Interview 51: It’s bad to cheap out when you’re in trouble.

This interview was one of those places I’m not really sad didn’t go better. A multistate construction company called me up about an application I had sent in.. truth is, I had actually applied there a couple times, but as I was to find out there was a reason I never heard anything back from them.

So I get a call from HR on a Friday afternoon and we start talking. She was a very easy person to talk to and I had enough interesting and pertinent things to bring up so that I was able keep the conversation moving along. At a certain point the HR person sorta hesitates and asks “So… uh… how much do you know about our company?” I sorta laughed slightly and said I had researched them enough to see that they had their hands full with a number of significant legal issues. In fact, there were a great number of recent news articles talking about some horrible employment issues they were being sued over and certain government offices were getting involved as well as some other internal strife that sounded as if a subsidiary was suing the parent company. It sounded like a really big mess.

The HR person suddenly acted as if a huge weight had been lifted off of them and the information came gushing forth. Apparently they had been worried because their marching orders were to ignore the information unless we were already aware of it. In effect, the HR person was a decent person because she was worried whoever she was interviewing wouldn’t know what they might be stepping into. It had turned out that the company had this job posted for several months prior, but no one in the legal department had the time over the last 3 months to look at a single application due to the massively increased workload brought about by the afore mentioned issues. That was in addition to the attrition of a couple people who decided the better course of action was to jump ship at that opportune moment.

So I was aware. It didn’t phase me mostly because I understood the litigation cycle they were going to be subject to and probably how to navigate it and reduce or at least ease the workload. So the HR person decided to fasttrack me to someone in legal after our interview. Almost as an afterthought they asked what I was looking for in terms of salary. I gave them a fair range, which honestly was on the rather low end for in-house; in fact the range included me taking a pay cut from my prior positions. Two days later I get a call back, and the call started by saying, before we get too far in, I wanted to tell you the salary range for this position. They said 70-80. I actually laughed slightly and said, “Oh.. no. Sorry. I’m not interested in anything close to that.” I followed it up saying I made more than that in my first job as an attorney, and considering what they were currently dealing with, they should seriously consider what caliber attorney they would be onboarding for that salary.

The person on the other end of the phone quite literally sighed. And said… ‘yeah. This isn’t anything I don’t know.’

Ouch. Sounds like I was dodging a bullet on this one. At least I saw it coming a mile away though.

Random Stories

One of the senior partners I used to work for had reached that unfortunate age when regardless of how good your eyes used to be, you now need reading glasses or bifocals or what-have-you. I too have sadly reached that point, but I digress. He didn’t wear glasses normally so he was able to get by with wearing those cheap reading glasses you buy at drug stores on the spinner rack.

The way he even found out about the cheap reading glasses was our paralegal had the same problem, and she used to buy the cheap reading glasses and had introduced him to the concept.

Unfortunately, the senior partner was also horribly absent minded about some things. And as mentioned in other posts on here, his organizational methods were… not organized. He would put down his reading glasses on his desk and they would in effect, be nearly instantly covered by a small avalanche of paper, disguising them from view until someone attempted to move the mountain of papers.

As luck would have it, our paralegal had effectively the same strength reading glasses as the senior partner and they were rather fast friends, so he would often borrow her glasses. The problem was, her reading glasses were purple rhinestone bedazzled spectacles, and the senior attorney was very absent minded. So he would put them on to read something, completely forget he had them on, and then walk into a deposition or client meeting wearing the purple bedazzled spectacles, generally looking insane.

The paralegal thought it was hilarious and often just didn’t mention it to him. In truth, it made my day a little brighter as well.

Interview #39 – Big Law Expectations, small law money

I was excited when I got a call back for an interview at this one. It wasn’t a BigLaw name I recognized, but the sheer number of attorneys employed by the firm across many offices definitely implied I should have known who they were. 

