Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not fired, and ANGRY AT G-D FOR IT.

It has been a few days since my last blog entry where I was sure I was being set up to be fired, and to my consternation and disappointment, I wasn't fired. I received a few e-mails from readers about the difference between being fired for cause versus being laid off, and one thing that I kept in my head was that I wasn't doing anything wrong -- despite the fact that I would love nothing more than to be laid off so that I can be free of this negative environment, I still had a halachic duty to perform my work diligently and not to intentionally get fired. I kept a clear paper trail of the work that I did, the results that I produced, and despite the fact that I submitted everything on time and ready to be filed, we still missed the 4-month patent application deadline.

I was quite annoyed at this concept of being fired for cause, but the law in the state that I'm working is that regardless of whether your boss chews you out when you do something wrong, if he lets you go back to work afterward and doesn't fire you on the spot, and if he later changes his mind and fires you for your screw-up anyway, that is not considered being fired for cause because he let you go back to work. In my mind its similar to the adultry divorce cause of action -- you can't use it if you reunited with your spouse after the adultry and then change your mind and get a divorce anyway. You'll lose in court.

Anyway, all that is side news. Aside from the shock and terror of being fired because I felt that I was being set up, I am even more upset now that I haven't been fired at all. Look, I prayed many times for G-d to direct me in the correct path, and if I wasn't supposed to be fired, then I would accept that. I was just hoping that wouldn't be his plan. I have plans. I really want to leave and to move on. I am very -- VERY -- unhappy at my current job. I have no friends there. I have insufficient skills to do the work they're having me do. I can't concentrate because I am so stressed out most of the day. I am tormented by my boss who waits until I have my jacket on to leave for the day before he pulls me into his office for an hour long meeting grilling me about something or other, all the while knowing that I was leaving for the day. Even on Fridays when he knows I need to leave early for Shabbos. Since I've been working for him, there hasn't been ONE Friday these past few months where he hasn't delayed me in some form or another by calling me in for a discussion or asking me to do some task AFTER it became time for me to leave for the weekend. Most of the time so far I've been able to deal with it, in that I usually leave an hour earlier than I need to, just to account for unknowns such as traffic and delays. Cutting back to the point, it's a very negative environment and I wish my tenure there would end so that I can move on with my life.

I made the decision with my wife when I went to visit my wife's family that either way -- whether I'm fired or not -- I'm going to leave my job and we're going to move to where my wife's family is so that we can be nearer to them and so my wife and I can go back to school -- me for an electrical engineering degree, and my wife -- well, she wants to keep that private, because it doesn't jive with her other degree.

That being said, I also decided that I do not necessarily want or need to work for a law firm upon graduation. Rather, I decided that as soon as I can, I will be opening up my own patent law practice. I purchased the "How to Start & Build a Law Practice" by Jay G. Foonberg book, and I've been reading it and I believe that I fit the personality of one who would start his own law practice. Thus, in response to Anonymous' comment, you're right. Law firms suck. They're conformists and they don't give people like me even a chance, EVEN THOUGH I will have the electrical engineering degree. You know what I say? Screw them. I will get the degree anyway and I will generate my own business. I have hundreds of contacts with technology companies from working with them over the past years, and am friends with MANY patent attorney lawyers. I have no doubt that I can generate enough business to keep me busy for the rest of my life. However, I do feel that if I am to stay in patent law (which I must because the state in which I will be practicing patent law and starting a patent practice is NOT a state I am admitted to -- I have checked into this a billion times -- there is no issue with this because the law being practiced is federal law, not state law, and I am licensed by the US Patent & Trademark Office to practice patent law) I do need a specialty, because my liberal arts undergraduate degree just won't cut it in the patent world, even working as a generalist patent attorney on my own. I do believe an EE degree WILL help me get business, and to get a job working in-house for a technology firm later on if I choose to.

