anon168 wrote:ResJudicata738 wrote:I am looking for some advice about an internship at a law firm I have been working at part time for approximately the past 5 months. The situation is a little complicated, so bear with me while I explain it.
First off, I am a 3L. The firm I work at is very small; the only permanent employees are one attorney ("Chuck") and another J.D. ("John") who only acts as a law clerk. I initially met Chuck and his firm because my girlfriend was their client. She asked about the possibility of me doing some work for them, which led to an interview, and ultimately to me working as an intern there. I'm not entirely sure what to call my position, actually. The firm specializes in medical malpractice, but also takes on a number of random cases. I have been working on all sorts of litigation documents, such as complaints, RFAs, RPDs, answers, settlement brochures, etc., as well as various research. I also generally assist around the office (answering phones, talking to potential clients, contacting existing clients, drafting random documents for Chuck, etc.). Keep in mind that, while I am not compensated, these are the tasks that other people in the office are paid to do.
Chuck is pretty cold around the office and I usually interact with John about what I need to be doing on a given day, or what changes I need to make to anything I am working on. It doesn't really bother me how Chuck acts. If he wants to have that type of relationship with his employees, that's his prerogative. It's frustrating at times when he hardly gives me any feedback--negative or positive--about my work. Still, that's also his decision.
Continuing, my girlfriend still has some interaction with Chuck. While he is not friendly towards me, he is very open and talkative with her. Ok, she's a pretty girl and I'm just some law student; still not a huge deal. So, my girlfriend happened to ask Chuck about the possibility of me getting paid for my work (which I didn't ask her to do). This is where my issue lies.
Chuck and my girlfriend have a phone conversation wherein Chuck explains why I should not be paid. While that does not please me, I let it roll off my back. Chuck has never expressed this sort of dissatisfaction to me personally. John has expressed that I am doing a good job at the firm, so I am also a little confused. A few days later Chuck asks my girlfriend to come into his office for seemingly unrelated matters. I don't know exactly what happened at the meeting between Chuck and my girlfriend, but somehow the topic switched to my work / why I am not getting paid. Chuck proceeds to tell my girlfriend what his problems are with my work. But he doesn't stop there. He proceeds to show her documents I have been working on and point out his problems with them, and to tell her how I am "not ready to be an attorney". He asks her not to tell me that he has shown her these things or made these comments.
To me, this is very inappropriate. I am not sure he is crossing any ethical or legal boundaries, but it sure as hell isn't how I think a law office (or business of any sort) should be run. I am inclined to stop working for him (at this point I feel like I am doing him a favor as I routinely do for free what he compensates undergraduate students for doing), and I think I should at least confront him about it. What irks me the most is that he holds himself out as being this very professional and ethical man, while to me that seems far from the truth. Anyway, I am not trying to vent about my feelings regarding the situation. I am just curious if others think this behavior is not acceptable, or have any recommendations about what I should do.
The way you are phrasing your question and the situation in general just begs for sympathy.
But like everything in life there are probably 100 sides to this story, if not more.
Let's just take the facts as you've presented them, shorn of any of judgment or bias.
1. You were work for free
2. You seem to like John
3. You don't appear to like Chuck
4. Your girlfriend is a client of Chuck's
5. Your girlfriend asks Chuck if you can get paid for your work
6. Chuck declines your girlfriend's request
7. Chuck shows your girlfriend your workproduct
From all of that, you claim that Chuck (1) has it in for you and (2) was off-base in showing your workproduct to your GF.
From all of that,
I can also spin it to say that Chuck only showed GF your workproduct to justify not paying you. It was, after all, your GF who approached Chuck about getting you paid, and Chuck being the sage business person that he is, and knowing that your GF is his client, did not want to offend her. Maybe Chuck feels like your workproduct is subpar but doesn't want to can you for fear of losing the business your GF is providing him. So he takes the middle ground -- keeps you around on an "intern" basis to humor the GF, but not pay you so that he's not out-of-pocket for subpar workproduct.
Life's never as simple as people say it is. We can all sit here and listen to your side of the story and bang on Chuck, but life's not always that simple. If one wanted to be a total prick about it, one might ask, "why, as a 3L, you're slumming in a solo shop based only on a connection that GF got you?" But we won't go there.