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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Not a bad month

At the moment, only four months in the (short) history of this blog have had more traffic. That could be as little as one by the end of the month. Not bad for a month in which nothing of real note happened, and during which I was either on small projects or, God help me, unemployed. Again, thanks, and keep coming by.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Another milestone

Sometime yesterday traffic on this blog passed 9,000 visitors since its inception. Not exactly earthshattering, but hey, I'm reaching beyond my immediate circle of friends, right? Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Temps deserve their reputation

Just got an email from a buddy of mine who apparently is working on Sundays, so good for him. Unfortunately for him, it's not all positive. The email reads, in its entirety:

Why do temps floss  at their table?  That should be banned by every agency. A guy is doing it now. It is disgusting.

I have no comment, because words fail me.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This is why they don't trust us

There is a general perception about temps. It consists mainly of the central theme that we can't be trusted. This explains much of the shabby treatment temps get.

That said, temps earn that treatment almost every day. Maybe not all temps, maybe not all the time, but enough to make the rap stick. The other day, the woman about whom I have been warned, in a conversation with another temp, blurted out, "This is document review, there are no ethics."

I have no idea what the conversation was about, but I immediately recognized this as an attitude that is at the root of the problems this industry labors under. In short, temps are not trusted to be professional because far too many temps, even if not a majority, demonstrate through word and deed that they cannot be trusted. Face it, if you were an attorney at the firm employing that temp, and you heard that statement, how would you feel about temps as a group?

Don't cry to me about everybody being unfairly tarred with the same brush. Too many temps take the attitude that, since they aren't really "practicing law" in any meaningful way, they also no longer are bound by the ethical obligations incumbent upon attorneys. They take shortcuts, code documents poorly, lie about their hours, spend hours on the phone when they're being paid to work, blah blah blah blah blah. We've all seen it. Well, guess what? So have the firms that hire us. So don't bitch about getting no respect.

I'm sure it's them, not you

So, the woman who sits across from me, about whom I was warned, has proven to be every bit the joy I was led to believe. Maybe I'm being petty, but this woman is living down to my every expectation. She talks A LOT and says nothing, but she does so at full volume. No inside voice here -- this woman sounds like Foghorn Leghorn, only dumber.  She seems to be determined to see how many times a day she can kick me under the table "accidentally" -- I was surprised to learn her legs were long enough to reach me -- and she just, in general, makes me pray daily for this project to end. I am thinking that, as a veteran temp, she looks a lot better on paper than in person.

Oddly enough, she gave me confirmation the other day that I am not the only person upon whom she has this effect (good grammar, bitches -- live with it). She apparently feels deserving of more lofty, dare I say permanent, employment, and is baffled by her lack of success, stating
I've had like 15 interviews over the last few years, but none of them were callbacks. They were all first interviews.
Go figure.

Well, this is good news. Not.

OK, just in case this, this, this and   this didn't make you nervous about the future of the practice of law, maybe this article in The Atlantic will:

After decades of killing low-end jobs in retail, software is finally doing the people's bidding by creating a world with fewer lawyers.
In discussing this  article in the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic (the WSJ article is behind a paywall, so go to The Atlantic) did not sound optimistic about the future of the practice of law and, more specifically, Temp Town's piece of the action:
For a while now, attorneys have employed manual keyword searches to sort through the gigabytes of information involved in these case. But as the journal reports, more firms are beginning to use a technology known as "predictive coding," which essentially automates the process at one-tenth the cost. Recently, a magistrate judge in a major Virginia employment discrimination suit ruled that the defense could use predictive coding to sort through their own data, despite objections by the plaintiffs who worried it might not pick up all the relevant documents . . .
 At this point, most temps who have been at this for more than a few weeks have been on a project that used predictive coding at some point, even if they didn't know it. In my opinion, having seen it at work, predictive coding sucks. It simply isn't very good -- yet. It's going to get better, and it is a much bigger threat to us and our livelihood than India or Ohio or Charlotte or any of the other serious and real threats to Temp Town. So, what's your exit strategy?