Now here's the G-d part. I am under SO MUCH PRESSURE knowing that if I don't get laid off by the end of the summer, I will be forced to quit and forego unemployment insurance and I'll have to find a way to raise money fast to pay for my wife and my schooling and our living expenses all the while I am back in school. This has been putting an undue amount of pressure on me, and I am having a difficult time dealing with it. I am finding myself angry at G-d for not having my boss fire me when he had the chance and when I had no work to do, and I don't understand (not like I need to) why he is not making things easy for me, and if he has other plans for me like he usually does contrary to what I think his plan is for me, I wish he'd make his plans known so I don't have to have a heart attack or a stroke from the stress of not knowing what is in store and hating... HATING where I am in life. I was crying today and I asked G-d, "what have I done that is so bad or so wrong that you punish me each day having me stay in an environment where I'm tormented and kicked around like a punching bag? Why do I deserve this?" and I find myself getting more and more distant from G-d in SPITE and ANGER at him making my life so difficult. I have paid my dues. I have always worked hard. Why is it that life is so darn difficult? Why is it that people who did not go to college and did not get educated take home more money every week with their $25,000 annual income than I do with my six-figure school loans and mounting interest that I can't get out from underneath? Why am I forced to be a slave in this lawyer job world system? Why can't I just say sionara to all my debt, declare bankruptcy, tell everyone to take a flying hike and just disappear out of the system?? Why?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thoughts prior to tomorrow...

I wanted to share a few of my thoughts prior to entering the workplace tomorrow morning. I have spent much time thinking about this and when this whole fiasco started about being framed to be fired regardless of what the outcome of my work, I decided that if becoming fired were to become imminent, I wouldn't lower myself to the level of the one doing the mischief. There are things going on in this world that I cannot see or understand, and this certainly appears to be one of them.

This is a world of chaos; a world of unknown forces, and a world of backward plans that always seem to go awry just when I expect them to go a certain way. I've always joked that G-d has a sense of humor, but honestly, I don't know him. All I know now is that I am scared and I am intimidated that it appears as if fate has taken hold of the pages in the book of my life and have started doing the writing. How lucky I feel to have this happen. I am blessed. I have always believed that if you do not move in the direction of G-d's plan, then G-d will kick your butt or gently "help" you to move in his direction. That is the privilege I have, and to my knowledge, that is exactly what is happening right now.

I have an enemy. I have a nemesis. I have someone who has turned his fierce attention towards me in judgment, but he has no eyes and no power to judge and he is powerless in comparison to the judgment he will need to go through to reconcile his actions against me, a devout Jew who is nullified to his creator. I am a leaf that is carried by the wind; he swims against a current of angry war angels who only waiting to unleash their fury onto him. This is war, and he is the only one carrying a sword.

And yet I feel sorry for him. He's thinking with his head, rationalizing, and making business decisions all the while convincing himself that he has no emotion in his decision, yet he has the blood running through his veins which have a thirst for my demise. Apparently harmless, apparently friendly, apparently void of understanding that he is the messenger of G-d who is delivering to me my freedom from him and yet while he deals to me a kiss of kindness from above, he will be punished for his acts of violence against a Jew and I look away and shake my head in disappointment for the business relationship and trust I tried to build between us. Sour milk runs dry.

Now let me refocus on my feelings. I have no doubt that G-d will have some fun just to show me that I am not privy to his plan, and for some cosmic reason, I will not be fired tomorrow despite my hopes that I will be fired. I fully expect that things will smooth themselves out and I will continue working for another month or so before I run out of work or before it becomes time to leave on my own accord without dispersions or exiles from apparent wrongdoings. I am so sad about this likely fate that I want to cry at the added difficulty *not* being fired will visit upon me and that I would rather just take the red pill and slip into a deep sleep and wake up in the next chapter of my life. I no longer have the strength to ponder and to fight. I just want to know what I should do and what path I should take.

