Work – I was warned, but never expected…

You always hear about ethics issues in law school. Everyone sorta knows lawyers are ethically questionable, but I always assumed it was more associated with the concept that we choose to go into a profession that represented criminals and other assorted horrible people for money.  It’s like a more erudite form of prostitution. We’ll do almost anything for money; no check that, after working here I know that lawyers will do anything for money.

I probably should have figured the ethics in the real workplace were going to be nasty. I made it thorough a retelling of merely one of these stories to a friend who is an associate elsewhere, they told me I was obliged to quit immediately. I explained to my friend I had this pesky addiction to food which I could only satisfy with those little green slips of paper the law firm gives me so long as I keep showing up.

So, what have I witnessed so far? I’ll start simple.

My boss’ desk is stacked with papers. Mostly because they tend to never be in their office. Which is part of the problem with the affidavit issue, if they are never there, they never end up signing those all important time sensitive documents. But don’t even suggest they appoint an authorized signor; this other arrangement is better. I watched a paralegal take an unsigned affidavit, sign it for an attorney then proceed to cut-and-paste the seal and signature of a notary onto the affidavit and submit it to the court. I know, you’re probably thinking this is maybe one bad actor… not really. I also saw another attorney who ‘could sign the absent attorney’s name better than the paralegal could’ sign an affidavit in front of the office notary, who then signed and notarized it. If you can think of any permutation of this arrangement with an office full of paralegals and attorneys, I watched it happen. The office notaries would notarize any document with any name on it, no questions. I think they just really liked to use stamp; I’m sorta surprised they didn’t just stamp random objects around the office with it.

Back to the avalanche of papers on my boss’ desk… I got a motion to compel (our) discovery through service. When I started looking, it seemed like we never sent the discovery out, and thus missed the deadline by a month or (much) more. I asked if anyone knew if it had gone out. A helpful paralegal said, of course it went out, I sent it out in the mail myself. I will admit, I thought that was odd considering we e-serve everything, but hey, who knows. I was relatively new, and this was an old file. It was possible they sent paper copies previously, recently… maybe? So I told opposing counsel it had been sent out, but I’d be happy to email over a copy if they couldn’t find it; I emailed it over and I put the issue out of my mind. Opposing counsel might have figured out something was wrong but my understanding was they ended up in rehab the day after I sent the email… so they had other things on their mind. Weird coincidences like this seem to happen way to often in the legal world, I chalk it up to the weird as fuck characters who populate this profession. I didn’t think much of this incident… until it happened again.

But this time, it was a little different. This time the firm definitely didn’t send it out. This was an issue because it was in at a highly litigious point in a high value case and opposing counsel seemed to have forgotten they requested the information; but if they figured it out, we would have had limitations placed on our objections  blah blah blah (legal mumbo jumbo no one but lawyers care about so I won’t keep explaining). The paralegal again says, don’t worry, we have ways of fixing this. Then they open their desk and start rummaging through and pull out a handful of metered stamps with backdates on them, like many months backdated. They take the discovery, put it in an envelope to send out, and put a backdated stamp on it to make it fall within the discovery period. I brought up the issue with the senior litigator that technically we were late and out of time. The paralegal looked at the senior and said “don’t worry, we fixed it with a stamp.” The senior said, “oh, then no problems.”

Continuing on… How about something more malpracticey? The lit group sent off one of any number of continuing motions in one of the multitude of cases in our section, only to have it bounce back from opposing counsel with an email saying “this case was dismissed… why are you filing into it?” This was news to us, so we looked into it. The case had been dismissed when the opposing side had set a docket control hearing about 2 months prior and our firm was a no show. For those who don’t know, these things are usually a formality handled by a paralegal who just calls in to it. It might require an in-person hearing, but that’s rare and usually only for contested issues. Well, the group looked into it and here was what we found… the opposing counsel had the phone number, email, physical office address, and was actually personally acquainted with the senior litigator in our group from a previous job. The court for some reason did not have current contact information for the senior litigator; mind you, contact information is, at a minimum, listed at the end of the original complaint, and also on every motion filed into the court, and on all the discovery docs sent to opposing counsel. The court did however have the contact info of the Senior Litigator at a previous job, so they sent it there, and in the best fashion possible, messed up the address so it wasn’t even served properly on them. At the court hearing, opposing counsel did not attempt to contact the senior litigator or anyone else in the office, instead they just said “we have no idea what happened” and let the court dismiss for want of prosecution. The correct thing to do is to call on your cell and ask where counsel is, not to lie to the court and say they have no idea how to contact them or where they are. Things don’t (and aren’t intended) to work in that fashion.

