That's not what the Death card means

What It Is Like
written 2016-09-09 21:32:13

While I was in Vermont, visiting my mom and remembering how great Vermont (and my mom) are, I got some emails about a new project coming up from an agency that hasn't gotten me any work for quite some months. Years, even. My phone was ringing too, but fuck that, I was on a mountain somewhere in New England. If you answer your phone for work reasons, they're allowed to deport you.

So, this project: usual pay rate, two week duration, and the unusual step of requiring a background check before you can be considered. Not sure what that's about, but I've been unemployed for about two weeks, I should get back in the rut. I mean, groove. No, actually, I think I had it right the first time.

I get home, and the emails continue, and there's this whole online application rigamarole I have to go through to apply. Not to get the job, just to apply. And the damn thing is only going to last two weeks. A bunch of nonsense, sure, but as stated: I should really get back to having a paycheck. And they... they want my social security number.

Understand, this never happens. Sometimes they ask if you've ever had an ethics violation or what kinds of doc review you've done. But never this level of scrutiny. This is weird. I almost don't hit "submit" at the end, because I have no idea who will be receiving this.

Anyway, I get the job. They send me a location and instructions to wear a suit on the first day. I think that's a bit stupid, because we aren't working at a law firm (this agency has its own review space), but whatever. Small price to blah blah blah, whatever you do, do it 100 percent blah blah.

Then it gets good.

This douchebag with 90's hair and his shirt unbuttoned to his nipples tells us we've all been vetted so stringently because this project is REALLY confidential, you guys. OH MAN, the client is MAJOR LEAGUE CONFIDENTIAL, for reals. (Being very confidential is like being a little bit pregnant. Or very unique.) And all of us in our suits look great, but there's no need to dress up, ha ha., why were we told to do so?

Next douchebag announcement: We really want to hit the ground running so we can get this project wrapped by Friday. (murmuring and discussion among the temps) "Do you... do you mean next Friday?" No, no, we think we can really accomplish a lot up front and get it done by this Friday. (flat murmuring) "We were told this would be a two week project." Oh, sure! Yeah, we're going to have more for you do, definitely. This is just the first part. Yeah.

Please note: this is Labor Day week, so the work week started on Tuesday. That means we were sold nine days of work, and then bait-and-switched for four.

Well, great. At least doc review is still full of liars and assholes. It would be jarring if I went back to the grind and found that integrity and decency had taken hold and all the people were good to one another. HA HA HA HA HA

So, we temps will be working for the agency that hired us (who shall remain nameless for exactly as long as they can still find me a buck). They are subcontracting the work from another company that does doc review from South Carolina. They are only handling this matter - they are not counsel for the client. The SC firm is subcontracting this matter from another firm that is handling the larger universe of litigation for YET ANOTHER law firm that actually represents the client. So, I think that makes me an independent contractor (because god forbid we get benefits or humane treatment) working for a subcontractor handling local efforts on behalf of a general subcontractor handing specific matters for a general contractor handling general matters for a law firm which represents a client.

And the punchline is they think I should treat the "attorney-client relationship" between me and the client with respect. I can't even see the client at the end of this fucking corporate line of bullshit. I don't even know if there is a client. Maybe I'm on a nightmarish reality TV show. Maybe I'm dead, and this is purgatory.

Additional hits from the worst haircut in law, three years running: "If you see (Account Exec)'s name, be sure and look hard for reasons to make it privileged. (Account Exec) was involved with a lot of important communications, so we'd like to keep those protected." Temp: "But... he's not a lawyer?" Douchebro: "That's correct. He talks to a lot of lawyers, though, so try and use that." Temp, to me: "...did he just ask us to make non-attorney communications privileged?"

"The office will be open from eight to eight. So, if you can work twelve hour days, please do." Insert sound of overly competitive failed lawyers lunging at their computers to try and get as many hours in as possible before we all get fired. "Overtime will be paid after forty hours." Collective gasp of astonishment until some cynical bastard points out that since we started on a Tuesday at 9 AM, we can only work 47 hours this week. And the thundering herd of nincompoops working themselves out of job will guarantee that there isn't enough work to last that long to even get 40.

I confess: I am that cynical bastard.

The work itself was fine: privilege review for an insurance merger. The bright-eyed kids all want to talk about antitrust and other shit that's way above their pay grade. I worked three eight hour days and didn't worry about it too much. One day I ate my lunch in Rittenhouse Square and watched dogs walk by. It was nice.

You may be wondering why I said "three eight hour days" above. Well, consider the part further up where I say this industry is all liars and assholes. Afternoon on Thursday, people start notice the work is drying up. I advise them to make it last, and we probably won't be called back for Friday. They scoff and remind me we were told it would go THROUGH Friday! They said! They... they said.

I confess: I am that cynical bastard.

We were all fired via email that night. Nothing about this project was unusual. No one fought it, no one objected to it, no one insisted that words have meaning and that by contravening what they had stated, they had become liars. It was understood.

--9:29 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, nobody speak, nobody get choked

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