Got fired, have some questions.

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Got fired, have some questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 14, 2019 11:28 am

I know this post is long so thanks in advance for any help. Attorney with 3-5 years experience, mostly litigation from a couple small firms. I was recently fired from a small litigation firm that I had been with for less than a year. Without giving too much detail I was let go after a few small things, nothing major. Part of it was personality conflict (my boss was a screamer and just toxic all around). My questions are:

I have had one interview. The interview went well but I could tell they were really focused on me being fired and kept coming back to that. I have references, including a reference from a senior attorney (not my boss) at the job I was fired from. However, in the interview they told me they needed to speak with the boss that fired me. But my boss would not do anything beyond confirm the dates of employment. The firm I interviewed with told me that they could not offer me a job because my old boss refused to give them any information beyond dates of employment. How common is this? Can I expect to get rejected from other jobs because the boss who fired me won't give me a reference? I do have a very strong reference from another attorney at that firm, just not my boss obviously. I'm looking into government jobs (i had a couple state/local interviews before this last job so I know I'm competitive), do you think government jobs will insist that they speak with my old boss or that it will look bad I don't have my old boss as a reference?

Another question, how much of a black spot on my resume is being fired? Do I need to lower my expectations and just apply to every shitlaw job I can in the hopes that somebody will overlook my being fired? Right now I have some doc review work and some savings, so I was planning on spending a few months looking for the right firm. Is that a good idea or do I need any job ASAP? Aside from being fired I know I would be competitive for a lot of jobs based on my experience (am confident I would have been hired for the one I interviewed with if they weren't so concerned about me being fired).

Final question: How do I answer the "why were you let go" question? As I said I wasn't let go over anything major, and the short and honest answer sounds unbelievable and like I'm giving a bullshit excuse, especially since the "never trash your former employer during an interview" rule means I can't get into the personality conflict issue. Either the short answer sounds like I'm bullshitting and covering for myself, or I can give a longer, more detailed answer with context (and a bit of spin to make it sound more believable), but would a 3+ minute explanation just sound like I'm rambling?

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby beeoBoop » Sun Apr 14, 2019 12:14 pm

Don't tell people you were fired, say you left and make up a reason. That avoids this whole issue.

3 minutes is too long of an explanation. It needs to be three sentences or less

As a general rule, never admit to being fired for exactly this reason. The employer won't and can't do anything but confirm the dates you worked there - so literally the only way they know is if you tell them

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 14, 2019 12:22 pm

beeoBoop wrote:Don't tell people you were fired, say you left and make up a reason.
As a general rule, never admit to being fired for exactly this reason. The employer won't and can't do anything but confirm the dates you worked there - so literally the only way they know is if you tell them


So I should just lie and claim that I quit? I was planning on quitting anyway before I was fired, so it's not hard to make up a reason. But what about references? Do I not include my reference from that firm? My other references also know that I was fired, will they be asked if they know why I'm looking for a new job or could it come up? It just sounds really easy to get caught in a lie this way, and I don't want to put my references in an awkward spot where they are expected to lie for me. Especially for government applications, I feel like if I get caught lying once I'll be blacklisted from all similar jobs forever.

cavalier1138

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 2:25 pm

beeoBoop wrote:Don't tell people you were fired, say you left and make up a reason. That avoids this whole issue.

3 minutes is too long of an explanation. It needs to be three sentences or less

As a general rule, never admit to being fired for exactly this reason. The employer won't and can't do anything but confirm the dates you worked there - so literally the only way they know is if you tell them


This is horrible advice that could get you disbarred, especially if you're applying for government positions.

