Being ill in biglaw

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NYstate
Posts: 1566
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:44 am

Being ill in biglaw

Postby NYstate » Mon Mar 11, 2013 12:00 am

I posted here on TLS while dealing with serious illness. After finally going back to work a few months ago and realizing that people at many biglaw firms end up missing major time due to illness, I understand that it won't be easy to out me from my posts. No one else at my firm knows or cares about TLS. So I thought that maybe no one else can give you this insight, for what it is worth. My illness isn't related to firm hours but firms know that biglaw eats people up. So people get sick, break down, quit, etc. All part of the place.

Here is are some basic facts:
1. You will have disability coverage which is based on some amount of salary and bonus. So you will have income. I didn't have any debt but there might be some kind of disability thing which allows you to defer loans.

2. You are much better off not working than trying to work part time. Part time in biglaw is at least 40 hours. People, no matter how much they love you and want to work with you, will hate having to work around a schedule so you can go home at a certain time. It is really hard to set up deals to work on that kind of a schedule. It is better for the firm if you aren't there.

3. You probably will have a very high hurdle to overcome in terms of getting back on track, getting staffed on the best deals, etc. Just keep proving you are still extremely brilliant and do great work. Make sure you work is flawless, timely and never act like you are any different than before you left.

4. Try to do CLE courses and stuff online so you know something. Also to relieve boredom. I did a little class for corporate on letters of credit, and on some loan agreement provisions, which seems like nothing, but it was something I learned through online CLE and was able to go over with people. Not the greatest topic but it was something. I also went to city bar events just to stay involved in professional activities.

5. Stay in contact with the partners and HR. They will give you a lot of support.

6. I have found fatigue to be a big problem. I have been able to work around this for the past few months. Those days are ending and I have to be super super organized to manage my time perfectly. But the other part is, a large part of me doesn't want to have to work all night or all weekend at the drop of a hat. My longest stretch was a deal when I worked literally for 3 days with almost no sleep. I categorically feel that I couldn't do that again. I am not sure how I will manage my life and assignments so I can avoid this. ( There is one client who had a heart attack as a younger guy, he refuses to work more than certain hours and goes home, but he is a client and I'm not.) Right now I am staying extremely organized to manage my work hours. But I can't rely on anything about illness because that makes it seem I can't do the work.If I can't do the work, I shouldn't be there.

7. You can't compare yourself to other people from your class. They will be ahead of you. I was asked to go back a year when I returned. Which I didn't want to do, but it makes sense. The firm pitched it as an extra year to make partner: but I feel that making partner now is even more unlikely. I don't know if I can do the insane senior hours needed to make a run for partner and I don't know even if I made partner, if I could work even harder as a junior partner. Making partner is just something no one can count on other than the few prodigies. My firm has two or three prodigies, sometimes they make partner early.

8. What I know about the partners: they all have extremely high energy and ability to work hours without fatigue; they don't want to have to accommodate people beyond a short period of time ( though as people they care about you and your well-being a great deal and are invested in your getting better.) They are never to give you a pass for subpar work, so you can't go back to work until you feel that you can do your best work. In short, don't fuck up and don't ever complain about being tired.

9. If you made friends with clients, try to stay in touch with them in a non-annoying way. They care about you too, but you are off their radar. I did some stuff like send articles I found of interest to them and sent cards. Had lunch a few times. Just stay on the radar. Be professional

10. This one isn't about being ill, but the most important thing to always remember about partners ( and other associates) they can all do the same work you are doing. They don't need you; you are never ever essential to them. Never feel that you can't be replaced.

Anonymous User
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Re: Being ill in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 11, 2013 7:17 am

2. You are much better off not working than trying to work part time. Part time in biglaw is at least 40 hours. People, no matter how much they love you and want to work with you, will hate having to work around a schedule so you can go home at a certain time. It is really hard to set up deals to work on that kind of a schedule. It is better for the firm if you aren't there.

