Interview #40 – Gripe Session

I was talking with co-counsel on a case, we were probably talking about the case for about 5-10 minutes before we made a few jokes about how crappy the case was and how our job in general sucked. Which led to me complaining about my job in specific, the phone call turned into a half hour conversation at the end of which co-counsel said, “well you do the same thing as us, why don’t you just walk over here if it’s as bad as you say it is there…” It took only a moment for me to ask if they had an open position and to say I would love to.

I dropped my resume with them and they passed it up to the managing attorney. I got a fast track phone interview which in turn immediately passed me on to the in person interview. 

I showed up at a nice high rise and walked into a bright, nicely furnished office. Nothing ostentatious, but respectable and professional, a welcome change from where I work. (I should really take some photos of my current office before I leave for comparisons). I sit down in a conference room with 4 senior attorneys, at least one of whom has their name on the door.

The interview started out slightly rocky. The first question was “why do you want to leave your current job and come over here… you’re doing the same thing as us.” It is a sticky moment because quite literally the first rule of interviewing is you’re not supposed to malign your current / previous employer. And yet that is literally what I was being asked to do in effect. 

I pretty much answered with that statement that it was a tough question for just that reason, but since we were all in the same industry and same town, some of this would be known. What followed was probably one of the more interesting interviews I’ve had simply because everyone in the room did the same work but my comments hit home nearly always. “I want to leave because our office tech sucks, explain… explain… example: the fax is still the centerpiece of the office.” This drew a huge laugh as one of them said they had to send a fax for the first time in over a year recently and couldn’t figure it out on their machine because it is used so infrequently. In our office, we use it like it’s still the 1980s. 

The interview lasted an hour and a half which in effect traced how my office did things very differently from their office and why I felt it was a bad situation. I don’t mind the work, I just thought our office was badly managed and the higher-ups didn’t care one iota about sufficiently staffing the office or providing what we needed to do our jobs. 

There was a general agreement that my situation was not great where I was and that it was much better at their office. I had actually thought I was going to get the job… they liked me, I had the experience and could hit the ground running from day one, and I had an internal referral from a lifer in the office. 

A couple weeks went by and I was pretty certain I had it and they were just finishing the paperwork. I got the email rejection about 3 weeks after it all started. Not completely sure what the mis-step was. There were possibly two, one more disturbing if that was it. One I could think of was a variance in their metrics of how they graded the attorneys and that of my own office. Apparently in their office you lived and died by your resolved and active numbers. My office really couldn’t care less (mostly). I was asked in the interview what my numbers were and I said I had no idea… someone had told me once probably a year ago but it wasn’t something any of us knew off the top of our heads. The managing attorney found that odd since in their office every attorney could recite that number cold. I can’t imagine that was the major issue since so much was different between the offices it shouldn’t be surprising our grading methods differed.

The slightly more disturbing one was about time at the office. I was asked how many hours per week I put in at the office, I said I don’t know exactly. Its an odd question in my line of work because it has a lot of answers. Time literally at the office is often only 50% of time spent working because you travel for a fair amount of litigation work. Depositions, hearings, trials… I said it was highly variable and that one of the current issues at my office was that I used to put in stupid hours and I was usually one of two or three people who closed the office daily. I said there was more of a problem now because the workload had increased per attorney by nearly 100% with no change in expectation of what had to be done on every case (and no further staffing). I had said it was unsustainable and that I had a hard out these days at 5 to pick up my kid at daycare. 

The interview ended and I walked out nearly certain I was going to be putting in my two weeks in no time at all in my current job. I have a bad feeling I “was not dedicated enough” due to having children; which is a common enough statement heard in the legal industry sadly.  

edit: on a slightly positive side, I did actually find out why I didn’t get the spot… after interviewing me, another inside hire showed up who had 10 yrs experience as opposed to my 3 in this sub-specialty. Basically they had someone else show up who they couldn’t pass up so I just missed out. 

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