We filed to reinstate the case and I was sent to the hearing. While preparing for it, I found a notice for the docketing hearing we had received a month before the docket control hearing. I brought it up to the paralegal (who was supposed to be responsible for scheduling it) and the senior litigator. They specifically said “we never received that” and proceeded to delete it from the network. Everyone involved had unclean hands. It is so god damned icky working around these people.

I was sent to the court to argue the very narrow statement “Senior litigator person had never gotten the hearing notice” (which they had). The judge was ticked and handed me a copy of the email they had sent us (you know, with the copy of the DCC that no longer existed on our computer network?) Anyway, I basically said the senior litigator had never gotten it personally (because they never actually check their own mail themselves, so technically true). The judge was really not happy, but then, opposing counsel jumped in and said they too had problems getting hold of senior litigator and it must be a problem with our phone / email systems.  Opposing counsel was now lying to try to make themselves look better for intentionally not contacting my firm at all. The judge was now stuck with two lawyers effectively lying about the same thing… They were outnumbered and gave up, but basically said you only get one fuck-up in their courtroom and made sure I would pass along that statement to the senior litigator.

I could keep going, I think I will in later posts about the shady as fuck goings on, but for now these last few will have to suffice for a bit.

Work – Institutional Ignorance

I have noticed a strange propensity at my firm. I think it exists in the wild in our profession almost everywhere. There is a complete lack of appreciation for specific knowledge of the individual. This is an odd claim for what in effect is a profession of ‘knowledge workers’ such as attorneys, where specialized knowledge is supposed to be our raison d’être.  It is a simple concept, firms very often don’t use the people with the most knowledge for the specifically on-point task that knowledge would most benefit. For example…

Several months ago I was given a research task. Our litigation group was expecting a radioactive motion to be dropped in our lap by the opposing counsel any day. We knew it was coming, and we generally knew what the legal theory they would be arguing was going to be, and that it would be bad for us. But beyond knowing the outline of the problem, no one in the firm had done any in-depth legal research into the topic. The onus fell on me (for a variety of political reasons above my paygrade) to untie the Gordian knot of a state law which had basically been enacted as a complete bar against what we were arguing in the case. It was a big case, and I was aiming to impress.

I spent what was very likely, collectively, days researching the topic. We knew the motion would show up at some point, but until it did, I kept researching the issue. I had read every case dealing with the particular statute, I knew the loopholes, I had read the legislative floor session for the bill, I knew who was currently arguing similar cases in the state and had even reached out to other law firms to speak to attorneys who had lost a recent case on the issue to see where they thought they went awry. In short, I knew the issue better than anyone in the firm. I kept researching the issue, because the motion we were all expecting just never seemed to materialize.

But finally, the day came. The motion showed up with exactly the argument I was expecting. I gave a short presentation on the topic to a combined litigation group and talked about strategy and how we might attack it or maybe even sidestep the issue. It all seemed to be very well received and I came in the next day ready to write an amazing answer.

But, instead it was assigned to a different associate from a different group who hadn’t researched the law at all. I handed them a respectable pile of research notes and caselaw, which I am fairly certain they never looked at considering the answer he wrote was so poorly constructed. He argued a very weak point, that was at its core… just… wrong. It wasn’t merely that I disagreed with how they attempted to approach the issue, it was that it was legally incorrect and showed a profound misunderstanding of the central construction of the law at issue.

It didn’t make any sense… why have the person with the greatest background in a given topic, NOT work on that topic? I was actually angry I hadn’t been given more work to do, because that should have been my work. But it obviously isn’t only me this happens to.