I show up at a decent office in a mid-high rise. I was pretty quickly met by the managing partner who led me back to a small room buried a bit farther back in the offices. This was notably only because most interviews I’ve been on have almost always been in a regular conference room everyone in the office would normally use for depositions etc. You know which one I mean, the one with the big long table and bank of windows on one side. Instead of using that conference room which was immediately in front of the office, we wandered back into a slightly-larger-than-a-closet room with a table.  

The office felt slightly empty, like someone had either moved a bunch of furniture around recently or they had only recently moved in. There was art (office art.. again, you know the type. Slightly better than hotel paintings and usually with some sort of theme picked from a hat.) on the walls so it didn’t feel quite like they had just moved in, more like they just never finished unpacking, for years. 

Anyway, the managing partner was a nice guy and we had a pretty pleasant interview. At one point he disappeared and came back with another partner. Still pretty good interview, nothing really changed. It was effectively commercial insurance defense. At a certain point, I brought up the question of compensation — largely because they are a huge law firm and yet I had seen vague statements online (glassdoor) implying that although they were a huge firm they did not offer BigLaw money. But I had no solid numbers, just that they paid on the low end for a firm that size… which could mean anything. And here is where I knew something was wrong. 

The managing partner said “Oh, I’m the last person you’d want to talk to about that, I have no idea.” As in… he had no idea how much they were paying for the position. Which seemed odd… partners are usually very aware of where the money in the firm is going, but hey, maybe he didn’t manage everything and had wisely delegated some of his duties to others. I asked about benefits, because again, the job post had zero info listed, merely the ubiquitous and useless “competitive” tag for benefits. What their benefits are competing with is often a very good question to ask considering some I’ve seen… often it seems they compete in the benefits Special Olympics in many cases.

Again, he professed ignorance. Except of course he did remember that associates got 2 or 3 weeks of vacation (he was fuzzy on which). But he then went on to state that they may actually have “no set vacation plan” and that associates could take as much vacation as they wanted so long as they got their hours in. Which was set at an amazingly reasonable 2200 billable. The further problem with that very high number was that he also had no idea how work was given out to associates. He did recall the bonus structure, mostly I think because it was very low. Again, where I am currently had their bonus beat by several thousand. 

Think about that for a moment. The managing partner had no idea about how work was assigned to associate attorneys in his own office. Apparently partners just assigned shit to you if you were free… associates weren’t attached to a particular lit group, or a particular partner. You just had an open schedule and people would fill it for you. 

So… no idea of money. No idea about benefits. No idea about workload. But vague information online about how they were potentially offering less money than I was making now for significantly more work hours. 

At the end of the interview the managing partner said he wanted to have me come back for a social interview with more partners because he had only found the one other one in the office to come talk to me. (Wednesday afternoon and only one of a dozen partners were there?) I never really heard back from them. I don’t even think they rejected me… truly the managing partner may have mislaid my info and I’ll just get a call in a month asking me to come in. I think I’ll decline that one. 

Headhunter interview

I got an interview from a headhunter. I hate headhunters, but this was a networking interview. Basically, someone who might actually be able to give me a good lead referred me to a good friend of theirs who is a headhunter. I expressed my distaste for headhunters, but this person pressed and said I had to go talk to their friend. Now it was a political thing… I had to go so I didn’t insult the person who I really wanted to look around for me.

So, I reached out. Now… I will also admit… the headhunter firm sounded distantly familiar, but I could not place why. I went looking through my email and prior application material and I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I started to believe it was just in my mind, or from seeing their postings online, or something.

So I show up and have a short informational interview with someone at the headhunter agency. It turned out the ‘friend’ was one of two founders of the agency and didn’t deal with people who weren’t partner level, so they handed my resume to an lesser headhunter to deal with me. I was already thrilled with how this was playing out; it was confirming pretty much all my experiences with headhunters prior.

The interview was short, and I got handed the card of the young associate as I was leaving with vague instructions to basically do most of the work on my own and they may call me if they stumble onto something. They then piped up, oh yeah and this is the other owner of the headhunter agency, and handed me another business card.

