Fired from Big Law today

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whattodowithmylife

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Fired from Big Law today

Postby whattodowithmylife » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:19 am

I am a junior corporate associate at the office of a top 10 firm. I've been slow for basically the entire time I've been here, except for very sporadic late nights when deals were closing. Mainly, it seemed like people just forgot I existed (it's a smaller satellite office, with no centralized staffing, unlike our factory-like NYC headquarters). I billed probably 1500 hours last year, plus a ton of pro bono for the fun of it and to pad my hours. (Love pro bono. Guess Big Law was the wrong decision.)

At my annual evaluation, the two partners said "We think you should leave" and justified the main reason as my lack of taking "ownership" over my work, i.e., not taking the extra step to ask questions and re-examining the document at hand, but rather just doing what I was told. It was all quite vague. They kept saying the word "ownership" again and again. Out of curiosity, I asked if my work product had been bad, and they admitted it was fine, but not "exceptional enough" to outweigh this so-called ownership problem. I call BS on the firing; I know there must be more to the story that they aren't telling me. They also said it was the Personnel Committee's decision based on my senior attorneys' comments and tried to absolve themselves of the guilt. Whatever.

The reason I'm not freaking out completely is because: 1) I know our firm is downsizing so I'm not taking this TOO personally, though of course I immediately started crying after and felt like a failure; 2) I have three months to find a job, using their career services and of course my own hustling, then after three months, we'll have a "check-in" on my progress and perhaps set an end-date by then; and 3) Perhaps most importantly, I really dislike corporate work and had actually been actively thinking about how to leave my firm. This feels like a mutual break-up, except I wish I'd dumped my firm first.

I just feel really weird right now. I graduated with honors at a T14 school, but this is of little comfort. I'm concerned I am terrible at having a job, period?! I think I'm writing here out of a need for community, as I'm too ashamed to tell my friends about this -- I'd love feedback on any of the below:

1) Has this ever happened to anyone else, and can they please commiserate? I'm sure it has, but I don't know anyone personally and feel super alone/embarrassed.
2) Do law firms generally suck, or should I try to lateral to a different practice area? I was thinking government investigations since it doesn't involve pure litigation and truly seems interesting, but it'd be a challenge to weave a convincing narrative on why I wanted to lateral to a different practice area.
3) I don't think I like law generally (I dislike legal research/litigation) and would prefer to do policy work (or legislative work in the government) above any law firm work, but I don't know exactly where I would find these jobs/how to sell myself.

Please only positive energy here! Am feeling terrible!
Last edited by whattodowithmylife on Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:57 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:34 am

This happened to me. I was given an agreement that said I couldn't disclose that there were financial issues, I was laid off or there was any agreement but if I don't sign it, I'm fired immediately. It sounds like your firm is also making measures easier for you by trying to increase your chances by keeping you on the website. Mine didn't because they felt it's dishonest, which is odd given they forced me to sign an agreement promising to lie or be fired and removed from the website immediately.

Did your firm also hire "transition services"? Mine did, and they called incessantly during the period - talking about how kind the firm was, and their "son in law" who went from doc review to partner, and the importance of not disclosing what happened online, to friends at other firms, etc.

Maybe that was just my firm, but I'd say the main thing is to hustle on finding a way to transition out. It's not that you're a failure. It's that the other people were more protected than you.

I'd also caution you to avoid my mistake - don't sign because they say it is non-negotiable. Negotiate back. It's easy to get strong armed because "it's a small community," and "it is easier for everyone if you sign as is". Push back for 4 or 5 months. I didn't negotiate, got under 3 months severance and got threatened with breaching the agreement if I say why I left - I basically need to say I decided to leave because I decided it wasn't for me (can't say anything negative) or I'm sued. Don't be me.

RaceJudicata

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby RaceJudicata » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:40 am

I'd consider anonymizing your post a bit. Doubt the firm will look here, but if they do, its almost certain they will know who you are and could very easily get rid of the 3 months/additional services.

That said, I'm sorry how this went down and hope you land on your feet.

whattodowithmylife

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby whattodowithmylife » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:44 am

Thank you so much for your kind reply! Yes, they are offering transition services, but I immediately thought it seemed fishy (which you confirmed). Question: what did you do at the firm for the several months after the "firing"? Am I just going to sit around all day applying to jobs? At the same time, seems weird to work on matters when I'm leaving soon (none of the associates know I have been told to leave, so I assume they'll keep giving me assignments). Also, what job did you land post-"firing"?

