Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

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Autumnb13
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Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby Autumnb13 » Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:24 am

I just started at a big law firm 4 months ago and I already hate it. I feel stupid, incompetent, bored and stressed beyond belief. I wake up every morning sweating, heart racing, really anxious about going to work. I can't sleep anymore. I forget to eat and then binge eat when I remember I'm hungry. Everyday I try to motivate myself to just keep going to the office...to try to stick it out for at least one year. But it's so hard to get out of bed. I'm not confident I can finish the day much less a whole year. I'm seriously thinking about quitting but I'm not sure how I would pay back my $150,000 in loans. I don't think anyone would hire me if I quit now. And then there is the public shame of failing so utterly. Not sure what to do. If anyone has advice or feels the same way I'd like to hear from you.

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seizmaar
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby seizmaar » Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:30 am

sticky this

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Lincoln
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby Lincoln » Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:37 am

First, you need to find someone to talk to. Your local bar association can likely direct you to some appropriate resources. You need therapy. You should also (not instead) talk to friends or parents or whoever you think will understand and be helpful in supporting you and getting you the help you need.

Second, it gets better. It took me about nine months before I felt like I had a clue what I was doing at work. I felt like my senior associates thought I was mentally handicapped and that I just didn't belong. It sucks, but it changes. It becomes more fun, you get better at it, and you get more confident.

Third, and related to the first point, your job is not your life. You need to take time for the actual important things in life: friends, family, dating, exercise, etc. Try to set a schedule and stick to it. Having something other than work to look forward to makes it seem much less insurmountable and omnipresent. I'm bad at this, but it makes a huge difference.

Fourth, apply for clerkships. There are judges that hire as late as six months in advance, but even if it's further out, it makes a big difference knowing there is an end point to what you're doing right now.

Fifth, if nothing else, just reach out here. There are plenty of people on these boards who have felt overwhelmed, and we'll help if we can.

Anonymous User
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:45 am

Lincoln wrote:First, you need to find someone to talk to. Your local bar association can likely direct you to some appropriate resources. You need therapy. You should also (not instead) talk to friends or parents or whoever you think will understand and be helpful in supporting you and getting you the help you need.

Second, it gets better. It took me about nine months before I felt like I had a clue what I was doing at work. I felt like my senior associates thought I was mentally handicapped and that I just didn't belong. It sucks, but it changes. It becomes more fun, you get better at it, and you get more confident.

Third, and related to the first point, your job is not your life. You need to take time for the actual important things in life: friends, family, dating, exercise, etc. Try to set a schedule and stick to it. Having something other than work to look forward to makes it seem much less insurmountable and omnipresent. I'm bad at this, but it makes a huge difference.

Fourth, apply for clerkships. There are judges that hire as late as six months in advance, but even if it's further out, it makes a big difference knowing there is an end point to what you're doing right now.

Fifth, if nothing else, just reach out here. There are plenty of people on these boards who have felt overwhelmed, and we'll help if we can.


+1 to all of this. OP, I was in a fairly similar spot this time last year. I started applying for clerkships last February, and will be leaving to start my clerkship soon. In the interim my job has bothered me less than it did in the past. In part because I'm getting better at it, in part because the knowledge that the clerkship is there gives me a light at the end of the tunnel. There were also one or two people who were especially horrendous to work for, and I was slowly able to work my way in with other partners who were less stressful (the stressful partners still pop up from time-to-time). Of course I've still contemplated leaving from time to time, but I'm glad I stuck with it.

truevines
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby truevines » Tue Jan 13, 2015 1:20 pm

Autumnb13 wrote:I'm seriously thinking about quitting but I'm not sure how I would pay back my $150,000 in loans. I don't think anyone would hire me if I quit now. And then there is the public shame of failing so utterly. Not sure what to do. If anyone has advice or feels the same way I'd like to hear from you.


OP, stick it out because you need to service your $150k debt. Nowhere in this world could you find a job with a salary to pay back your loan as fast.

