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“Firing” Myself

A couple of weeks back I put a post about my consulting work with a lawyer in the area. Consider this a follow-up to that post, as well as an explanation of my relative quiet for a while (except for my post about the Chilean miners, I was gone for almost two weeks between my post on John Fea’s Op Ed piece and my special post for Heather Martin). The reason for my absence was that the consulting project returned in full force. The slow pace became a rush to get way more done than the time allotted suggested was workable. Some of the work could have been done over the summer if the lawyer had thought ahead enough to ask for it then. Of course, he got upset when I suggested he might need to be a little more flexible with the timeline than what he had given me. Never mind that part of the problem was that his assistant had not gotten me all of the data I needed even while we were discussing this.

I decided to do the smart thing, and undersell when I could get things done. This helped me to deliver ahead of that schedule, though a day or so after what he wanted. He seemed pleased, though I ended up spending a day waiting for him to give me feedback on my report. Then he decided to put the report on hold, and suggest a whole new pile of analysis, with some information that I had been suggesting we needed for months finally added in. To do a quality analysis would take time to re-gather all of the data that I needed, and I told him so. He had a rather ambitious deadline in mind, somewhat forced by his submission deadline for the appropriate court. I’m not sure when he decided he wanted this analysis, or when he knew his deadline, but let’s just say that he doesn’t seem to make a habit of planning way ahead.

When I expressed that this could be troublesome, and I had other things that needed to get done (like the work for my sabbatical, and family commitments) his tone changed. Essentially, he threatened me that if this project was really important to me, I needed to be willing to put it first and get it done, no matter what. He actually said that if my teaching was good and my marriage was strong I should be able to survive pushing everything else aside for two additional weeks. That led to me telling him that I was unwilling to make that committment. Essentially, I told him to replace me, if that was what was needed. He agreed that he likely would, at least for this new, higher consequence part of the case. It is possible that I will continue to do occasional work on smaller parts of the case, at least that is the idea that we agreed on at this point. I also may meet with my replacement to fill them in on what I have done to this point.

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In the days since this decision (last Friday, 15 October 2010) I’ve done some thinking about this, and what happened here. I think the biggest part of the problem is that he isn’t used to working with someone who is not a professional, full-time consultant. If I were a full-time consultant, I would probably have a schedule that was flexible enough to push many things aside to do this work for him. However, he decided to save his client the money that a professional consultant or consulting firm would charge, and go with someone who would be willing to work for less money. That is what he got. I made good money, but not as much as a professional consultant/firm would have charged.

This arrangement worked out pretty well, especially early on when he had one major project with a short deadline, and then was relatively flexible with some shorter requests. He also gave me completed data, that he had his aide help check before passing it on to me. Lately, he has wanted me to get the data (so that he didn’t have to have someone else testify about its validity) which adds to the time required to get things turned around. As I talked to him last Friday, I could tell that what he expected was for me to act like a full-time consultant now. I do not believe that he is married, or has any children of his own. Perhaps this adds to his lack of understanding of how someone with a full-time job (even if I am on sabbatical) and a young family (wife and three kids ages 3, 5, and 5.5) has to budget their time.

In short, I felt much more relaxed this weekend, and this week. I have made some decent progress on my sabbatical project, and have been able to get back to posting to my blog. (Warning: I have a backlog of ideas I want to talk about and article links I want to comment on.) I will certainly enjoy getting back to the point of having control of my life again, and hopefully my client will be happier working with people who are used to the pace and deadline structure that he wants to impose on them.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to dropping off a signed version of that report tomorrow, then heading to visit friends for the weekend. I’ll let someone else clear their schedule to deal with the deadlines. Ahhhhhhhh. 🙂

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