Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Pushing Back

with 8 comments

Total Black: -$66.73
Total Red: $229,112.23

Not much to update today.  Just waiting.  A lot it seems.  Both today and of late. 

Right now I’m waiting for tomorrow to arrive and bring with it my paychecks, so I can finally send something to my landlord and make another payment on my credit cards.  I’m also waiting for Friday to arrive when I leave for the weekend in Orlando.  In all honesty, I think I really need this weekend away, if only for the luxury of staying in a hotel.  I’m also waiting for a response from the attorney I conducted the one-off research assignment for.  I sent him my results.  No reply yet.  And I’m waiting to hear back from opposing counsel on the pro bono case.  The note of issue—an indication to the court that the case is ready to be tried—was due on December 25th.  (Not sure how it could have been due on Christmas Day.)  The catch: we never really started discovery.  Well, my side did, at least back when I managed the case at the firm, but the defendants stalled and dilly-dallied and then the case was put off the calendar back when my former law firm was handling the case.  It happened again when the note of issue wasn’t filed on the 25th.  A little more than a week ago I reached out to opposing counsel about stipulating to extend discovery and restore the case to active status.  Same as just before I took over the case.  No one has responded to me yet so I just sent a follow-up.  I’m also waiting to hear back from the colleague I worked for since August.  Here’s the email I sent, responding to him saying he wanted my total pay to be $2,500:

“$2,500 total is low, man.  Especially since the $1,000 that I already received didn’t come from your own pocket, meaning in the end you, yourself, would only be paying me $1,500.  Or were you going to have [Company X] pay me that as well?

“For reference, I attached the email I sent back in November with my hours.  I had clocked over 50 hours by then.  Crunching the numbers at $2,500 total would mean I’m billing myself out at less than $50 an hour.  That’s really low, especially if you billed my hours at $250 to [Company Y].  That hourly rate plummets way below temp rates once we add in my hours since Nov. 2009.  If I were billing myself out at $100 an hour, I’d already be at $5,000 just up to November, and at least $3,000 even if you cut twenty of those hours.

“I understand that you don’t bill [Company X] for your time and obviously [Company Z] isn’t making any money just yet, at least not until it’s acquired, I suppose.  I get that.  But $1,500 for over 50 hours of work is too low.  Especially if you’re about to get upwards of $30K from [Company Y] soon.”

I sent that email thirteen days ago.  Nothing belligerent.  Certainly not combative.  It’s not respectful or disrespectful; neutral really.  Maybe the last sentence of the first paragraph was a bit catty, but frankly, as long as it’s a legitimate source, I don’t care where the money comes from.  My email briefly states my case and also notes that  I understand the financial complications of the situation.  There’s no ultimatum.  No slang or foul language.  But silence is what I received in response.  I emailed him again yesterday to check in about a final task I left unfinished.  Didn’t mention money.  Just more silence in return.

I have a problem with silence and with being ignored.  It’s my Achilles heel.  Ignore me.  That’s fine.  But know that I’ll do something to get your attention.  And you might not like it.  And it might not be very adult of me.  See, I’m understanding to a fault.  I give too many benefits of those proverbial doubts.  Given my background and experiences, where I grew up, all the different jobs I’ve held and the places I’ve lived—given all that, well . . . it’s enhanced my understanding and my awareness of different points of view; and thus I cut people breaks.  Often too often.  With the colleague for example, I kept letting it go, saying he’s busy, first all that he had on his plate, then the holidays, then the new job, he’s under a lot of stress, ad nauseam.  And what did it get me?  More waiting.  Same with the pro bono client.  Being understanding and assuming that other attorneys will fulfill their obligations is apparently unwarranted.

I wondered the other day on my walk to work whether it’s time to let this city harden me a bit.  I’ve resisted it.  Tried instead to retain my small town mindset.  Something I mentioned in Small Town Boy in the Big City.  I’ve been understanding to a fault with opposing counsels on the pro bono case.  And now somewhat to the detriment of her case.  I’ve been understanding with my colleague—nevermind any additional amount we can debate, he still hasn’t paid me in full for the amount agreed upon back in August.  And what he did send me came from one of the companies I worked on for him, so it’s not like it put a dent in his pocket.  I skirted the edges of this concern in Cashing in My Karma, except there I focused more on my frustration at all the “good” I do for others and how it’s high time my ship comes in.  But frankly, I need to grow a spine and start standing up for myself.  Might be time to start pushing back against the world.  Stop being so afraid of the telephone and call the credit card companies myself and tell them to stop calling me.  Stop fearing the landlord and instead call them up and let them know I’ll be late.  Time to stop cutting everyone a break and instead start manning up and pushing back.  Not like anyone’s cutting me any breaks.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

February 3, 2010 at 23:59

8 Responses

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  1. You say if someone ignored you, you’ll do something to get the person’s attention, even if it’s less than mature. So where do you get off on getting angry at your mother for doing the same thing? (putting aside whether your mother’s actions were actually immature — personally I think she’s just being a typical mom)


    February 4, 2010 at 09:11

  2. Those aren’t analogous examples. If my mother texted me, or emailed me, and I ignored her by claiming I was “too busy,” then you would be correct. But here I wasn’t ignoring her. We just aren’t in sync for the moment. It wasn’t like months had past since we last spoke. Here she recruited my sister, albeit not directly, to get on me for not calling.

