Monday, January 31, 2005

Downsize Me

Friday, January 28, 2005 - 4:45 p.m.

As I was walking by my boss’ office, on my way to the copy room, I heard my boss say, “JP, can you come in here for a minute? And close the door, would you?”

That’s not unusual. Usually late on a Friday, I’m asked to make a beer run or go get some wine from the cellar or some such shit.

“JP, I have some good news and some bad news.”

~Actually thinking that he’s going to tell me there’s no room in the budget for a raise this year, it’s that time. I’m prepared for this.~ “Ok.”

Hesitating - “The good news is that what I am about to tell you has NOTHING to do with your performance here with our firm. You are a great worker. You have done a marvelous job. You are a loyal worker with great people skills and our clients all love you.”

~Thinking to myself - greeeeaatttt, it’s definitely not a raise, since that has nothing to do with his motive for calling me in here in the first place.~

“JP, the problem is that our accountant has told us (meaning him and his partner) that we need to cut overhead. We simply don’t have the cases coming in and/or settling to keep spending the money that we do every month.”


“We have done everything we know how to do. We’ve sold things. We’ve gotten rid of paid cell service for the attorneys here. We’ve cut as much as we can cut.”


“The bottom line is this - we have cut everything we know how to cut here. However, you are a luxury. A wonderful luxury, but a luxury nonetheless. We are not going to leave you out in the cold, but what we would like you to do is take the next one to two months to look for a new job. You, of course, would have the freedom to interview at will, whenever you want to, just keep me in the loop. If it drags on past two months, we will continue to keep you here as long as we can afford it. I will give you the best recommendation possible and will do everything I can to assist you in securing a new job. I’m very, very sorry. I wish there was a way to keep you here, but there’s really not.”

“Ok. Uhhhhh, well, uhhhhh, ok. Um, I guess you have to do what you have to do.”

“Yes, it really is a numbers game and, unfortunately, we just can’t afford you any more.”

“Ok then, I’ll do my best to find a new job within a month or two.”

“Thanks, JP. I am really sorry that it’s come to this.”

~I’m dying on the inside, but put on my best smile.~ “Hey, what can you do? I know you well enough to know that if there was a way, you’d keep me on here. I thank you for employing me. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

I left the room. Shock and awe doesn’t sufficiently cover the emotions I’ve been feeling since then. My life has been turned upside down by this news. I knew that the firm was in trouble financially, but I didn’t think it would come to this.

I have told many of you here that I have the best job in Portland. I do. This firm is a great place to work. It’s almost like we’re a family here. I look forward to getting out of bed every single day and leaving my kids to come here and help others with their problems. It’s the perfect mix of casual, professional, personal and family here. We normally have a dog or two running around the office. If I have a doctor’s appointment or one of my kids has a school function that I need to be at, I just go. I don’t check in with anyone. I don’t jump through 90 hoops to walk out the front door, I just go. I can start a half hour early every day so I can take an hour and a half lunch to go work out. It’s just a rare perfect fit. Combine that with my salary, perks and bonuses and I’m going to be hard-pressed to find a job to replace this one. They don’t grow on trees. I truly cannot afford to take a pay cut, but I may just have to because I’m probably in the top 5% salary-wise of all paralegals here in Portland.

The thing that upsets me the most is that I left a stable firm to come over here to this one. I could have spent my whole career at my last firm and retired, had I chosen to do so. I didn’t make nearly as much, but it was also a nice fit for me. I was assured by my boss that this firm was stable and I’d be here a long, long time as long as I performed. The other upsetting thing is that as soon as they can afford a paralegal here, they’ll give MY JOB to someone else. I was the first paralegal here and I had planned to be the only one here for a while.

As far as “cutting overhead,” I think the problem here is that both partners came from successful defense firms where the money was steady and free-flowing. Being plaintiffs’ attorneys is vastly different in that if you don’t win the case, you don’t get paid. However, they seem to spend money like water here. I mean, we probably have $25,000 worth of Persian rugs here, $50,000 worth of art work hanging on the walls and wine in the cellar. They just hired another attorney which, in my opinion, we didn’t need. Also, my boss has a Porsche Cayenne Turbo sitting in the driveway that cost him $87,000. That’s to say nothing of the Porsche Carrera S that sits in his garage at home. He rarely drives it. Plus, he just remodeled his house to the tune of $250,000. There’s plenty of money, they just spend it too rapidly.

I’m mad. I know it’s not personal, but fuck (or should that be butt fuck?), it feels personal. This is my job dammit. I made this little ‘team’ what it is. I was the glue that held this team together when my boss fired his secretary because she was more worthless than tits on a bull, as well as the fact that he wanted to hire Vicki away from his old firm. I did both my job and his secretary’s job for three months while Vicki prepared to leave her old firm. I was told afterwards that I was going to be given a bonus to cover my extra work. I was given a bonus ($1,200), which I used to go see my grandmother before she died. I was grateful. However, when Christmas rolled around that year, I was shorted on my year-end bonus and told that “I had already received part of my Christmas bonus in February.” I never said a word. I was happy to get my year-end bonus AND to have been able to go see Nanny before she passed.

Likewise, I have let some job opportunities slip through my grasp in the past six months. I’ve been offered interviews and opportunities to send my resume into other firms. I’ve turned them all down because you can’t put a price on loving your place of employment. I truly thought I’d grow old here, if I chose to. Blind sided doesn’t begin to describe my feeling. Actually, I feel like I’ve been hit in the head with a brick.

I truly don’t know what to do. I mean, I know what to do - look for another job, I have no choice. But I mean where? Do I go to a bigger firm where I have more security and less individuality and more office politics? Do I go to another small firm where I can shine, but won’t be paid as well and may just price myself out of their market? Do I stay in Portland where it rains seven months out of the year, summers are short and I feel a little out of place? Do I move back to Florida where the sun shines and my boys will have an edge when it comes to playing high school sports? After two months, do I file for unemployment and spend a couple of months just selling stuff on e-bay to supplement my income until my lease on my townhouse is up? I’m truly at a loss.

I was hopeful when 2005 started. However, the downward spiral continues.

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