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:54 am

Was fired NYC V50 less than a year in. It took awhile to find a new gig, started my new gig this week.

1. I felt really shitty and am still nervous that i suck at my job

2. I had a loooong period of hating my life bc I thought I would be homeless and embarrassed bc as time passed I couldn't find a gig

3. I also hated law but couldn't tell if it was just my firm that I hated

4. I decided I owe it to myself to give it another shot A. I'd find out more if I actually hate biglaw B. I'll find out if I actually suck or it was just a wierd firm thing C. My exit options will only increase and same with my money D. If I suck and get fired I'll get another 3 months and then can try in house, gov etc.

5. Hang in there, this is wayyyyy more common than you think. Hustle with job apps. At the end of the day there is a very good shot (due to fact that they didn't give you a hard 3 months) you will land a good gig and this can be a semi vacation from Biglaw

Too soon to find out if I hate my new gig

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:04 am

Since you are a T-14 grad at a top-ten firm, you were likely besieged with headhunter calls (I frequently get hunter calls... I am at a V, but not top-ten). Did you make any friendships with the hunters, or did you blow them all off?

(FWIW: If I were hit with “ownership” I would have argued that I do take ownership to draw out specifics ― just to see if they had any).

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:06 am

Same op who first replied to your post:

I never showed up again, because I was embarrassed. I did work from home. About 2 weeks before this, a third year's body language seemed off whenever she passed my office. In my poker days, I'd have pegged her for having pocket aces. In this situation, it was obvious she knew and that therefore others knew but she was just less aware of her body language.

I had made a small mistake on a pro bono thing with a nightmare partner. I hadn't written that kind of document before, and thought I'd impress them, which was dumb. They went apeshit. I got calls from colleagues who had less intense interactions with them, and felt they may be getting blackballed. It was also rough because they were my mentor so I didn't really have anyone to ask about it.

They brought up another small thing but focused on the financial aspect. I think there were really financial issues, because someone asked me at an interview. I said no because of the agreement, but obviously someone else told that firm about the financial issues.

That said, I know the mistake with the nightmare partner was a factor as well. I had overheard a conversation from my office the same day the partner had gone ape shit, because these older partners don't realize that they're legally deaf so their whispering is like an AC/DC concert. In fairness, I have ridiculous hearing and had eavesdropped for years in method acting. In the conversation, the other big partner seemed to defend me.

At some point later, they realized they had financial issues or won't have the same need. Other people were laid off but my hours were just starting to pick back up because I was soliciting work from lawyers outside of their sphere of influence, but we're talking like three 50 hour months and one 200 hour month. That wasn't going to get anyone defending me (before this I had been over 200 each month).

I didn't stop going in because of a fuck them mentality, but because I felt like a loser. In retrospect, it's easier to get more concessions and the like from people you see every day. They'll forget about you by the time your 3 months end.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:21 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:11 am

whattodowithmylife wrote:Thank you so much for your kind reply! Yes, they are offering transition services, but I immediately thought it seemed fishy (which you confirmed). Question: what did you do at the firm for the several months after the "firing"? Am I just going to sit around all day applying to jobs? At the same time, seems weird to work on matters when I'm leaving soon (none of the associates know I have been told to leave, so I assume they'll keep giving me assignments). Also, what job did you land post-"firing"?


I showed up at 1030 and left at 5 for appearance sake because I didn't want my reputation of being fired to spread. Every once and awhil I slept in and didn't come to work every

Transition serves were actually helpful but realize you are not the client, the firm is

Don't bill another minute, fuck that shit, I stopped doing shit, though at first I responded to an email or two as to not raise red flags from colleagues

Also if others give you work tell them you are slammed.

Alternative, is make up you are going on succombment somewhere, someone at my firm did that

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:34 am

Happened to me as well. My situation was a little different because I despised the job and clearly didn't give a fuck for at least 6 months before it happened. I smirked through the entire discussion and cleaned my office out afterward. I'm not sure why others in this thread bothered to even go in day-to-day. I made a token effort to lateral to a high QOL secondary in which I had ties, but nothing panned out. I plan to either leave law entirely or give solo a shot, but I did have my debt covered with savings before my last day. I also worked at multiple firms, so I knew it wasn't just the firm/group but the legal profession that wasn't a good fit.

