Offering to work for free (temporarily) as a Legal Assistant

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tada in Denver, Colorado

54 months ago

Hello,

About seven months ago, I was dismissed from a position as a Legal Assistant from a law firm in Denver. When I inquired as to why, I was told that I did not seem to like my job. When I asked for the reason for their decision, they told me that since I had recently signed an at will work contract (after six years of employment with the firm) that they owed me no reason.

I have now applied for hundreds of jobs, and have gone on 10 different second interviews, only to be turned down for the jobs. I have told the truth about my termination, I have told firms that I left for personal reasons, I have told firms that I was laid off due to lack of work, all to no avail.

I feel that my former employer is giving me bad references. Many of the firms that I have interviewed with know the partners of my former employer. I have thought of hiring reference services that legally gain information on my references. I am running out of ideas.

I now have another interview, and I still think that being honest is the best way to proceed. But honesty has done me no good on any of these interviews. I am now thinking of being honest, asking for a chance to prove myself, and even volunteering to work for free for a month to prove that I can do the job.

I have very good experience with all of the programs required for doing the job, and I did my job well. I went over and above, worked overtime for free, and even worked from my home at night to support the partners. But I am hitting a stone wall.

I am above 40, have six years of experience, and I have a paralegal certificate from a ABA accredited college.

Do any of you have any ideas? Any advice would be appreciated.

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Mary inTampa in Tampa, Florida

54 months ago

Welcome (to our forum).

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Keith in San Francisco, California

54 months ago

Tada,

I think you should find out if your former employer is blackballing you. Our if they are just giving you a real tepid endorsement. It sounds like if that's going on then all those resumes could be poisoned. Until you really know the true extent to which your job search tools may be compromised you may just be spinning your wheels.

You could hire a reference service. But I think a faster and cheaper solution would be to have a friend call your former employer under the pretext that they are an out of state law firm interested in hiring you. Then you could just find out then and there what's really going on. Then you would have a clearer understanding of what's holding you back.

Good luck!

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Keith in San Francisco, California

54 months ago

Tada,

Hey let us know what happens if and when you get to the bottom of this.

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Keith in San Francisco, California

54 months ago

Yeah good point. Also, if someone calls and says they are from LA but a Denver area code pops up then that might raise a red flag.

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Mezosub in Newport Beach, California

54 months ago

On this issue, Keith and I are in complete agreement. Definitely have your former employer checked by a friend claiming to be a potential employer or better yet, a legal recruiter. Have your friend record the conversation and take notes.

Then, if you're feeling particularly vengeful, report the employer to the Labor Dept. (or comparable administrative agency). Submit copies of the telephone recording or a transcript, if necessary. You may not get re-employed any sooner, but a pending labor investigation will go a long way to ensuring that you can stay on unemployment benefits pretty much indefinitely. If your former employer tries to dispute your unemployment claims, just point to the pending investigation by the labor department, which will make it look like you were wrongfully terminated, then subsequently defamed in retaliation for reporting labor code violations to the authorities.

Another resolution is to completely upfront in interviews with potential new employers. When they ask why you left your previous position, get a stern look on your face and reply solemnly, "That firm is under investigation by the authorities. Due to the costs of defending that investigation, they let some of the staff go."

No new employer would ever dream of asking a former employer what they did wrong to cause them to be under investigation, and the former employer wouldn't be obligated to answer even if the question was asked.

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Mary inTampa in Tampa, Florida

54 months ago

I have been in this situation - big time. I was being harassed by the female office manager - big time. I worked there eight years. After I was terminated she called every legal placement agency in the area to badmouth me. It took me ten months to get a job (in a real good economy) because of it. I did finally get a job, at low pay and an entry level position.

I would not tell a potential employer it is under investigation by the authorities. I might say due to the economy there was a change in staffing.

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georgia_paralegal in Augusta, Georgia