I seriously hope I was able to keep a poker face. As I was already leaving, I didn’t have to hold it too long. The second card I was handed for the other agency owner was a name I definitely DID recognize. Very early on when I moved to this city, I had contacted this woman who was bouncing between a few headhunter agencies. She was exceptionally rude and had basically given me several names of people who would likely be able to make money off of me as a new transplant to the area (realtors, etc) and then basically told me I should just keep applying to jobs because she, and her agency weren’t going to bother helping me. Let’s just say I told her where to stick her great advice and what she could do with her recommendations for other services in the area. My response to her may have involved some invectives, and likely would have been slightly memorable. Once I got back into my car I dismissed the whole thing from my mind, because the likelihood of a headhunter agency of doing anything was nearly nil from my experience; and I was unsure if I should go on any interview they came up with based on the mere possibility that this woman remembered me and had seen my name in the pool of potentials and wanted to just fuck with me because they could.

But as I mentioned, they actually did find an interview for me. So now I was stuck with a quandary. Should I show up to the interview, or play it safe and not go. Well… considering I showed up to the gaming commission interview, I’m always down for a good story. So I went on the interview they found for me.

Monuments to Failure

Surfing Craigslist is a monument to the failure of the legal industry. Peruse this posting (click to enlarge photos)… Is it possible this individual got a better position with a real firm? I suppose it is, but I sorta doubt it.

My favorite part of this whole thing is the coat-rack of ties. It just screams failing criminal defense attorney.
















Work (prior) – The surrogate

I began applying to jobs again.

The final straw was when my boss was adamant that a motion needed to be filed that day (i.e. before midnight) and so I ended up at the office until damn near midnight working on it. My boss looked it over and decided they needed to edit it, because they are a control freak and can’t let any written product be filed without a significant rewrite that ends up looking suspiciously like the original draft I handed them.

Before you think this was some massively important motion or appeal… it wasn’t. As every lawyer knows, there are motions which are nearly rote and you don’t put much effort into them. There are the daily ones which require a bit of research, put in the legal standard and the three part test for whatever, but nothing onerous. Then there are the appeals or big case MSJ type of ones where the whole rest of the case rests on your one writing.

This particular motion was basically a rote one. I had a good serviceable motion. Which Twitchy Mc-A.D.H.D. felt the need to give the gift of their own TLC. (And they were also apparently avoiding their spouse who called and yelled at me… because, you know… I was there and apparently complicit in their personal argument, at which point my boss took the phone from me and hung up on his wife.)

I was stuck waiting while they nervously twitched out edits onto the draft in front of me. For over two hours, and then it went past midnight.

Which means, it didn’t matter that I / we had stayed there so god damned late, because now the filing date was the next day. I could have done all of this the next day and it wouldn’t have mattered. But instead they just shrugged it off and kept revising and then reverting the copy. I finally looked at them and said I was going home, and I left without looking back. I, and the motion, were being used as some sort of surrogate excuse in an ongoing marital problem. Awesome.

I began applying to new jobs right after this.

Return from Vacation

So I’m putting the site back online. It’s been off mainly because I was being cautious. I think I should be good now though. In short, I gtfo from my previous employer. I was already halfway out the door on my last post but I had to make sure at the time I was free and clear from them. Shortly after I quit, so did the attorney I was working for. But when partner level attorneys quit, it becomes messy. In short, they were being forced out and they left the firm taking most of their clients with them, and then a flurry of lawsuits between the firm and the prior partner (which I’m not sure are ever going to be resolved) and I had been given the heads-up I might get roped in and deposed and possibly used as a witness in the inevitable courtroom drama.

I may still, these things take a long time. But I have distanced myself professionally and geographically from all the crazy so I think I don’t care much about what goes on with those people anymore. So I am back to posting my rantings about sub-par work environments and the vagaries of working in this industry.  And I’ve been in an all new job for the past year slowly racking up stories so I should have some decent material to work with.



minor update… I’m going to post a bunch of the stuff from the previous job and then move on to my current job.

Ex Part-“OK” Communications

I’m starting to get to some of the better stories, so I figured I would give a bit of (dangerous) insight into the shady as fuck legal ethics I have the honor of seeing.

