Friday, August 14, 2009
The Upton Sinclair Of Temp Lawyer Hell
I just learned that anonymous poster "Lawis4Losers" has started his own blog. I have always admired this poster's writing style, but his most recent entry is nothing short of brillant. Please pass this new blog around to as many people as possible.
On Paul Weiss:
"At Paul Weiss, for example, they crammed 120 people into a basement room that NYC fire code rated for 80. This was in 2005. Like steerage passengers on the Titanic, we labored in the bowels of the building, right alongside the boilers and HVACequipment. Lacking air conditioning and adequate ventilation, many came down with colds that went untreated due to the lack of healthinsurance. A cockroach problem soon erupted due to the crumbs and food garbage strewn about the cellar floor, which was treated with multiple Raidroach fogger bombs. The morning after the exterminators finished, dead roaches littered our keyboards and even crawled, stunted but still living, from the floppy drives and servers!
We were paid $21 an hour, straight time, and required to work from 9 am to 11 pm seven days a week. Forbidden to use the firm’s lavish upstairs restrooms, they had all 120 of us split a pair of airplane sized-bathrooms that were on the Concourse level under the Rock Center, open to the public and a favorite bathing spot for the homeless. One affable homeless chap named “Bones” would use the lone toilet in there as a foot bidet, rinsing his diabetic ulcer in the excrement-caked shitpot and yelling “I’m in here motherfucker!”every time one of us coders needed to relieve himself. Most of us just went next door and used the Heartland Brewery’s bathroom (did I mention that restroom breaks of over six minutes had to be deducted from one’s timesheet? As a coder, bowel movements can quickly cut into the bottom line).
Paul Weiss also blocked the fire exits with box upon box of the corporate shit-paper that arrived daily by the truckload like grist to a mill. Had a fire broken out, we would no doubt have burned to death in a modern day Triangle Shirtwaist incident, engulfed in flames while helplessly beating on box-blocked doorways. To work there was to truly feel expendable, utterly worthless and really just downright sub-human. The partners should all be ashamed of themselves."
On Sullivan & Cromwell:
"The next stop on my vagabond coding career was Sullivan & Cromwell, that whitest of the white shoe firms. This dump has three levels of sunless, underground bunkers where the temp attorneys and their documents are warehoused, far away from the skyline corner offices where the serious shitpapergets pushed. It’s like those alternative communities of urban legend that one reads about online: the subway’s “mole people” and such. You are instructed by your temp agency pimp to meet in the lobby of 125 Broad Street at 9 am sharp, where you assemble as a group to be marched upstairs and “processed” like that busload of inmates from The Shawshank Redemption. Told to dress in a “suit and tie” for the first day, they soon march you downstairs to the dungeon where the “coders for life” toil in pajamas and sweatpants, chanting “new fish, fresh fish, we got new fish today” at the suit –clad newbies who are starting the first day of the rest of their lives. Many start openly weeping into their spiffy leather Perry Ellis portfolios, some even freshly monogrammed as recent law school graduation gifts. Many start bleating mindlessly for the mothers, returning to an infantile state as the overwhelming sadness and abject disappointment slowly seeps in. As I said, welcome ye to the first day of the rest of your life!
It’s not too bad there, after you get “on the beam,” as they say in prison. Sullivan is to disorganization, chaos, and complete systemic dysfunction what Elvis was to rock n’ roll: the original master. It’s a bit like that old Cold War joke: An American and a Russian are killed together and both go to Hell. The devil greets them fiendishly and says “Gentlemen, you have two choices. You can either go to American hell or Russian hell.” Curious, the American asks the Devil what the difference is. “In American hell,” says the Devil “you have to eat one shovel full of shit each day.”
“What about the Russian hell?,’ queries the Russian in his thick accent.. The Devil replies, “Comrade, in the Russian hell you have to eat two shovelfuls of shit each day.”
The American naturally chooses the American hell; yet tellingly, the Russian opts for the Russian hell. Two years later, they cross paths and begin sharing their experiences in eternal damnation.
“Comrade, you really screwed up big-time,” says the American. “In my hell I eat my shovel of shit first thing each morning, and do whatever I want to the rest of the day.” Satisfied, he gloats and scoffs at the hapless Ruskie, who replies: “My dear friend, it is you who choose poorly. In our Russian hell, half the time there’s no shovel, and the other half the time there’s no shit!”
So goes a document review project at Sullivan. Due to their colossal ineptitude, lack of common sense, and probably outright fraud, squads of coders arrive for the mandatory 14 hour “workdays” only to be kept idly waiting for hour upon endless hour as documents are loaded, clarifications are sought, software is configured, the moon rises in Taurus and Orion descends into autumn, etc. It’s rare to squeeze more than 45 minutes of actual coding time into a 14 hour day. Not knowing the Sullivan drill, many newbie coders turn down Sullivan gigs because the long hours rightly terrify them. But us veterans know the old “Clownshop” (as the temps call it) all too well. The waiting coders nap, play cards, vandalize the workstations and so on while waiting for documents and instructions that rarely arrive. Some even operate wire fraud scams and lotteries on the S&C computers, thus “double dipping” and making real bank. A cool Nigerian coder even once used the break-room hot plate to cook us all an authentic African ox-tail stew, which ended with a dessert course provided by raiding the partner’s pantry freezer and ripping off a case of ice-cream sandwiches that were meant for some lame Merrill Lynch client meeting or whatever.
Of course, the clients are billed regardless, since firms of this caliber are as immune to the ethics rules as Typhoid Mary was to disease. It’s always some solo ambulance chaser who ends up disbarred for screwing up a $1500 fender bender whiplash case, while Sullivan and the other white-shoe thieves rip off Fortune 500 client’s cash by the wheelbarrow load withtime-wasting make-work and pointless re-reviews of the same irrelevant documents. A few weeks at this place really removes any doubt about what the “practice of law” has devolved into circa 2009: a soulless, money-grubbing scam that is socially toxic, utterly pointless, and rife with insecurity and adolescent pettiness. Did I mention that licensed attorneys below the associate level are not even referred to as “attorneys” by the insecure dolts who run this glorified sewer? The sub-associate level lawyers are called “case analysts” and are essentially perma-temps, installed to babysit the coders and squeal on them like the “straw bosses” of 19thcentury coal mines. Chosen more for their ass-kissing and willingness to rat out slackers than any legal ability, some of these folks are notorious on temp message boards, like the dreaded geek “Clovester” and well-fed “Big Mamma.” Keep an eye out for them. Another SullCromscam is to fill the temp ranks with minority lawyers, thus tooting the “diversity” trumpet and looking good on paper to their corporate, hand-wringing whore-masters. Naturally, the partner-level ranks are as white as a wedding dress soaked in Clorox."