When I was a baby Bad Lawyer, young and impressionable, I worked with attorneys who habitually blamed the secretaries for every sin of commission and omission that they, the respective attorneys were themselves culpable. Naturally, not being able to think for myself, I fell into precisely the same habit. It was reflexive, didn't return documents timely, it was the secretary's fault; didn't return a call, the secretary didn't give me the message; didn't file a lawsuit, gave it to the secretary and she dropped the ball. I screwed up in a particularly obnoxious way one time and I blamed it on the secretary, another lawyer--certainly someone more mature than me, said something sane--and on this rare moment I heard it loud and clear--the secretary never fucks up, the lawyer fucks up. True.
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ib5gIcsNtGjbio_HOXw-VLWPIVPwD9BKDF9G3, Oh My!
Don't worry about Pepsico, they got "juice," and accordingly, the court vacated the default judgment, see http://abovethelaw.com/2009/11/pepsi_default_judgment_vacated.php
But the larger point should not be missed, the secretary doesn't pay for malpractice insurance, the lawyer does. The secretary doesn't have a license that can be suspended, or revoked, the lawyer does. It is the lawyer who is charged with responsibility to attend to the interests of the client. The secretary doesn't take an oath administered by the Supreme Court, the lawyer does. It is the lawyer who is ultimately responsible for creating the systems to protect "fatal dates" and dockets. Blaming the secretary is outrageous bullshit and attorneys who do it should be thrashed.