I don’t normally blog about my day job, but I’m genuinely proud of the work I’ve been doing, and (for reasons that will become clear) this is as good a time as any to talk about it.
For the last eight years, I’ve been developing legal technology for Thomson Reuters. It started when I applied to an interesting-sounding job at a small company called Serengeti Law, which had just been acquired by TR. Serengeti’s product was a web-based legal matter management tool called Serengeti Tracker, which corporate legal departments purchased to help manage the costs of legal matters being handled by outside law firms. TR was investing heavily in this product, now called Thomson Reuters Legal Tracker, and they brought me on board to help build it bigger and better.
I know a few lawyers who practice solo or in small firms, but Tracker was designed for the practice of law on a whole different scale. Just imagine how much legal work a company must need for it to be cost-effective to spend tens of thousands of dollars per year on software just to track outside spending. And Legal Tracker has over 1300 customers.
When I first took the job, I wasn’t planning to stay very long. I had been freelancing for a decade (which gave me the flexibility to take care of my parents in their final years) and this job would be my first step back into corporate life. Legal billing software didn’t sound very exciting, so I figured I’d give it a few years and then move on to something more interesting.
I was pleasantly surprised. Software that helped lawyers pay other lawyers wasn’t exactly the coolest tech product, but the process of creating it allowed me to do what I did best: Solve interesting problems. You want to add feature X to the product? You want to support technology Y to meet customer demand? I could make that happen. Later, I led project teams that made that happen. We got things done. We shipped code. We built tools that people could use.
All in all, it was an amazing software development experience. We had all the tools we needed, we used a flexible agile methodology, and we were encouraged to take the time to do things the right way. We even got to work from home full-time. But what really made the job enjoyable was the people I worked with. It was a terrific engineering culture — quality-oriented, ego-free, blame-free, and asshole free. This was everything I wanted in a job.
Unfortunately, this happened:
Thomson Reuters will close the Bellevue, Wash. headquarters of Legal Tracker, an online billing and analytics affiliate, as part of a larger series of layoffs and office consolidations.
Legal Tracker itself is not going away, but the office will close next summer, and the headquarters will shift to Thomson Reuters’ Toronto office, spokesman Dave Moran told GeekWire. The office closure will affect roughly 60 people, though Thomson Reuters is still working through how many will be laid off and if any will transfer.
The move to shutter the Bellevue office is part of a broader series of layoffs at Thomson Reuters that will see the company cut 3,200 jobs and close 55 offices by 2020. Toronto-based Thomson Reuters employs about 27,000 people across the globe, and it includes a news organization, services for the legal industry and financial software.
Although I live in the Chicago suburbs, I was attached to the Bellevue, Washington office, which makes me one of the unlucky three thousand. As of this month, I’m out of a job.
This is one of the risks of working for a large company. No matter how well you do your job, sometimes your future depends on strategic issues beyond your control. It’s the way large corporations work, and I’ve always known that getting laid off was a possibility. Which is not to say that it doesn’t suck to lose my job.
But out of all the times I’ve lost my job…this was my favorite. Thomson Reuters has been a good place to work. Even the layoff process has been professional and dignified. I had plenty of advanced warning this was coming, and everybody has been really helpful. My severance agreement is confidential, but I think I can safely say that it was acceptable. I would still recommend TR to anyone thinking of taking a job there.
That said, I’m still out of a job, which means I’m back in the job market. So if you need a software developer, I’m available, as long as I can work from home. I’ve gotten used to that arrangement, and I’m not ready to give it up, especially now that my wife also works from home.
I work mostly with C#/.NET these days, but I also know SQL and basic web technology. I also have a lot of history with C/C++. In the meantime, I’ve learned some Python, and I’ve tinkered with PHP and Java…and a whole bunch of other things, really, because I’ve been writing software for a long time.
In the meantime, I’m going to have some time on my hands, and I wouldn’t mind working on some sort of project that dovetails with the themes of this blog. So if any of you have ideas for something related to law or economics (or whatever) that could use a little help from a tech nerd like me, get in touch. Maybe we can do something interesting together.