And don't feel bad. The legal profession is detested by both other lawyers and general public. There's a reason lawyer is consistently rated the worst career for job satisfaction, depression, etc. Take the time to figure out what you want to do next and go after it. If you're corporate, though, maybe give litigation a try. Mindlessly pushing paper as a corporate associate is objectively miserable, and maybe litigation would be a better fit. But definitely don't feel bad about your situation. It's more common than you think.

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:Happened to me as well. My situation was a little different because I despised the job and clearly didn't give a fuck for at least 6 months before it happened. I smirked through the entire discussion and cleaned my office out afterward. I'm not sure why others in this thread bothered to even go in day-to-day. I made a token effort to lateral to a high QOL secondary in which I had ties, but nothing panned out. I plan to either leave law entirely or give solo a shot, but I did have my debt covered with savings before my last day. I also worked at multiple firms, so I knew it wasn't just the firm/group but the legal profession that wasn't a good fit.

And don't feel bad. The legal profession is detested by both other lawyers and general public. There's a reason lawyer is consistently rated the worst career for job satisfaction, depression, etc. Take the time to figure out what you want to do next and go after it. If you're corporate, though, maybe give litigation a try. Mindlessly pushing paper as a corporate associate is objectively miserable, and maybe litigation would be a better fit. But definitely don't feel bad about your situation. It's more common than you think.



OP, (I'm not the OP, just talking to the OP) the lesson I learned is if you show the firm/ make them think you are trying hard to find another job and really care about landing on your feet, asking for extensions if neccesary, applying broadly and hard, you will have more leeway/time which will drastically increase your shot at landing another solid gig

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 2:15 am

I also don't necessarily agree that OP's firm outing them puts them in a worse position. If they can't be trusted, then there's no sense in signing a contract with them. People also don't like people who gossip, but at the end of the day your keeping this information private is worth something.

With the paid transition services, I got the impression that there are incentives in place if you don't enroll for unemployment benefits. It doesn't matter what kind of job you get, just that you get one. They also don't have much experience helping lawyers transition from big law to big law or from big law to mid law. They can be good at helping you with interviewing. i was getting calls from my guy the night of and the next day. I didn't tell my family, because they were in foreclosure and I didn't want them to worry. I didn't want to talk to a guy I pegged as a snakeoil about my feelings the night it happened.

It's not that the transition firm is dishonest. It's that anyone who has experience as an independent contractor knows that any IC's loyalty is to the person that pays them. In my case it was more obvious, because it was one of the recruitment firm's rainmakers. I knew he was calling me, because he was afraid I'd be doing what you're doing. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and made me think he thought I was an idiot.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Mar 01, 2017 2:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

sparty99

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby sparty99 » Wed Mar 01, 2017 2:32 am

I'm confused. You are still at the firm? You have 3 months to find a new job? Well, you are kind of lucky. If you are V10 and Top law school you should be able to find a new position. You better call all the recruiters in NYC NOW because it could take 3 months to find a new position. Scale back on your spending. Do not dog it completely. You need to make friends with one person in that firm so you can use as a reference for now or in the future. I also might consider negotiating the severance. Can you get 4 or 5 months. This makes a huge difference and severance is negotiable.

There are many reasons why law firms get rid of attorneys. But if you have low hours you are almost always going to be fired.

webcammie

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby webcammie » Wed Mar 01, 2017 3:47 am

If I were you, I would spend the next three months to find a job. Don't take on anymore work. Only go in to work when necessary. Enjoy the free paychecks while doing nothing. You'll find a position soon with your credentials.

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Genius » Wed Mar 01, 2017 5:48 am

T14... honors... biglaw ecperience....

Yeah you'll be fine. If you really want to see agony, try the vale thread.


Edit- accidental anon

Npret

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Npret » Wed Mar 01, 2017 8:12 am

OP transition services are common and I would use them. I would do everything you can to look like you are looking for a new job but keep coming in. If you don't you are unlikely to be able to extend your time at the firm. You can't be sure you can find a job in 3 months.

dixiecupdrinking

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:39 am

I don't have any real advice, but I just wanted to say this might be a blessing in disguise. Sounds like you work for some real toxic cowards, and although we only have your side of the story, it certainly has all the hallmarks of a stealth economic layoff. If a first year's biggest problem is a lack of "ownership," that is far from a fireable offense. Keep your head up and don't let them make you think this is about you -- it's about the partnership's inability to run a business.