You don't need to volunteer that you were fired, but you can't actively lie about why you left. If applying for the government, they're likely going to get that information in the background check, and you'll have the chance to explain yourself there. However, if you have been bringing up the fact that you were fired without any prompting during an interview, you should probably stop doing that.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 14, 2019 2:27 pm

Are you collecting unemployment? Did your last boss actually fire you or did he/she tell you that you were going to be fired and let you resign? These are two very different things. I work at a federal agency and while yes, the BI forms ask if you’ve been fired or left a job before being fired, it usually doesn’t come up in the interview. Being fired definitely wouldn’t preclude you from being hired. We hired someone recently that was “laid off” from his/her firm. I think in the law firm world we all sort of assume that means fired.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby QContinuum » Sun Apr 14, 2019 2:47 pm

Also, I feel like there's a difference between "fired" and "let go/laid off." "Fired" usually implies "fired for cause" in modern practice, so unless OP was actually fired for cause, they should avoid using the "fired" term IMO.

cavalier1138

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 3:01 pm

QContinuum wrote:Also, I feel like there's a difference between "fired" and "let go/laid off." "Fired" usually implies "fired for cause" in modern practice, so unless OP was actually fired for cause, they should avoid using the "fired" term IMO.


That too. I agree that if the OP left by mutual agreement or some similar arrangement, that should only be disclosed in response to questions that specifically address that kind of situation (i.e. government background check forms).

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby beeoBoop » Sun Apr 14, 2019 3:40 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
beeoBoop wrote:Don't tell people you were fired, say you left and make up a reason. That avoids this whole issue.

3 minutes is too long of an explanation. It needs to be three sentences or less

As a general rule, never admit to being fired for exactly this reason. The employer won't and can't do anything but confirm the dates you worked there - so literally the only way they know is if you tell them


This is horrible advice that could get you disbarred, especially if you're applying for government positions.

You don't need to volunteer that you were fired, but you can't actively lie about why you left. If applying for the government, they're likely going to get that information in the background check, and you'll have the chance to explain yourself there. However, if you have been bringing up the fact that you were fired without any prompting during an interview, you should probably stop doing that.


This is not remotely a violation of any professional ethical rules and it certainly won't get you disbarred. And OP is asking primarily about firms. OP to the extent you are asked to fill out an application for the gov and they ask, sure don't lie. That's still not a violation of any professional ethics rules

OP, as for your reason for leaving or the circumstances surrounding your termination, we don't have any details (which is probably good) so can't really provide any more specific advice as to how to spin you leaving your firm

cavalier1138

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 4:28 pm

beeoBoop wrote:This is not remotely a violation of any professional ethical rules and it certainly won't get you disbarred.


I'm pretty sure I've already blocked out the MPRE, but I could swear there was something on there about "material misrepresentations."

Again, this is assuming we're talking about the OP being fired, not being asked to resign, etc. The latter is a situation where you're allowed to give the "official" story instead of the underlying reasons for leaving. But someone who is actually fired for cause cannot just make up a story about leaving for greener pastures, and I cannot fathom how anyone would think that's not a violation of the ethical rules.

beeoBoop

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby beeoBoop » Sun Apr 14, 2019 5:03 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
beeoBoop wrote:This is not remotely a violation of any professional ethical rules and it certainly won't get you disbarred.


I'm pretty sure I've already blocked out the MPRE, but I could swear there was something on there about "material misrepresentations."

Again, this is assuming we're talking about the OP being fired, not being asked to resign, etc. The latter is a situation where you're allowed to give the "official" story instead of the underlying reasons for leaving. But someone who is actually fired for cause cannot just make up a story about leaving for greener pastures, and I cannot fathom how anyone would think that's not a violation of the ethical rules.


Any material misrepresentations would be problematic if made by an attorney to his client in the context of an atty client relationship. Spinning your departure at an old firm doesn't have anything to do with ethical rules. Unless you want to identify the rule youre referring to, the mere fact that you left under different circumstances than described isn't a breach of professional ethics. And it *definitely* won't get you disbarred.

Hell, in many circumstances a conviction won't even get you disbarred...