This institutional ignorance is probably shown nowhere better than during an actual trial. It seems no matter the firm, the story plays out the same. I’ve had a chance to watch it unfold several times. Most recently another litigation attorney at the firm had a case actually reach trial. A few days before trial was set to start, they were kicked from first to (effectively) third chair. Instead, the managing partner effectively waltzed into a trial and took over the whole of the litigation from the attorney and associates who knew the background and intricacies of the case. I watched the managing partner proceed to question witnesses about generic topics, eating up the majority of the time grandstanding, and leaving only a few minutes for the other attorney who had been working the case for 2-years to try to clean up the facts and the record before the witness was excused. Apparently, a brief conference room meeting is all it takes to get caught up on a complex litigation case.

(to name drop a little) I also watched it happen at Reed Smith. The exact situation played out, and the senior associate who had been in the case and elbow deep in the paperwork quite literally every day for months, was relegated to spectator seating (not even at the attorney tables) while 2 senior partners argued the case instead. It almost seems like the British Barrister / Solicitor system.

The same thing happens at the firm I am at during meditations. A senior partner would decide to show up and continually ask questions (during the mediation) and then make snap judgments without the benefit of knowing why certain arguments (or settlements) were ridiculous and potentially hurting the mediation.

In effect, for the political benefit and cachet of parading in front of the client to show that “the big guns” are on the case, the quality of the representation takes a hit as those with the least knowledge decide to take it over. I am in awe of the stupidity, every time it happens, and yet it happens so often in so many ways.

Work – the Rift

I will say, I honestly think my paralegals are working more than I am. But the work itself is very different, so it’s not quite equivalent. I am spared (a fair amount) of the weird busywork involved with complying with capricious internal company policies, because it falls on the paralegals. But… I’m going to sound like an elitist here, so go ahead and get good and indignant now… Although they are very good at what they do, many (most) don’t quite understand what we (the attorneys) are writing. There is an education gap which I didn’t fully appreciate until I saw it in action. We often pass off our motions to the paralegals to check over for spelling / grammar / (copy-paste) errors. But in terms of the actual content, it may as well be ancient Greek. Most paralegals have only a high school education and potentially got a paralegal certificate at a community college somewhere. I found this disconcerting when I realized the massive understanding gap when I would be asked if I had misspelled a word, only to explain what I used was a correctly spelled word they had never seen, or when one told me they had no idea what I had written — but it sounded good.

I am an elitist, by philosophy. But in practice, it made me feel very uncomfortable. I really liked talking and joking around with my paralegals, but there really was an invisible yet palpable rift in understanding.

Most attorneys use a paralegal to run the scheduling, call the court, and generally try to keep up with the deadlines which are connected to literally everything we file. There is little doubt that a fair number of them have a better handle on the deadline portion of civil procedure than I may have for years to come. We also use them to copy / paste rote motions which don’t change except for the named individual and the pronouns, notice of depositions, LOPs, and all manner of industry specific paperwork which doesn’t really need the attention of an attorney except for a quick glance and a signature.

There is a line though, as I said above, there is a benefit for going to college and law school which paralegals do not have. Where I work, there are a fair number of senior litigators who have associates, in fact some have multiple associates working for them. But there are also the unfortunate few who have none.

One such unfortunate at my firm assigned out a complicated (research) motion to their paralegal to write. The paralegal rightly told the senior litigator that they had no idea what they were doing and didn’t understand it. The litigator looked at their paralegal and said “Google it” and walked away.

If anyone reading this is ever considering hiring an attorney for a complex issue, ask beforehand how many associates work directly under / for that attorney. If the answer is none, find a different attorney. Otherwise you will probably end up getting the best legal advice google can offer.


Work – Phone Home

There has been a consistent issue the whole time I have been at this firm regarding my boss which involves communication. It is an odd dichotomy because it is both too little, and far too much.

As with everyone in an office environment my boss has a phone sitting on his desk which is equipped with voicemail… which they staunchly refuse to use. Why doesn’t he want to use the office phone? Well, because the office records phone calls, and he is fantastically paranoid because he thinks they are out to get him (which he’s actually correct about as it turns out, more on that later). Instead my boss has 2 cell phones and therefore he never picks up the office phone unless absolutely necessary… as in the name flashing on the caller-id is the top boss is calling. He will by preference not ever call on his office phone; even in the office; even if his cellphone is almost out of power and the short charging cord leaves him stuck in a hunched position near an outlet like Golem caressing his precious… it must still be a call through his cellphone. He carries both cell phones at all times, but almost never uses the firm provided cell phone because of his paranoia, which brings up the excellent question of why he has it, or carries it around. I’ve been told multiple times by him that the firm has GPS tracking enabled on the phones to keep tabs on their employees, which although possible, starts to hint at the state of mind with regard to my boss.

