This is a humorous and sarcastic blog written by a paralegal in a mid-sized law firm in a mid-tier market. The goal is to share some of the pitfalls and foibles encountered in my own day-to-day experiences. Feel free to contact me at aparalegalslife@gmail.com with comments. Complaints, not so much :)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How I Got Screwed By Biglaw

OK, guess I’ve made you wait long enough.  Some days ago, I was quietly sitting at my computer doing work when an e-mail pinged up from the UnManager (hereinafter "UM").  “Please meet me in conference room X.”  Seeing no sense of urgency attached to the missive, I finished what I was doing and joined her about 20 minutes later.  Or, should I say, her and some stranger in a suit I’ve never seen before. 

That’s never a good sign.  What could have gone wrong now?  I suspect my prior post might have let Stupid the Cat out of that bag...

“Grumpy, I’d like you to meet Hatchet Man,” (yes, I’m using an alias here if you must be particular, the poor guy was just doing his job), “he’s from the Home Office.”  At this point, I knew what was coming.  After all the dirty tricks, cover-ups, lies and utterly incompetent things UM had done, she finally managed to arrange my termination from The Firm.  I've seen this movie before, possibly on an episode of Magnum P.I.

Hatchet Man takes over the conversation, and sorry but I have to paraphrase these next few lines.  Only part of my concentration was on him, the rest was coming up with questions to ask that would make UM look stupid.  Yes, I had actually practiced for this moment, sad as it sounds.  First he gave me his formal title (something to do with HR), then told me my services were no longer required and my employment was terminated effective immediately. 

“Why?” I asked.  “My year-end reviews were all very positive, and (UM) had nothing bad to say about my performance.  What exactly did I do since then to get fired?  I cannot think of any errors I have made, or any complaints that anyone has raised.”  UM and Hatchet Man exchanged a nervous glance, and said nothing further.  My voice got louder and a tad higher pitched now... “I have the right to know why my employment is being terminated, and the right to confront and question the person who has accused me of any conduct leading to my dismissal.  Or do you think I haven't done this job for over a dozen years without learning a few things about my rights?”

More nervous glances are exchanged.  At this point, I knew I was onto something.  “Your performance has been deemed unacceptable,” Hatchet Man almost blurted out, as though he couldn’t quite bring himself to say the truth.  I suspect he knew it was a line of crap, but had hoped I wouldn’t press the matter this far.  They always act somewhat arrogant when The Firm thinks it has the upper hand.  Only, I've been reading Above the Law long enough to know that Big Law has nothing like an upper hand in this situation.  Not to mention the employment law cases The Firm has had me working on.  Really, try doing some homework next time.  You don't threaten Han Solo by saying you'll kidnap Chewbacca.  

Since there was nothing to lose, I decided to press on.  “Show me the performance reviews by my attorneys that led to this determination, the hard copies with their handwriting.  Noone ever expressed any displeasure with my work, and I get along with everyone here.  In fact,”  I looked straight at UnManager and added, “bring them in here and have them tell me to my face, or I will force them to testify under oath in open Court with their licenses at risk.” 

Hatchet Man started to openly sweat.   and pulled out another folder.  “hehhuh... I have been authorized by the Firm to over a generous severance package if you are willing to sign a release stating you will not sue The Firm or publicly disparage The Firm in any way.  This will include salary and benefits during the duration of the severance package.”  He slid it across the table and gave me a few minutes to read the agreement over, while sweating.  I notice these things.  (It is something of a curse after all these years of reading deposition testimony.)

My response was swift and calculated, once I finished reading their offer.  “Double the length of time you give me salary and benefits, and I’ll sign it.  Otherwise, you can fully expect that everyone in this office will end up giving sworn testimony in the near future.  Keep in mind that this is a... small... community."  I was betting that they would not want a hit squarely in the reputation.

Hatchet Man and UnManager excused themselves and huddled in the hallway for a few minutes.  I heard the click of a cell phone snapping shut (yay cheap construction!).  Hatchet Man popped his head inside and said I had a deal, he was going to print up a new version of the agreement and would be back shortly.  Within a few minutes he was back, handed me two copies of a new agreement, I verified that he changed it to meet my demands, signed it, handed him one copy and kept one for myself.  It was done. 

UnManager escorted me to my office, watched me pack up my few personal possessions (never keep more in your office than you can carry out in one box, cliche but true), I handed over my keys and logged off my computer, and UM walked me out of the building.  All without a word, while I had a smile across my face.  

Literally, not less than 2 minutes later, while I am sitting in my car in the parking garage, my phone bings at me.  One of the attorneys is texting me to find out what’s going on and why I left so abruptly without telling them, with UM saying I quit.  I simply reply that I was fired due to negative attorney reviews.  The response is, exactly, "WHAT???” 

On my way home, I picked up a bottle of vodka and the following 36 hours are something of a blur.  Getting fired without cause tends to nudge alkies like me off the wagon.  It was short-lived, and not something I’m proud of, but there it is.  

More to come.  Keep in touch, and I promise not to keep you waiting as long this time.  


Scott Jacobs said...

After saying you had a deal on the doubling of the severance, I would have said "Yeah, changed my mind - make it triple the original time."

I do hope you got to drop the dime on the UM...

Anonymous said...

Hi Grumpy, I understand your anger and frustration about how it went down, but glad you could double the severance and confirm with the attorneys what really happened. I hope you are doing OK and look forward to hearing about future adventures. Take care of yourself. We are all rooting for you!!

StyleSpy said...

I wish I'd had the presence of mind and experience you had when my nightmare boss terminated me without notice a few weeks ago. Good for you for keeping your cool and improving your landing.

I've since landed a new job - I'm in clover, actually, because I established good relationships with the attorneys at the place where I interned after finishing my paralegal courses. I know this will happen to you, too - those folks will be more than happy to pull strings for you, I'm sure.

At the risk of mind-your-own-business, I hope you found a meeting (if that's your thing) and are feeling stronger.

Hang in there. Looking forward to hearing abut your next gig.

Anonymous said...

This is why I HATE law firms and lawyers. One word - PSYCHOS! Want to rip my hair out now. Find a new career. Sorry about this ...

JJ said...

At least you had the frame of mind to get negotiate your severance.

Don't let UM ruin your "vacation" and take some time to enjoy your severance.

Anonymous said...

Glad you held you head high and has your wits about you and didn't just sit there stunned! I would have froze! I'm wishing you all the best in your next venture!