You should try to lower your expectation and standard; you're a first-year, not first-chair. Therefore, you don't have to take responsibility for any mistake you make. Be careful, and be thorough. Work slowly.

Then find a mentor so that you can talk to him/her as often as needed.

OP, don't quit. If you quit now, your $150k debt will destroy your life.

On the other hand, you can definite lateral to another firm after your first year.

Anonymous User
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jan 13, 2015 2:02 pm

I had a friend who was in a similar situation. He started looking ASAP and found a job in compliance at a bank long before he spent a year in biglaw. Now he enjoys his job much more and can still pay off his loans even if he doesn't make quite as much. Also, it really does get better, even in biglaw. But it seems like you are suffering from depression, so you really should see a therapist.

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glitched
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby glitched » Tue Jan 13, 2015 2:08 pm

Autumnb13 wrote:I feel stupid, incompetent, bored and stressed beyond belief.


Glad to know that someone out there feels exactly the same way as I do. My hope is that once I get more experienced/comfortable, it'll get better.

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fats provolone
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby fats provolone » Tue Jan 13, 2015 2:10 pm

glitched wrote:
Autumnb13 wrote:I feel stupid, incompetent, bored and stressed beyond belief.


Glad to know that someone out there feels exactly the same way as I do. My hope is that once I get more experienced/comfortable, it'll get better.

the key is to stop worrying so much

AP-375
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby AP-375 » Tue Jan 13, 2015 9:44 pm

glitched wrote:
Autumnb13 wrote:I feel stupid, incompetent, bored and stressed beyond belief.


Glad to know that someone out there feels exactly the same way as I do. My hope is that once I get more experienced/comfortable, it'll get better.


A most emphatic PLUS ONE to each one of those descriptions. Just seeing that someone else feels exactly the way I do is a relief.

SFB222
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby SFB222 » Tue Jan 13, 2015 10:11 pm

Autumnb13 wrote:I just started at a big law firm 4 months ago and I already hate it. I feel stupid, incompetent, bored and stressed beyond belief. I wake up every morning sweating, heart racing, really anxious about going to work. I can't sleep anymore. I forget to eat and then binge eat when I remember I'm hungry. Everyday I try to motivate myself to just keep going to the office...to try to stick it out for at least one year. But it's so hard to get out of bed. I'm not confident I can finish the day much less a whole year. I'm seriously thinking about quitting but I'm not sure how I would pay back my $150,000 in loans. I don't think anyone would hire me if I quit now. And then there is the public shame of failing so utterly. Not sure what to do. If anyone has advice or feels the same way I'd like to hear from you.


What specific problems are you encountering?

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Tue Jan 13, 2015 10:14 pm

All the advice in here is great. There are three main things to remember right now, IMO:

1. No one should expect anything of you right now except effort.
2. Even senior people are incompetent. You'd be shocked how often partners might be wrong about basic points of law, procedures, what strategy they should take, etc. There's a lot to know. No one gets this stuff right all the time.
3. None of it matters that much. You won't get fired, you won't kill anyone. You probably won't even be in a position to make a mistake with any real consequences.

The job is best when you focus on learning and developing skills where you can, and chilling out about the rest.

SFB222
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby SFB222 » Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:28 pm

I felt the same way though. And now 3 years later, I'm wondering the same...how have I survived for so long and the anxiety/stress doesn't go away. And while you may be able to keep your job (that I don't think will be the hard part), you'll become "dead inside" and never be truly happy again. Big price to pay.

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MarkRenton
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby MarkRenton » Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:33 pm

I quit in less than a year. I probably made it nine months. I'm actually shocked writing that, the idea that I actually stuck it out 9 months. I hated everything about it. I knew that it was awful when I was put on this great deal that had this awesome subject matter for a great partner, and I still hated it. It's also worth noting that big law makes it really hard to save money. Big law sucks so bad that the only reason to stay is for the money. And if you're not spending the money, there feels like very little reason to go. So especially on the weekends, I was just blowing through money. It was the only thing that validated the job.