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby lavarman84 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 5:18 pm

Regardless of whether it's an ethical violation, don't lie. If they find out (and there's a very real chance they will), it will cost you the job. Telling the truth may not. Just don't bring it up, and if they ask, have a concise answer prepared for why (if it was a personality conflict, use the word "fit"; that generally tips them off without badmouthing your former firm). Some people will insist on talking to them; some people won't. With the former, you're likely out of luck. With the latter, you are not.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 14, 2019 6:39 pm

OP here.
Thanks for the responses. To address a few points:
I was not asked to resign, I was "let go" with two weeks severance.

Regarding whether to bring it up at all in an interview, this came up in the first interview to what I assume will be a standard question. Questioning went like this:
Q: Are you still at [FIRM]?
A: No, I was let go for [REASON]

I assume every interview will ask that, and if I say "no" I assume the follow-up will be "why not?" so I don't think I can avoid it.
I also can't lie, regardless of if it's "ethical" I'm just not comfortable keeping up a lie like that and definitely not potentially putting my references in an awkward position if it comes up.
Although I was let go (not asked to resign), it was mutual in the sense that I had already begun looking for new jobs and intended to quit once I found something else. Can I avoid mentioning that I was let go and phrase it like "I no longer work there because it wasn't a good fit and because [REASON]"? If they follow-up with "did you quit or were you let go" I'd have to answer and I'm worried that would make it look like I was trying to hide that fact by not bringing it up from the start.

I think I'll find a way to keep the answer shorter, and add the part about it not being a good "fit". And just hope for the best.
Does anybody have any insight into how hard it is to find a job when I don't have one currently, and since it will likely come up in the interview that I was let go? I'm trying to get an idea of if I need to apply to everything that I see or if I can afford to be a little selective. I have a good idea of where I would fit in the job market if I still had my prior job, I'm just not sure how much this sets me back.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 14, 2019 6:54 pm

Severance usually comes with an written agreement and is usually part of being “laid off.” I’m not offering legal advice, but I’m an employment attorney. I’d call this being “laid off” and not being fired. FWIW sometimes small firms look for reasons to lay off associates because there’s not enough work.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby lavarman84 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 7:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here.
Thanks for the responses. To address a few points:
I was not asked to resign, I was "let go" with two weeks severance.

Regarding whether to bring it up at all in an interview, this came up in the first interview to what I assume will be a standard question. Questioning went like this:
Q: Are you still at [FIRM]?
A: No, I was let go for [REASON]

I assume every interview will ask that, and if I say "no" I assume the follow-up will be "why not?" so I don't think I can avoid it.
I also can't lie, regardless of if it's "ethical" I'm just not comfortable keeping up a lie like that and definitely not potentially putting my references in an awkward position if it comes up.
Although I was let go (not asked to resign), it was mutual in the sense that I had already begun looking for new jobs and intended to quit once I found something else. Can I avoid mentioning that I was let go and phrase it like "I no longer work there because it wasn't a good fit and because [REASON]"? If they follow-up with "did you quit or were you let go" I'd have to answer and I'm worried that would make it look like I was trying to hide that fact by not bringing it up from the start.

I think I'll find a way to keep the answer shorter, and add the part about it not being a good "fit". And just hope for the best.
Does anybody have any insight into how hard it is to find a job when I don't have one currently, and since it will likely come up in the interview that I was let go? I'm trying to get an idea of if I need to apply to everything that I see or if I can afford to be a little selective. I have a good idea of where I would fit in the job market if I still had my prior job, I'm just not sure how much this sets me back.


I'd say make them ask the follow-up question. They may not.
Q: "Are you still at [firm]?"
A: : "I am not."

Yes, they may follow up and ask you why not. Then, you can say something along the lines of, "I was let go. The fit just wasn't right." They may also move on and not ask. You never know. At the end of the day, your job is to sell yourself, not volunteer information that hurts you. If you lie, that's one thing. If they don't ask, that's something completely different. If they want to know, they'll ask. If they don't, you have no obligation to volunteer it.

