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.

I love email

(I am not usually so hostile, in fact I usually really enjoy getting email from readers and I even send out replies… this one is an exception, what makes it even better is apparently they didn’t look to see if they were already mentioned here.)

Name Harrison Barnes

Email XXXX@bcgsearch.com

Subject Guest Columist Message

Hi-I love your site! Nice work! I would love to have you write for one of our properties (LawCrossing, JD Journal) if you are interested.       –Harrison


I can't tell you how many times BCG has told me to go fuck off. At least once, in as many words.

Please let me return the favor.

In the future you should consider that if you keep making enemies at the rate you seem to (based on innumerable conversations I've had with other attorneys at my career level) you shouldn't be surprised when your business disappears as we begin to move into more stable positions in companies and at firms.

Please find the advice you can take supra.

-- Azrael

So many of us…

As an avid fan of Dan Savage, I happened to be listening to this and felt the need to repost it here, as it is … well… shit; It may as well be my story with a couple notable variances. It seems Law School destroying people’s lives is a common theme. Take a listen.

Excerpt from Savage Love Podcast; Episode 479; 12/29/2015 — http://www.savagelovecast.com/   (Dan Savage is a relatively raunchy ‘Dear Abby’ who is spot on a good 90% of the time… the other 10% I end up yelling at the radio in my car while listening; but 90% is still a damn good average)

Reminds me a lot of the “Humans of New York” attorney… (link 1 / link 2)

Networking of the Damned – 2015 Holiday Edition

I feel there has been a relative dearth of holiday parties this year. I’m usually more than happy to make a few treks out for the obligatory halfway-holiday themed networking events that spring up around Christmas. Either I am falling off the better mailing lists that send them out, or there are decidedly fewer happening. Disappointing either way.

Recently I ended up getting the invitation to the local Young Lawyers Association holiday party. Sadly this one required I pay out for the privilege of going, but it wasn’t a significant amount; so I committed the heresy of paying to go to the networking party. As I’ve mentioned before, it is against my religion to pay for CLEs and networking functions (and parking); but as the old maxim says, you have to spend money to make dubious networking contacts with others in similar dire straights which never pan out into any… wait, that might not be how the maxim goes. Regardless…

This party had the added bonus on the invitation saying it was “black tie optional”. Yes… because image is everything; and grabbing up a bunch of very new and relatively broke attorneys and stuffing them into tuxedos and gowns will completely fix the obvious problems of the legal industry. I actually considered wearing a tuxedo. I have one– for no discernible reason other than it was on sale and I like standing in front of my bathroom mirror acting like James Bond. But I just couldn’t bring myself to wear it to what promised to be an array of broke attorneys and law students. My caution was rewarded when I arrived and saw that all of maybe 5 out of a few hundred arrayed were wearing tuxedos, and they seemed to be ill at ease with their decision (and they may have been the hosts too, not sure).

The event was outside. In December. To be fair, I am in a latitude where it doesn’t snow, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get cold. I’m guessing they got a deal on the venue since no one really wants to hold events outside at this time of year, for good cause. It was cold and really windy, and to make matters more fun, there were several fountains in the general vicinity so the wind constantly sprayed a goodly number of people with a fine cold mist. They had several of the outdoor propane heaters, but the afore mentioned wind kept blowing them out every few minutes. It didn’t really matter as you never really felt the heat due to the wind anyway even when they were lit. There were open bars (I mean come on… its a legal function; do you really expect lawyers not to drink?) Various foodstuffs were in the standard silver serving dishes; nothing was labeled and although I could figure out what most of the food dishes were, even after eating some of the remaining mystery food, I was still unable to decide what it was other then ‘squishy’. To complete the picture there was a big ice sculpture (because… why not?) and a rock band playing, and in the standard poorly considered execution of so many of these events, the band was located right in the middle of everyone so you had to yell at the person right next to you at the networking event to be heard. Great idea.

