Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

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

Talk Back

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Total Black: $2,340.68
Total Red: $235,531.41

What an understatement I posted in Sunday Funday?  A long night?  I left the contract attorney position a little after 7 am today.  I arrived at 5pm the day prior and with the approximately two hour or so when I stepped out to attend the Miss Fag Hag Pageant, I worked nearly eleven hours.  I spent the night photocopying and assembling trial binders for use this morning in court.  I must have photocopied about seven hundred pages of materials because, of course, the firm wanted three sets.  Guess I know now what a FedEx Office employee feels like.

The other contract attorney on this project has wondered aloud many times over the past few weeks what the law firm we’re working for would do if they didn’t have us on the project?  A rhetorical question, of course, but telling because so many of the tasks we’re tasked with stem from last-minute requests when no one else is willing or able to work.  The other contract attorney and I stay late, come in early, work on weekends while the firm’s employees—the paralegals and even the attorneys—work from home or leave early.  Sure, they’ll come in for a few hours.  But none stay past 10pm.  Makes me wonder if the law firm piles the grunt work on the contract attorneys because we’ll do it.  Or we’re the everyday dishes to the own fine china, their employees.  No concern of theirs if, when the project is over, there’s a chip or two on the everyday dish.  As long as the china’s intact.  People can assert the correctness of that point: that that is the point of hired guns, of temporary labor.  But as always, I’ll instead argue for a more equitable and humane treatment of employees: whether permanent or temporary.

Don’t get me wrong.  I was happy to finish the week off with just over fifty-three hours.  One perk to being a temporary employee is to earn more with the more you work.  But from a professional standpoint, having one worker going all night, and then missing the next day, seems a bit counterproductive in the long run.  And risky.  What if I didn’t or couldn’t finish in time?  I was photocopying and assembling materials for court the next morning?  And, after returning home this morning after 7am, I didn’t go back in today.

One very important lesson that’s come out of all of my contracting experiences: learning what not to do!

Despite getting sporadic and incomplete sleep this afternoon, and missing a day of work, I still had a shift to work at the theatre tonight for The 39 Steps, a comedy based on the Alfred Hitchcock film.  Despite being overtired, it was a welcome change from the day job and those naked boys.  The first time I saw it, I wasn’t all that impressed.  The humor came across a bit forced and rehearsed.  It’s a show that makes fun of itself: a four-person cast with two everyman actors playing multiple characters.  In one scene the everyman actors repeatedly swap hats and alter their voices in repeated succession until the lead interrupts to tell them to get on with the show.  That sort of breaking-the-fourth-wall type of humor, which invites the audience into the production.  The show is also sprinkled with deliberately-forced Hitchcock references to a “rear window” on the stage or how the lead and the only female in the cast meet but are mere “strangers on a train.”  To me, it comes across as a bit of cracker jack comedy: sweet, good, ready-made, and complete with a prize inside.

But tonight it started growing on me.  Or maybe I was just too tired.

Afterward I worked a talk back for The Temperamentals.  Every Monday evening after the performance, the production puts together a talk back for the audience: one night featured the cast, another the playwright.  Larry Kramer was on stage for too long for the first talk back.  That was the only other talk back I worked besides tonight.  As the show presents the story of Harry Hay and the founding of the first group to push for equality for gay peoples, the talk backs tend to be similarly themed.  This evening featured Congressman Barney Frank.

His comments got me thinking about talking back in general.  Why do we take “it”?  Whatever it is.  Very few of us talk back.  At work, it’s a fairly low wage ($34.00 / hour) and a serious amount of stress and responsibility—and time commitment.  Rather than talk back to the attorneys and demand more money or more assistance, I keep it to myself.  Financially, it’s my debts and incessant, demanding creditors.  Rather than talk back to them, I ignore them entirely, waiting for the day when my financial drought ends and I can wash them away with the ensuing floodwaters.

Either I’m an everyday dish or a piece of fine china.  Really it’s my decision, isn’t it?

Learning to talk back is not easy.  But crystallizing all these experiences in my posts has helped thickened my skin and straighten my spine quite a I first began to blog and engage in these self-reflections.

No change really total black or red.  Yet.

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