I haven’t written in a long time on here… I figured I would add a few posts related to what I’ve been doing in the meantime. I’ll start with a big one… strap in.
So I got hired into a BigLaw shop. They didn’t pay like true BigLaw, but they had the size on their side and are one of the largest in the country. You may have even heard of them. Anyway, the local office is one of the larger they have. It has several floors in a nice steel and black glass building, sitting ominously and incongruously off to the side and separate from any other high rises.
My interview wasn’t all that special. The firm was hoovering up nearly any loose attorney in the area and was growing the office at ridiculous speed. I spoke with the managing attorney. He pulled in another partner and asked if I would be ok also working in other specialties outside my experience, specifically employment, because they might want to use me with this other partner from time to time. I said sure, sounds interesting; I’ve never even looked sideways at employment law but, sure… why not.
I had previously worked as in-house counsel at an auto insurance company, and I was being hired-in primarily to work on auto insurance defense, notably because the firm had just recently acquired a contract to work with my previous company. The obvious conclusion being that I already knew what they wanted, how they wanted it, and also knew many of the names at the insurance company still.
I got a nice little office overlooking the highway, where I could watch the rush hour jam and get a front row seat to more car accidents than you can imagine. For the first month, I did nothing. Everyone kept telling me not to worry and to enjoy the spare time because the work would come, and I would be drinking from the firehose in no time.
For the second month, I did nothing. Everyone told me not to worry, it was busy and likely I would be assigned my docket soon. The managing partner was swamped and between the various lead partners, it would be anytime when the work would be poured on.
For the third month, I did nothing. At this point, other people started to notice. It was sorta that weird sidelong glance, where everyone seems to know something is off, but no one is really sure what is happening.
Now, when I say I did nothing, that’s not 100% accurate. I would wander the hallways of this BigLaw office and just poke my head into several peoples offices whom I had gotten to know, and see if they had anything extra they needed help on. A motion here. An appeal to research and write. Effectively odd jobs other people didn’t have time for. What I did not do, was auto insurance defense. Pretty much nothing. Which was weird since that was what I was hired for. I also did a couple jobs for the employment partner, but that didn’t last long. The reason they had wanted to know if I would be willing to do stuff for him was because it turned out he was infamous in the area (one of the largest cities in the country) for being an asshole; like a big chunk of attorneys in the city. Attorneys who didn’t even practice employment law knew him, and would say “oh yeah. I’ve heard of him… he’s an asshole.” It was uncanny. Anyway, it didn’t take long to verify for myself that he was, in fact, a raging asshole. Everyone who worked with him quit in short order (with the exception of one associate, and although the associate immediately agreed the partner was the biggest asshole he had ever met, had decided to tie his wagon to him simply because the associate quickly became indispensable to the firm because no one else would work with this partner. In fact the managing attorney had promised him that if he stayed with said asshole, he guarantied he would fasttrack the associate to partner in 3 years if he wouldn’t quit during that time.)
After a few run-ins with the employment partner earlier on, I asked the supervising attorney of the office not to assign me work from him any longer. The best part was, he said “why not?” I responded, “you know why.” He laughed, and said “yeah– yeah I do… but I figured I would ask anyway.” It wasn’t an unusual request in the office as it turned out. Apparently, if you were an attorney, you put your foot down and said ‘I don’t want to work with him’ (several partners had apparently said the same thing) or if you were staff, you just quit because you had no choice sadly. I felt really bad for his paralegals.
Anyway… I got into a slightly sad routine of wandering the halls looking for something to do. Taking long lunches, and in general surfing the internet. I spoke to the managing partner several times, and I always got the same “be patient, its coming” general statement with no real explanation of when. This explanation however, made no sense. For a short walk from my office was the other attorney who was hired in at the same exact date I was, who was slated to take on half of this insurance defense contract from my prior employer… and he was drowning in work. Yet at one point he told me he wasn’t allowed to give me any files to work on.
Something was wrong. My title had been changed, basically I had originally been hired in as a XXXXX Attorney and now I was a General Practice Attorney. I also wasn’t attached to a partner, which I didn’t actually realize was an issue until the required quarterly Associate’s (grievance) meeting. Basically all the associates were required to show up and air their grievances to the senior associate who theoretically would bring the issues to the managing partner to maybe (unlikely) rectify. Everyone went around the room and introduced themselves and stated which partner they were attached to, and when it got to me, I said I wasn’t attached to anyone and didn’t realize that was an issue but that I might have to talk to the senior associate about that. I had a conversation with her the next day and she told me to GTFO of the firm ASAP because something was wrong but she had no idea what, but it couldn’t be good.
Month 4… still fuck all. I felt like I had surfed to the end of the internet during work hours. I had been doing motions on esoteric topics I had zero background with, but I was trying to keep busy. During this time, I had an ever changing paralegal. Why ever changing you ask? Well, it became known pretty quickly that I had no docket and therefore very minimal work, so if someone needed a bit of a break, they would be assigned to me. By this point, everyone knew something was wrong. There was more than enough work, but none of it was getting to me. And then the first hammer fell.
The supervising attorney had a meeting with me and told me I just wasn’t pulling the hours I needed to. I looked at him directly and said, well nothing is being assigned to me… at all. He seemed to think (pretended) that was a little odd, said he’d look into it, but he stuck to the story that somehow it must be me who was not doing something. After this meeting there was about a week of people giving me more work, and once again it tapered off to nothing, regardless of me pestering them.
Round about month 5, I was talking to my paralegal du jour, she was the 7th-ish paralegal I’d had by this point. And she told me that she was quitting the firm. I looked at her and asked if it was anything I had done… she laughed and said how could it have been anything I had done since I don’t have any work. I also laughed and said, well, you never know — I just wanted to be sure.
Without going into detail on some of the personal parts of her story, she was attractive, and had been hired in to work for the managing attorney over the objection of the HR manager of the office. The HR manager then started spreading rumors that the paralegal was sleeping with the managing attorney and that’s how she got her job. This continued until eventually the ‘home office’ got involved and basically slapped down the HR manager (yet somehow didn’t fire them!?). Apparently it was only a short reprieve because the HR manager was just quieter about spreading the rumors. The managing attorney chose to distance himself from the paralegal and the perceived impropriety by sending the paralegal over to work with me, the other person who was apparently damaged goods in the office.
I initially asked why she was quitting, and at first she didn’t want to say. I told her I wasn’t long for the office either as I was going to either get fired or would have to quit. She asked why, I told her I had no work and thus no hours so it was only a matter of time. Without missing a beat, she looked sort of quizzically at me and said, “Well, you know why, don’t you?” I said no. And without pausing she said, when you first came on– there was this email…