So there you have it. Tomorrow is the faithful day and I am faithless in my version of how I understand things will unfold and yet I am faithful in the fact that there is a fate and there is a time and a place for everything. G-d, show me your plan. I stand ready at the gates.

-Zoe Strickman

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Boss ultimatum letter -- get me the finished application by Monday, "or else."

I have a follow-up to my last post. I came home on Friday after working hard all day on the patent application (I completed it, with the exception of having the paralegals write up a few of the figures), and I realized after I left that I didn't write my boss a status update letter like I usually do -- this was never a requirement, but I have been doing so as a way to cover my butt (Ahuva) and to keep a track record of the work I did as he's been trying to remove me from my position from the day I first took off early on a Friday for Shabbos.

My boss and I haven't spoken in days which appears to be the kind of silent treatment he has a history of giving his employees before they get called in for the "you're fired" meeting. No sweat, I thought. I had nothing to lose because I understood that this would have happened regardless of whether I did good work (which I believe I did *if* he ever read it) or poor work. I told my wife that I do believe I was sabotaged here, first with my boss killing off every project I was involved in, and then cornering me about this application and wasting my time making changes to the instructions without even reading my work.

So doing the responsible thing, having completed the specification for the patent and the figures (with a few exceptions which I described above), I decided to log into my work e-mail remotely and write my boss a status letter so that he can take a look at my work just in case he wanted to. As I was writing him my e-mail, he wrote me a short ultimatum letter, something like "I expect to have a completed application on my desk first thing Monday morning, or else." After reading that, I saw where his thinking was headed, and so I decided to add a paragraph saying the unsaid things. In short, I am no longer afraid or intimidated by him. He cannot hurt me or intimidate me any more. I have pasted the letter I wrote back to him below.

Dear [Boss],

Since our discussion, I made some good progress re-writing the specification from the point of view you suggested. With a few exceptions which I will list below, the figures appear to be in order, and the specification has advanced almost to the point where we will be able to review the application on Monday together and present it to the client for his suggestions. The next due date would have been 3/15/09, but even with that falling out on a Monday, I am of the understanding that even though we wanted to be prepared to submit the application by then, you did not send the set of claims I sent you last week on to the client for approval and thus even without the required back-and-forth discussions that you said would have had to take place with regard to the specification, we would still not make this deadline.

The last thing that needs to happen before I give the application to you for review is that contrary to me trying to consolidate the figures from the initial specification, I came to the conclusion this morning that all of the figures relating to the XYZ system should be included for the disclosure to be complete, and that it would have been way too time consuming and complex to try to move forward without them unless you wanted to remove the entire XYZ system from the invention which in my opinion would go against what the client is looking for. Thus, when Bonnie returns Monday from her daughter's wedding, I will have her create the figures from one of the templates we have, unless you are able to retrieve them from the client because the copies we have are inadequate for use.

Lastly, I was thinking about what you said about me "spinning my wheels" with regard to the specification. I am hesitant to say this, but I do feel as if my wheels were spun because I feel as if I had different instructions at each point of writing and re-writing the specification. Had we sat down initially and discussed the figures rather than having me draw them up without review and then write the specification around them only to find out that the figures were not correct causing me to have to review and rewrite much of the application, and had we gone step-by-step and you reviewed my work as I went along as this was the first specification I have written for you, I believe many of the billed hours could have been spared.

All this being said, I do believe you will get a complete draft by Monday morning, but there is almost no chance you'll get the figures that Bonnie will have to write up when she returns.

Have a good weekend,
Zoe Strickman

I must add that I found it interesting (and a bit amusing) that my boss wrote me the ultimatum e-mail long after I left on Friday knowing (hoping?) that I wouldn't have received it until I got into the office Monday morning; that way, he could argue that had I been at work until 5pm like every other employee should be, I would have received that e-mail and if I were a dedicated employee, I would have worked through the weekend (even abandoning the Sabbath if necessary) to get the application on his desk by the time he asked for it. Obviously that is not going to happen, as my part of the application is complete and I am not the paralegal who draws the figures.