He asked me at one point how to check his voicemail on his desk phone, which I showed him how to do hovering over his shoulder with the speakerphone on, only to find over 60+ messages from as far back as 8 months prior (now closer to a year). As soon as he heard the date on the first voicemail from 8 months ago he immediately hung up the speakerphone, and looked away and said he would take care of it later. The voicemail light is still blinking on his phone to this day. He knows, hell everyone knows, that is a huge ethical breach to do this, but he decides to ignore it anyway. His opinion is that anyone who matters has his cell phone number(s). He also hates calling other peoples offices for the same paranoid reasoning, thinking the conversations are being recorded. Thus I end up in uncomfortable conversations with OC offices trying to convince a secretary or paralegal to hand over their boss’ cell phone number to me… because obviously this is normal.

Which brings us to the flip side of the communication with him.  If you provide him with your cellphone number… may lord have mercy on you. I have text messages which are not merely multiple text messages in length… no, they are literally pages upon pages of text. You will get phone calls at all hours. Text messages appear almost daily after midnight and at odd hours asking about random matters and scheduling (as if I have the firm calendar in front of me), because I guess he thinks that’s acceptable and that everyone who works for him is on call 24 hours a day.

Oh yeah, its not like its just me he or the paralegals he does this too either. Opposing Counsel has actually stated on the record that they were getting messages from my boss on their phone at 3 in the morning. We had another OC who told him point blank to stop calling and texting their phone or they would complain to the judge about the harassment. If you are a client, you don’t exist unless you have his cell number, mostly because you will only ever be routed to his office phone by the secretary, and we all know it will be a cold day in hell before he answers that phone.


I’m taking another story out of order, because it is just too amazing not to.

Recently, I was heading out to lunch. As I often do, I was getting lunch late because things seemed to quiet down around three in the afternoon, so escaping for food then is usually least noticed by those around me. Before I made it to my car, I got a phone call from the paralegal telling me Mr. Senior Partner was calling a meeting of a bunch of associates. When asked what about, turns out there was no information given. The paralegal had given me an out saying they didn’t know where I was, and then calling me on the phone. (lying in this manner is done so often it may as well be company policy) I had a brief opportunity as I looked between my car and back toward the law firm building. I told them I was headed back inside and I would get lunch later. (I greatly regret this decision not to place more value upon my lunch and will not make this mistake again).

I show up and am told it the meeting was for associates. So I file in expecting to see a bunch of us. Well, not quite. I see maybe a dozen of us… which is odd because there are a whole bunch more around the office. Mr. Senior Partner does his usual meeting appearance half an hour plus after it is supposed to start, making everyone just sit and do nothing. He looks around the room and points at the 2 associates of one of his favored litigators, and says “I didn’t ask for you two, you can go.” Which just seems to make the whole situation stranger that those of us left were apparently hand picked for this assignment. Which did not bode well, because at one end of the room were some lower level associates who had never graced the floor of the building we were in before this.

He starts talking, and weaving a story about a some random guy. The last time he spun a story in a meeting like this, it is slightly notable that he lied about the story, by vastly embellishing details which were material to the case at hand, but no matter. The short version was that there was a guy, who was now in the hospital and we were being conscripted to guard the client from other *cough* less scrupulous attorneys who might try to get them to sign something. (I am unsure if a less scrupulous firm exists). Someone asks if this person is a client. Mr Senior Partner sidesteps the question and doesn’t answer. He then quickly leaves and says the compliance attorney will fill us in on any other details.

So we are given signup sheets to go guard a patient, in a hospital, over the weekend. At least once more someone asks if they are a currently client, and the answer was something to the effect of “he’s a really nice man”. This time I ask the compliance attorney directly… Is.. he.. a.. client? There is a pause and apparently committed to it, the compliance attorney says “Of course he is. why else would we be doing this?” Then we’re told the ‘client’ has no family and it’s so sad what happened, as if this is supposed to explain away why we are doing this…. assigning a cadre of attorneys to hover at the bedside of some random person in a hospital.

