You graduated from law school during a recession, much like myself. I graduated during the dot.com bubble burst. But you managed to find a job. It's a small firm. You won't be earning much money. You're not going to have health care. But your mother is beaming because you are going to be a real attorney. You know the job isn't forever, but you're happy to have an opportunity to gain experience under the wing of a talented and experienced solo practitioner. You are one of the lucky ones and you're not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
This is how I felt when I got my first job out of law school (post-clerkship). I was earning $50K, which was not horrid at the time, but not terrific. My boss hired me because we clicked and I was a good student from a good school and a "go-getter." I am notorious for ignoring my initial gut feelings and trying to think with my head. I had a bad feeling when my future boss said, "You must be in the office by 8:30 and you can leave the office at 7:30 p.m. and to go to court during the day, but not for lunch." Hmmm. I thought. That's weird. I thought I was a professional that was paid to accomplish tasks, not work by the hour. But, I thought, this would be a nice place to work. He said he would never ask me to work weekend, so long as I put in my 11 hours a day during the week.
|Shitlaw Slave Market: He has fine legs for running to court.|
I have so many horror stories to tell. When I started working there, I think my take home salary was 1100 every two weeks. Payday was on Friday. Then payday was on Monday. Then it was on Tuesday. Then, my boss told me that the checks didn't come--I could wait until the end of the (second) week to be paid or he can give me cash. How much cash? $1,100. Not the gross amount, the net. No taxes, no FICA, nothing deducted. It was all a way to get out of paying taxes on my salary. It was so humbling to beg for my check too, when it was 2 to 3 days late. But there is a breaking point when you're living paycheck to paycheck.
My social security statement for one of the years I worked there states that I earned $22K. I was being paid under the table like an illegal Mexican. Is that why my parents migrated to this country and made sure that I was a citizen? So I could be treated like an illegal?
What about the time when my experienced boss made me look like a fool in front of a Family Court Judge. There was a custody dispute and my boss had the bright idea of making the children sign affidavits that they prefer to live with my client. I was so green. I questioned the wisdom of allowing a 7 year old to sign anything at all, but boss man was insistent. So, I filed the motion with the children's affidavits. I would have been laughed out of court, if the judge wasn't so pissed at my boss for instructing me to put children in such a horrid position. The Judge adjourned the matter for him to come in, so he can scream at him. When we came to court next, the Judge asked me to approach the bench, and with my boss at the table behind me, the Judge slipped me a card of an attorney who was hiring that "knew what he was doing."
One of the worst moments ever, was when I borrowed my boss's car to go to court. I'm much more comfortable with public transportation, but he insisted I take his car so I could rush back to the office and get back to billing. He actually forced me to drive to court often. So, I was driving to court when an huge semi hit me. I called my boss from the scene of the accident and told him that I was waiting for the police to come and the accident was not my fault. I was going to ask him call the clerk and tell them to adjourn the case that was on at 9:30 a.m. Instead, the boss said, "Leave, get out of there now! I don't want to report this to my insurance. LEAVE!" I was so terrified that I jumped in the car and drove off with the semi drive yelling at me on the highway. I was party to a "be hit and run" incident. I was the main perpetrator, and did so under the orders of my boss--the lawyers. I made calendar call. When I got back to the office, he told me that he would dock my pay for the cost of the repairs. If I was able to report the incident, the insurance would have paid for it. I was so livid that he would fuck me out of $500.00. I told him, I would take my time getting to court via public transportation.
After a week, he learned the lesson and begged me to take the car to court because the train took too long. He paid me back the $500 he docked me.
The stories go on and on.
What's your story? You're not alone and it's okay to be upset about how your boss treats you. Every attorney I know, who ever worked at a small firm, has stories to tell. Please share yours and make sure that no Shitlaw Associate ever feels alone again.