Let's see what comes of this now...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Zoe to be fired from his job?? The perfect storm of events at the law office.

Okay, it's been a few weeks since I last wrote because I had a job emergency come up that needed to be taken care of. In short, my boss has been holding work back from me these past few months causing a whole bunch of problems, and he has been threatening to fire me because there apparently is not enough work in the company to keep me employed.

This would be a big problem if it were true. I believe that I don't have enough work to do -- I've been complaining about that for some time to my higher-ups in the law firm. One time I wrote a letter to the partners asking for work and my boss (the partner to whom I am assigned to work under) stormed into my office screaming at me that I will get myself in trouble by rocking the boat. It was only later that I found out that there was plenty of work in the company, but my boss was keeping much of it and not assigning it to me despite my outstanding record of producing good work and way before the deadlines. When starving me of projects to work on didn't work (because I started to look for work with the other partners), he decided to work on another approach. He thought, "let's overload Zoe with deadlines he can't possibly meet."

Then I would go from famine to feast where I would be given a project that should take around 20-30 hours and a week or so to complete, and I was given the project to do TWO DAYS before the deadline, causing me to be at work until all hours of the night for nights in a row leaving my wife stranded taking care of the babies more-than full-time. I saw this as a test, and the three-or-four times this happened, I did what I was supposed to and I completed the project producing efficient, high quality work.

This last part however is what caused the emergency. This time around, my boss decided to give me a very complex and poorly written patent application to fix up, and I spend a number of hours and I fixed it up. Then he told me that I was supposed to draft the specification from scratch, so I got to work, and every day I e-mailed him where I was, a copy of my work, and questions I had on the path I was taking. He never read my work, never answered my e-mails, and never gave me any direction. Instead, after spending hours at a time going fully down one path, without looking at my work, he would tell me that he wanted me to write the specification in a different way, causing me to spend hours redoing everything I just did the previous time. Then when I completed my work, he would tell me to do it a different way, and I would redo my work all over again without him looking at the previous version. This has been going on daily for the past two months now. I did raise objections to him not reading my work or giving me feedback, but he insisted that he'll only look at the completed application, however, each set of directions he gave contradicted the previous set of directions, yet, I was able to do what he said, exactly as he told me to do it so I didn't think it was so bad. However, I did notice the HUGE amount of hours that were mounting up on this project, and I knew how many hours the client expected it to take and so I saw a catastrophe about to happen.

In short, prior to leaving work on Friday, he came into my office demanding a completed version of the claims and the specification. When I told him what I already e-mailed him, he started on the "no, I didn't want X. I wanted it Y." Funny enough, the way he wanted it was EXACTLY the way I gave it to him the previous version. Had he read the work I was giving him, he would have not made that mistake. Anyway, he demanded to see a copy of the specification as I had it (as if I wasn't sending him updates every day), and I confronted him about not getting feedback from him and so he agreed to meet me on Monday to review my work.

On Monday, we met and he was frustrated and he did not understand the flow of the patent application, and he wanted it a certain way which was in direct conflict with the way I had all 60 pages of the specification written. He also demanded that I give him an accounting of the hours I billed on the project because he couldn't figure out where I was spinning my wheels (pretending to be oblivious to or forgetting the fact that I was spinning my wheels following the different versions of his instructions). I was sure I was going to be fired, but by that time, I was no longer worried about getting fired because I figured out his game and getting fired appeared to be a certainty; I just couldn't figure out when it would happen. It appears to me as if he was either completely mismanaging the project, or he was intentionally causing me to redo my work and spinning my wheels to make me appear to be incompetent. I would give him the benefit of the doubt, but he has done things in the past to make me understand that he is always looking for a new way to cause me to be next in line in the unemployment office.