I showed up and grabbed some food quickly to beat any lines and also so I could actually network with people without trying to eat while doing so. Very shortly into the event I ended up talking with what turned out to be the only decent networking contact I found the whole night, and they weren’t even a lawyer; they worked in one of the ancillary valuation type of fields. They offered to pass along my resume with a good word to several of the firms their company worked with as well as fielding the possibility of collaborating with me on something; it’s unlikely to go anywhere but it at least made me feel like my money wasn’t completely wasted. I ended up talking with them for quite awhile and eventually more people from the firm drifted over and everyone was laughing and swapping stories about hilarious times they were drunk driving (I wish I was making that up), but seemingly fitting for a legal event as we stood no more than 10 feet away from one of the 4 fully stocked and completely open bars.

Eventually we both felt we should work the room a bit so we parted and drifted to other tables. I met up with one of the few lawyers I knew at the party and as with all networking events, if you hold down a table, others will drift in to talk and drink.

One attorney joined us, who introduced himself and handed out a business card and then proceeded to stand silently at table for the next 45 minutes without joining the conversation or talking to anyone. Just hovering slightly creepily and listening in on the rest of the table talk. I’m not that great at networking, but I mean… damn. I’m not that bad. Just to complete the mental image before you assume we were at a large table where you might be able to disappear into the background… we weren’t. It was a standing table that was probably 2 feet diameter, just large enough for four or five people to stand at and put your drink down. And Mr. Awkward was standing right at the table staring silently, pretty much until the party ended.

(A short addendum relating to silent weird guy: We also all handed him our cards, because… networking. Everyone included their email obviously so we can be contacted on the off chance someone wanted to buy us  offer a job. Instead, I now get the rantings of an insane person in my inbox (in various colors no less; professional!) about how the courts did this or that to him or his clients, and how they were completely wrong and illegal to do so, and how judge X is an insane asshole… usually spanning multiple pages. Google started flagging it as spam without me telling it to do so. The schizophrenic rantings are called his law firm’s newsletter, so says the title. It was amusing, but also scary that he went through law school, sailed through character and fitness, and passed the bar, yet no one noticed he was nuts.)

Another relatively new attorney with a surprisingly similar story to my own wandered over, and they seemed far too excited at the prospect of being a broke solo. I talked quite a bit with them and even setup lunch for a later point. I’m unsure whether we were commiserating about being in a crappy situation or swapping tips on how to survive in said crappy situation. Either way, nice guy.

A newly minted family law attorney joined us who was basically working as the assistant to a seasoned family law solo. They claimed they / their firm specialized in ‘high net worth divorces’. Yeah… right. A tiny solo catches ‘high net worth’ anything? I’m guessing the firm actually specializes in ‘wishful thinking’. It’s one thing to bend the truth to clients… its a whole different matter to try to pass off a lie like that to other attorneys. Better to be honest and say you ‘aspire to X… but deal with a lot of this in the meantime’. And on a completely professional note and without going into detail, when I brought up something which is a very well known standard in the industry (at least among better family law attorneys) they disagreed with the concept emphatically. Which absolutely killed any respect I may have had towards them. I have worked in family law, and as disagreeable as the divorce axiom I brought up, no divorce attorney worth their salt would have taken an opposing position.

The evening wore on. The flyer advertised the party as ending at 10 PM. And oh my, did it end EXACTLY at 10 PM.  The bars stopped serving 15 minutes before and started to clean up, which at these types of functions usually make most lawyers leave (no more booze? I’m [going to drive] outta here!) and the party wind down naturally. But instead, at the exact stroke of 10, they shut off the lights (no shit). And someone walked over and told everyone “you have to leave… now”. I guess they rented the venue literally only until 10 and to say we were ushered out is putting far too pleasant a point on it.

I’m unsure what my final impression is of the event. I suppose as with most, it was a slightly surreal experience of a bunch of mostly broke people dressing up and pretending otherwise.

Maybe that’s not so surreal now that I think about it.

Scummy Job Ads

You wonder why people think lawyers are slimy?

I ran across an ad for an immigration attorney… It purported to be a position for a charity. General concept was to work pro-bono for illegal immigrants to help get them out of detention. Seems like a noble enough endeavor for a charity. As with all jobs, I poked around to see what this charity was about.