So I mentioned previously, where I am currently working, it seems to be the rule that the judges are significantly bought and paid for. Of everything I’ve posted, this is probably the most disturbing (and potentially dangerous) thing to put online. I have worked closely with many courts doing criminal and family law previously, and most experiences are very positive; but every once in awhile you walk away realizing how much power a bad judge can have over an individual leaving little recourse to the client (or attorney). Which is why I hesitate to put this online, but hey, in for penny in for a pound.

The firm has a pretty decent hand in bankrolling judges’ election campaigns. And it seems, if you are a favored judge, you just never seem to have much competition come election time. I will freely admit, this is not something I could prove, I have been told as much but it may merely be firmly based supposition. What I do know is there is deference paid by judges to literally anyone who works for this firm. And woe to any out of town attorney who thinks they can try to transfer venue out. Because that’s how the big money is made. You get yourself a friendly judge, and amazingly all your motions hearings seem to work out in your favor. You ‘win’ enough motions, and the other side has to come to the table, hat in hand with a hefty settlement.

What do I mean? I think I had previously mentioned walking through the court house with one of the litigators only to have a judge stop and strike up a conversation only to find out we were there to drop off a discovery motion in their court. The judge then told us how they would rule. Just… outright, in the hallway, on a motion set to be heard a week later. Opposing counsel had no idea we already knew the outcome. We could have changed the motion and killed them with that motion because… well, we were playing with house money at that point. Granted, it was a discovery motion, so you can only do so much damage with that. How about something a bit more personal.

So I had to walk a motion over to the court, because sometimes the filing system is down, someone is on vacation, or it needs to be done immediately and it is just faster. There is a reason law firms are clustered around courthouses. So I walked my motion over to the court only to find out the court coordinator was on vacation. But the judge was there, and it was fine to give them the motion directly and ask for a preferential setting… directly. The judge pretty much gave me anything I asked for, and then pulled out their business card and wrote their personal cell phone number on it. In case I needed to get hold of them in the future, on their personal cell phone…

This is again one of those judgment calls where A) the much older judge was trying to pick me up, or B) I used my sub-par social skills and read too much into the situation. But, I don’t know many judges who hand out a personal number to young associates.

I thanked them and walked out with my mind racing. This was not something my Professional Responsibility class had ever prepared me for. I don’t like showing up in that judge’s courtroom much anymore, its just slightly uncomfortable.

But don’t think this is specific to this firm. Oh no… There is a decided home-court advantage to law firms. When we go traveling to other areas the exact same shenanigans happen to us. Every motion we file is denied no matter how legitimate. Every minuscule communication must be done in person at the court, meaning you have to travel significantly (and local counsel doesn’t). And oh yeah, local counsel gets advance notice of all decisions, potentially weeks in advance of you. Because they have the home-court advantage and the judges there are bankrolled by the opposing firm, and not ours. The door swings both ways. This is also a very valuable bit of information for anyone who is considering hiring an attorney. If you don’t care why you win (and honestly, who would) then make sure you pick the big local firm who would have the contacts to swing the opinion in your favor. It can be worth millions to have this kind of influence. Quite literally.

Work – I know what you’re thinking…

The powers that be at my firm had apparently suddenly woken up after many months of ignoring the inner workings of the firm; and apparently they woke up cranky. Over several days there were at least one meeting per day wherein some higher overlord at the firm had chosen on a whim to show up and yell in the general direction of large assemblages of the peasants who work here. I sat through multiple angry meetings, none of which as it turned out, applied to me. But yelling at 5 people is significantly less cathartic than yelling at 50 people, so we were all stuck listening to senior individuals rant. Apparently the ranting was not completely impotent as I found out later a number of people had also been fired. I talked to a higher up slightly more candidly later and they said it was likely because the senior people had noticed a slowdown in the money stream and felt they were running too low, so it must be time to stoke the fires.