51 months ago

Hello. I have been in similar situation in the past in August, 2005. I worked for an attorney for 13 years, who is a sole practitioner in private practice. There was just he and I in the office. I too, I went over and above, worked overtime for free, because I was paid a salary and not by the hour and I even worked from my home at night, many of nights til after midnight most of the times. I went in on weekends a good bit just so I could stay caught up and would have no interuptions from him or the phone ringing. I did everything, including writing all the checks in the office, all he did was dictate what I needed to transcribed. He was a VERY MOODY person to say the least. He told me that he was bi-polar which says it all. He would have fits and throw things like a 2 year old, cuss like a sailor and was a VERY DIFFICULT person to work for and I cannot believe I worked for him for 13 years!! Then back in August, 2005, he said he was going to have to let me go. Now get this, because this will really blow your mind. The reason was because he said, that I knew him better than his wife whom he had been married to at the time for 45 years and that out of all the legal secretaries / paralegals that he has ever worked for him, I have been the one that has worked the longest time. He said that he has let most go at around 7 to 8 years. He too said he would give me an excellent reference & guess what, he was a LIAR! I had someone call & act like I applied for a job with them to see what he would say & he bad mouthed me too. So I had not went back to work in the legal field in my area, just because of that. Back when this happened in 8/2005, he was 66 yrs old & I thought he would retire soon & then I could go back to work in the legal field. Well he hasn't retired & I know this is mean to say, but I wish he would just hurry up & die already, instead of retire, because that might never happen. lol.. ALL ATTORNEYS ARE A*S HOLES to work for, no matter what anyone says!!

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georgia_paralegal in Augusta, Georgia

51 months ago

Hi, yes, fhe reason was because he said, that I knew him better than his wife whom he had been married to at the time for 45 years and that out of all the legal secretaries / paralegals that he has ever worked for him, I have been the one that has worked the longest time. He said that he has let most go at around 7 to 8 years because if there ever came a time when his legal secretaries / paralegals knew he as well as his wife does or maybe perhaps knows all his personal business, as well as his professional business, then it makes him feel uncomfortable, so he fires you and hires someone else until their time comes around and the same thing happens to them. This is the most unheard of excuse not to mention a very LAME excuse, especially for an employee that worked their butt off for his business and put up with more crap that any one person, should ever have to put up with from any boss. It was not until after I had left his office and was home about a month and realized one day how much b.s. I put up with for 13 years and I was very unpaid compared to what the other legal secretaries / paralegals make in this area. Yet my boss was always saying he pays me well, because I am such a loyal and dedicated employee and that I keep his practice running smoothly and always get the job done, no matter what it takes. Yeah, right, I guess that is why I was so under paid compared to all the other legal secretaries / paralegals in our area, right? It has now been going on 5 years since I worked for that attorney and I have never spoke to him or seen him since I left back in August, 2005. I hope I never do either. I heard through a friend of mine, that works near his office, that he bought his new legal secretary a Mercedes Benz, and this bimbo has NO legal experience whatsoever & appears to be in her early 20's, skinny, but not very attractive what I am told. I said, she must be sleeping with him in order for him to have bought her a Mercedes. lol.. All attorneys suck!!

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georgia_paralegal in Augusta, Georgia

51 months ago

Hi, I know exactly what you mean. Yes, you are right "...he let me in on his personal business". For I never asked to know all the information he shared with me. I guess because I did EVERYTHING for him, I couldn't help but know his personal business, but even still, I had my own personal life and my own problems, and then on top of that, I had to be brought into his personal business, and I bet you not once did he ever think about that or how I felt or that I didn't care to know all about his personal life. I can recall when I worked for that SOB that I would get mirgraine headaches at least 3 out of 5 days a week and of the many times I would have to call my doctors office and go on my lunch and get a shot in my neck for the pain that was unbearable, and only then would it instantly go away, but I never should have had to go get all the shots because if it was not for him and all the BS that I had to deal with and put up with, I never would have had so many migraines in the 1st place. For after I stopped working for him, do you know I never had one single migraine. That tells you a lot right there, doesn't it? He even royal screwed me over when he issued me my W-2 for 2005 and I have contacted the IRS and sent them several certified return receipt letters and still til this day I have not filed my 2005 tax return because it is not right and I am owed about 1,500.00 refund on federal and because of that SOB because a tax attorney, he knew he could screw me over and that I would have a hard time in getting it resolved. He even screwed me out of claiming unemployment when he fired me back in 2005. He claimed he had a good reason that would deny my benefits. At the time the unemployment office sent me a benefit determination saying what I would receive if I claimed and was awarded unemployment benefits which at the time was the max payout in Georgia, which was 310.00 a week for 26 weeks. When I filed for the benefits, he appealed it and he won.

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georgia_paralegal in Augusta, Georgia

51 months ago

For in his own hand writing on what he sent in to the Georgia Unemployment on September 23, 2005, he wrote down that through the last day that I worked which was August 10, 2005, that I was paid a total of $36,135.85 and he had to write down his federal tax id number and he signed the form and dated it and everything. Then when I got my W-2 for 2005, it says that my wages were 37865.09. Which is a difference of $1,729.24. Even get this. On the W-2 he claimed that only 3286.57 were taken out for federal taxes. Which again is not correct. In 2004 my W-2 was for 33,021.52 and w/h for federal was 4,985.00. I have misplaced my 2003, so we have to skip that one, but the next is 2002 and my W-2 says 34,508.00 and w/h for federal is 4,647.06.