EDIT: And if the above poster is right about you being laid off, that's even better. Instead of having to give a reason, you can just say, "I was laid off" if they ask why you're no longer working there.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:52 pm

OP again. I guess technically I could say I was laid off and my boss never gave a reason or said anything other than I was being "let go". But it wasn't really a layoff and there wasn't any financial reason to get rid of me or anything like that. There was plenty of work to go around. Even though my boss never gave a reason or told me I was "fired" it was clear that's what was happening. I guess I can work on trying to spin it to sound more like a layoff.

If they want to know, they'll ask. If they don't, you have no obligation to volunteer it.


I'll keep that in mind. I just assumed they'd always ask, and felt it would come off better if I was just up front about it all.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby clshopeful » Sun Apr 14, 2019 10:00 pm

beeoBoop wrote:Don't tell people you were fired, say you left and make up a reason. That avoids this whole issue.

3 minutes is too long of an explanation. It needs to be three sentences or less

As a general rule, never admit to being fired for exactly this reason. The employer won't and can't do anything but confirm the dates you worked there - so literally the only way they know is if you tell them


Is that true, employer cannot tell others if you were fired?

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby QContinuum » Sun Apr 14, 2019 10:12 pm

clshopeful wrote:Is that true, employer cannot tell others if you were fired?

They absolutely can. It's just that many employers, to avoid liability, have adopted a voluntary policy wherein they refuse to divulge any information beyond confirming dates of employment.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby Tenzen » Sun Apr 14, 2019 10:32 pm

That poster is wrong, who said it is a violation of the rules of professional conduct to fail to disclose you were fired.

First off, the American Bar Associations' rules of conduct are not binding on anyone, contrary to the erroneously inferences you can draw from the name. They are merely guidelines, that's it. Only the rules in your state(s) of practice, which rules may be adopted and modified based on the ABA guidelines, are binding on you. I know this because I've had friends face these violations, I took a professional responsibility course a few years ago, and I did some work with my past employer in connection with disciplinary proceedings. So, the poster can't possibly know you're violating a rule without knowing what state you're in and then checking the rules. As someone pointed out, the misrepresentation rules that you commonly see across states have nothing to do with the topic at issue.

Moving from facts to my opinion, you absolutely should not disclose that you were fired unnecessarily. I just left a biglaw firm last week and started at a non-profit for the sake of work-life balance, and since I paid off my loans. Needless to say, I didn't bring up anything about what my hours were, the many things you can complain about, or what my relationship was with the firm. To the degree I did talk about the relationship, it was good. That's all they need to know. I don't think this advice needs to be different from firm to firm rather than firm to nonprofit.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby cavalier1138 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 6:05 am

Tenzen wrote:That poster is wrong, who said it is a violation of the rules of professional conduct to fail to disclose you were fired.


I hesitated before replying here, because this is clearly no longer relevant to the OP. I decided to follow up, since it's downright scary how many lawyers posting here think that lying to get a job isn't proscribed by their state's PR rules. But you're definitely hot shit for knowing that the MRPC are just model rules. I don't know how anyone would know that without reading the title.

As far as I know, every jurisdiction has adopted some form of MRPC 8.4, which explicitly forbids "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation." For those of you playing along at home, actively lying about why you left a job is dishonest. Again, this isn't what the OP is talking about, so this is more for the people who kept insisting that employers can't talk about you getting fired and that you can make up any story you like to make yourself look good. Neither of those things is true, even if some firms (usually big ones) have a policy of keeping quiet in this area.

TLDR: don't lie.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby rcharter1978 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:20 am

OP, your response to the question should be, "I am not, it wasn't a good fit". Full stop.

That will likely cut off any follow up questions unless someone is nosy and just wants some juicy gossip. I think there are "personality conflicts" between employers and employees in every profession.

Stop volunteering more. People know you can't trash a former employer, so I don't know why they would ask for more. Clearly your old boss won't give them more.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby AVBucks4239 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:35 pm

I'll chime in on this disciplinary issue, only because this thread now has 2,500+ views and this is the perfect issue to waste 15 minutes of time today.