I quit and now have a job I love. I thought that I could think back on my old job and get some satisfaction that I was able to quit, but I just get straight PTSD.

Also, when I started applying for jobs, it felt great. It was so therapeutic. Every resume was an opportunity to escape. The truth is, we unfairly stigmatize quitting. I recommend listening to this: http://freakonomics.com/2011/09/30/new- ... -quitting/

Anonymous User
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:08 am

Original poster - your feelings are common. I was pretty depressed my first 1-1.5 years of big law and had lots of anxiety. I was also going through some difficult family issues which exacerbated it, but I still know that it is common even without extenuating circumstances.

The anxiety and depression slowly subsided and work got better. I'm really glad I stuck it out. I'm 5 years in and looking at great exit options - much better than I would have found after a year. With that said, start looking if you are unhappy. The economy is much better now than it was 5 years ago. If you find something interesting then make a move. I'd strongly recommend against quitting before you land something else, though. Think about the next few years too. Do you want to buy a house? Pay for an engagement ring/wedding? Put a big dent in your loans? What will the job change mean for these goals? Can you accept it? Do not make any rash decisions. Make a list of pro's and con's and update it over the course of a month, then think about next steps.

Spend time with friends and family away from work. Try to take vacation for at least one week. Remember plenty of people work shittier jobs (look outside at the window washers for high-rise buildings....). This is not to discount your feeling, but it should help put things in perspective. I also recommend seeing a psychologist. Sleep meds can be temporarily helpful too if you need it. Really, really try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. I know it is not easy, but it will do a lot to improve your mindset. Exercise helps too.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

SFB222
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby SFB222 » Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:11 am

Anonymous User wrote:Original poster - your feelings are common. I was pretty depressed my first 1-1.5 years of big law and had lots of anxiety. I was also going through some difficult family issues which exacerbated it, but I still know that it is common even without extenuating circumstances.

The anxiety and depression slowly subsided and work got better. I'm really glad I stuck it out. I'm 5 years in and looking at great exit options - much better than I would have found after a year. With that said, start looking if you are unhappy. The economy is much better now than it was 5 years ago. If you find something interesting then make a move. I'd strongly recommend against quitting before you land something else, though. Think about the next few years too. Do you want to buy a house? Pay for an engagement ring/wedding? Put a big dent in your loans? What will the job change mean for these goals? Can you accept it? Do not make any rash decisions. Make a list of pro's and con's and update it over the course of a month, then think about next steps.

Spend time with friends and family away from work. Try to take vacation for at least one week. Remember plenty of people work shittier jobs (look outside at the window washers for high-rise buildings....). This is not to discount your feeling, but it should help put things in perspective. I also recommend seeing a psychologist. Sleep meds can be temporarily helpful too if you need it.


What do you think made it better/tolerable? I'm 3 years out and its as miserable as the first day

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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:29 am

SFB222 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Original poster - your feelings are common. I was pretty depressed my first 1-1.5 years of big law and had lots of anxiety. I was also going through some difficult family issues which exacerbated it, but I still know that it is common even without extenuating circumstances.

The anxiety and depression slowly subsided and work got better. I'm really glad I stuck it out. I'm 5 years in and looking at great exit options - much better than I would have found after a year. With that said, start looking if you are unhappy. The economy is much better now than it was 5 years ago. If you find something interesting then make a move. I'd strongly recommend against quitting before you land something else, though. Think about the next few years too. Do you want to buy a house? Pay for an engagement ring/wedding? Put a big dent in your loans? What will the job change mean for these goals? Can you accept it? Do not make any rash decisions. Make a list of pro's and con's and update it over the course of a month, then think about next steps.