Now most people can already smell the bullshit. The favored associates were given a pass, “handpicked” ones were being made to hang out in a hospital over the weekend, doing the absolute epitome of ambulance chasing.

I left the meeting and talked to someone who had been with the firm almost from the beginning. When I told them, they literally gasped, and said that the firm never does this and the founder must not know because this is strictly taboo. (also illegal pretty much everywhere… look up barraty).

I had lucked out and gotten a slightly better timeslot. I showed up, and found out first and foremost, the grand lie that the person had no family. There were about a dozen family members packed into the hospital room, and there I was, shifting uncomfortably around them until I finally just decided to wait in the hall. And damn am I glad I did, because shortly thereafter they began praying. And not the quiet praying… nooo… I’m talking loud yelling praying which turned into speaking in tongues. No shit. It was a cross between hilarious and horrifying.

I waited out my time. This was quite literally the slimiest thing I’ve done to date. Basically the firm used a bunch of attorneys to guard some guy in a hospital bed as if he were a big pile of money. Because that’s how the firm saw him. I am willing to work pretty much anywhere at this point. I really hope someday I get to testify in front of the bar against these people.

My boss has been effectively absent for the last 3 weeks. I am actually curious to know what his opinion is on this latest activity. Of course, he has to show up for me to actually communicate with him beyond very short text messages.

Senior Partner III

These posts are mostly there to give you an idea of who was running the show on a daily basis. The general disdain of the Senior Partner for everyone else trickled down into everything done at the office. For example:

I was sitting in my supervising attorney’s office. We were talking about the various tasks for the cases that they are running, and I am helping to manage. We get to a point where we need to file for a hearing, so my boss asks me to get the paralegal.

From the doorway to the paralegal’s desk was possibly … 7 feet? maybe?

I step out of the doorway a little more than 2 feet towards the desk and ask them to come join us. I turn to re-enter the office and quite literally the door slams mere centimeters from my face. About 4 people were standing around and froze for a moment while I nearly fall onto the unexpectedly and quite suddenly closed door.

In the second it took me to step out of the doorway, the Senior Partner walked into the office behind me and shut the door on me. Without noticing I was there at all. The secretary behind me laughed a little and said “well at least you didn’t hit the door…” With not much more to be said, I turned and told her “I seriously think I am invisible to that man.”

She looked at me and said,”Honey, I think we all are.”

Then there were the meetings. The attorneys in the whole office were informed of a meeting with the Senior Partner. So pretty much all work stopped, as everyone from the senior litigators to the lowly associates like me filed into a conference room. And proceeded to wait.

And wait.

Now, the Senior Partner was the one who called the meeting. He knew where everyone was and had told us when to be there (now.. was the timing given to me). The entire office basically just waited for about 45 min doing nothing until the senior partner wandered in and held an under 30 second meeting in which he introduced the new compliance attorney, who we had all met already, cause they had been working there for 2 or 3 weeks at that point. And then he walked out without talking to anyone. Good meeting.

But hey, at least there had been a meeting this time. This exact scenario had happened a few weeks prior, and in the end he sent a paralegal to say that he needed to reschedule whatever meeting we had all been waiting for the past hour for. Good use of time.

The point is, this was not unique.

Senior Partner II

I had been working on the project assigned in the meeting (that eventually got underway) called by Mr. Senior Partner. While working on it, I ran across an error someone had made, and I corrected it. But more than that, a short while later I found something very good for our side. Something which quite literally was incredibly important to the case, and only I had it.

So I checked and rechecked, and I printed out the information and blew up a few graphics so they could see it better, and I went to my supervising attorney and showed them. They looked it over, looked at me and said ‘This is fantastic…’ and then he wandered out of the room just leaving me there without another word. I was quickly finding my immediate boss was not blessed with a plethora of social graces, or maybe they reserved them for more important people. I honestly didn’t care, I got along with them decently at this point and I was happy they were happy with what I had found.

