The Big Story I – the setup

A very long time ago, I promised a story once I had a real conclusion to it. I finally had enough of a conclusion that I can write it up. 

So, for those who may not have read the small novel of the background on this site… I had moved to a new state and set about getting a position at a firm somewhere. Unfortunately it wasn’t going well, one of the benefits of sticking around the city you graduated law school is a bit of nepotism granted by local firms to your school. You graduated from the same place as them, therefore they will give you a shot as a little bit of ‘giving back’ to the school, as well as a slight bond of common experience. I can’t tell you how many times I talked to someone who graduated from my school many years prior and we’d both laugh that we both had the same contracts professor… because he was seemingly immortal and had been working there as long as nearly anyone could remember. Anyway, once you move, you lose that link and actually end up behind the curve, because you are now fighting that nepotistic impulse from whatever law school is local.

In my new city I was having zero luck getting a position, I had sworn to never work in personal injury when I started law school, but it is amazing what needing money can do to a person. I ended up applying to literally ONE personal injury firm. And fate being the cruel and ironic mistress that she is… I was hired… at a pretty good salary too. I quite literally had no reason to say no. Unfortunately it turned out to be a horrible situation, for a huge number of reasons. So I started to try to escape. About 5 months in I had reached a fever pitch of applying to literally anything to get out. My addiction to food kept me working there, but there was no day I didn’t think about just walking out and never coming back. 

But before I get to the fun part, I have to fill in some of the back story. The firm originally had a compliance attorney. I had never met him in person as they had quit probably 6 months before I ever started working there. Their legacy however was still felt… everyone there remembered the guy and he was universally despised; the attorneys would damn near spit on the ground after saying his name. But then there was a reprieve… he quit and hadn’t been replaced. In truth, it had seemed like the firm owner had gone MIA for an extended period of time and just hadn’t been keeping track of things. That changed quite suddenly one day and the named owner was suddenly in everyone’s business overnight. Several attorneys hypothesized his bank account had gotten lower than he was happy with and was now very involved again to try to fill the coffers to allow him to go on some more extended absences again.

The reprieve from the compliance attorney was apparently only a brief respite as the managing attorney eventually got around to hiring a new one, the previously mentioned Rainman, in fact shortly after hiring Rainman they hired several more compliance attorneys… it seemed odd that they went from one to none to half a dozen overnight… I’m sure there’s a story somewhere there but I don’t know it.

Shortly after Rainman was hired, he was making the rounds of the office and came to speak with me. It’s always a ‘great‘ sign when someone walks into your office and closes the door because they need to talk. Rainman wandered in and shut the door and sat down across from me in my tiny office. He then stated in a colorful euphemism that ‘they’ were looking to fire my boss in the near term. This drew a disinterested grunt from me. At the time I was of very mixed feelings about my boss. Apparently, this was not the reaction that Rainman had hoped for and after about 5-10 minutes of chatting he left. An even more abbreviated version of the conversation happened a few days later with similar results. Honestly, I don’t understand what the guy was fishing for… I had nothing to offer and hadn’t been there all that long myself. Shortly thereafter though is when the petty and irritating harassment started. 

The first salvo I noticed was that our lit group’s emails started being intercepted / copied to the compliance attorney (we found out however because someone forgot to remove the old compliance attys email address from the generic email… and every single email that was copied to Rainman sent back a reply to me stating “old-compliance is not a valid email address.”) The short lesson is, don’t try to be sneaky with tech if you don’t know how to use tech. Eventually someone fixed the error so I have no idea how long they continued monitoring our email, probably until the end is my guess.

Every single one of our files got audited, which involved poring over paperwork to make sure no random pages were missing and ultimately taking up at least half the day sitting in a conference room defending decisions which were made on the file to the compliance attorney… who was not a litigation attorney and not from the same state — so Rainman had no real basis for criticizing, but that of course didn’t stop him from doing so, or offering his sparkling commentary which further showed he had no worthwhile advice to share. These audits also meant you weren’t able to work on your usual work either, so it created work, and prevented you from doing your current work, with the added benefit of irritating the fuck out of you.

