Lawyers in Tennessee are not the best employers. The Wife was summarily fired Monday, and was told only "We're not going in the right direction" after having received erratic instruction and minimal personal feedback during her five week stint.
Similar experiences were reported by many (myself included) at the Law Office Of The Great Man, and several attorneys and legal staff I have come in contact with have told stories like that as well. Lawyers are an erratic bunch as employers, that's for sure.
Normally ("normally" meaning "back in California"), a statement from an employer like "things are going in the wrong direction" or "things aren't working out" would indicate dissatisfaction with the employee's performance, but in a passive-aggresive way, so as to avoid confrontation with the newly-terminated employee. Here, I'm not so sure that's the case. I am sure that a statement like that is not literally true, since it is so vague as to defy any sort of definitive understanding. But I don't think it means that the employer didn't like the employee or the employee's work.
I think it means he's a cheap bastard. Nothing more.
Based on my own experiences in the legal marketplace -- before, during, and after my time with The Great Man -- I think that vague statements like this really mean, "We don't want to pay you any more" or "We found someone who will do your job for less money." I lost my job ostensibly because The Great Man simply no longer wanted to pay me money (and previous to that he had indicated a great deal of resentment over my demand for a salary). Whatever other political missteps I may have made, money is what made that office go 'round, and if I was perceived as not a profitable enough investment in personnel, that was that.
Normally (again, meaning "back in California"), if a lawyer has enough work that he needs to hire people to help get it all done, the lawyer wants to hire the best people he can afford, pay them as much as he can, and thereby justify a high hourly rate -- resulting in great profit for the lawyer. Not so here, where the concept of "keep your overhead low" seems to have been taken to a ridiculous extreme.
That's my opinion about what happened to The Wife. She knew that the receptionist, who has a college degree, was dissatisfied and seeking employment elsewhere, and had got another job offer. And now we know that the firm is looking for another receptionist, but not a paralegal -- because an employment agency tried to place The Wife with this firm as a receptionist.
Now, cheap-ass legal employers are hardly unique to Tennessee. But Tennesseans are not a subtle bunch, by and large, and are also generally irony-free as they go about their lives. So I think that The Wife didn't lose her job -- she just got underbid.