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davidmbrindisi in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

49 months ago

Buy an inexpensive prepaid cell phone at Walmart or Target. This will give you an throw-away phone number for your friend to call from.

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Good idea. I did the same for a friend. Don't forget about Caller ID. Be sure the friend blocks his/her phone number before calling.

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dh in California

49 months ago

I left law four years ago, at 39 to go back to school in order to change careers. I'm a former legal sec w/paralegal cert from UCLA. Despite the fact that I left my law firm on good terms, I still wondered whether they might bad mouth me.

I made a decision to return to school and told my office mgr in April, '06, that I'd be returning to school full time that Aug and available only for p/t work then. If they could keep me around, great because I'd like to stay; if not, I understand. At first, they said they'd keep me part time then later reniged and said they would hire my replacement if I didn't agree to stay full time.

I said that's ok because I'm going back to school regardless. My replacement was hired a month later, and I stayed until the day before she started. Despite my being there until they had me covered plus the very advance notice I gave them, I still worried about what kind of reference I'd get.

My current supervisor, whom I have a great relationship with, called and pretended to be a potential employer. To my utter shock and amazement, she gave me a glowing reference and even added extra positive comments that weren't necessary. sorry for the long diatribe, but I guess my point is that, when it comes to law, you just can't trust these guys. I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised had I been badmouthed. I am very grateful.

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smart guy in Morristown, New Jersey

48 months ago

Our justice system was replaced by a legal system, that provides a livlihood for lawyers and judges. The system was design and written by them and for them. Any justice is purely coincidental.

I started at law school, was #1 in my class, and after 1 year I decided that I have moreal values and just can not do it. I went instead into engineering.

I tell my daughters not to even date a lawyer. Once they cross the line of moral values, it is all just magnitude. Do you want your daughter going out with someone who values money more than moral values?

Why work for one of these scum?

If you doubt me, just look up the Tokarz case, he was a lawyer who had a hit put on his wife. And they killed her in the presence of his two little kids.

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FL Paralegal over attorneys in Palm Bay, Florida

41 months ago

I too worked for a Florida attorney, solo-practioner, for a toal of 13 years. At the onset of my employment in 1995 he knew I was a military veteran that suffered injuries in 1993. Although hurting, I did everything for his office and even made it to the point of going from 40 files to over 100 and his office became very successful (alot came from my own personal referrals of people I knew) Long story short, my injuries continued to deteriorate, I have a 50% disability rating from the military and finally in December 2009 had to have a 3 level neck fusion with plate and screws and cadaver bone. Six days after my major surgery I started receiving emails about the filing backing up and he couldn't believe I was going to be out more than two weeks. To this day, Feb 2011, I am still receiving crude, nasty emails (I've changed my email address 3 times already) and to add injury to insult, he's playing games and refusing to give me my pension and 401k benefits. He even contacted my current employer to try and give him "his side" of my termination. I've lost over 20 pounds, cry all the time, don't want to get out of bed, feel like I'm a horrible person. My self esteem is absolutely shot.

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mary in Tampa, Florida

41 months ago

File a complaint with the Florida Bar for uenthical behavior.
Call Morgan&Morgan, get a consultation, for your pension and 401.

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Litigation_Paralegal in Tampa, Florida

41 months ago

FL Paralegal - I would follow DLP's advice. If you don't want to contact a lawyer, you can contact the Dept. of Labor. I believe on their website it tells you who to contact regarding employers who withhold final paychecks, etc. I would also save every single one of those emails and contact the police as what he is doing constitutes harassment. I would then file a grievance with the Florida Bar. His behavior is vindictive and obviously causing you a great deal of emotional and mental distress. His out of control harassment sounds like it borders on being mentally ill. I think the Florida Bar might question his ability to practice law.

I also have been the victim of being blacklisted by local attorneys. I was let go from a local firm for being pregnant. I filed a sexual discrimination suit against the owner of the firm and around here as one administrator friend of mind said, "If you sue one of them it's as if you sued them all" because everyone around here will know about it. I also know (from the sole practitioner I currently work for) that certain lawyers that I previously worked for are badmouthing me to potential employers. When my current boss called one of the firms I worked for they were speaking about me as though I had been a bad employee -- when, in fact, I gave my 2-week notice, worked the entire notice AND trained the person they hired to replace me. I conducted myself professionally and yet I am being made out to be a bad employee just because they didn't want me to leave. It is as though the lawyers around here take it personally if you decide not to work for them anymore. I question their professionalism -- it seems as though most of them don't know the meaning of the word. It is totally unfair and unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much recourse for those of us who are being blacklisted, except to find employment in something other than the legal field.

