Interview 54: Back to the familiar

I applied to one of the big insurance companies… Again. I feel as though I have dwindling options of going back if I do. I refuse to ever go near the lizard again. And I told Liberty Mutual to fuck right off in perpetuity after my last interview with them. And I would never work for one of the tiny insurance companies… so the field is definitely shrinking should I actually go back. Anyway, one of the few acceptable candidates called me back for an interview. So I trucked across town to a Regis rent-an-office for the interview.

This was by far the longest interview I’ve had… god… in forever. It may only be beaten in length by the insane interview(s) #14 about a decade ago. It went over two hours. I personally knew some of the attorneys currently working at this place, and pleasantly, one of the interviewers was someone I had done several cases with some years ago.

Anyway, after a few pleasantries, we got into it pretty quickly and pretty deeply. It wasn’t just a ‘tell me about yourself’, it ended up being a back and forth conversation (and at times, disagreement) over case strategy and practice, and generally speaking insurance defense work and corporations. Part of why the interview went so long was actually some of the disagreements over case management and discussion of specific cases and trials. It went into the weeds pretty quickly.

One would think having a high level conversation like this would at least put you in a position where the interviewer might admit you knew wtf you were talking about. During the back and forth regarding some of the trial work I had done, it became obvious that I had done things the senior attorney interviewing me hadn’t even done before. (I’m a lightning rod for the weird so it’s not that horribly unusual truly). There was the usual name dropping to prove you actually know the town and the attorneys and specifically mentioning other attorneys they will know.

Ultimately at the end of the interview, the senior attorney basically said something to the effect that I was one of the smartest attorneys he had met, but that he wanted to make sure whoever he hired, and then he corrected himself and said “if he even hired someone”, would be a good fit for the office. He seemed weirdly reluctant to even admit there was a position open. Which brought up the whole question of why the hell I was possibly interviewing for a position that might just be hypothetical. They then dropped a rather atomic insult and after discussing the past decade or so of work that I had done, they casually said “well I only see 2 years of experience here in what we do” (mind you I worked for a bigger insurance company than this one for 3 years). This was either specifically to try to lowball salary, or was a legitimate insult. Either was I completely ignored the statement and merely filed it away.

To make matters even less desirable… I asked what the average number of trials the office does per attorney, which is a very valid question usually… This however appeared to be a sore point. The senior attorney ended up lamenting that they were not doing more trials and that at one point they had been at the top of the rankings of all the legal offices for the number of trials they did, and now they were near the bottom. There was a long moment, before I finally asked… “And I take it you think that is bad?”

Its never a good sign when the direction the management wants to go is to be difficult and hostile, just because. I’m hoping a different job comes through before this one gets back to me.

Interview 53: The best in a long time

Got an email asking me to come in for an interview for a municipal position. Notably, same municipality as Interview 38 and 49. Anyway, I had finally come to the realization how this office operated. You could apply to any position, but whatever position you applied for had little to no bearing upon what they would actually bring you in to interview for. This led to such weird interviews as my prior one… because the interviewer never mentioned that they were interviewing me for a job I had never applied to…

I had figured this out in advance of the interview however because after that last interview, I had mostly stopped applying to positions with them. The last position I had applied to was many months prior… so they were either about 6 months behind on interviewing, or they were just using a resume bank to pull in applicants regardless of the actual application process. This was pretty much verified when I was contacted prior to the interview and asked for a current resume.

To the credit of the interviewer, they sort of embarrassedly starting trying to explain the above before I stopped them and told them this wasn’t my first rodeo with their office and I understood, and then asked them what position I was there to interview for. It was suddenly like a weight was lifted off the interviewer and they relaxed quite a bit. Without going too far into details, it was one of the more fun interviews I’ve had recently. We were honestly laughing and joking around quite a bit. I had enough of a background with their work that I understood a fair bit of the crazy that came along with it.

At the end of the interview I asked a question as we were all headed towards the door. I said, how many other applicants are you interviewing for this position. The section chief sorta got quiet and then said, “uhm.. well… you’re it.” They then added whether you view that as a positive or negative is up to you. Which just sparked more laughter and I said, well I will take it as a positive until proven otherwise.

At the end of the day… I think I’ll take this job if they do end up getting the offer over to me. There is a big… BIG… positive about working with people like this that you can laugh and get along easily with.

The Odds Are good that the Goods Are Odd

I think most people start at a baseline assuming they are relatively normal. In the legal world of huge egos, money, and what is honestly a rather highly educated segment of the population what you instead start to see is that you are more often dealing with the fringes than with normal. The problem is a lot of attorneys on the fringe still see what they do as normal, and in the echo chamber of their mind things gets really weird, really quick. Here are just a very, very few that I have dealt with.