Monday, June 18, 2012

What decade is this?

There's a guy on the project, I have no idea what his name is -- come on, you know I don't do names -- who was wearing a sweater today draped around his shoulders, with the sleeves tied together under his neck. First of all, it's fucking June in DC -- it was 80 degrees today, despite being overcast and rainy all day. In other words, hot and humid. Not a lot of call for sweaters. Second, we're working in a couple file rooms -- hell, they didn't even bother to take the shelves out before they stuck us in here -- where the circulation of air conditioning clearly was not a priority. This raises the obvious question, WHO THE FUCK EVEN BRINGS A FUCKING SWEATER TO A HOT FUCKING ROOM ON A HOT FUCKING DAY? Sorry for shouting. Anyway, without knowing this bonehead's name, I am certain it is something like Devlon or some shit like that. Probably has Roman numerals after his name. He looks like a fucking Devlon. Or maybe a Heathcliff. On the other hand, I don't see this guy as the gardener of Wuthering Heights, or whatever the fuck Heathcliff was. Maybe that was Lady Chatterly's Lover. It's all the same to me. And I'm not EVEN going to get into the questions he emails to the associate. It's too depressing.

Friday, June 15, 2012

OK, that's a good one

New visitor: Trinidad and Tobago. Love me some Caribbean action. Not Albania, though, so not making me completely happy. Still, I can almost hear the steel drums.

Exit strategies?

For the first time since I have been doing this kind of work, I am hearing people talk about exit strategies. I don't mean finding another law job -- people always talk about that. In the past, though, people were willing to keep working in Temp Town because the money was good. But that was when the rate was $5 an hour higher than it is now, and 60-hour projects were the norm. There weren't any jobs short of associate at a big firm that paid that much, and nobody in Temp Town was landing an associate job. They either already had and for whatever reason lost it, or they never were going to land one. Sorry, hard fact, end of story. So, good money, low stress, lots of work, what's not to like?

Two of those three elements have largely disappeared. The money is no longer good -- a 15 percent drop in base pay is not part of the roadmap to prosperity. Neither is the complete disappearance of overtime, which is what always made this work lucrative to begin with. Occasionally projects will offer 10 hours of overtime, but it is becoming increasingly rare. The old days, when projects with 80, 90 or 100 hours a week were not common but nowhere near unheard of, are gone. So now what?

Well, people are talking about getting out. They're not sure where they would go or what they would do, but most are talking about leaving the area and leaving the legal profession (to the extent Temp Town actually is part of the legal profession.)

I think that might be premature, but it is hard to fault people for thinking that way. I plan to hang in for a few months, as I believe that there will be a lot more merger activity if Obama is not re-elected. Four years ago, I thought that merger activity would drop off, but be replaced by federal investigations of varying sorts. Alas, Barry's boys never really demonstrated the competence to generate investuigations in the volume that would keep our industry going. Spare me the ideological arguments, the cold facts are these: merger activity died, and investigations did not replace mergers as the prime source of work.

I think mergers will make a comeback if Romney wins, but I know a lot of people are not betting on it. The new business model seems to be more bodies, fewer hours. I recently was offered a project and when I asked about the hours, the response was, "Are you kidding? Nobody pays overtime anymore."

That's not quite true, but it's close enough. The question, then, is this: Will overtime as a routine matter ever return? I don't know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ask and ye shall receive

Damn if I didn't get an Estonian last night for the first time. On the blog, people, a visitor to the blog. Get your minds out of the gutter. But this means I need a new country to pick on. Canada and Mexico both eventually caved, and Estonia jumped on the bandwagon as soon as I mentioned that the country was not yet represented at Eff You (a situation I feel any country would want to remedy quickly once the shortcoming was brought to its attention). Maybe Albania. The Albanians should check in.

Monday, June 11, 2012

New tag

By the way,  I just introduced a new tag that I can't believe I haven't used from Day One: "temps who need killing." Wow. It's so "one size fits all," I can't believe I never trotted it out before.

