at: This law firm employee secretly automated their job and now works 10 minutes a day from home | Boing Boing


I say, “good for him!” He’s doing his job.

Kermit The Frog Reaction GIF


I love these types of posts. There have been several over the years on Reddit.

I just also hate to see them say they’re currently doing this and providing enough details and getting enough attention that I fear their employers will figure out who they are.

It would be preferable to tell these stories after you’ve moved on.


Yep, this is essentially what computers were supposed to do for all of us, once upon a time.


I use simple bots at work to do things for me (like email people who need to be emailed when stuff happens). I have a reputation for never sleeping, which I am sure comes partly from the fact that not everyone realizes I am using these bots. (I also work like crazy when needed, but I am trying to be better about it)


I have heard of several people doing this sort of thing.

Though, IMO, an honest programmer would have sold them the solution of “custom software to automate your tasks”. That is done all the time.

Then again, I heard of a guy doing that, but also programmed into the software where it would bug out and “break” once a year, so the programmer would get a fee to go in and “fix” it.

I dunno - I guess if the lawfirm felt like $90k for the services rendered was fair, then they paid what it was worth to them. There is a lot of custom software for business that costs tens of thousands of dollars a year to use as well.


The key word here is “secret.” That tells the whole tale and they know what they are doing is dis-honest.

Yay for getting away with something against “the man.” Except our society is on the edge of collapse because of this kind of thinking. So, there is that.


Bill Gates famously said “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it”. This hero is living that truth.

No, it’s on the edge of collapse because of people with a lot more money than sense. For example, the very wealthy partners at a law firm who can afford to burn $90k per year on a position that – if they bothered to ask an expert – can be done by a relatively simple script and one hour a day of a file clerk’s time.

The work is getting done, and getting done effectively. That’s all that counts.


I disagree that this type of behavior is pushing society towards collapse. You are essentially saying that because he is not maximizing profit for his employer, he is therefore “dangerous.” The guy is still doing what he was paid to do. The difference is that he found an efficient way to do it, and has not passed that extra value on to his employer. By your thinking, anyone who finishes their work early and coasts for the last hour of the day is similarly “dangerous.”

As a bonus, here are some things that I think are far more likely to push us toward collapse.

  1. Not taking climate change seriously.
  2. Way too many people believing lies and conspiracy theories that are fed to them.
  3. The increase in wealth disparity (and corresponding disappearing of the middle class).

I say hurrah. It’s not like the firm is going to say, “hey guys, we manages to save $90K on our e-filing system, so then ten of you on staff are each getting a $9K raise!”


That explains windows.


Heinlein was way ahead of him… see “The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail” in Time Enough for Love - Wikipedia

And this kind of script-your-way-out-of-a-job work is what got me INTO a job. I was hired back in 1997 as a tech temp to watch a problem child application for a Fortune500 company. The first day I arrived, they gave me a list of commands they wanted me to run multiple times an hour…basically all “ps -ef | grep $job1”, “ps -ef | grep $job2”, “ps -ef | grep $job3”, etc [1000s of keystrokes per check] AND, if I found one not running, tell the developer team so they can grab logs for the vendor, check some flags, and restart the jobs. About 30-50 different jobs to monitor and often multiple hours between “job down” and “job restarted”…before this they mostly found out when the field techs using the app complained it was unresponsive.

Day2 at lunch I walked over to the Dev Team and said “run ‘chkdsk’ and you can see the status of the application in a formatted layout, grouped by function, and with a little color commentary so you know THIS chunk is Remote Comms, THIS chunk is local DB, etc.” My friends were convinced I’d completely screwed up my temp contract and automated myself out of a job. By Day7 I was bored just typing ‘chkdsk’ every 15min, so I wrote a pair of “snag all the current logs to a /tmp spot for vendor” and “restart application jobs that failed” scripts…to take that load off the Dev Team. Two weeks into my temp job, they had gone from an End-User Servicing app that was often down more Business Hours than it was up on a given day, to one that still crapped out on the regular, but downtime was <30min in a given 24hr period.
When that manager moved on to start an Operational Monitoring team, his developers begged him to give me a chance at one of the job slots (System Admin). 24 years later, I am an IT Firefighter focused on System and Storage performance and capacity for that same company…with loose oversight and responsibility for multiple thousands of OS instances, JVMs, infrastructure hardware, etc etc etc…doing globally what I once started doing locally. And yes…I AM that lazy man.

