Collateral Damage

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My cards were well and truly marked at Jemunt. I was given a few matters, did the work quick and it languished on the partners’ desks while I had nothing to do. For a whole week, I billed zero hours instead of the expected target hours. I knew this would wind them up, but I was not going to lie and bill clients for work I had not done. After dirty looks from the partners, I was given more work. Whenever I gave my completed work to a partner for checking before it was sent to a client, I was met with hostility.

The partners I worked for were an odd bunch. Wagstaffe was of average build with jug ears and had middling legal ability. Swithers was tall and gangly, with an overbearing air about him. He spoke with a nasal twang. Thwaytes was a nasty little man who walked with a slow, loping gait – a bit like Sasquatch – but without the foresight to look over his shoulder.

A story I heard summed Thwaytes up well. He made the life of another lawyer so unbearable with overwork and put-downs that the lawyer was signed off work with stress. On returning to work, Thwaytes worked the lawyer into the ground and sent her spiralling into a breakdown. What they lacked in professionalism was not made up for in personality. This malignant trio had a poisonous air about them.

It was not long before Swithers and Thwaytes worked a tag team on me. Thwaytes was on the morning shift, there was a lull in the afternoon and Swithers took the evenings. I was hassled and patronised from 10 a.m. through to about 3 a.m. in the office. After little sleep, I went back to work and was greeted by Thwaytes demanding to know why I had not completed the work he had given me. With their offices either side of mine, I was surrounded by enemies. There seemed to be no respite and I felt exposed to their venom.

After two weeks of this treatment, another lawyer confided in me that she had seen this double-act before. She decided to speak to me after overhearing Swithers and Thwaytes talking about ‘breaking’ me. There was no way a few vacuumous lawyers would tear me apart. But those fractured personalities held all the cards and they were set on doing me harm.

I tried to rally and come across as cheerful, but it never quite worked. At about the four week mark of near consecutive all-nighters – even someone as low as me was given the occasional night off – I was treated to working weekends at home. Inwardly, I was miserable and began to lose weight. Breakfast was impossible and, as I neared the office in the morning, I felt sick. My insides clenched as anxiety hit the pit of my stomach. Too regularly, I threw up and splattered the wall I leant against, followed by retching and convulsing.

Swithers soon shifted to more underhand tactics. We were working on a transaction when he asked to see draft seven of the contract. It was an odd request as we were on draft eighteen. I went to my room and found it was missing. All the other eighteen drafts were stacked in reverse chronological order, but this particular one was missing. When I       gave him the news, he smiled and then verbally tore into me. His invective seemed prepared and he was far too smug after the verbal barrage. I was sure it was a set up.

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