I have found this to be true in my pre-LS career as well, and consider it just applicable across the board: don't show up to work unless you can give it 100%. I have tried to be brave and work while still sick (pre-LS), hoping that everyone around me would understand and "take it easy" on me... And found out the hard way that it doesn't work that way. When you are there, people expect you to work as usual, and don't want to be worrying about what you can handle. Unless you can do the work, go home and get better.

Thank you for the different perspective.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Being ill in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:20 am

I can't imagine doing this job while being ill. I have a chronic but (so far) mostly benign condition, but if it causes problems, I think I will try to get out of big law as soon as possible unless I am still in need of money. That said, I imagine many firms would give a good associate whatever accommodations he or she needs. At my firm, one of the best associates at the time was in a bad bike accident, had to miss two months of work, and worked from home several days a week for a year. He received a 25% reduction to the hours requirement (-500 hours) and the same pay that year, and made partner according to schedule.

NYstate
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Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:44 am

Re: Being ill in biglaw

Postby NYstate » Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:31 am

Bumping my own shitty thread. After all the stuff I've dealt with- a partner I've worked with wants me to go to an overseas office in Europe. Corporate department head and management are happy. Doctors oked everything. Thank god for people who believe in you and stick with you.

I think this is a chance to get my career back on track with less of a grind than NYC.

So excited. Leaving at the end of the month. Sooner if I can get my act together.

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: Being ill in biglaw

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:34 am

NYstate wrote:Bumping my own shitty thread. After all the stuff I've dealt with- a partner I've worked with wants me to go to an overseas office in Europe. Corporate department head and management are happy. Doctors oked everything. Thank god for people who believe in you and stick with you.

I think this is a chance to get my career back on track with less of a grind than NYC.

So excited. Leaving at the end of the month. Sooner if I can get my act together.


Glad to hear things worked out for you. Enjoy Europe!

Myself
Posts: 1372
Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:36 pm

Re: Being ill in biglaw

Postby Myself » Fri Sep 27, 2013 4:48 am

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Last edited by Myself on Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

NYstate
Posts: 1566
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:44 am

Re: Being ill in biglaw

Postby NYstate » Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:56 pm

Thanks for the good wishes.

Just wanted to add one final thing: biglaw lockstep is great as long as you stay with it. In any other job, my illness and disability leave wouldn't have had as big an impact. Getting off track means you are not keeping up with your peers and you fall behind- which can completely derail your career.

I am incredibly fortunate that I can be away for a couple of years and make my own path rather than competing head to head in NYC.

Having a long disability leave interrupt your career can leave you without options. No one will hire you out of the firm because you haven't shown you can work. Just going back to the firm is a fine option, but it is doubtful you have much of a future there. I never planned to make partner anyway, but lateral or exit options just don't exist when you haven't been able to work on major projects.

This move will give me a chance that I wouldn't have had if I stayed in New York. If I stayed here, I probably would have been working small deals in the shadow of the other associates. I think this may be in part why they wanted me. I was already on a different track on my own.

NYstate
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Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:44 am

Re: Being ill in biglaw

Postby NYstate » Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:09 am

One more thought.

Biglaw grinds up a lot of people physically, psychologically and emotionally. You have to remain self- aware and get out before that happens to you. I've seen people burn out and kill their chances for strong exit options. If you feel this happening to you, get out while you can.

That isn't my story and plenty of people handle biglaw just fine without wearing down. But not everyone can keep up the hours and stress and produce great work.

If you find yourself slipping, get out while you still are on track and have solid references.

wildhaggis
Posts: 196
Joined: Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:47 pm

Re: Being ill in biglaw

Postby wildhaggis » Sat Sep 28, 2013 2:44 am

NYstate wrote:I've seen people burn out and kill their chances for strong exit options. If you feel this happening to you, get out while you can.


Can you elaborate on this?




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