The supervising attorney wanders back in a little later and wants me to email them everything I had. And then he starts emailing it to.. well… crap. A lot of people. It seemed like there was suddenly a bunch of people interested in what I had found. But, I had finished work on the project and handed over my file folders. The case they were working on was not assigned to my boss (which is a very important distinction apparently); and this type of thing seemed to be about all they trusted the associates to handle unsupervised. Anyway, my boss hands me the files at the end of the day and asks me to put them on the angry paralegal’s desk for Mr. Senior Partner. It was well past time when the paralegals and other hourly works had left, so I just put them down somewhere obvious and called it a day.

I should have known it wouldn’t be as easy as that. The next day, as I am working on nothing horribly important in my office, the angry paralegal walks in with all of the files I had placed on her desk, plus several more. (hmm… odd). And she hands them to me and says ‘You need to give these directly to Mr. Senior Partner… he has some questions for you.’

Well, that’s ominous. But maybe he just wanted me to give him a quick run down on the project parts so he didn’t have to waste time reading it. The paralegal waddles back out of my office leaving me with the files. So, without knowing why she felt the need to chastise me as opposed to my supervising attorney, I head over to my supervising attorney’s office with the files.

He takes them from me and puts them on his desk and says he’ll take care of it. And I head back to my office. Fast forward 3 hours. The angry paralegal reappears with the files and places them on my desk again. And reiterates almost identically as before… ‘Mr. Senior Partner wants you, personally, to give them to him. He has some questions.’

Now to reiterate something I had mentioned before… I could very possibly have wadded up a piece of paper and lobbed it through the door or my office and into Mr. Senior Partner’s office while standing in my office doorway. But instead, the files had become some strange hot potato to keep handing off. And the paralegal had decided since I was the neophyte, I got to deal with the crap. The supervising attorney was 5 steps away… but she decided to bring them to me. So… I thanked her. And after a minute or two, I got up took the files and walked over to Mr. Senior Partner’s office…. and he wasn’t there. Because… obviously? Why would he be.

So I went back, defeated, set them on the corner of the desk and went back to my work. At some point later, I got up to go talk to my boss; And lo and behold Mr. Senior Partner is in his office. Holy crap. I can finally dump the files that were supposedly so important and now appear to have taken up residence on the corner of my desk. So I quickly grab the hot potato before he mysteriously disappears again and head into my supervisor’s office.

I put them down on the desk and say ‘here are the project files’.

No response. My boss hands Mr. Senior Partner the evidence he seemed so excited about. Mr. Senior Partner was staring at it and then said… ‘this is great. Who found this?’

I spoke up,’ I did.’


Then my supervisor speaks up and says ‘Azrael did.’ Only then did Mr. Senior respond, ‘Ah. good.’

Then his brow furrows a bit and he says.. ‘no this is not right here. It was different in the file.’

I respond,’Yes, someone input it incorrectly into the file but I fixed the error and that led me to find this.’


So my supervisor speaks up… ‘Azrael identified an error and corrected it. This is the right information.’

Mr. Senior, ‘Oh that is very good.’

It was getting eerie. It was like I was a ghost. I surreptitiously caught the attention of my supervisor and I discreetly motioned that I was going to leave his office. He equally discreetly waved his acquiescence as he remained with Mr. Senior, who apparently couldn’t see nor hear me as he continued speaking only with my supervisor.

I have made it a high priority to have as few as possibly actual dealings with Mr. Senior Litigator as humanly possible. Which considering I am apparently invisible to him, shouldn’t be too difficult.

The Senior Partner

On day 1, I was sitting in my office doing pretty much nothing, because no one had told me what I was supposed to do as of yet. My direct senior attorney was off doing something more important and basically told me to review discovery rules (about 200 pages of code) and eventually they might have something for me to do.

So I was sitting there leafing through the code, feeling like I was reviewing for the bar again when a paralegal pokes their head in and says ‘Mr. Senior Partner wants you and the other associates in the conference room now.’