Where is the line between petty and important?

I think it is important to draw a line between petty complaints and important ones. The woman who sits across from me, about whom I have already been warned, is driving me crazy in ways that are both important and petty. First, she's a moron, but she has been keeping that largely to herself and has stopped asking moronic questions. This is good, and indicates that she can at least be aware of when she is being a moron.

However, she has a number of personal quirks, shall we say, that make her irritating to work next to. The first is petty, and I freely admit that. Headphones and music generally negate this particular problem, but that doesn't make it less irritating. She's a grunter. Not like a pig, but more like someone lifting weights, but someone who is not lifting really fucking heavy weights. She apparently breathes -- FUCKING ALWAYS -- by drawing in a breath, holding it, and then letting it out with a very audible exhale. Kind of like she's taking a shit that doesn't want to come out and she holds her breath until after the push. Sorry, but that's what it sounds like. Petty, I know, but you sit next to that all fucking day and tell me how you like it.

The other thing that bothers me at this point, other than her monumental stupidity, is here apparent lack of awareness of where she is. She is clearly a veteran temp. (She also is clearly the sort of temp that made Temp Town a place no one wanted to be. More on that later.) That means she knows that you don't take phone calls at your desk. Even if she weren't a veteran temp, we were told explicitly -- as we always are at the beginning of every project -- that cell phones are to be put on silent ring and that all calls are to be taken outside of the work area.

This sack is oh-for-two. Her phone rings loud as Judgment Day, and she takes the call without budging. Same for outgoing calls -- like she's in a fucking phone booth. I'm not a big rules guy, but I actually believe some rules make sense. This is one of them. No fucking phone calls in the workspace. And yet, I know that if I say anything to her, I will be the one who is the subject of a complaint to the agency. Pisses me off -- I would much rather tell her that I will shove the phone up her ass if she makes one more call at her desk, but instead I have to take the victim role and complain to the agency. Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

Don't get me wrong. As soon as I finish this post, I'm sending an email to the agency. But I think we all know that, instead of her getting an email telling her to knock it off, the agency will send an email to everyone saying, "Please don't use your cell phones at your desk." This sack will never think it's directed at her, she'll keep doing it, and at some point I will have to kill her. Just sayin'.

Mexico checks in!

OK, time to find a new country to pick on. Thinking about Estonia. I like Estonia, seems like a good place, very business-friendly and the president strikes me as a tough fucker. I want me some Estonians.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Time for some props

You may recall a post late last week about a friend of mine who is working with some new temps who couldn't continue reading this blog because it was "depressing." I wondered then if that was their first clue that temping might not be a fulfilling career. If so, then I think we need to award those folks the honor that goes to everybody who is shocked by the self-evident, The Captain Louis Renault Award:


Friday, June 8, 2012

Might be karma

I am told (but have not been able to verify) that the $26/hour project that got advertised earlier this week fell through. Thank you, Jesus. As if there weren't enough downward pressure on rates as it is.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Was that their first clue?

As I started my new gig today, got an email from a friend and sometime-coworker, who is on a project with a bunch of very young temps, just out of law school and, apparently, from privileged backgrounds (meaning parents paid for law school). They wonder why she's so "bitter" and apparently spend all their time at work "looking for 1) jobs and 2) shoes." Anyway, my friend wrote:
I finally got around to sharing your blogs to my kids here. They said that it depressed them and they stopped reading.
My immediate reaction (and response) was this:
The blog depressed them and the job doesn't? Go figure.
These people apparently are not paying attention.

At least I got a good seat

As everyone knows, where your seat is is half the battle, especially if the project sucks, which this one does. Yet another 40-hour, five-days-a-week piece of shit. If you're going to drive my commuting costs up 20 percent, could you please increase my pay? The answer, apparently, is "no."

