Advice Needed

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Advice Needed

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:18 pm

I am currently a biglaw corporate associate a few years in and am having a lot of trouble with stress and anxiety and generally just hating my job. I've switched jobs a few times now since graduating a few years ago, the first time was a switch to biglaw, the second was a switch out of biglaw and the third was switching back to biglaw, and all of these (other than my first job, which I probably never should have quit but did so for the money) has been worse than the last. Each job is so stressful that I am starting to develop anxiety disorders that are forcing me to see a shrink. I've never been an anxious person, and part of me knows that this job and my personality are a match made in hell, but I have six figures of student debt still on the table and i'm just not sure of my options and feel trapped.

Has anyone else experienced this? Sometimes I feel completely alone in a sea of associates that are able to handle the pressure and the stress and think i'm going crazy (especially with the job hopping to get out of bad situations, thinking the next place will be better), but all of my non-law friends say they could never do this job and it makes me feel like maybe I was just not meant to do this. To top it off, I've been considered a "great" associate at each law firm and a great employee everywhere I have worked, but it doesn't make me any less anxious. Any advice would be great on dealing with this. Should I just say screw it to the debt and quit and find something else? I never thought i'd feel this way, and it is starting to scare me.

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reasonable_man

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby reasonable_man » Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:25 pm

Having to face down that debt without a good option for paying it off is likely to cause you a great deal of stress and anxiousness as well.

As for being in a sea of associates that are able to cope - bull shit. Don't let anyone convince you that they easily deal with the stress. I'm a senior mid law associate and I can tell you that the stress of being a lawyer is never easy to deal with. However, as you become more senior and you've been around the block a few times you start to realize what things should keep you up at night and which things should not.

What are the things - in particular that stress you out? Be as specific as possible (without outing yourself of course) and rank them from least stress enducing to most. The point of that exercise is to see if it is the stress of being a lawyer that is the root cause of the problem or whether it's institutional (i.e. Caused by the firm, your boss, etc.).

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:40 pm

Thanks for the reply. Honestly, I know that the debt with a lower salary will still stress me out since I lived through it, but it was different, it wasn't as debilitating, but it did make me want to get into biglaw despite knowing that I probably couldn't handle the pressure. Recently, I have a hard time just getting up in the morning to go to work and when I'm not at work I get feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious. For me, its hard to say exactly what causes my stress. I was actually fine until a few weeks ago (just overworked), but then there was a switch. I got staffed when I was busy, got staffed again and started feeling like I don't get a break (at my first firm, if you billed 250 hours, you likely had a chill month to follow). All of a sudden I was exhausted and then one weekend I just got stricken with anxiety where I would have to talk to my SO for hours just to get out of my head. I think the fact that my cell phone is always buzzing is a trigger (that buzz gives me instant anxiety), the fact that everything is a "must do now" project, obviously the hours and lack of sleep gets to me and the work itself is mind numbing. I think being a lawyer in a firm environment is really the kicker, the demand on your time and health, the work seems meaningless and sometimes even against my beliefs as a person, but it is the only real way to get rid of the debt fast and I'm worried I've switched jobs way too many times (i'm good at interviewing, but it is still a red flag). All of it together just makes me feel like i'm trapped in a really unhealthy relationship.

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby umichman » Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for the reply. Honestly, I know that the debt with a lower salary will still stress me out since I lived through it, but it was different, it wasn't as debilitating, but it did make me want to get into biglaw despite knowing that I probably couldn't handle the pressure. Recently, I have a hard time just getting up in the morning to go to work and when I'm not at work I get feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious. For me, its hard to say exactly what causes my stress. I was actually fine until a few weeks ago (just overworked), but then there was a switch. I got staffed when I was busy, got staffed again and started feeling like I don't get a break (at my first firm, if you billed 250 hours, you likely had a chill month to follow). All of a sudden I was exhausted and then one weekend I just got stricken with anxiety where I would have to talk to my SO for hours just to get out of my head. I think the fact that my cell phone is always buzzing is a trigger (that buzz gives me instant anxiety), the fact that everything is a "must do now" project, obviously the hours and lack of sleep gets to me and the work itself is mind numbing. I think being a lawyer in a firm environment is really the kicker, the demand on your time and health, the work seems meaningless and sometimes even against my beliefs as a person, but it is the only real way to get rid of the debt fast and I'm worried I've switched jobs way too many times (i'm good at interviewing, but it is still a red flag). All of it together just makes me feel like i'm trapped in a really unhealthy relationship.