Ah ha. Something to do. So I grab a pen and pad of paper and wander over to one of the conference rooms. And here is where I wondered if I should have gotten more information. There are at least half a dozen conference rooms on this floor alone. And more on the floors above. I wasn’t told which conference room.. just ‘the’ conference room. And the one I was standing in front of was completely empty. And I look down the hall, and the big one is empty too… so I’m beginning to worry slightly. So I thought, maybe if the conference room is empty, everyone might be meeting in Mr. Senior Partner’s office… which is only a short jaunt down the hall from me.

So I wander over there, and see Mr. Senior Partner sitting in his office. His door is completely open so I walk over and poke my head in to the much larger office. At which point I heard behind me, “Excuse me, can I help you?’

Mr. Senior Partner’s paralegal is sitting at a desk 10 feet away staring me down. So I walk over the 3 paces and say “Partner wanted to see me and the other associates.” as I stand there holding my legal pad.

The paralegal distastefully sucks at her teeth and says, ‘and who are you?’

‘I’m Azrael, he said to come meet them at…’ but she was already ignoring me as she picked up the phone and called Mr. Senior Partner.

Who I was staring at.

Through the open doorway of their office.

Maybe 20 feet away. maybe.

And the paralegal speaks into the phone, ‘Mr. Azrael is here to see you. He says you asked for him.’ I’m puzzled now. I mean.. he’s literally right there. I almost waved slightly as he very quickly glanced up, said something into the phone and hung up before returning to what he had been doing.

The paralegal turned back to me and said “He’ll be out shortly.”

I looked at the paralegal in confused disbelief. Back through the open door of his office, and then sort of backed away and hoped the other associates showed up quickly, because this had gotten really weird, really quickly.

This was not an office with an open door policy apparently.

Being a Dick

Where I am currently working, there is a rule; not an unwritten rule mind you… no this is actually written down in the ‘playbook’ we are supposed to follow for dealing with Opposing Counsel.

You are supposed to be a dick to opposing counsel. If you can make their life just a bit more difficult, you are supposed to.

  • Have a hearing you can pass but OC would have to travel to show up to it? Go ahead and have that hearing, maybe pass it in person in the court, just to give an extra screw you to them.
  • OC needs some documents which we are supposed to be giving to them (hell we may have even agreed to give them over)? Make them file a Motion to Compel before we part with the documents we already know are worthless to them.
  • Find out OC’s schedule can’t accommodate something? Only schedule hearings and depositions for those days and be intractable about any other schedule. Use those days they were unavailable in court to prove they were the obstructionist. I weep for those attorneys who send out advance notices of vacation plans to our office.
  • Did I hear the deponent mention the name of their long lost friend twice removed who they haven’t seen in 10 years? That’s a necessary deposition and we won’t produce any further discovery until you find them.
  • I must text, email, and call you at random times, but if you try to contact me I will be nowhere to be found.
  • Opposing counsel emails asking if we can bump a deposition 30 minutes so they don’t have to get up at the ass-crack of dawn in order to show up? … “Hello? Anyone there? Weird… this email seemed to work yesterday. I wonder why we can’t get a response…”
  • You are a solo attorney? HA HAHA HAHA… Sure we’ll call you back sometime right around half-past never. (seriously though, a solo to this firm is about the same as saying the opponent is pro-se. We are supposed to beat them like a redheaded stepchild because they usually can’t figure out how to fight back.)
  • That person we absolutely need to depose is in Middle-of-Nowhere, USA– We could either fly them here, or we could make literally everyone else fly there. Looks like its road trip time…
  • Discovery? You mean Discovery OBJECTIONS… to every… single… request. (this one is actually rather endemic across the whole field; it’s not just this firm.)
  • Oh, and the venue we are going to fight like hell for is a tiny little nowhere court where the judge’s campaigns are significantly bankrolled by our firm. Good luck getting out of this quagmire of a venue, suckers. (and no, it doesn’t matter if venue is improper, we are supposed to fight like hell to keep it there regardless.)

Why you ask, are we supposed to be completely unprofessional? The theory is that if the firm makes OCs dread the thought of drawn out litigation with the firm, they just might settle to avoid the inevitable hassle and annoyance over the next 2 years as the firm plays out their petty shenanigans against you.

