Work 2 – Attrition Rate

The attrition rate at this firm was bad. Like seriously bad. I had an inkling that things were probably not great, but I had no idea until I started working there just how bad it really was.

On day one, I ended up sitting in on a paralegal training session, because they weren’t sure what to do with me and decided I should know what my assigned paralegal could do for me (? — Did I mention I had a paralegal? I do. They are supposed to do stuff for me, but mostly I feel guilty asking them to so I try not to). During the training the lead trainer said “If you see an attorney and don’t know their name, don’t worry about learning it, they probably won’t be here long enough for you to bother.” They realized I was sitting in the back, and just sort of shrugged and said, ‘sorry… but it’s sorta true.’

I started to find out what they meant once I started talking with the other associates. We were all living in empty temporary apartments which we could move out of on a moments notice. As in, no furniture beyond a bed, empty. (yes, me too). This firm was headquartered in a tiny regional city that everyone had to move to in order to work there. Everyone was treading water waiting to get the hell out of dodge at the first sight of a better job.

This was shown in the more visible mark of the turnover… the empty offices. There were a lot of them. In fact, most of the offices for the associates had absolutely zero personal touches in them. A mirror of our disposable apartments in the office setting.  You would hear about it too, as you walked over to someone’s office… oh hey is Bob in today? — No. Bob isn’t in today or anyday anymore. He quit. And the office would have been scavenged like some sort of Mad Max  scene as any office item of vague utility would have been taken to be re-purposed elsewhere, usually leaving motions and files strewn about on the desk. (which I often wondered… weren’t those important and potentially time sensitive?) But no matter. Not my problem apparently.

Probably the most visible mark of the turnover was the stationary. The letterhead for the firm listed the attorneys attached to it in tiny print. Apparently early on they had tried having it professionally printed, but learned quickly it became outdated faster than they could print it. Instead everything was dynamically generated when you printed off the computer. I was instructed to always print a new stationary page because (a direct quote) “the letterhead changed some days on an hour by hour basis.” As in, people quit so often, that the dynamic letterhead was very likely different before lunch, as opposed to after lunch. I kept tabs on my relative place in the firm as I watched my name creep higher and higher on the letterhead. Which was disturbing because I haven’t even been there that long, but I am now about a third up the letterhead. Think on that.

The senior litigator I was attached to had 2 associates, me and another person. The other one ended up being transferred away (a very different and interesting story I will eventually get to) leaving only me. The other associate later told me that he learned he had lasted the longest of any associate attached to that senior litigator I was now working with. A grand total of 8 months.

I could see why. After only two months there I was already starting to apply to jobs again. I was fulfilling the churn at the firm.

Work – Day 1

So I got a job.


It wasn’t the one I wanted. And I definitely don’t think it is a great one, but it pays me money and it has some added incentives as well. I should amend that, really it only had one added incentive. Health insurance. Which as the unemployed are well aware, is pretty horrible if you aren’t getting employer based coverage. Anyway.

I was told they hired 3 of us at once. That’s usually not a good sign. This firm constantly has ads running to hire new people from the bottom to the top, and they are hiring multiples at each go? I already was feeling rumblings that the attrition rate was going to be cutthroat. The sad thing is I was ‘trained’ with one of the other two hired with me (more on the training later.) His story was 100% identical to my own. His school had been decent, then dropped. He moved and got stuck finding nothing but shit work. Got this job and picked up what little shit he owned and while I was talking with him that morning, he was living out of an extended stay hotel. I at least had the foresight to get down here a few days early and get an apartment (which remains empty save for a desk and bed to this day, as it turns out, this is the standard living situation for associates here… a vacant apartment and they commute on weekends back to where they tell everyone else they really live). We commiserated about the shit situation that neither of us really wanted to be in, but this firm  was hiring.. .and no one else seemed to be.

My first day I got a good taste of what was to come. I was kept past midnight at the office, working on what turned out to be a small part of a side project which wasn’t even really used. (super!)

The Partner I was assigned to seemed like a nice guy. But one of those people you get the feeling has nothing else to really do with themselves, so they are at the office 24X7 to stave off suicide and make money for that day that never comes.

I did get my very own office. It is was not a bad size either. I was sure I was going to be jammed into a cubicle. Instead I got a nice office with a window — which as it happened looked out over an industrial refinery of some sort. One with a big flare smokestack which randomly burst into flames during the day… I’m sure there is some obvious symbolism I could draw here, but I will restrain myself.

When I was assigned to it, the office was empty except for the desk and a pile of file boxes of some long forgotten case (and client) which remain unmoved to this day. There was also the vague remnants of the previous occupant, empty food wrappers, and a small hoarded stash of office supplies. Within a very short time IT walked in and setup a computer, phone, etc etc. and then immediately put me to work. The speed was impressive. Time is money I guess.

I was also handed an Ipad. I asked, “what’s this for?” The IT person shrugged and told me everyone in my position gets one, but they didn’t really know what for. (This will be a common theme.) I put the Ipad in my desk drawer and promptly forgot about it for the next month and a half.

The frat guy lawyer wandered by and poked his head into my office, and said “it’s your first day? Uh oh..” then proceeded to yell loudly down the hallway “Start the countdown.” the implication was that no one stayed there very long. Great way to start things off. Also, rather prophetic, or not. As you will see, they watch people in my position come and go with great regularity.

Around 10:30 at night there was an error with the computer system. The partner who was still there, and keeping me there like an oversized anchor looked at me and said “call up Bob in tech support” (at 10:30?) He seemed quite insistent about calling tech support, So I called Bob. Who was less than pleased and said… “well put in a ticket; not much I can do from my bed at the moment.” The partner seemed honestly confused someone wouldn’t immediately jump to help at that hour… when we were the only 2 in the building. Go figure.

I left a bit after midnight rather annoyed. The project was remedial busywork, I had a sneaking suspicion it was merely being used to see how far they could push the new recruits. Just because. Another common theme. The only caveat was that the Partner I was assigned to bordered on the OCD level of editing. They would edit, then re-edit, then edit their edits… basically no matter how many times you fixed something with their edits, they always found something more wrong, often with what they themselves had just written.

But at the end of the day, I am being paid. As a real associate. At first, it seemed like it might be a good place. That naive thought was quickly stomped, strangled, and summarily murdered in a back alley. More later…