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FL Paralegal over attorneys in Palm Bay, Florida

41 months ago

Yes, I am trying to pursue what I need to. I have already forwarded documents to the Dept of Labor. (owed over 40k in benefits - 14 years of working for him. Out for surgery and 6 days out of the hospital, his emails started. I have over 200 emails and 60 of my responses of him to leave me alone. I even told him I would report him to the bar and his response was, that if I did, I could bet I would never work as a paralegal in this State again---him contacting my new employer kind of shows that one. But I was terminated on Jan 8, 2010, my last email from him was on February 11, 2011 - sometimes 4 emails a day.....what do you think some people are questioning.......I was even asked if he was a jilted lover...... Ugh!!!!!!

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FL Paralegal over attorneys in Palm Bay, Florida

41 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Although lawyers probably disgust you at the moment, you really need to see one. Aside from the benefits he owes you, you may have harassment, defamation and blacklisting claims. That SOB is a real piece of work. You likely can deal with him with assistance.

Good luck with your efforts. You deserve better.

Lawyers don't disgust me, but this however, has crossed the line. I have met some of the most respectful and intelligent lawyers and cannot believe that one could act this way (and believe me, alot of others are shocked), it's just he's gotten me so far down in the dumps, just trying to get the energy to complete the BAR paperwork - I've got to do it, but the fight has worn me down (I mean they are some pretty bad emails), but I've got to do it. Thanks so much for the comments from everyone and they do provide some very needed emotional support. Thank you.

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hopeful in Land O Lakes, Florida

38 months ago

FL Paralegal over Palm Bay Attorneys........ I used to live in Palm Bay. I am wondering which attorney you are referring to. I hope your situation has improved. If not, I would seek the advice of an Employment Law attorney not located in Palm Bay but perhaps Orlando.

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FL Paralegal over attorneys in Palm Bay, Florida

38 months ago

hopeful in Land O Lakes, Florida said: FL Paralegal over Palm Bay Attorneys........ I used to live in Palm Bay. I am wondering which attorney you are referring to. I hope your situation has improved. If not, I would seek the advice of an Employment Law attorney not located in Palm Bay but perhaps Orlando.

No his behavior has not changed. I have run out of printer ink 5 times now and still haven't finished printing all of his emails. I had my bar complaint drafted and ended up with a virus on that computer.....so I need to start it over... He flat out admitted contacting my next employer and giving him advice on what to do with me. (that employer is gladly a witness for my complaint as well as a few friends that became clients of that SOB because of me.......I've been gone over a year and a half and he tries to tell them that I haven't done any work on their files for over a year......HELLO???? I'm not there! Then proceeded to tell them everything g about my personal life, my medical issues....as I stated previously....I'm a disabled military veteran. And he wasn't going to put up with my medical appts at the VA, etc.... Asking my friends who are still clients. What my new email address is, how to reach me, etc... And I have in writing by him contacting employers giving his opinion, false statements in writing to Unemployment comp that I was working and earning money while on unemployment....all false...but shows his pattern. Then he tried to appeal my unemployment 8 months after the fact and said it was obvious how the hearing officer was leaning, so he was going to sue me in circuit court and also If I'm talking bad about him, he's suing me for a million dollars....... So the drama continues....and people say clients are problems????? Plz excuse my typing errors now, I have severe nerve damage in both arms and vascular necrosis in my lest wrist/hand so my apologies for the errors in this post. Will keep updating.

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Older and Wiser in Secaucus, New Jersey

38 months ago

It is sad to say but all of the comments about bad experiences working for attorneys ring true with me and I've been in the field for over 30 years now. I have worked for a few very fine attorneys who have treated me well and fairly but I have also worked for some who were beasts. I also have friends in the legal profession who have had similar sad stories. Blame game is big in law firms. I have acutally lost respect for the profession and if I lose this job (I stay due to the bad economy)I don't think I will work for an attorney again unless its out of desperation to pay the bills. It's a hard economy. I was terminated from one job once because the managing partner thought I had an attitude because I didn't laugh at his dirty jokes (back in the early '90s)which would now be grounds for a valid sexual harrassment suit. He was a vulgar egomaniac. I started temping and was offered two jobs within 3 months. I was honest during the interview saying that it was a personality conflict but I guess the temping helped show the new employer that I was a decent hard worker. Good luck to everyone.

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