While I was looking for full time work as an attorney, I took a part time job as a legal assistant with a solo practitioner. The lawyer who I’ll call “Steven” was a nasty, rude man. He was always blaming me for things that he misplaced, and he loved to use the line “This is clearly over your head” whenever I’d ask a question. He was rude to opposing counsel and often injected sarcastic comments into his letters. Overall, he was not a pleasant man.
One of Steven’s greatest hits occurred when he thought I misfiled paper work. Whenever he received mail, he would write the name of the party we represented across the top right hand side of the paper, and he’d put the paper in my bin. We had a case entitled “Smith v. Jones”. We represented Jones. Across the right hand corner, Steven wrote “Smith”. As I was filing, I realized that Steven put the wrong name across the top. I filed it away in the correct file.
A few days later, I overhear Steven talking on his cell phone with his wife. While he was still on the phone with her, Steven calls me into his office. I go into his office and see Steven still on the phone with his wife. Steven, still holding his phone up to his face, screamed at me, “THIS IS FILED WRONG!! PAY ATTENTION!!” (And when I say “screamed”, I mean “screamed”.) Steven then says to his wife, “Oh, no. I’m not talking to you. I was educating my assistant.” And then he kept talking to his wife like nothing happened. I then walked out of his office.
I wanted to grab his phone, disconnect the call, and say, “You will NOT speak to me that way EVER again, especially when you are on the phone with someone.” I thought better of it, and because I needed the money, I stayed on. Fortunately, I was only there about a month and a half after that because one of the places where I interned in law school had a full-time job opening, called me in for an interview, and then hired me.
I’ve been very fortunate over the years to have hired very competent, professional lawyers. I’ve learned to ask the question prior to engaging a lawyer’s services, “What is your philosophy of practicing law?” When I asked an estate attorney we were considering hiring, he told me, “Lawyers who act like jerks in the court room are jerks in real life. I’m not a jerk.” And true to his word, he was the model of professionalism and represented our case well. You, unfortunately, had a jerk for an employer.