Anyway, my plan is that if I get fired, I will move my family to the state where our in-laws are, because my wife would really appreciate the help and the company. I would also return to school full-time to finish the electrical engineering degree I have been working on part time since I graduated law school and got this job. My wife also wants to go back to school, and so together we would be students again. To support this change, we would either take out loans (an option I am uncomfortable with) or one or both of us can get a part-time job to pay for our expenses while going back to school. Then, by the time we graduate, my wife will be able to go to work in her new field (she disliked her former occupation), and by then, the economy will hopefully have recovered.

While my wife is encouraging me to quit my job and go back to school regardless of whether I get fired, my opinion is that it would be nice to be fired so that I can receive an unemployment paycheck while we move to the new location and set up shop to go to school. Anyway, this is my plan, but I feel a moral responsibility NOT to do a chilul hashem and so I am working my hardest to finish this project and work diligently on every other project that comes my way until it is time for me to move on.

That being said, I couldn't help to think that it was a perfect storm of events where I had my first review with my boss this Monday, on the day I was fasting and leaving early, and the day before I was taking paid time off for Purim (I arranged this months in advance), and the 4-month date for the patent application is due this Sunday (which means in the patent world that it could be submitted on Monday), however I noticed the most interesting thing.

My boss has not shared the final and complete claim set to the client in over two weeks and the client is asking for it. Additionally, there is almost a certainty that we will miss the 4-month date for submitting the patent application because with all the wasted time, the half-day on Monday (the fast of Esther), and the day off on Tuesday, there is absolutely NO WAY it can be finished by the due date. Thus, I am almost certain that I will be fired.

To add evidence to my case, I had an office action due this past Monday. I had the completed office action prepared, completed, AND REVIEWED by him the week beforehand, yet he intentionally missed the deadline for filing my response to the office action (a slight note here, he demands that all filings with the USPTO be in his name regardless of whether he wrote the response or not). I was confounded when I found out he did this, but then it occurred to me that with the apparent mess-up with the huge amount of billing on the current application coupled with missing this Monday's deadline (even if I completed it in time which I technically could, my boss told me that he wouldn't submit it because he would need for it to go back and forth a number of times between him and the client which would take at least two weeks time), my boss is creating "evidence" to have me terminated.

If I were my boss, this is how I would play it (and I have a feeling this is exactly what he is doing). I would wait until I completed the application, and then I would fire me for "efficiency reasons" or "insubordination" in that I missed the deadline for the office action (which we both know is not true and I have documentation to prove it), and since I missed the filing date for the application I was working on. I (my boss) would still bill the client for the work I (Zoe) did, but I would give a discount and say that I fired Zoe because he was taking too long on his projects and missing deadlines. I (my boss) would then pretend to work hard on the clients application and I would present the complete claim set that I (Zoe) did, but I (the boss) would pretend that I did the work myself. Additionally, a few days later I would also present the 60-page specification that I (Zoe) worked on pretending that I (my boss) did it myself, and I would be the hero and Zoe would be canned, waiting on line for an employment check.

I have a feeling this is the way it will go down. However, as I said before, I *am* in school, and my wife could use the extra help which me being home with an unemployment check would provide. I would also use the unemployment to look for work, but at the same time, I would (and have) moved forward in starting plans for my transition into my in-laws' home town so that my wife can be nearer to them and so my children can have grandparents. This is the plan if I get fired, and if I don't get fired, I will still likely pursue this plan in the summer.

So this is what is going on. Long story told as it is without embellishments. I stayed quite late last night working on the application, and I will still diligently continue to work on it and I will have it ready to submit by either tomorrow or Monday even though I know it will not be submitted until next month. That being said, I am cool and calm with what is going on, and I have seen all the angles on how this can go down. All I hope for is that I can finish the project and do a good job, and hopefully I will be laid off because they don't have enough work for me rather than being fired over this one catastrophe which appears to be part of my boss' evil genius plan.