The attrition rate at this firm was bad. Like seriously bad. I had an inkling that things were probably not great, but I had no idea until I started working there just how bad it really was.
On day one, I ended up sitting in on a paralegal training session, because they weren’t sure what to do with me and decided I should know what my assigned paralegal could do for me (? — Did I mention I had a paralegal? I do. They are supposed to do stuff for me, but mostly I feel guilty asking them to so I try not to). During the training the lead trainer said “If you see an attorney and don’t know their name, don’t worry about learning it, they probably won’t be here long enough for you to bother.” They realized I was sitting in the back, and just sort of shrugged and said, ‘sorry… but it’s sorta true.’
I started to find out what they meant once I started talking with the other associates. We were all living in empty temporary apartments which we could move out of on a moments notice. As in, no furniture beyond a bed, empty. (yes, me too). This firm was headquartered in a tiny regional city that everyone had to move to in order to work there. Everyone was treading water waiting to get the hell out of dodge at the first sight of a better job.
This was shown in the more visible mark of the turnover… the empty offices. There were a lot of them. In fact, most of the offices for the associates had absolutely zero personal touches in them. A mirror of our disposable apartments in the office setting. You would hear about it too, as you walked over to someone’s office… oh hey is Bob in today? — No. Bob isn’t in today or anyday anymore. He quit. And the office would have been scavenged like some sort of Mad Max scene as any office item of vague utility would have been taken to be re-purposed elsewhere, usually leaving motions and files strewn about on the desk. (which I often wondered… weren’t those important and potentially time sensitive?) But no matter. Not my problem apparently.
Probably the most visible mark of the turnover was the stationary. The letterhead for the firm listed the attorneys attached to it in tiny print. Apparently early on they had tried having it professionally printed, but learned quickly it became outdated faster than they could print it. Instead everything was dynamically generated when you printed off the computer. I was instructed to always print a new stationary page because (a direct quote) “the letterhead changed some days on an hour by hour basis.” As in, people quit so often, that the dynamic letterhead was very likely different before lunch, as opposed to after lunch. I kept tabs on my relative place in the firm as I watched my name creep higher and higher on the letterhead. Which was disturbing because I haven’t even been there that long, but I am now about a third up the letterhead. Think on that.
The senior litigator I was attached to had 2 associates, me and another person. The other one ended up being transferred away (a very different and interesting story I will eventually get to) leaving only me. The other associate later told me that he learned he had lasted the longest of any associate attached to that senior litigator I was now working with. A grand total of 8 months.
I could see why. After only two months there I was already starting to apply to jobs again. I was fulfilling the churn at the firm.