    She probably is just being a typical mom. You’re right. And that’s why I wasn’t all that angry with her, I guess. I was more pissed off at my sister for taking her side and getting nasty with me. She could be more helpful and step up and help with my mother instead of turning to me and saying “do something.” She could’ve said something like, “Mommy wants to hear from you more. I know you’re busy but send her a text. I’ll remind her about your crazy hours.” I had suggested to my sister that she and my mother take a trip to New York to visit. A Sunday. They could see a show at the theatre where I work, for example, and then we could do things in Manhattan between my shifts—if I was even scheduled at all. But my mother said she didn’t want to “risk” bad weather. And my sister accepted that silly excuse. (Bad weather? Like there aren’t weather forecasts available. Like 10 feet of snow is going to fall in the blink of an eye. Clearly that’s some sort of lonely mom excuse. I need to stay huddled in my safe home away from all forms of potential danger. And my sister is buying that crap.)

    The ignoring that I was talking about above was in reference to important things: people who are avoiding you really, not ignoring you. I suppose that’s a better way to phrase it. I wasn’t avoiding my mother. The colleague is ignoring my emails and avoiding me. The opposing counsels are ignoring my emails and avoiding me. That’s really what I meant.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 4, 2010 at 09:51

  3. After that email, you’ve guaranteed that you’ve already received all the money you are going to receive.

    You have no leverage. No clear contract, no time to sue, no money to hire someone to sue for you, no personal relationship (colleagues =/= friends).

    He made what he thought was a fair offer, you counter offered, and now he is walking away. I would not be surprised if your emails get re-directed straight to the Deleted folder without being opened.


    February 4, 2010 at 11:06

  4. That would be very childish and unprofessional if he were to do that. You’re right. He offered. I rejected. No agreement on what additional I’m owed. But he admitted earlier in the email chain that I am owed more. And his offer upholds that point.

    He’s an attorney and not some Joe on the street. He’s held to a higher standard. Arguably so am I. Neither of us broached the topic of payment. Now we’ll have to. I’m not talking $10,000 here. I’d be fine with $4,000. $6,000 would be a jackpot. But only $1,000 more, for
    all the hours I put in? No way. Small claims court would be worth more. If only to stand up for myself. I’m finished working for free.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 4, 2010 at 11:56

  5. You’re not making a very good distinction. In the past you said you didn’t call because you had too much to catch up on, which just added more to catch up on, and so on. In other words, you were avoiding your mother. As for your sister, she probably has to deal with your increasingly upset mother when you don’t call, so she’d likely prefer you just called her already. And it was nice of her to offer to send info about a job posting.

    Remember all your postings about feeling isolated? By pushing your family away, you’re just creating further – and unnecessary – isolation for yourself.


    February 4, 2010 at 12:08

  6. Held to a higher standard by whom?

    If I understand the situation. He entered an agreement with you to purchase a defined service. He gave you some money in return for the service.

    You spent longer on it than you (and he) anticipated, and you found out that he was going to benefit financially from the overall product to which you contributed. So now you think you are entitled to more money and he should be willing to fork it over. You didn’t agree on an hourly billing arrangement. He agreed in principle that you what you did was worth more money – so he offered you more. You turned it down. End of deal.

    If I were a caterer contracting with you to make a cake under this arrangement, and you came back with “I need more money because it took me a lot longer to make the cake than I thought and I found out that you were charging people $1000 a slice for it, so you owe me more money,” I would consider maybe giving you some extra money – but it’s not my fault you are a sloppy businessman. And if I made a good faith offer to pay you a reasonable (e.g., an extra $50 would be considered unreasonable) amount and you reply by spluttering about all the work you put in, and how much money he made on the deal, blah blah blah, I’d either do what he is doing or tell you to bugger off.

    Also, you should consider that you may be overestimating the worth of your contribution – maybe he feels it was only worth $1000 more because, despite all the extra hours you spent on it, it only had a negligible impact on the case, or he had to spend a lot of time tweaking it, and was just being too polite to be harsh to you about it.

    I am reasonably sure that your thinking he is ‘childish and unprofessional’ is going to make him lose a lot of sleep. Particularly if he made out as well financially as you assume he did.

    Face it. You made a sloppy business decision. He may be taking advantage of your sloppiness, in your opinion –but welcome to the real world. Lesson learned, hopefully.

    If you want to see more money, start down the small claims route because whining on a blog isn’t going to get you paid.


    February 4, 2010 at 13:12

  7. p0wned


    February 4, 2010 at 13:36

  8. Maybe it is not the best business decision to not have a written agreement and not approach the subject on fees. But typically we as a society feel uncomfortable when we talk or ask for money.

    In his defense, I think the analogy is closer to we contracted for one cake for your wedding/birthday but as the wedding date neared you requested a bigger cake or an additional cake.

    And we didn’t talk about amending the original agreement, but you’re requesting that I bake 2 cakes not 1, as previously agreed. It is a fair assumption that I should be compensated for cake no. 2.

    Probably the best policy is to negotiate the best you can for any additional fees and write the remainder amount off as a professional courtesy. (And let him know that you’re settling for less than you feel you deserve because you’re friends/colleagues)
    You don’t want to burn any bridges in the future.


    May 13, 2010 at 03:43

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