Of course, the next question is, does this tactic work? The answer is mixed. I think it does work against in-house counsel. It doesn’t at all against outside counsel who are paid by the hour. In fact, many billables are gleefully created by the outside counsel firm who recognize that our firm will keep every litigation case going until the sun burns out, and thus a wonderful opportunity is created. The defense counsel bills the living hell out of their client, and ultimately settles the day before the trial making their client pay out to the plaintiff’s firm also; and thus both are happy as they both robbed the defendant-client blind.

My boss sees being nice (or professional for that matter) as weakness. In point of fact, normal courtesy ends up sparking irrational paranoid thoughts in them. For example, OC asks that we amend a pleading to drop an unnecessary party? Suddenly the paranoia goes into overdrive. Why would they ask that? It must be a trial tactic, therefore even though they see no reason not to, and OC offers every assurance including verified agreements, we obviously have to keep that party in the case. Because OC is wiley and probably trying to trick us somehow. (is it possible? maybe, but only if we are dealing with the same type of personality as my boss honestly). I have been told several times that I am a ‘nice guy’, and oh yeah, that’s a pejorative here.  I have also been told that only new attorneys actually believe there is any sort of professionalism and honor in the legal field.

So, am I a dick? No. I work around a lot of them, but I am not. I generally feel like acting like a normal person and trying to expedite things is really the better way to work. It definitely helps move the case a bit faster and clients seem to be much happier they don’t have to wait a million years for the case to settle. It is apparently a rarity to be civil as I have had several OCs comment on how much nicer it is to work with me than most other attorneys.

Our profession is pretty fucked up, and quite a few people think keeping it that way is an excellent way to make a fair amount of money.

Because confidential means tell everyone

I wasn’t going to be posting contemporaneous information, but this was too good to not share…

Today I unintentionally fucked up; or was screwed over… likely a bit of both.

So as mentioned previously, I started applying for jobs again to try to get the hell out of the position I am currently stuck in. The truth is, it might not be such a bad job if it weren’t for the people directly around me. As will be made clear in other postings, the firm is actively trying to fire my boss, and therefore by proxy is making my life miserable as well in an effort to get at my boss from all directions.

So I happened to be browsing the job postings online last night and what do I find? My exact job position but at a different office / city of my firm, where I would much rather be working at because, well, I’m working at the main location (which is in a regional tiny city with a HUGE crime and drug problem). And it is, bluntly… horrible. In short, where I am now is hours from civilization, but the firm does have offices in real cities… just not the main office.

Anyway, I figure it is worth asking the head of HR if it would be possible to just transfer over to the other office. You know, because they are hiring for my exact job there. I could just jump from one city to the next and not miss a beat. Seemed like a win / win. I would get out of my situation, and even though I would still be working for the same questionable firm, I would be in a better work environment (hey, it couldn’t get worse… right? RIGHT?!), which I could probably live with for longer than I can deal with my current situation. So I reach out to the head of HR, the same one who initially ran point on hiring me, and specifically mention that I was reaching out to them in confidence regarding transferring to the other city for the position they were advertising. I figured, nothing ventured nothing gained.

The Head of HR responds telling me there isn’t actually a position there. They just run the ads very often to keep a fresh talent pool (consider the attrition rate previously mentioned… technically I probably should have considered that too, but you can’t really know if the job postings are real or not from my vantage point). Then they asked if something was wrong, and in the best fucking move I’ve seen, they forward the whole email chain to the Managing Partner of the firm.

The head of HR just dropped that I was trying to escape my current boss, but I didn’t necessarily want to leave the firm, just this practice group. They also effectively told the partner I am actively looking at job postings and just happened to come across one of their own. Because of the internal political climate, this is almost guaranteed to be forwarded to at least 2 or more other partners, and possibly even sent to my boss directly requesting an explanation. Because at least one of the senior partners would like nothing better than to make my boss’ working relationship uncomfortable with their associate. For no other reason than they hate him that much.


Well, I did say I really didn’t care if I got fired. I guess I get to test that out.

Minor update: So my boss was called over this afternoon to the Managing Partner’s office (which is not in the same building as our office). This hasn’t happened in the whole of the time I’ve worked here. I find it incredibly difficult to believe this is serendipitous. I got some weird apology on the phone later from my boss for being so bipolar sometimes (their words). Yeah. I can’t imagine at this point they didn’t say something to my boss. Awesome.