I forgot to mention that last Friday, December 12th, was when most of Heller Ehrman’s support staff would have received their bonuses with much of that based on the evaluations for the period October 2007 – September 2008.
Did anyone get a chance to complete their self-evaluation as requested by their manager during the chaos of the capsizing of the S.S. Heller Ehrman? I did, but that should surprise most of you, since I tend to get monumental tasks like self-evaluations out of the way early. That’s why your cruise director is known to make Martha Stewart look like a dirty hippie.
So in the spirit of giving this holiday season, I give to you the self-evaluation I actually submitted using that screwed up Ival or Eval or whatever system. And keep in mind this was submitted on September 15, 2008 – before the dissolution announcement on September 26, 2008.
1. Self Evaluation
1. Please comment on contributions you have made in the last year. For example, you may want to consider special projects, your impact on client/customer service and any improvements to your efficiency or production.
• The contributions I have made or attempted to make in this past year pale in comparison to those that I’ve made in years past. According to my records I have completed the following:
[Note: your Cruise Director decided to omit this very boring, very technical project section. Another gift to you.]
2. Please comment on any new skills you have developed and/or responsibilities you have assumed since your last evaluation.
• Unfortunately I don’t believe I’ve had the opportunity to develop any new skills since my last evaluation except for an increased sense of cynicism and skepticism as to the direction of Heller Ehrman. I guess this is my space and I’m going to use it, so you’ll have to bear with me while I have my Julia Sugarbaker moment:
After working for global law firms in an IT capacity for close to 20 years, after having seen the writing on the wall when I worked at Brobeck, and after gaining more information about the possible status of my position from outside sources, albeit somewhat sleazy (www.abovethelaw.com) and unreliable, than from the people I’ve actually worked with for over eight years, I am still amazed at the charade that Heller Ehrman management is performing and yet still calling it management.
While we attempt to trot out the half-dead, two-legged horse for yet another Dancing With Heller competition – with dance partner #4 I believe, there is one responsibility I’ve learned over the past year.
Well maybe two. Wait – learned is not the correct term – how about resurrected? That’s it. Two responsibilities that I’ve resurrected over the past year: I have a responsibility to myself (meaning managing to make a living and survive and perhaps enjoy what I do if that is possible) and as Heller has taught me, a responsibility to speak the truth, even if that means telling the emperor that he has no clothes.
I began expressing my concern to management late last year when the shareholder and other defections began. Perhaps I went through the wrong channels by directly emailing Matt Larrabee or perhaps what I had to say had no value. But those suggestions made back then were politely acknowledged and probably politely shelved. So much for feeling a part of Heller Ehrman. Back then, the title of my email was “I believe in Heller Ehrman.” Right now I think I’d be better off believing in fairies a la Peter Pan. At least they have peanut butter.
Here is what I don’t believe:
- Heller Ehrman can survive this current crisis and the firm that we knew a year ago will not exist at the end of 2008;
- management is treating its staff, particularly its professional support staff, with respect and dignity by keeping them uninformed;
- that the financial situation at Heller Ehrman is not as bad as some make it out to be;
- that management didn’t take the opportunity to radically change the way it does business – Heller has always been ahead of the curve in terms of certain trends but when management cannot engender loyalty or enthusiasm, how can you even follow a trend let alone make one? See the Professional Goals section for some of the ventures that I would have liked to pursue here at Heller but will most likely be doing so somewhere else.
Here is what I do believe:
- that I will be screwed in some new and different ways including lock up of 401k funds due to lack of administrative fee payment by Heller and by not being paid accrued vacation;
- that the firm will continue on its current course of dumb-sizing until there is really no one left to do much of anything. Wait. That feels like right now;
- that management will have squandered the great skills of so many great people here while looking out for themselves and their own versions of golden parachutes;
- that there will be attempts at “business as usual” this week and the coming weeks, while more people plan their exit so that they leave the ship’s deck at a slight slant and not when it is at a 90 degree angle;
- that the shareholders will come out of this much better than professional staff when all is said and done;
- that for years people will shake their heads and mutter “What a shame.”
Face it. We live in the decade of the Big Lie. The decade began with the swearing in of a dubiously elected president, a company called Enron that lied to its employees and stockholders as to its financial state right up to the very end, the arrest and conviction of CEOs (Tyco, Worldcom) for mismanagement and fraud, an administration claiming that a certain country had weapons that it didn’t and that a certain country was harboring terrorists when it didn’t, financial companies selling products to consumers that promised them the American Dream yet drove them into bankruptcy and ruin.
It’s nice to keep hearing the same doublespeak from Heller management. Phrases are a nice life preserver to buoy one’s spirits in a time of crisis. I believe the Katrina victims had theirs (“Help is on the way”), as did our schoolchildren (“No Child Left Behind”) and even our boys and girls overseas (“Mission Accomplished.”)
And if there isn’t deception at least there is always distraction. And I think that is what management is counting on. Keep a business as usual appearance and we’ll distract them from what’s really going on.
There is great danger in only a few deciding what is genuine information and what is not. Misuse of power comes from not disclosing information. Or only disclosing it in condensed versions or soundbites.
Finally, if management thinks that feeding me these bits will suffice then I have to speak honestly and say that no, it won’t. I can’t afford to make decisions – on how to pursue a project and help make Heller the best law firm that it used to be or personal decisions as to my livelihood – based on sound bites and distractions. My mother didn’t raise any stupid children, although there are two ugly ones still at home.
3. Please list your professional goals for the coming year. You may want to address the Professional Support Staff Core Competencies in your goals; they are as follows: Client Service, Initiative, Ownership, Resourcefulness, Effectiveness and Flexibility
• So, what would I have wanted to accomplish professionally to benefit both me and Heller this past year?
What will I most likely be doing in the next year? I’ll let you in on some of it:
- I won’t be working for attorneys. I’m committed to no longer work in an environment where people can bill $595 an hour yet only see 1/3 of it. Even I know this is stupid. Heller should have paved the way for the virtual law firm years ago. I’ve been telecommuting from my home in Chicago for four years now and the rapid pace of technology has been dizzying while most Hellerites continued to work in their expensive brick and mortar palaces – and using Times New Roman 13pt font no less (WTF?). Heller had the opportunity for several win wins if only management could have seen those wins and those opportunities.
- I won’t work where there is a large geek gap with a technological gerontocracy clinging to what is familiar at the expense of trying and leveraging new technologies. Think Law Firm 2.0 – Heller could have defined it. And power resides in those who control definitions. I no longer want to fight a bunch of old f***s over silly things like font sizes. I want to work where the majority of people are green and paperless. Where people work at home and feel so good about their jobs that they drop what they are doing at any time of the day or night and help resolve situations so that a global firm can survive.
- I will work where staff is respected especially their home lives. Heller had always been at the forefront of this and will probably be that way until the end. That is one thing I am thankful that Heller has clung to.
The law firm, nay – any professional firm, wanting to survive to the next decade had better look towards these trends and opportunities:
- web 2.0, work 2.0
- open source – Microsoft products suck – you and I know it. That’s another emperor who needs to be told a bit of news.
- social networking to the max
- virtualization – not just servers but people. When you outsource don’t dumbsize. And allow more workers to work at home – they’ll be happy, you’ll be happy, we’ll all be happy and we’ll get a lot more done.
I know that in my next ventures I will be meeting many of the fine Hellerites I’ve come to know and love.
Unfortunately we’ll reflect on Heller as one does when you remember an old love affair, or an old friend who died too young.