Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Was it career suicide?

You'd think I spoke out against Stalin or the Genovese family. All I did was speak up against a group of men and women who run a business. They sit around and think of ways to protect and increase the million plus profits they each take home at the end of the year, and firing some underling and sabotaging her reputation in the process is par for the course in their world. What does it say about our times and our profession that calling them out should be considered so unusual? Shouldn't we all be protecting ourselves against bullies like them?

By the reaction, you wonder if McCarthyism hadn't ended in the 50s. Do I have to worry about being blacklisted because I didn't subscribe to their prescribed view? Is my career on the fritz because I didn't take their hush money and disappear quietly? Are we still living in a time when I have no choice but to betray myself and what I know to be true in exchange for job security? No, this isn't about something as grand as political rights, but social/economic pressures don't exist in a vacuum.

One of the partners, the same one who made the comment that my prior year's review may have been "over-inflated", had the audacity to tell one of the clients that "[I] had left the firm because [my] husband is a successful entrepreneur and [I] no longer need to work." You'd think someone who chooses to make a callous decision would at least have the balls to own up to it. Who can explain what happened to these people in the process of becoming the kind of people they are now?

So what are the fallouts? Are there fallouts? Since my email somehow became public, I have received hundreds of emails offering support and sympathy. Several in-house counsel also contacted me to express outrage at the firm's handling of the situation and stated their intention never to hire them. One GC emailed me to let me know that she has fired them. She became my hero. Maybe the world really isn't so bad after all.

I'm not a cynic. I believe in notions of justice. And I like to think that I played a part in reminding others to play fair.


  1. Count this as another message of support. I wish I had had your courage to expose the firm that fucked me over when I was pregnant! It's disgusting how commonplace pregnancy discrimination is at Biglaw.

  2. Another message of support. Biglaw screwed me for other reasons, right at the beginning of my career. I spent a few months unemployed wondering why I went to law school at all. Happily I landed on my feet, but yes many of them are ogres.

  3. Just so you know, there are BigLaw staffers like me (in the law firm IT field for 20+ years) who look up to you as well.

    In following your story I realized that you've been able to put into words some of the mismanagement techniques I've observed over those years.

    You will surely land on your feet, firmly planted, and pursue a career that is not only rewarding but also with ethics and standards intact.

  4. hello, you did the right thing - those people will understand someday when they find themselves in worst circumstances and no one beside them (judging by what they did, i doubt they have any family that actually loves them). what goes around comes around. and now you can surround yourself with people that are real human beings.

  5. Although you've already surely received so many messages of support, here's another one. A friend of mine had emailed me the posting of your message to your former firm on ATL, and it was just yet another piece of evidence that this field can be truly disgusting and that it was a mistake to go to law school, at least for me. While I'm sure no one ever wants to be forced out, I hope it comes to be a blessing in disguise for you.

  6. Here's what I don't understand-- and I'm not trying to be flippant-- you (and the other posters who practice a similar hypocrisy) defended Es who did this kind of thing to workers every day, so what makes you so different or so deserving of empathy? I think it's hilariously ironic what happened to you. You worked for union-busting bastards whose overall efforts over the years have destroyed job security and dignity for countless Americans. What goes around...

  7. Uh, speak for yourself, Anonymous. 90% of my Biglaw corporate lit practice involved companies fighting over who breached whose contract first. The other 10% involved companies fighting over who stole whose intellectual property. Not a union bust in the bunch. Which is a good thing, because I come from a union family and would have been disowned for that shit.

  8. Ms. Oh,

    You rock. Seriously. You are my hero.

    Fortunately, I work at a firm that wouldn't ever treat me like that. But, I teach law and tell my students that BIGLAW isnt all it is cracked up to be.

    Hang strong. Maybe you committed THAT career suicide, but you and Jeff will be happier for it. And, if it is any consolation, you are a serious bad ass and inspiration to at least thousands of people.

    They offered you hush money, and you told them to shove it right up their ass.

    You should be proud of yourself.

  9. Career Suicide??? I think PH could be guilty for attempted Career Homicide. Keep up the good work. You're an inspiration to many.

  10. It isn't so much that you spoke out, it is more than you spoke at all. As fungible attorneys, the less individualality we show, the easier it will be to interchange us. Now you will always be the nail that sticks out. The Asian woman who speaks.

    I hope that you continue to speak.

  11. I admire your courage in speaking out.

    I was hired into a mid-size law firm right out of law school. Because I was an older graduate I had much specialized experience for which I was hired for. The boss turned out to be a terrible mentor, immature, impatient, abusive (toward everyone), punitive and overall demoralizing.

    He would screw things up all by himself, ignore my suggestions, and then blame me when something didn't go his way. It was impossible for him to do anything wrong so he turned to the easiest target to batter, the new associate. I tried to talk with him about my concerns to no avail.

    One day I brought in my suitcase, packed up my entire office, left him a resignation letter and committed the ultimate sin...I walked out and never turned back.

    Nobody needs to have their reputation and self-esteem eroded by arrogant partners. Lawyers worked hard for their license. No career is worth that. I'm glad I did it. I currently have three job offers to mull over (much better pay) and have never looked back.

    It is up to associates to teach the cronies that it is no longer tolerable to abuse, chew up and spit out new attorney's with no consequences.

    You go girl!

  12. I commend you for what you did!!! Although, I have never worked for Biglaw, because I look too Hispanic, most of my friends do. And I see how their lives sucks, Not just their social lives, but their marriage and family relationships.

    So I support you too!! It saddens me that as an attorney, when we denounce injustices in our profession, our peers are ready to stand up, oppose the denouncer and criticize. Instead of supporting the person. Ironnically,they oppose even though they know how much injustice there is and that you are revealing the truth.

  13. I love your blog, but this particularly is an excellent post, Shinyung. People pass around their own cowardice and silence like a disease, telling you that you have committed career suicide when you have only written plainly, caringly, and with good intentions. Thank you for rejecting the fear mongering.

  14. You're MY hero.

    - Female minority JD/MBA student, Class of 2011, second-guessing my chosen profession...

  15. What is this all about? Is this the BLOG or the BLAWG about the woman who was working for Paul Hastings?

  16. I had an experience similar to yours at Paul Hastings, though not nearly as flagrant. I received the same "transition" agreement, and took the deal, for family economic reasons. Thanks for having the courage to do what you did. I hope it is continuing to have results that wreak justice on Paul Hastings. I worked at no less than 6 BigLaw firms, before settling down as a plaintiffs' securities lawyer. Paul Hastings was by far the most cutthroat place I have ever experienced -- made worse by the fact that, with the rare exception, it is filled with grasping mediocrities. Those people were the biggest set-up artists I've ever known. I realize yours is a personal blog, but I hope you will write more about the fallout from your experience. Perhaps it will give hope and courage to other pour souls locked in hell as Paul Hastings associates.

  17. Hi, Al,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I obviously read your description of PH with great interest. = ) I am glad to hear that you've landed at a happier place. I wish you the best of luck!