Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Last Day Practicing Law

Through a friend of a friend, I met the guru at lunch one day. By the end of the lunch, he had offered me a job. The guru is a man who, if you want to practice in this particular area of the law, you do not turn down. Meeting the rest of the firm was a mere formality.

He was eccentric, but it did not matter. After spending some time under his guidance and watching him work, I would be at the top of my game. Although there are many excellent players in the game, he knows more than anybody, hands down.

Shortly after I started to work for him, one of the associates that was helping us got let go. This was quite a shock because, in the opinion of her fellow associates, she seemed to be one of those shooting star types. Nevertheless, if the topic of this girl came up around the guru, he would talk about the faults in her work. It was disturbing and uncomfortable to hear him.

The first year of practicing with the guru was good, if not exhausting. He gave me a great review and one of the other partners commented that he was shocked because this guy didn't give good reviews. Shortly after that, however, things got very bad, very quickly. I couldn't do anything right for this guy. I would have thought I was going crazy if I wasn't working with two other partners who thought I was doing a good job.

Things got so bizarre that I thought it was time to speak to the head of the department, as well as the associate liaison. This was a situation that was beyond what I could handle on my own. Both agreed to speak with me, but kept rescheduling our appointments. This happened over a period of two months, and I was starting to get frustrated. Finally, the associate liaison set up a time to meet with me. She mentioned that the managing partner would be there too.

Part of me knew. But I didn't want to believe. I told myself that maybe they wanted to talk to me about moving to a different department. I tossed and turned the night before the meeting but kept telling myself it was all going to be okay.

As soon as I walked into the meeting, I knew. I could just tell by the looks on their faces. When the managing partner began, "Because of the economy . . .." That was the last thing I heard. I don't recall what else they said. I do recall fighting back, but being told that discussing this wasn't the point of the meeting. The point of the meeting was to tell me that I was laid off. I was one of the first, if not the first. The other associates sat at their desks for the next two days dreading the ring of their phone and hoping it wasn't somebody telling them to come to the conference room.

That was one of the worst days of my life. I cried for about 5 hours straight, and then off and on for the next few weeks. I am glad that I did not know at the time just how hard the following months would be. Things certainly got darker before they got better. The truth of the matter is, no matter what they say, it's personal; when they keep a handful of associates and you are not one of them, its personal.

However, I also remember that day that despite feeling like I just got hit by a bus, I was also relieved that I didn't have to worry about my billable hours.

Later that week, a surviving associate called to tell me that, if it was any consolation, she saw the guru talking to the partners after my meeting and he was a total wreck. Nope. No consolation.

He emailed me later to ask if I wanted to talk. I did. I didn't think it was fair that the other two partners did his dirty work. I wanted him to look me in the eye and tell me why he laid me off. When we met for coffee, he told me exactly why he had put me on the lay off list. I will not say here what he told me. I have a feeling, however, that much like the associate he complained about after she left, he does the same about me.

1 comment:

  1. What I hate the most about leaving jobs (no matter how it goes down) is that you become the b*tch who messed it all up. The only time this hasn't happened to me is this most recent time, and I only know about it because my old boss morosely told two people "I should have been nicer to EH" and "I didn't realize how much work she did around here." You think, jackass? Ahem. Not that he has the balls to say it to me, but at least my informants came through.