I had already had one meeting that day, primarily directed at paralegals, but again, better to complain to everyone so that the attorneys could then individually complain to their own paralegals later I suppose. (How are those TPS reports coming along…)

The morning meeting was amazing in its complete tone-deaf quality wherein some senior attorney decided the best way to increase productivity was to get dictation machines into every attorney’s office and setup the paralegals with the dictation machines with the footpedals etc. Because… you know… its 1970. Where do you even find these anymore? A fucking time machine set to 1980? Really it just showed the shortcomings of the senior attorney as it turns out they were the singular person using a dictaphone (along with their poor paralegal) in the entire firm. SO obviously, that must be the key to productivity because he was doing it. It also showed that they were completely computer retarded and never learned to touch type like the rest of the world has done with the computer revolution.

Imagine my joy when just as I was headed out for a late lunch that same day I am waylaid and told that an associates only meeting is happening immediately with no notice. So I briefly look toward the exit contemplating a jailbreak and gauging just how hungry I am before heading over to the conference room.

All the associates gathered expecting to be summarily yelled at for some random issue which probably wasn’t our responsibility again. But this meeting was different. The senior partner started complimenting us and saying how we added value to the firm and were the ‘boots on the ground’ for the litigation attorneys. And then, the senior partner went about it in a different tack. He said, raise your hand if you have ever done this… keep it up if you’ve ever done this… This game went on for a bit.

Each time he said another thing, more hands dropped. Why? Because of the *ahem* ‘minor’ employee retention problem. So being an associate here for only a few months makes you a defacto senior associate due to the turnover. And being the senior associate means you get more responsibility because everyone else quit and its now only you are left to do the work you previously didn’t know how to do.  (this is apparently what this firm means by “training”) Within short order playing this game only three people still had their hands up. And then he started asking if anyone had done some pretty specific things. Like, oddly specific. So specific in fact, all but one of the hands dropped. And that person was the senior partner’s associate. Young, blonde, female.

It is worth reiterating that this is the same senior partner who has slept with, married and divorced several of his paralegals (and other paralegals in the firm). It is also worth noting that this was one of the very very few female associates, and he specially picked her to work for him.

The senior partner then ‘awarded’ her an all-expense paid, weeklong (far flung) resort vacation for two. It is also worth mentioning that at no point in the history of this firm have they bothered to give out bonuses or prizes or gifts of any sort to the associates. And the senior partner doesn’t even know the names of at least half of the associates. Sooo… draw the obvious conclusion. We were basically all forced to show up and clap for the tax write off vacation he bought for his affair. “Everyone give a round of applause for this bimbo I’m going to bone.”


I told this story to a friend and their response was “You know maybe if you fuckin put out a little more you’d get to go to the resort too.” Hm.. decisions, decisions…

I felt bad. First because if she was actually sleeping with the guy… ugh. yuck. That seemed like a particularly onerous punishment far in excess of whatever sins she may have (ever) done. For the mental visuals – the partner was older, very short and bald. (Think Napoleon with less hair but the same ego.) Second, because if she wasn’t sleeping with him, everyone at the office was now firmly convinced that she was sleeping with him. Which has its own political ramifications obviously. Oh yeah, and he’s married, cause, obviously.

Everyone in the room who had been at the firm for a a hot minute knew the score. You could tell something was off because the room cleared out really quickly and no one really said much to the ‘winner’. It was just super uncomfortable to have to witness something so obvious and ridiculous.

I need a new job. Anyone hiring? I might even put out for the right job (and a resort vacation)…

I really don’t care anymore…

Initially, as mentioned in the previous (not so recent) posts, I have a lot of content waiting in the wings. I was holding back on it because it is all about the place I am currently working.

As you might expect, it’s not usually a good thing to post negative information about your current job if you wish to keep it. Which brings me to this… I really don’t.

I don’t care anymore. I daydream about being fired. I can’t quite bring myself to quit. I am being paid decently, but the toll it is taking on me mentally is a price I hadn’t bargained for. So, without further delay, I am unleashing the floodgates and starting to put up the posts about my continued travels through the underworld of the legal profession.