Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not fired

Are you as shocked as I was? Because I was shocked. I did get a "pick up your hours or you may get an 'exit' message in the spring" but it was, surprisingly, accompanied by an acknowledgement that some of the responsibility for the lack of hours lies with the firm/the department for not giving me enough work.

I feel like I had been putting on a brave face for a while, acting as though it was a done deal and therefore I just didn't care. But, as I mentioned yesterday, I did/do. Before my review, I went to talk to a friend/colleague and completely fell apart. I brought a tissue to my review in case I couldn't hold the tears back in front of these two men I'd never met before.

I had been told by friends who were fired in the spring that their reviews had all began with their reviewer looking all dour and saying "It's not good news." When I walked in, there were no dour faces, and no one said anything about news. They actually had my review file out, which I took as a decent sign, since I heard they didn't even bring them to the bad reviews in the spring. My reviewer began by asking how I felt things had been going since I came back from leave. I took this as my opening to say my piece, and I'm glad I did. I laid it all out there -- my frustration, my disappointment, my feelings of uselessness. I left out the anger, figuring I'd save that for if I was in fact fired.

My reviewer then commented that I had pretty much covered the first half of the review -- I didn't have enough work, making it tough to keep pace with my peers, which is the expectation of associates at the firm. He said he was impressed with my maturity in both recognizing the problem and being willing and able to acknowledge it, that usually the "getting the associate to recognize the problem" part is the hardest part of this type of review. He then spoke for a bit about how the firm makes very few hiring mistakes, and it expects that those are rectified quickly, so if I made it to this point, I was clearly a good attorney and that the comments in my reviews clearly reflected that. He then did the actual review, summarizing my comments and reading some to me. They were overwhelmingly quite positive. The one negative that wasn't related to the fact that I don't have enough work was insufficiently specific for me to even know what the partner was talking about, and the partner, in writing it, stated that he could have been misremembering, or it could have been a fluke.

We then had a discussion about what to do to fix the not enough work problem. The head of my department offered to make some calls to find me some work. And both he and my reviewer told me to check in if things continued to be slow for me. Here's hoping this plan works. Honestly, even if it doesn't, I have now ensured my continued employment until late May. And that's pretty much what I was hoping for.

All in all, as good as was possible under the circumstances. And 1000 times better than I actually expected.