Saturday, August 20, 2005

The cult of the attorney..

I got an evaluation the other day from the firm I used to intern for in the city. To say the least, I was completely shocked.

They were a young boutique firm who I ran into on Craigs' list...nice people really. But I was disturbed by the fact that they didn't specialize in anything; as brilliant as they may be, I don't think you can really get good at anything that way. When you are doing conservatorships and litigations and unemployment and real estate it's a real opportunity for malpractice and I personally think a client is poorly served.

I would come in and sit there at the computer; they would never real have anything for me to do. When I signed onto this, the lead guy said he would "treat me like a real attorney". At the time I didn't realize this would mean absolutely no help, almost ever. I hardly ever drafted pleadings, spoke with this guy maybe once a week and he always had this odd look on his face like I was imposing. He would roll in at eleven o'clock, if at all that day and lock himself in his office. I mostly worked with their lead clerk, who was a really helpful, good guy.

His charicature of what I did was insulting. He said I only "sometimes" finished assignments on time (assuming I had one), he took specific instances where I fucked up and inflated them into my whole experience, but he didn't recall me pointing out in his litigation pleadings that total mistatement of the law by his junior associate, didn't recall my ability to find things no one else could find. A specific critism he had was that I didn't "defend" my position; an extraordinary claim since I thought we would work this through together. He mistook my humbleness and self-effacing manner for lack of confidence. Apparently he didn't know what the fuck was going on with this cases, but that was okay. It was only if I didn't that there was a problem.

I took care of researching their key pro bono case. They didn't know the main defendant was in bankruptcy until I told them. They didn't have the slightest clue what was happening with that case.

I would often bring work over to the law clerk and have him look at it, and he would dismiss it flippantly. Then I had to point to a specific sentence on the page, after which he would go "oh, okay" and then take it.

The law profession appears to have this strange dynamic. People go off half-cocked and act like they haven't. I'm beginning to realize this air of apparent confidence is a facade they all walk around with, feeding the cult of superiority and myth of competence.

The last assignment they gave me was ridiculous. I called the lexis rep who was completely worthless, and asked for help. The lead clerk,now associate "helped" me and got it wrong. Then the associate who asked for the help emails me, telling me I misunderstood the question. Then emails me back saying "oh, wait,that is what I asked."

I think most notable in my mind was trying to type notecards for her oral argument. I dont' know about you but nobody can do that for you. In fact, if you have more than a page in front of you, which you probably won't read,then you are screwing up. I spent an afternoon typing some befuddled headnotes but it was pointless. What I then regarded as my incompetence now appears quite different to me. I would NEVER have someone else type of notes for MY argument; how could it make any sense? Didn't I know the law?

It was a bitter experience. I wrote some ass-kissing note back to the guy and he wrote me back; I think he may have realized he had gone to far...

In the end, though, I listen carefully. I want constructive criticism. But when some guy who is barely familiar with my work acts like he's been there looking over my shoulder and is intimately familiar with what I do, and then puts me in a bad light, I have the right to be outraged. Life isn't fair, but that doesn't mean that the forces you set in motion won't come back to you. What comes around goes around.


Anonymous murrman said...

Those fuckers, what bastards...some peoples' selfishness knows no bounds.

5:43 PM  

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