In a multitude of ways, our group started to become isolated and harassed. Other employees didn’t want to associate with us because apparently we had become marked. Normal business expenses started being denied… but only for us. The firm started making esoteric rules, that only applied to us and no one else. Keep in mind, I had been hired and assigned to this attorney, I had no choice in the matter but now I was persona non-gratis. I had started to become friends with my boss and honestly all of the harassment just made our whole group stick closer.

My boss despised Rainman. Rightfully so. And eventually he apparently decided the best course of action was to avoid him. It was absolutely hilarious to watch. Rainman would walk over and demand to know where my boss was, I would look up from whatever I was working on and just say “I don’t know…” because why the hell should I be keeping tabs on my boss. That’s a weird thing to expect from a subordinate. Rainman would chastise me and say I should always know where my boss was. He then turned on his heel and confronted the paralegal with the same question.

She on the other hand, handled Rainman in a much more amusing manner. Our paralegal didn’t put up with people’s shit. Rainman had made several racist and sexist remarks directed toward this paralegal and at a certain point I think she just gave up being civil to him (there was one incident where I thought she was actually going to throw a punch at him before I intervened… But I digress). He asked her where our boss was, and she would always point him down the hallway with wonderful statements like:

  • He just walked down there, I bet if you hurry you can catch him.
  • (whipping her head in the direction Rainman had just come from…) He literally just walked down there, I don’t know how you could have missed him.
  • At lunch
  • He went to go have a quick meeting with XX Attorney. (this was made all the more fun because we would call up our boss afterward and he would make sure to show up and talk to Attorney XX just to fuck with Rainman).

In effect, every time Rainman walked away from us, we would text our boss that Mr. Creepy had been looking for him and our boss would make sure to show his face to the right people around the office just so there was a verifiable trail that he had been doing what we said he was doing when Rainman inevitably followed up. I recall at least once my boss left a physical note on Rainman’s desk when he knew he wouldn’t be there that said “hey I heard you were looking for me, we must have just missed each other.” It drove Rainman insane. I’ll also admit, watching this happen was poetry in motion; I am not ashamed to admit it gave me no small satisfaction to watch and, in small ways participate.

Eventually, Rainman gave up on harassing our boss and turned his attention on me and the paralegals. His opinion was that if my boss wasn’t there, then he would do the next best thing and attack his support staff.

If my boss wasn’t there I would be forced to sit for file audits and the compliance attorney would pepper me with questions about why decisions were made one way or another in the handling of the cases. Many of which had not been active in the time while I had been working there. Plus, as an associate at this firm, I didn’t decide the litigation direction of the cases. So when asked why do this as opposed to this other thing… I usually just shrugged and said I don’t know I had nothing to do with that decision. Sometimes the audits were done on a moments notice, surprise audits. A couple times I had been at lunch when this happened (likely it was done this way on purpose) and Rainman would drag the two paralegals into the audit to complain to them about the file. Which made no sense, because now you are talking to non-lawyers about the file and what was going on in the case.

This continued on for a few months. It had turned out Rainman had been tasked with attempting to get my boss / his staff to quit; because if you quit, in theory, it was volitional on your end and therefore no employment issues (I guess?). The alternative was to collect some evidence on my boss to legitimize firing him. There were many things that happened which were just as grievous as the above, but the above gives a good flavor without getting lost in the weeds. There is a whole other side story about the firm tapping phones and keeping tabs on people through the work cell phones which had RATs installed.

One afternoon, I was out at lunch with my boss and one of the paralegals. At some point while we were eating in an exasperated sigh, he said to no one in particular, “I don’t know why they are doing this…”

I was busy eating my sandwich, but between bites I said, “Because they are trying to fire you.” I wasn’t looking up, so I didn’t see his face. I do know that he got very quiet. And then he said “why do you say that?” I recognized I’d said something notable at that point. But, seriously… how could he not know? Everything that was going on, all the crap pointed right at him with both barrels. It was so obvious for so many reasons, but there he was with a quiet rage across his face as if the concept had never even crossed his mind.

In a sort of offhand manner I replied, “Because Rainman told me…”

I swear if our table hadn’t been bolted to the floor I think he would have flipped it. I had inadvertently lit a powder keg. Once he stepped back and looked at the situation, the obviousness of it washed over him. He had been in full freak out mode, and after a few minutes of this, he became calm and said he was taking the afternoon off because he had a few calls to make. You could see the gears in motion. He was planning out his next ten moves and counter-moves like an expert chess player.