They had a facebook page with photos of people they had supposedly helped. All the employees of the charity had huge smiles plastered on their faces in the photos which had captions like ‘Bob is so happy to be reunited with his family’. The weird thing was, not a single one of the ‘clients’ were smiling. In point of fact, they all looked really miserable.

That’s when stuff got even weirder. Backtracking to see how the charity was organized, you find pretty quickly that it was run as a small side venture of what almost amounts to a bail bond company. I couldn’t figure out what the deal was… it didn’t add up. Then I started checking out the parent company. Turns out they are one of the largest manufacturers and servicers for GPS ankle monitors.

Ahhh… Now it makes sense. The ‘charity’ worked like this: hire down on their luck attorneys to represent detainees but have the condition of release be that they be fitted with an ankle monitor. The Fed. govt. pays for the company to monitor the GPS trackers. The company makes money off every single ‘pro-bono’ case it takes on by being the servicer. And of course they aren’t going to fight to allow the detainees to go free with no GPS bracelet, I would be willing to bet that is a condition of representation in point of fact.

The whole thing is so slimy. Ugh. I am quite sure there are several ethical violations just bobbing around on the surface of this scum filled pool. But hey, go see for yourself on Nexus Services webpage, look for Nexus Caridades. I feel bad for the people who they are ‘helping’.

The Bar is set rather low…

Have you ever run across something so obviously dumb, you felt it necessary to do something about it; To reach out and correct the stupidity assaulting your sensibilities? But what if when you pointed out how dumb it was, no one you explained it to seemed to fathom the true depths of the stupidity? It makes you question your sanity. I mean, if no one else thinks it is dumb… maybe it’s just me.

Recently, I ran straight into the ‘Catch-22’ morass of the illogical that is the State Bar. Yes, the self same that exists in every state in some form. I have oodles of state bars at this point. What few friends I still have, joke that I am trying to collect all 50 states. By and large, in no small part based on the ABA’s model rules of ‘fill in the blank’, most rules of the profession you run into from one state to another are pretty similar. You will run into a few weird ones of course… in California (and a very few others) you don’t have to go to law school to sit for the bar, in Texas you are allowed to sleep with your clients, and then there is pretty much everything in Louisiana — because they like being different. There are lots of examples, but when you look at the big picture, the gestalt is relatively similar from one state to another.

Anyway, I entered a new state last year. Flashcut to a few months ago and I receive a strange letter from a non-profit threatening to revoke my law license unless I show up to one of their CLEs for new attorneys. Now, this is strange on 2 accounts.

Numero Uno: I’m not a new attorney. I’ve been out long enough at this point that… well crap. Read the blog. I’ve been out for a decent amount of time and I no longer qualify anywhere as a new attorney. (I wish the new attorney discounts still applied to me)

Proposition deux: How exactly is a 3rd party unaffiliated with the bar making threats against my continued bar license?

So, as with any good attorney with a question such as this, I called up the bar. First I called up the CLE department, because the letter was in reference to a CLE. I explained my predicament and how I am not a new attorney so why am I getting this. They said they were aware of the course, then said why don’t you call the non-profit and talk to them about it? I explained that I had a legitimate question related to my bar license, and I was not going to take the non-binding word of a 3rd party over the state bar who actually licenses me… in fact I think I am technically barred from taking such advice. Lord knows if you were brought up on ethics charges and used that excuse that some unaffiliated group told me to, they would laugh you right out of the profession. Plus, again, I am not a new attorney. There was silence for a moment as the words sunk in and they realized they (as the representative of the bar) had just suggested asking some random company about a bar license issue; and then they said “you have a good point, but…” it wasn’t their department because it was a condition of licensure… call the Board of Bar Examiners as they are the licensing body within the State Bar.

