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.

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…