From Russian With Hate

This, I guess, is a Summer Associate abuse story, if that’s allowed.  I just finished my first year at a top-50 law school. The summer job hunt was brutal, and I didn’t get an “offer” until after my last final. But at least I got something—even if it only pays $11/hour to work at an insurance defense chop shop. No complaints about that because I won’t be here forever.  I’m learning how to answer interrogatories and make trial binders, which are two skills I hope will impress my next boss.

I guess the “abuse” part is the office manager.  It just so happens that she is my boss’s mail-order Russian bride. Seriously, that is not a joke; you read that right. A mail-order bride manages this law firm.

“Irena” is hot, blond, Russian and, according to the receptionist, “Tom,” the owner of the firm, met her last winter through a mail-order service. They got married right away, and he made her a citizen…and then office manager about a week before I started.

That’s fine and shouldn’t concern me. Who cares if the guy wants to let his stranger bride run his business into the ground? I’m here for a small paycheck, a few lines on my resume and a lot of experience. But what I’m not here for is to be a personal assistant/travel agent.

Two days ago, I got to my desk and found a barely literate note on a neon pink Post-it asking me to pick up two packages being held for her at the post office on my lunch break and to figure out how they can extend their trip to St. Thomas by two days after they’re done with their already-planned Virgin Island cruise.  I assume it will be their honeymoon.

First question: What lunch break? So far my only lunch break was on my first day.

I respectfully told Irena that I might be able to do them, if I had time. But I told her that her husband keeps me pretty busy and my first priority was work. She told me that it was a part of “work.”

The rest of day, every time Irena saw me, she would remind me about my “chores.” Each time I said, “Tom told me to do X, and I’m working on that right now.”

It turns out there was no time that day to do her list. I never had a minute to spare. I didn’t get any lunch, and the only break I had was three minutes in the afternoon to smoke a cigarette and down a Red Bull.

Of course, when Tom got back from his deposition that day, she pounced. Irena told him that I had been ignoring her all day, which I guess was technically true.

Tom immediately took her side. I showed him all the work that I had done that day, but he didn’t care. He reminded me that his wife was the office manager and that her requests are just as much firm business has his. I tried to speak up, but he told me I was lucky to even have a job this summer, and then he told me to make sure I got to her list tomorrow. 

I’ve since completed the list—and I had to do most it off the clock because Tom calls my hourly wage a “stipend” and says it’s based on a forty-hour week—no more, no less.

My summer will consist of taking orders from a bitchy Russian mail-order bride with a temper worse than Joe Stalin’s all summer long.  That’s abuse, right?

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16 Comments

  1. Wing Fat

    June 12, 2009 at 3:11 am

    Yes, job Is no good, but is job, no?  In day like this, you lucky to have pay job.  Job also good to put on resume, you say you work in law, even if there is Russian Wolfhound.  Because Wolfhound keep her man happy, you must also keep Wolfhound happy.  Then, when you get better job, you no work any more for Wolfhound. Best just suck it up and take money.

  2. Yakov

    June 12, 2009 at 5:10 am

    In Soviet Russia, law practices you!

  3. Ranger

    June 12, 2009 at 5:14 am

    I would’ve said f*** it. It seems like you’re working in SP or a VERY tiny firm. Unless this guy was somebody at like Skadden or Sidley, this job won’t really do much for you as you look for Big Firm experience. You’ve put in your work. put it down on the resume as work-experience and leave it at that. And I wouldn’t worry about the lack of a “reference”– Tom seems like a total jerk and wouldn’t be of much use, anyway.
    I’ve worked for the Gov’t both summers, and, while I wasn’t paid $11/hr, I have since been able to spin every job into something more prestigious after I leave, while working on cool stuff and getting tons of “practical” exposure. If you can figure out how to do it, with little or no pay, Gov’t work is the next best thing to being a BigLaw SA.

  4. BL1Y

    June 12, 2009 at 5:46 am

    In the United States you serve process on an opposing party.  In Russia, there is no opposing party!

  5. bassman

    June 12, 2009 at 6:04 am

    wake up and realize that as a clerk, you are there to kiss ass and get nothing else but a good reference and maybe some actual experience on the side. if the mail order wants you to sleep with her, start strippin

  6. Anonymous

    June 12, 2009 at 6:55 am

    powned

  7. JerryJD

    June 12, 2009 at 8:49 am

    This is really a trip. looks like you need to find a new firm.

  8. Worth it?

    June 12, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Christ, why not get a job bagging groceries at the local Safeway or as a mailman?  Either way you’d make more money, and your experience would be just as valuable as running someone’s errands.  And whether or not it would have been useful, any “reference” you’d get from Tom is probably already as good as burnt, so you’re not going to want to put this on your resume anyway.

  9. BL1Y

    June 12, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Worth it: Because like it or not, when she goes to apply for her next job it’ll help to have any law-related work this summer on her resume.  It’s not about the money and not about having actual experience, it’s about law firms wanting to see some legal job during your summer.

  10. Anon_0L

    June 12, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Think of it this way, you could be stuck in the same position with a 3500sq ft wife. At least she’s hot.
    Now, you may have scotched it by not being nice your first day, but you might have been able to parlay this into getting some from the hot Russian.

  11. CK4L

    June 12, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    quit yer bitchin’ and get off your high horse.  you went to a t50 firm, not a t15 firm.  this is the type of crap you’re gonna have to do until you graduate, and very likely beyond.  you’re lucky you didn’t get thrown out on your ass.

  12. Worth it?

    June 13, 2009 at 11:58 am

    BL1Y – I think not.  Do you really want to put this “law related employment” on your resume when the incoming call to check it is going to go to exactly the person who wants to burn you?  Can you say “bad reference”?  I don’t think so – a law clerk job from which the reference will be damaging is worse than volunteering at the local fire dept. or working something else non-law related.

  13. TTT Associate

    June 15, 2009 at 8:23 am

    The bright-side: you’re getting paid and actually working in a law firm (albeit a small one).  There are tons of kids from top law schools unemployed this summer so us employed folk don’t get to bitch.

    I go to a 3rd Tier law school and still got a pretty nice firm job at a medium-sized firm, making $20 an hour as a law clerk.  I am being as nice as I can to everyone at the office (lawyer or not) and thanking my stars I got this job.
    Let this be a lesson to you: Behind every lawyer is a paralegal or secretary or officer manager who really pulls the strings.  If you piss them off, you have dug yourself a hole and earned yourself quite a poor reputation

  14. BL1Y

    June 15, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Worth It: I sincerely doubt my current employer called my previous summer employer to see how if I was a complete screw up at that job.  I know this because they hired me.

  15. Robert The Mean

    June 15, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Good god are you a whiner!  Associates were rarely paid at all until a few decades ago. (PS: and things were gbbetter economically then than now) .  People in the entertainment biz routinely know that handling personal stuff is part of the job.  Its not like you landed a job at Cravath you know!  Observe. Learn. Move when you can.

  16. Chris

    June 24, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Remember this when you, hopefully, rise one day to be your own boss.  1) Dont ever hire your wife or a relative as this happens a lot in these situations/dont ever take a job at a firm where this situation exists.  2) I agree with the others who mention that you are likely to get a crappy reference now as the rushkie hates you and the attorney doesnt have the balls to put her in her place.  3) Top 50 is not impressive (no offense), thus you are likely going to have to put up with similar situation IF you are seeking a paid internship.  Unpaid ones might fare better for you.

    Cut your losses and move onto another job.

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