FWIW, I have sat on my county's grievance committee for almost five years, and Ohio has largely adopted Rule 8.4. The rule regarding "dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation" encompasses, in my experience:

1. Honesty with the court;
2. Honesty with your client and opposing counsel;
3. Honesty in your personal dealings as well.

In other words, yes, there are separate rules regarding candor with the tribunal, but every alleged violation of that rule also includes a Rule 8.4 allegation.

We have certified several grievances for Supreme Court review for things that had nothing to do with representation of a client, but instead were mostly involved with personal dealings.

So, I agree with others and would state that, IMO, it's okay to dance around issues and be creative with your words; but I agree that you cannot outright lie.

I would also use the brief "it's not a good fit" line and not go too much further.

*****

On a side note, OP, you seem to have let getting fired define you (you mention the word "fire" 9 times in your OP). Don't do that. Acknowledge the reality of the situation (not a good fit).

It will all seem like nothing here soon. Just keep diving into your job search, and definitely reach out to your law school for help/grants/etc.

I've told this story a million times on here, but I got my start by reaching out to Ohio State, and they provided me with a career grant for $2,000 for three months. This led to a small/mid-size firm job, and five years later I have my own solo practice that I love doing.

Be optimistic and reach out to people. You'll be fine.

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:42 pm

Thanks for the additional advice rcharter1978 and AVBucks4239. So if I keep it vague to "I don't work at [FIRM] anymore, it just wasn't a good fit" that would be sufficient? They're not going to just ask any follow-up questions or expect me to elaborate?

On a side note, OP, you seem to have let getting fired define you (you mention the word "fire" 9 times in your OP). Don't do that.


Thanks, I just got worried after the only interview I've had ended up with the interviewer telling me that they wouldn't hire me because I couldn't get a reference from the boss who fired me. I guess I'll hope that's not common and also try not bringing up the fact that I was let go.

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BeeTeeZ

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby BeeTeeZ » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:06 pm

You shouldn't lie to prospective employers.

Word Count: [5]

QContinuum

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby QContinuum » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for the additional advice rcharter1978 and AVBucks4239. So if I keep it vague to "I don't work at [FIRM] anymore, it just wasn't a good fit" that would be sufficient? They're not going to just ask any follow-up questions or expect me to elaborate?

They may follow up, or they may not. Either way, certainly no benefit to coming right out and volunteering that you were let go (or worse, "fired").

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks, I just got worried after the only interview I've had ended up with the interviewer telling me that they wouldn't hire me because I couldn't get a reference from the boss who fired me.

That's because you told them your boss fired you - so, understandably, they wanted to get your boss' side of the firing.

Absent such a scenario, if you're asked for a reference from your former boss, or asked why you aren't using him as a reference, you can say that you do have a reference from another senior attorney at your former firm, but that your former boss' policy is to only confirm dates of employment (hardly an unusual policy).

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Re: Got fired, have some questions.

Postby ghostoftraynor » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:41 pm

BeeTeeZ wrote:You shouldn't lie to prospective employers.

Word Count: [5]


This (and similar posts) isn't helpful. Nobody is encouraging OP to lie. To be clear, OP, if you are asked if you were fired or let go, be honest.

However, you have no duty to provide information you weren't asked. If a prospective employer doesn't ask about drug use/drug test, nobody says "oh by the way went to this concert the other weekend and did a bunch of illegal drugs." Similarly, when you ask about the culture, the interviewer doesn't respond, "oh it's pretty great, but partners x,y,z treat associates like dirt. We know they are terrible people, but they bring in a lot of business, so you better make sure they don't give you a bad review." Don't mean to imply every associate is a drug user, or every group has completely toxic people, but, undoubtedly, both the prospective employer and prospective employee do not reveal a LOT of information in any interview.

Don't lie, but also treat this like a first date. It's really not that hard.



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