The office…

  • There was an attorney who hit the list of ‘the usual suspects’ of frequent filers. He had a good referral base, somehow… Several of us had theories as to what happened with him, but it seemed like he hit a mid-life crisis or had a quiet breakdown and no one around them cared. He started fashioning himself as an artist and painter, and maybe only a lawyer secondarily. His office was decorated with his work, and it was definitely interesting. He  painted during depositions. We used to warn clients to completely ignore it and pretend he wasn’t painting because it ticked him off if they pretended it was normal and didn’t ask what he was doing. There was nothing he wanted more than to talk about his painting to people. (it only took once as the opposing counsel to make the mistake of asking to realize you should never ask again). In line with being a misunderstood and frustrated artiste, he also smoked a fair amount of pot… like in the parking lot of his firm. And he’d offer some to you. Beyond the ‘art’ in the office, the most notable thing about the office was that it was a dump. Many legal offices have a pretty decent budget to keep a nice veneer on the place for clients. Not this guy. The furniture was ripped and falling apart. Weird stains (not just paint) on the carpeting. It was nasty. I remember leaving a deposition with the court reporter who looked back at the building with an odd glance and said to me “It looks so nice from the outside…”
  • On the topic of offices. One attorney had his whole office done up like an Egyptian tomb. Gold wallpaper, hieroglyphics. And of course a bunch of golden mummy sarcophaguses lining the wall. Because.. I don’t know… Obviously?
  • I had to negotiate with an attorney who had a life size clown mannequin hovering strangely menacingly over the back of his office desk. His whole office looked like a slightly menacing TGIF with very strange things on the wall which you would not expect (nor want to find) in an attorney’s office.

The attorney themself…

  • While I was negotiating with opposing counsel they broke into song and started to serenade me. Not just once either, I got both an in person and an over the phone. It was actually pretty amusing, I’ve got to admit, they had a surprisingly good voice. Definitely someone you want to hang out with for Karaoke, maybe not the most normal in the middle of a law office. I had been warned by others at my firm that this counsel was “off their rocker”  but I got along with them surprisingly well. Unrelated to the singing but shortly after my interactions with them they ended up having federal fraud and racketeering charges levied against them specifically and a couple other at their firm. I think they plea bargained out and turned on the managing partner of the firm. Didn’t really follow the gossip on that one.
  • One of my favorites… Opposing counsel had such a bad toupee that we decided he had to be wearing it as some sort of psychological tactic to throw the witness and opposing counsel off their game. He was another one that we warned clients about so they were prepared for the view. It looked almost like he was wearing a wig backwards, and just sorta dropped it on his head like a hat. And what made it even better was the failed attempt to dye the sparse hair on the sides to match, making it about a million times more obvious.
  • Quite awhile ago… partner I was working with was involved in a lengthy deposition. One of those that actually goes the whole allowed time listed in discovery rules. Anyway, as the associate, I was in and out of the room — taking care of getting things that might be needed as well as containing the business of our other files which might pop up during the day so it didn’t intrude too much. Anyway, opposing counsel seemed relatively normal until our paralegal walked into the room to hand a message to the partner… and  opposing counsel completely lost his ability to concentrate on anything . He suddenly started stammering and losing his place. It was very noticeable. So much so that the partner took a 5 minute break to go out and talk with me and the paralegal about whether we had also noticed it… and to see if we could figure out what had caused it. So the game within a game started and we tried again… and had the paralegal come in a few minutes later and hand the partner a blank note just to see if it would happen again. And lo and behold, he lost his place and sort of kept staring down at the floor… at her feet — the entire time she was in the room. The paralegal was wearing strap sandals, and as we figured out, opposing counsel had some sort of foot fetish. We laughed like hell about it and the paralegal decided to walk in barefoot a few more times just to fuck with him. We filed that information away for the next time we had to deal with the guy. Weird as hell. I mean people can have a fetish, don’t get me wrong, but don’t perv out in the middle of the work day.

The business

  • There are niche fields which exist which you have no idea about. Things you never even knew existed and yet they are a niche that can totally support someone’s career. The people who operate in these fields are sometimes a specialist of One. As in there is only one person in the whole state who does what they do. I met, and had a strangely fascinating conversation with an attorney during a case whose specialty was representing incarcerated prisoners who had been in auto accidents while riding in a prison bus. That’s all they did. That was their entire business, and apparently business was pretty decent. I asked how they got clients and they laughed and said word of mouth, the prisoners have nothing better to do with their time so they are happy to sue just to break up the monotony and her number got passed around every prison in the state. It was incredibly strange.

I think I might have to do several of these types of posts. There are oh… so, so many of these weird little stories.

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.