Could you try taking assignments from other practice groups and maybe switching eventually? Maybe a different kind of law will fit your personality better before jumping ship again

andythefir

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby andythefir » Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:56 pm

I'd consider a government job and either relying on getting grandfathered into PAYE, trusting that politicians will see low hanging fruit to score points with overwhelmed student borrowers, or just biting the bullet and paying the tax bomb. Both the DOJ and the state where I work (New Mexico) set aside grants to help with student loans if you're working in government. Does your school have an LRAP you could back into?

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zot1

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby zot1 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 3:14 pm

I don't actually have any advice to provide, but I just wanted to say I'm sorry for what you're going through, and I hope you can get out of it soon.

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 29, 2016 3:15 pm

You say that you're considered a "great" associate at your firm. That (along with everything else you've said) sounds like you may be putting a lot of extra pressure on yourself. My advice is to start being not-quite-as-good at your job.

Look, a good business environment would look at how much you've taken on and then scale things back so you don't get overwhelmed. It sounds like your first job might have been like that. But that's not how biglaw works -- biglaw is way more dysfunctional. Here, people will keep giving you more work until you push back by saying that you cannot meet a deadline (or actually miss a deadline). 

IMO, you should start pushing back, and carve out a space for you to be healthy. And think about the other person's perspective when you say "I cannot get X done by Friday, so if you need it by then, I may not be the right person for the job or will need to get some help on another matter." They don't know if you "can't" get it done because there are literally not enough hours in the day for you to do that and your other work or because you're carving out the me-time you need to stay sane. They don't know what other deals you're staffed on, after all.

Also, please don't fall into the trap of overestimating how great everyone else is. You say that you're considered a great associate, so I bet you don't/rarely push back on deadlines or miss deadlines (even soft, internal ones). You might think that no one does -- but I can tell you that many, many people do. You can make mistakes without it being the end of the world. (Sure, it may get you pushed out in a few years but, realistically, that is probably going to happen to all of us anyway. And it definitely will if we let the stress/anxiety get to us!)

Biglaw has a twisted way of making us feel like we're on a high wire and that any mistake will be fatal. But that's just not true. Most mistakes will get you chewed out or yelled at, or may make a particular partner decide not to work with you. Big mistakes might shorten your time at a firm. But so what? Nothing will get you fired (immediately) and nothing will ruin your life the way accepting that amount of stress will. 

When you're at the point of considering quitting and the worst they can do is (gently) fire you, you're in a great position. Push back, and carve out a space to make your job livable. 

I want to close by saying that I know how tough all this is; I'm in a similar boat and I think it's a pretty gigantic boat, at that. I'm glad you're getting professional help and I wish you all the best. 

(Oh, and I've found that a mindfulness practice -- even 10 minutes/day -- is super helpful for my anxiety but YMMV.) 

patentlitigatrix

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby patentlitigatrix » Tue Nov 29, 2016 5:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for the reply. Honestly, I know that the debt with a lower salary will still stress me out since I lived through it, but it was different, it wasn't as debilitating, but it did make me want to get into biglaw despite knowing that I probably couldn't handle the pressure. Recently, I have a hard time just getting up in the morning to go to work and when I'm not at work I get feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious. For me, its hard to say exactly what causes my stress. I was actually fine until a few weeks ago (just overworked), but then there was a switch. I got staffed when I was busy, got staffed again and started feeling like I don't get a break (at my first firm, if you billed 250 hours, you likely had a chill month to follow). All of a sudden I was exhausted and then one weekend I just got stricken with anxiety where I would have to talk to my SO for hours just to get out of my head. I think the fact that my cell phone is always buzzing is a trigger (that buzz gives me instant anxiety), the fact that everything is a "must do now" project, obviously the hours and lack of sleep gets to me and the work itself is mind numbing. I think being a lawyer in a firm environment is really the kicker, the demand on your time and health, the work seems meaningless and sometimes even against my beliefs as a person, but it is the only real way to get rid of the debt fast and I'm worried I've switched jobs way too many times (i'm good at interviewing, but it is still a red flag). All of it together just makes me feel like i'm trapped in a really unhealthy relationship.


Ok a few things:

It sounds like you may be having problems saying "no" when you are already busy and someone asks you to join a case/deal.

It sounds like you may be having trouble prioritizing/knowing what can be put off. Everything shouldn't be urgent.

Do either or both of those sound like they are issues to you?