Spend time with friends and family away from work. Try to take vacation for at least one week. Remember plenty of people work shittier jobs (look outside at the window washers for high-rise buildings....). This is not to discount your feeling, but it should help put things in perspective. I also recommend seeing a psychologist. Sleep meds can be temporarily helpful too if you need it.

What do you think made it better/tolerable? I'm 3 years out and its as miserable as the first day

I became a bit numb to it after 1.5 years or so. Then right around 3 years I had the ability to delegate a lot of work and I stopped caring to some extent. I knew that I was valuable enough that I could push back a little. I wouldn't stay up until 4am unless I really knew that I needed to, I would turn away more work so I could avoid the really late nights, I was more efficient in billing hours (in part because I wasn't as burnt out during the day from a lack of sleep....), I learned that the world didn't end if a partner/client had to ask for something twice, and I began having dinner with my wife on a regular basis. If I needed to, I'd plug in from home after dinner, but I'd see my wife. Often, I'd end up going to bed and just saying screw it. Usually, it was fine. Not great advice if you want partner track, but very necessary if you are feeling burnt out and you have a good sense of what you can get away with. Honestly, I eased into saying no or gingerly pushing back on deadlines...it's truly an art that I learned from watching others and it was something I really earned. I also fell into getting a lot of work from 2 partners so I turned away a lot of work from anyone else. Those 2 partners valued me, so they want to try to retain me...as such, they didn't grind me as much as others. I really had to earn being able to do this though and I'm sure this approach may not fly at all firms. I also started applying to jobs in my 4th year and this gave me some feeling of freedom and an end in sight. It never hurts to start applying. Sorry for stream of thought response...I'm tired.

TLDR; I learned that to survive, you need to push back sometimes. I found the best way of doing this is to slightly exaggerate what is on my plate so I can turn away work comfortably (accounting for the fact that some of my day might be taken up by unforeseeable events). I'd rather be quiet and barely hit hours than be doing all-nighters.

toothbrush
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby toothbrush » Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:31 am

MarkRenton wrote: It's also worth noting that big law makes it really hard to save money. Big law sucks so bad that the only reason to stay is for the money. And if you're not spending the money, there feels like very little reason to go. So especially on the weekends, I was just blowing through money. It was the only thing that validated the job.

Can you explain what you mean here? Were you paying down loans and that didn't feel like "spending" so it didn't feel worth it? What would you "blow" money on?

Just curious what you're getting at. I've never heard anyone here express that about big law.

Also, if you don't mind, what are you doing now?

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:34 am

fats provolone wrote:the key is to stop worrying so much


fats provolone with yet another horrendously underrated post.

The key to surviving biglaw is caring just enough to get the job done without any negative comments or aspersions on your reputation at the firm (which, for first years, is a surprisingly low threshold). If you try to make everything perfect, you're going to go nuts. Literally.

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MarkRenton
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby MarkRenton » Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:51 am

toothbrush wrote:
MarkRenton wrote: It's also worth noting that big law makes it really hard to save money. Big law sucks so bad that the only reason to stay is for the money. And if you're not spending the money, there feels like very little reason to go. So especially on the weekends, I was just blowing through money. It was the only thing that validated the job.

Can you explain what you mean here? Were you paying down loans and that didn't feel like "spending" so it didn't feel worth it? What would you "blow" money on?

Just curious what you're getting at. I've never heard anyone here express that about big law.

Also, if you don't mind, what are you doing now?


I was paying on loans but not as much as I could. I would spend money on clothes, drinks, dinners. I was really high strung and had expendable income. I've talked to others about this same thing and others had the same feeling. Spending the money we're making was the one thing that justified working a shitty 15 hour day.

Anonymous User
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:39 am

Don't quit, be smart and coast til you get fired like many others do. Employ a rule to leave the office everyday before 7:00 pm no matter what. If you get called out say you had family obligation and need someone to step in. People can laugh but I was being worked to death and literally started employing this strategy religiously and have refused and been late on a ton of projects. I have been doing it for two years now and honestly biglaw is not so bad anymore. Lawyers are insanely passive aggressive and will keep you around forever to avoid firing you. At worst you will last to your second year doing this.