ETA: The app was poorly coded (sooooooo bad) and it took multiple years for them to fix all the bugs and get it to a healthy and stable state. So my little work-around scripts saw continued hard use for many years after I’d moved from Temp to Perm.


I was in IT for 30 years. I’m pretty sure that scripting repetitive tasks is the job description. Dummy me - I streamlined systems all the time, and all it got me was more work to do.
An early job was to distribute software updates to clients, and just like the author, I wrote batch scripts to do that. My boss liked the initiative and asked me to train my team in scripting. It was 1990.
Another job had me taking over the work of another guy who was fired. He was working 60 hours a week and I had to do his job and mine. I fixed his stupid methods and cut it down to 15 hours, spending my other time doing y2k work.
My point is, I wasn’t doing anything amazing. The author found himself in a position to take a advantage of incompetence and do a job right.
Had he not been able to do that remotely, he would have been spotted not working, and given more work, probably.
Sigh… Maybe I just didn’t game the system enough, but I support his choice 100%.
In fact, he should have we taken a second job elsewhere!


In the interim period between graduating into Bush the Elder’s recession and getting the job I wanted, I took a bunch of temp jobs to make ends meet. Since I was a “computer guy” in that time before the consumer Internet existed the agency gave me every job that involved using a PC or Mac.

Every single time I was able to automate enough tasks to spend most of the day reading. Whenever the bosses entered the “mysterious forbidden wizards’ sanctum” that was the company’s computer room/area and figured things out the result was 50/50: either outrage and yelling (at which point they’d call the temp agency, while I took the opportunity to remove my automation software and routines); or a full-time job offer (which I really didn’t want to take because I was young and holding out for my dream job).

I don’t think our stories of upwardly mobile laziness are unique in our industry. Decades later, management at places like this law firm still treat IT like some arcane and esoteric black art that they don’t want to get too close to and resent having to deal with directly.

My M.O. when I moved into the IT field was usually to automate myself right out of full-time jobs. After a while I just switched to consulting for a small number of clients who are very happy and very loyal (and vice-versa). My current practise is broader inn scope than IT but it works on the same principle. After I got the hang of it, laziness has served me well.


Though they’d still likely need an IT person to be on call all the time for when they were needed. So… probably not a saving for the company in this case?


Back in the olden days (1980s) I had a co-worker that used I think “Procomm” to reply to email, especially group email, in the middle of the night (while he was sleeping) to create the impression he worked tirelessly. Surprised people still haven’t figured that one out :slight_smile: My experience in general with automating processes is no one wants to hear about it. Boss says, “my headcount”, co workers say “chill Dude, no one needs to know that”. I haven’t done that kind of work for twenty years, but I suspect little has changed.


I paid a company to do similar work to this a few years back. HR said I could pay up to $12k/month, so posted for a company to do the work. There was, like the post implies, a bit more to it, but largely I felt it could easily be automated but I didn’t have the skills. A company contacted me and connected me with a contractor. The guy said he’d do the work after hours, keeping his normal day job, and bill me only 20 hours a week. Done deal. I’m sure he automated several of the steps, as since then, I have figured out myself how to do so. I don’t mind at all that he did so - I paid him to do the work and settled on a price. If he did it in 10 minutes or 20 hours that didn’t really matter.

FWIW, I have an upcoming project coming that’s similar but about 10x more complicated. He’s the first person I plan to offer the job to. I’m paying for results.


In my line of work, ANY job you do twice should be scripted the third time. The Redditor has the right idea overall. The script is likely much more reliable than a person manually dragging and dropping things, for instance. And monitoring it to make sure it works correctly is skilled work that requires knowledge.

The worrisome part was talking about deleting the script or shutting it down on leaving. This person’s perception that they are “getting away” with something makes them feel like they had something to hide. Really, the right thing to do is document the whole process really well and be ready to train their replacement if/when they move on. No one is likely to care and they shouldn’t. That’s just how IT is done well.


The developers had to work hard to convince the manager to give me a chance at an interview for the application monitoring System Admin position. The one time he’d walked into this enormous room where I was tucked in a corner with a OS/2 system (!!!) that I could telnet from…he found me asleep in the chair. No outrage or yelling, but not a good first impression.