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 29, 2016 5:27 pm

I am not in biglaw and probably way too not qualified to say this, but I strongly suggest therapy if you have experienced anxiety disorders. It really helps and you can manage it after treatment. It does make a difference.

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zot1

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby zot1 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 5:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I am not in biglaw and probably way too not qualified to say this, but I strongly suggest therapy if you have experienced anxiety disorders. It really helps and you can manage it after treatment. It does make a difference.


OP said he is seeing someone.

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 29, 2016 5:45 pm

zot1 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I am not in biglaw and probably way too not qualified to say this, but I strongly suggest therapy if you have experienced anxiety disorders. It really helps and you can manage it after treatment. It does make a difference.


OP said he is seeing someone.


Anon above, sorry overlooked it.

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zot1

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby zot1 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 5:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
zot1 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I am not in biglaw and probably way too not qualified to say this, but I strongly suggest therapy if you have experienced anxiety disorders. It really helps and you can manage it after treatment. It does make a difference.


OP said he is seeing someone.


Anon above, sorry overlooked it.


You don't really have to post anon for this.

iliketurtles123

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby iliketurtles123 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 5:53 pm

What about moving in-house? You might take a pay cut sure, but you still would be able to service your debt. It might just take longer to pay off. I'd just make sure you find a good place to work. If you decide to move, I'd take some time to research each firm/company/government position thoroughly to make sure you know what you're moving to, esp. since you're worried about moving too much.

Also, if your shrink isn't helping, find another one (and another, until you find one works well with you). I don't think anyone here can tell you whether your biglaw job is the source of the anxiety, or whether it triggered an anxiety disorder in you and is exacerbating it. Your shrink would be the one to help, and if not, a second opinion helps.

If you don't have any private loans, I wouldn't lose sleep over debt. There's a reason student loans are nondischargeable in bankruptcy, one being there's a good amount of federal assistance. Unlike other type of debt, if you can't make payments, you won't starve or go homeless because of student loans.

Even if the worst happens (ie: you lose your job), you're still MILES ahead of your peers (both lawyers and non-lawyers) in terms of your career, financial outlook, etc. You'll land something else. TLS is all doom and gloom but if you're smart enough to get biglaw in the first place, you're smart enough to land something elsewhere, even if it takes a little while.

Finally, put your mental health first. Nothing is worth damaging your mental health, even if you have student loans. If you can manage it, then great. But if it's getting worse and worse, then quit if you have to. I've seen people develop mental health issues during their 20's and 30's and have seen stressful events trigger mental breakdowns, and I can tell you it is absolutely not worth any amount of money in the world.

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Prana-9

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby Prana-9 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 6:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote: Sometimes I feel completely alone in a sea of associates that are able to handle the pressure and the stress and think i'm going crazy.


One of the tricks that depression and anxiety places on oneself is making you feel that you are the only one in the world/firm feeling that way. There's a good chance that some of those associates look at you and believe that you are handling the pressure and stress really well.

What you are going through is common in law firms.

If you haven't done so, try to learn to meditate. Even 10 mins/day helps tremendously.

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 29, 2016 11:39 pm

Thanks for all the replies. I'm definitely starting to look into other jobs, probably will start after bonuses, but looking to do something more along the lines of what i'm passionate about. Doing deals is just a miserable way to live and it just never ends, there is no satisfaction in the work whatsoever. As for the debt, my problem is that I refinanced, so it isn't government debt anymore. I'll likely just refinance again and push the term out to minimize monthly payments ($600-$800 a month isn't too bad if you're making 85K+) and I'll just have to accept the fact that the debt will be there and not let it bother me. Already saw a professional for the first time, it definitely helped, but doesn't make me feel better about the job. I've had lots of stressful situations in my life (death of loved ones, graduating during financial crisis, terrible grades in law school and failure to find a job after graduation), but somehow I can't shake it here. I've always been good with people but working at a firm makes me feel like i'm regressing, just constantly trying to protect myself rather than work as a team. Think everyone is right about me pushing myself too hard and not saying no. I just have to start carving out time everyday for me to exercise and sleep, no matter how busy, at the end of the day, its just not worth it. Thanks a lot for the advice, I don't use this forum too much, but its good to know what I'm feeling isn't abnormal and some of the stuff here i'm definitely going to try (meditation, working out, saying no more).

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 29, 2016 11:39 pm

Double Post

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:14 pm

Leaving the profession

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Leaving the profession


Op??

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Re: Advice Needed

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Leaving the profession


Op??

No just a recommendation to escape stress



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