So I called them. I then went about explaining the same exact things. There was again that horrible pregnant pause while they mulled it over and they said “well.. you have a good point…” but — it wasn’t their department because it was enacted by the Supreme Court sua sponte as a prerequisite for new attorneys and was not itself related to their office. Plus mostly they did bar exam stuff so they had no idea (great). They then pointed me in the direction of the Supreme Court’s rulings related to the course (which I already had; because you know.. attorneys and research) and said that I should call the Executive Office of the state Supreme Court. Oh and did I need the number to talk to the CLE provider about this? (grrrr)

So up the ladder of the Bar I went. This time I talked to what amounted to the highest lawyer in the Bar outside the Supreme Court justices… They listened and I headed off the question trying to shunt me to the 3rd party CLE provider, then explained how I wasn’t a new lawyer. In fact, the Supreme Court rulings related to this course were quite specific that they were supposed to be for law students entering their first year of practice. That last part seemed to come as a surprise, which is shouldn’t because even this attorney referenced the holdings… apparently no one bothered actually reading them; they just liked referencing them and taking someone else’s word for what they contained. I was then informed they had been enforcing this CLE on anyone new in the state for many years, as opposed to only those new to the profession and they were surprised this issue had never been noticed before. They then said the words I had been dreading… “You have a good point… but… The only way to change this was to petition for a rule change directly to the Supreme Court.” I pointed out it wasn’t a rule change, it was merely enforcement of the rule as written as opposed to the expanded interpretation apparently taken by this CLE provider (who had also been given a monopoly by the bar to provide this one particular course).

To add insult to injury, I was then informed that regardless of the petition and decision, if I wanted to make sure to stay compliant, I would have to take the course because the petition wouldn’t be heard until later in the year. Well past when I was being told I’d have to take the New Attorney CLE. So I said fine. I’ll pay and take the CLE, and file the petition so no one else has to put up with this in the future. The CLE was exactly as worthless as you might expect, and I still have heard nothing from the bar as relates to the petition.

I get the feeling they have no incentive to change it, and could care less the inconvenience it causes to other people. My impression of the Bar in general has dropped significantly.

Woo bureaucracy!

Student Org.s – A microcosm of your future

The Barrister’s Ball is the big party thrown by law schools for graduating 3Ls at the end of every school year. It is generally a nice formal(ish) dinner with copious alcohol and drunken dancing. It is also one of the few events in which you get to bring a +1 who is not also a law student. So everyone gets to finally meet all those husbands, wives, and significant others who you heard vaguely referenced throughout the years, but never actually saw.

I brought my soon to be fiancee, one of my best friends brought their boyfriend who most of us thought was also a ‘soon-to-be-fiancee’ but unbeknownst to any of us was going to dump them ASAP. As it turned out, they waited until 1 day after the bar exam and told them to move out; apparently they would have done it sooner but didn’t want to fuck up the exam. I suppose that’s a minor point in his favor.

My other best friend walked in to the dinner with a hulking bald, tattooed, and pierced guy trailing behind her. A bit of an odd choice for this venue, but he was a nice enough guy. We all sat down to eat  and he shot me a slightly weird glance. He leaned over and said “Have we met before?” I briefly ran through the very short list of anyone I know who might look like him and told him I really didn’t think so. He sorta stared and said “Damn, I swear I know you from somewhere…” Being friendly I said “Well, I’m either at the law school studying or I’m working at the Prosecutor’s Office…” And he snapped his fingers and exclaimed “THAT’S where I know you from.”

This brief exchange was being followed by the table, and once he shouted this everyone became very interested in their food and suppressed a smile. My friend who had brought him grabbed his arm and attempted to steer him away from the subject quickly. I honestly had no recollection of him… Talking to my friend later, she admitted to me that in the few weeks leading up to the Barrister’s Ball, she had to go hang out for far too long at 2 different dog parks to find a date to the dinner.

Amusing stories aside… several of us were mingling (and drinking) and we happened to notice everyone from the SBA grouped over in a corner getting photographed with plaques. I asked someone what was going on over there, and they said something about awards. But the weird thing was, no one I asked knew what the awards were. Flashcut to graduation. All the SBA members who were over getting their photos taken got these random awards plaques presented on stage during graduation. I leaned over and asked the guy next to me in the auditorium… how it was decided who got these awards. He stifled a laugh and said, “The SBA votes on who gets these awards. And amazingly they voted them all for each other.”