Interview 43 – Read between the lines?

I had a phone interview with a smallish mid-sized firm recently. Basically it was a phone screen by the HR rep before deciding if they should bring me in for an in-person interview. The HR rep had set a half hour window to talk with me and called right on time.

The conversation was going quite well, so I thought. The problem was that actually we were both talking a fair amount and at the end of the half hour, the HR rep basically said she had another call scheduled but she didn’t get to actually hit on everything she needed to so she wanted to call back and finish up the phone screen.

I said sure, obviously. And she set the second phone call for the next day. I told her she could call at her convenience rather than set a time (apparently my mistake) as my schedule was completely open. So she said she’d call in the afternoon sometime. There was a comment prior… I don’t remember what elicited it. At the time is seemed organic and a bit of a joke based on what we were talking about, plus as I said, the conversation was going great and we actually had a few things in common which is why the phone call went long as we were not completely staying on track. But the HR rep had said something to the effect of, “she was sorry and really did have another phone call and wasn’t trying to get off the phone; had she been doing that she wouldn’t be setting up the followup phone call.”

Seemed normal enough. Except I never got a phone call the next day. Or the next. I dropped an email to the LinkedIn profile from where this interview got setup initially. Then three days later I dropped one to her email at the firm. Radio silence.

I guess… no? Seemed an odd thing to make a statement like that and then ghost someone. Or a particularly malicious, either way. Weird.

Interview #42 (and others) – Warm Bodies

I’ve interviewed at this firm 3 times; twice in the past year now. They have never mentioned that I’ve been there before and I’m quite certain they have no record of my prior applications.There was an odd consistency of confusion that seemed to just be accepted by all there.

The firm was located in a nice mid-rise and a pretty nicely decked out office, done up in the classic ‘grey on grey’ for everything.

#1. My first interview at this place was a few years back when I first moved down here. Basically I had a great interview with a young partner. He told me he got stuck running the interviews because he was the newest partner and got suck with the crappy jobs (Way to make an impression on the applicant!). On the plus side however, we had a ton in common and a fair amount of the interview was the two of us bullshitting and having a really great conversation. I was sure I had an offer. At the end of the interview, the real information came out though. This legal office had a satellite office in the armpit of this state, some 300 miles away. Although the job posting had been to work in the main city, the actual job offer was for the legal office in Armpit. The partner basically said they would hire me on the spot if I would take the Armpit job, but they’d have to think about it if I was only looking at Main City. I told them in no uncertain terms I had no interest in Armpit. That pretty much killed any chance of an job offer, because they didn’t actually have a job here… only in Armpit.

I ended up working with a colleague who had the exact same interview with them. “Sure, we might hire you to work here, but we would definitely hire you to go work in Armpit.” He told them where they could put that offer too.

#2. The second time I interviewed here was last year. They setup the interview and then the guy who was supposed to interview me got a case of poison ivy which sent him to the hospital and out of work for the week. No one had thought to reschedule and I ended up waiting a long time while they searched for someone to interview me. I mean why not just reschedule… or maybe be more organized and cancel these things before I am sitting in the conference room… instead they grabbed one of the wandering lit attorneys who was probably the image you would have in your mind if I told you to imagine someone who was dead inside and had no soul. He exemplified why people hated attorneys. He told me stories about how opportunistic he was and how he had scammed several hundred thousand (legally!) out of his prior employers and used his personal knowledge of them for his own profit, and then he laughed about it. He thought it was hilarious.

How the hell do you respond to that in an interview? He was one of the few people I really felt icky after talking to, and I just wanted to go shower to wash off whatever veneer was on this guy that might have rubbed off.

#3. This one was this month. I was supposed to interview with partner X. Who just didn’t bother showing up for work on the day of my interview. So, in the spirit of this law firm they just cobbled together a few people who did show up to sit down and interview me. None of them were all that memorable this time, and the interview was sadly a very normal affair, excepting the interviewer who was a no show. I was really expecting a bit more weirdness in the vein of the prior encounters. I think the one consistency in every interview was I always end up in the same conference room sitting in the same chair, and no one had ever seen my resume before they sat down to talk to me. And also, the firm never bothers to actually get back to me to even say “no thank you”, (assuming there even was a job in the first place).