So, anyway, new project started today. Bad hours, bad rate (but not that bad, apparently) and very rigid rules. Narrow window to get your eight hours in each day, no chance of overtime and excellent chance of not even getting your 40. Great. On top of all that, a friend emailed me to see where (or whether) I was working, and when I told him what I was working on, he sent me this:

Oh god, this temp named [some chick's name] is working on that project. She just left this one. Enjoy working with her. She's a treat. . . She is Major League whack job.
Unfortunately, a) he was right on all counts, and b) she sits directly across from me in a small room. Still weighing the suicide/homicide options.

On the other hand, I'm working again. And I got a great seat, neighbors notwithstanding.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

D-Day

People forget about this stuff, but 68 years ago a bunch of really scared guys in their teens and 20s went ashore anyway in the face of incredible odds. They prevailed. Or at least most of them did -- more than 4,000 Americans died that day. Just a week ago we celebrated Memorial Day, and I told you then, I'll tell you now: nothing you will ever do can compare to what these guys did. Live with it. And thank them. If you can't do it daily, at least do it today.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Maybe I don't feel so good about temp pay

I deleted this without looking at it, but there was a Posse List posting from an agency I frequently work for. Here's the meat of it:
[An unnamed agency] is currently staffing a large electronic document review project slated to begin early next week. The pay rate is $26 per hour, 50-60 hours weekly, 2 week duration, and time and a half for all hours worked over 40. The review is open to attorneys barred in any US jurisdiction. Must be active and in good standing.

Fuck me. This agency, in the late 2008-early 2009 period, when jobs were really scarce, was among the low-ballers, with a lot of projects at $28 an hour. This puts them in JD-only territory. I guess times really are hard.

Maybe not dying, but really sick

I guess by now folks have heard about the Boston law firm that posted an entry-level job at $10,000 a year. They've received 32 applications in the week the job's been posted. To put this in perspective, my first newspaper job paid $200 per week -- about $800 a year more than this gig. And that was 1985. In rural North Carolina, not Boston.

Sure, the gig pays a clothing allowance and has benefits. And the compensation is based on an estimate of time billed and collected for a first-year associate at a smallish domestic-law firm, so it could be more. A little, anyway. But still, this is depressing. Boston is not the cheapest city to live in. Considering that Boston College law students pay about $44,000 a year, this is making that kind of investment look foolish. To be fair, the entry-level salary for Big Law in Boston is about $160,000 a year. But are those jobs as numerous as in the past? Maybe not. Whatever the case, it makes me feel a little better about temp pay. But not much.

Gig confirmed . . .

. . . and, naturally, something better comes along. Overtime vs. none, of course. Not confirmed, though should be tomorrow. Both start Thursday, which raises the ever-present dilemma -- bail on the first-offered, less-attractive project, or no? And how? Family emergency? Obviously, you can't tell the truth. Equally obviously, you have to wait until the second one is confirmed to take any action at all except to follow through on the first one. Other people do not live like this, at least not on a week-to-week basis.

Monday, June 4, 2012

New gig starting, I think

Got an email today from an agency letting me know that the project I think I am on is starting Thursday. Did not confirm I am on the project, and in fact shed a little doubt. Remember Rule No. 1 -- they're lying. Yeah, I sent notices to everybody I'm registered with saying I'm still available.

New visitors

Pretty sure we've never had Bangladesh before. Otherwise, this week has been a quick tour guide of South America -- Colombia, Ecuador, folks like that. No idea why these people click here.

May was OK

Only three months with more traffic. One was the second month of the blog, with all the people from the project that birthed this sucker checking out the blog. The other two months are inexplicable, as one of them, nothing was going on, and the other one, I posted rather infrequently. So, I still have no explanation for what drives traffic. Maybe I should buy "Blogging for Dummies" and get down to brass tacks.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A week at home makes you think about what's really important

And that, mostly, would be working. Oh, sure, family and all that stuff are great, but not when you're planning your move to the forest and taking inventory of camping gear. I don't know if this industry is dying, but my little piece of it sure looks moribund. Have a nibble for something starting next week. We'll see if it turns into a fish. I know a lot of people are sitting home right now And just as we enter the summer doldrums. Perhaps I should work on my tan.