There is no reason to not follow this line of advice, the fifth years in this post will be shown the door just the same as the slackers. Start taking advantage instead of being taken advantage of. I know all the top associates at my firm bill 800 hours more than me, have mental health issues, but will be fired just the same and have no leg up in interviews because nobody can talk to your references anyway. In order to make biglaw work you have to get selfish.

The firm does not give one shit about you and you shouldn't give one shit about your firm.

mvp99
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby mvp99 » Wed Jan 14, 2015 6:17 am

From what've heard its not so much the level of difficulty of the work but the fact that you cant plan your life.. missing family events weddings etc.. but OP and others make it sound like associates dont know whats going on even a year in, which i think would bother me a lot

Autumnb13
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby Autumnb13 » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:34 am

Anonymous User wrote:Don't quit, be smart and coast til you get fired like many others do. Employ a rule to leave the office everyday before 7:00 pm no matter what. If you get called out say you had family obligation and need someone to step in. People can laugh but I was being worked to death and literally started employing this strategy religiously and have refused and been late on a ton of projects. I have been doing it for two years now and honestly biglaw is not so bad anymore. Lawyers are insanely passive aggressive and will keep you around forever to avoid firing you. At worst you will last to your second year doing this.

There is no reason to not follow this line of advice, the fifth years in this post will be shown the door just the same as the slackers. Start taking advantage instead of being taken advantage of. I know all the top associates at my firm bill 800 hours more than me, have mental health issues, but will be fired just the same and have no leg up in interviews because nobody can talk to your references anyway. In order to make biglaw work you have to get selfish.

The firm does not give one shit about you and you shouldn't give one shit about your firm.


Do other firms/companies not ask for references when you try to lateral/apply for something new?

Phattypattyfrost
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby Phattypattyfrost » Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:49 am

I'm sorry but I felt that I had to weigh in. I am probably not the right person to weigh in on this seeing as I am applying to law school right now. However, I am currently employed at a Big 4 Accounting firm and my mentality since getting into law school has been 'screw it'. I leave earlier than everyone else (at 11pm on some jobs) and I don't care to pay attention when I should be working so my productivity is nil. However, at the end of the day, what is the worst that happens? I get fired? Fine, I was already planning on quitting and now they owe me severance. Basically, be selfish. The big firms deserve a good screw.

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fats provolone
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby fats provolone » Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:21 pm

Phattypattyfrost wrote:I'm sorry but I felt that I had to weigh in. I am probably not the right person to weigh in on this seeing as I am applying to law school right now. However, I am currently employed at a Big 4 Accounting firm and my mentality since getting into law school has been 'screw it'. I leave earlier than everyone else (at 11pm on some jobs) and I don't care to pay attention when I should be working so my productivity is nil. However, at the end of the day, what is the worst that happens? I get fired? Fine, I was already planning on quitting and now they owe me severance. Basically, be selfish. The big firms deserve a good screw.

yea ur really sticking it to them

Anonymous User
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Re: Quitting BigLaw after less than one year

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:24 pm

4th year associate here. When I see posts like this I think of a few questions.

Are the people who feel truly "crushed" by Big Law early on likely to be people who went straight through to law school? And are they likely to be people who coasted during 2L and 3L once they found their job?

I'm just trying to get a sense of why the hours and inflexibility of Big Law seem like such an insurmountable shock to some people. If one is involved in law school (journal, moot court, actually doing one's coursework rigorously and making one's own outlines) one works a similar number of hours as at a firm; and if one worked for an employer before law school, one should be used to the idea of full-time inflexibility.

OP, I think the advice on this forum is warranted. It might help to become a bit more detached. The firm looks at you as a billing machine. It does not look at you as a human being. Once you internalize that realization, the stakes will feel a lot lower.

Good luck.




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