I have a vague feeling they constantly advertise for a non-existent position, and if you are the perfect applicant, they might create the position they have been advertising for so long, otherwise you never hear back.

Interview #41 – The non-Job nepotism interview

Ever since recent events, I’ve reached out to some of my friends and prior work associates and effectively stated I’m looking because I got royally screwed over (major story to appear shortly). An attorney friend from my previous job called up and told me that opposing counsel had offered a name-drop guaranteed interview with a firm (drop her name and I would absolutely get an interview with the managing attorney). How can I say no to a nepotism interview? It takes the hard part out of applying!

Here’s where it got fun though, the firm with the guaranteed interview? It was the one from Interview Story #15… yes, I was going back to somewhere I had a fantastically bad interview story nearly five years later. But I mean, come one… how could I not — I’d finally get to see the firm and put a face to the name. Plus, it just makes a lovely bookend for the first story to come back years later and take another whack at it.

So I send off my resume and put the name drop in the email and I get back a pretty quick answer from the managing / named partner telling me to come in two days later on a Friday morning. I head over to a rather nice modern mid-rise which is as nice inside as it looked from the outside. I’m relatively quickly met by the named partner and we head back to his office. Walking through the firm actually gives me a bit of hope as it is done up much nicer than most firms of the same size, and it even has a dedicated break room which looked really nice (also very rare for a small / mid sized firm).

As I walk in he motioned for me to sit in one of the large chairs in front of his desk. They were weirdly shaped and upholstered in cow hide… (shades of Interview #27) I was better this time and didn’t hesitate to sit, although the same question lingered about whether his chair was going to shed on my suit.

(sidenote… I happened to find out where the weird as hell chairs came from in Interview 27… I was talking to another attorney and something came up in conversation about that DAs office and I joked and said I had interviewed at that looney bin, and described the chairs and table. They laughed and said they knew exactly where they got them. It turns out there is a catalog of prison made furniture and accessories, those clunky ugly things were basically made in the prison woodshop. Because it was a DAs office, they got even more special pricing as a state agency and could basically buy whatever they wanted. So yeah, Game of Thrones table set were prison furniture. The defining characteristic were the huge brass studs on the cowhide, I guess prison furniture has a particular style. Creepy and fitting I guess.)

Thankfully, the partner had not remembered my name from whatever he may have heard regarding whatever had gone on at his firm 5 years prior. On the other hand, I actually think he almost viewed me with suspicion because the person who referred me was a plaintiff’s counsel. Which was weird, because as I told him, I really didn’t know the referrer other than they were opposing counsel to my previous office on a few cases, none of which I was ever assigned.

The interview itself was slightly strange. The partner did a good 80% of the talking. He didn’t ask many questions and instead I felt I was getting an elevator pitch as to why they were a good firm. What made it even stranger was that the partner was not saying they were a good firm, quite the opposite. His opinion was that he wanted to be slightly better than the average, as if that was somehow a huge selling point. To make matters a bit stranger, 75-80% of their business came from one client. It appeared that when the guy I had interviewed with several times in Interview 15 left, they closed down his practice group completely, leaving only their one main client and a few one off cases here and there.

Their one client had one guy in the big corporation who had been referring them business for the last 15+ years. My read on that is the guy referring them business was close to retirement, and it is a toss up as to whether anyone taking over that position would keep using the same firms or not. This law firm was literally surviving on a single client which could disappear tomorrow. (but hey, They hadn’t disappeared for the last many years, who is to say it would happen anytime soon. Just that it could.)

The interview went for about 45 minutes, mostly the partner talking about himself and his weird elevator pitch to me. He also had not bothered looking at my resume at all prior to me walking in (bad sign) and kept making comments about remedial training (which I trivially don’t need based on the experience listed on my resume). The partner got up to walk me out but the conversation continued for several more minutes standing awkwardly in his office before we finally started to walk out.

He then walked me out of the office all the way to the elevator bank, again slightly odd, where he finished the interview / conversation and then quite literally walked into the bathroom after saying thanks for coming. I’m not saying, he walked down the hallway to the bathroom… no. The bathroom was directly to my right, and he just shook my hand and in the same fluid motion opened the bathroom door and disappeared.

I’m pretty sure he ended the interview because he had to use the bathroom… but dear lord why would he literally walk me to the bathroom and say bye as he went in. Just… weird.

I didn’t hear anything from him. I don’t think there was an actual job, the partner never talked about money or benefits, start date, or anything else to give an indication there was an actual job. It was more a stilted social interview given as an obligation to the person who had referred me over to him. The same person he felt strangely paranoid about.

I don’t understand what the situation there was, not sure I care. At least I got to finally see the actual law firm from Interview 15, worth it in my mind just for that.

Interview #40 – Gripe Session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

Interview #38 – Missing Info

Lately I have been attempting to get out of where I am working with renewed effort. Short version is that my current job / company is a good springboard with a recognizable name, but the office I work at is horribly mismanaged and the company itself is penurious to the point of absurdity. I tell most people I am lucky they supply pens (and in truth it is almost that bad). 

Anyway, I applied to a position listed for civil litigation with ‘the state’. Nice amazing sounding position working for the County DA’s office. Salaried but straight bankers hours, any OT is flexed over to whenever you want to take it back. The position pretty simply said it was for a civil litigator with very generic background requirements but nothing specific as to what one would be litigating. There is a pretty large basket that encompasses ‘civil’ and I have a pretty significant background in a whole bunch of it so I figured I would give it a shot. Usually getting these positions require an inside track but I tossed out a resume because you never know. 

And it turns out it paid off. I got in for an interview pretty quickly and sat down with several people who had been at the office for well over a decade. Positions didn’t open up often there, the job situation was great and apparently most people only left the job when they retired, died, or moved cities. 

The interview was going great. I had worked in a County Civil dept before so I was aware of most of what they did and what would be expected. The fateful moment came when they asked why I was attempting to leave my current job. I told them I was trying to get out of Personal Injury work. 

At which point the DA said, that’s too bad… we were trying to hire you to do Personal Injury defense for car accident cases for us. 

The job description had never mentioned this. Anywhere. I had a print out in my interview folio; I almost wanted to pull it out mid-interview at that point just to verify I wasn’t crazy. I tried to save the interview from the flaming death spiral the it had just become, but the damage really was done. Even though they had literally said ‘we are looking for someone exactly like you’… it was apparently not me; it was I guess someone exactly like me who wanted to do more personal injury cases. 

I’m guessing they hired someone exactly like me, only different. 

Interview #37- the sinking ship (another MLM style firm?)

So I showed up to the headhunter obtained interview. They made a big deal about the firm having a maritime background, which is why I was going to be a perfect fit. The office was decently high up a mid-to-high skyscraper.  It occupied half of the whole floor, so I figured it must be decently solvent. The firm itself had few offices in a couple states so it wasn’t small either.

Upon getting to the firm, I noted that the lobby was nicely furnished and I chatted up the receptionist for a few minutes. She had been there for years, so I felt there might actually be decent retention. I was ushered into a conference room with a long wooden table. The table had some big slabs of glass over it to protect it, but under the glass was so much dust and dirt, I actually didn’t really want to rest my arms on the top of the glass. I should elaborate slightly, the top of the glass was clean, but between the glass and the wood, was a layer of dust so thick it looked like someone had spread ash all over the table and then put glass on top of it. Odd, definitely, but not a dealbreaker.

I met with Frank, one of the senior attorneys. Frank was a nice guy and actually seemed to like the place. I think the firm may have been a decent place to work at one point. Frank talked a bit too reticently about the halcyon days when the firm had significantly more maritime work, and he stated it has mostly dried up and will continue in that vein for at a minimum, several more years. The firm, it seemed, used to be more of a niche firm and in recent years has had to branch out trying to find a new niche, and was apparently failing to make a real distinction for itself in the market.

When it came to the question of the salary, Frank almost seemed embarrassed / confused by his own firm’s compensation scheme. To give you the short version, he told me that starting in the new year they “weren’t going to have salaries anymore” and “you could work as much or as little as you wanted“. That tag line is almost universally used when someone is selling a scam. In fact, it is the exact wording people use when trying to sell a Multi-Level Marketing / Pyramid scheme. I’m pretty sure Frank knew he had said something wrong. I had been unconsciously (nervous energy… what can I say) moving my chair back and forth ever so slightly, and at his mention of the above I stopped instantly. I know my body language changed, it was a visceral change.

Their new compensation scheme that gets rid of salaries is, in Frank’s words: “you eat what you kill”; which is the same model used for plaintiff’s contingency work. The major difference is that the delta for the payoff on plaintiff’s work is significantly higher on most all cases than it is for hourly defense work. Which is why “contingency” style compensation doesn’t work for defense work. (sorry if this is boring for non-lawyers, but I think most attorneys will agree 100% with me on this one.) Since they haven’t implemented this yet, Frank didn’t know how it would work with new associates while they get acquainted with the firm and work, and there would also be what sounded like a fair amount of required “un-billed but credited time” which he was even more fuzzy on how associates would be compensated. Ridiculous compensation schemes aside, I was also told that if I was considering the equity track, I would have to be consistently billing out at 2500 hours.

My guess was someone at the top seems to have decided they wanted to start getting the type of money they used to when they were a successful niche firm, and the easiest way for them to get more money was by taking it from the people at the bottom.

So… no salary and an hourly (very likely unattainable) expectation over even most Biglaw norms.

Starting in the new year, every non-partner level attorney (and likely some partners) are going to be trying to find a new job. That firm is set to become even more of a revolving door of attorneys than it was currently.  From a legal recruiter’s standpoint, this place was win / win. You’d get new clients as everyone jumped ship, and also be able to keep selling the firm new blood to try to fill the ever-present gaps created by the inane compensation scheme (at least until the office closed down).

The final punchline of this interview was that after I told the recruiter this information, they said they had a “long history / relationship” with this firm. Which was odd considering the local office has all of about 10 attorneys in it. What long relationship can a headhunter have with such a small firm unless they are already a revolving door.

I’m still undecided as to whether this was just a crappy job thrown out by the headhunter, or a specific pick based upon my previous interaction with the other headhunter at the agency.

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.

Interview #36 – The uncertain employer

I am in a rather solid job at the moment; I like who I work with quite a bit. The main issue is that there is significantly more work than can be accomplished yet we are expected to complete the work regardless of the hours and oh yeah… the pay is not great. And each attorney effectively operates 100% autonomously, pretty much with no support. It’s like being a solo attorney in a big firm setting.

So, although I am lucky enough not to be plastering the whole city with my resume, I am cautiously sending out my resume to select employers. Mostly because if I stay at the job I am at now, I don’t think I could ever pay off my student loans.

So using my newfound desirability as an actually trained and experienced attorney, I have sent out a few applications. This particular interview was garnered through networking. I had showed up to a happy hour event where someone had mentioned their caseload and I had laughed and told them my numbers. We worked the same types of cases but I had 4 to almost 5 times as many cases as them. This led to a short discussion wherein they mentioned their firm was looking for someone new. I shot off an email with my resume later that night and got a call back for an interview that same week.

The office was set in a nice glass and steel mid-rise office building. I showed up on time and was ushered into a conference room where the decorator must have been given the request to make as many things white as they could. If you know styles, it probably was exactly minimalist modern continental. To say the office appeared spartan was an understatement, but they appeared to have (some) money so it must have been more by choice (I think).

The firm’s local partner eventually ambled in holding nothing but a coffee cup. I’m still unsure if this was on purpose or if he had lost my resume and didn’t want to ask for a new copy, because it seemed as if he had never bothered reading it at all.

What followed was the least interesting interview I’ve ever had. The partner started off by asking me to tell him about myself.  I do believe that was the first, and damn near last question he asked during the interview. Most of the interview was me asking him questions and then having a little bit of back and forth on them. The partner stated they were looking for an associate but didn’t really seem to have any idea why, or what they would be doing.

It was quite difficult trying to interview for a job when the interviewer seemed so disinterested in interviewing. The interview went on for about an hour. By the end of it, I am pretty sure the partner had figured out he didn’t know what he wanted, or even if he wanted to hire anyone. Thinking back on it, I don’t even think I got a rejection from the firm, just silence. It was not a better position than the one I am in, and it didn’t seem to pay anything decent over my current offering either. It was relatively forgettable, but I made note of the firm so I wouldn’t make the mistake of applying there in the future.