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:46 am

I was the "not going to make partner" version of this as a mid-senior associate. NYC V20. I had had some phenomenally good reviews over the years, but one or two rather bad ones that just wouldn't go away (i.e. even after I stopped working on deals for those partners and continued to get solid reviews from others, the bad ones were still being mentioned to me in annual evals).

I was already looking for other opportunities and had one pretty close to locked down when I had The Meeting. The particular Angel of Death that they sent was a partner I knew, and he was nice enough about it. It still stung like hell, almost more so because I basically had something else lined up. Made it feel like, "you can't fire me! I'm already leaving!" (For me, it also hurt that mid-junior associates who I had trained and mentored and shared credit with seemed like they were being treated like kings-in-waiting by the firm.)

It wasn't official severance, since my firm gave me an indeterminate ("in several months we'll see where we are") time to look for other opportunities. They offered informal internal help in finding opportunities, and I understood from others that a paid transition service firm would be available later on if I needed it.

Keep your chin up, OP. It's hard, because if you went to a T14, graduated with honors, and went to a top firm, you see yourself as a failure if you aren't a "success" at everything. I, too, felt like, "maybe I just suck at having a job." In reality, the only job you've tried is a pressure cooker of a V10, very different from the way that the vast majority of lawyers in the world practice law, with the additional gloss of being in a weird situation of a satellite office with not enough work. So don't make sweeping judgments about yourself based on this. Your qualifications and record will keep you employed, and that's more than a lot of people can say.

Finally, as for getting into policy work, it's just a different grind but it can be done. The easiest way is to transition yourself into a policy field that is somewhat related to the work you've done. It's a shoehorn, maybe, but if the corp work you've done involves securities, or commodities, or banking more generally, maybe you can use the next few months of slower work to try writing a little? Not law-review stuff, just the easy kinds of client alert blog posts ("What does the Trump administration mean for commodities? Here's 10 paragraphs saying we don't know!") or Law360 type pieces that you can use to show that you've been interested in getting into policy. Hard to give an exact prescription, though, because there are dozens of different paths to get into "policy."

Good luck.

ETA: Use the transition services the firm provides. Yes, they are being paid by the firm, but they still have an incentive to get you a job. And call any headhunters who have previously reached out to you.

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 10:26 am

It helps if you have a partner or friends that don't care about the legal field for you to unload on. When I was asked to leave, I didn't really want to talk about it with friends and colleagues in the legal world, but I did talk about it with my spouse and with friends who don't give a damn about what Vault is. They helped put things in perspective.

Also, if you have good relationships with any particular partners, keep that up. Let them know what is happening and ask them for help (e.g., to connect you to other jobs/people, or to serve as a reference). I was forced out due to low hours, but the partners I worked with and trusted knew I did good work. They were able to help me move on, and I still keep in touch with them as part of my professional network.

Lastly, unwind by taking some vacations during your three month "transition period" but don't enter it in as vacation time in the timekeeping software. I did a bit of traveling during this time and was still handed a sizable check at the end for unused vacation days.

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby 1styearlateral » Wed Mar 01, 2017 10:35 am

Sorry to hear this, but you'll be glad to know that you'll be fine. Good luck.

ETA: Since you're in a secondary market, don't scorch Earth with your current firm. Word will travel quickly (even in NYC the legal community is somewhat small relative to other professional markets), and you don't want to become unhirable. Reach out to friends/colleagues/classmates at other firms to see if they're hiring laterals.

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 2:27 pm

I'm sure things will work out for you. And you won't be missing out: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=274185

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 01, 2017 2:45 pm

Sorry to hear about this, but it's a lot more common that many realize. Rest assured that it was a bottom line decision. Unless you are a total jerk to the wrong person, firms rarely fire someone they are making money on. It was hours, and at this stage in your career, that's not your fault- it's the firms'. I do know many people (and a family member) who have been in this situation and had a gig lined up by the time their severance period expired. Some of them are still in biglaw many years later- sometimes you are just in a bad situation and there's little you could have done.

I'm personally anti-headhunter, especially outside of NYC. Be VERY careful of resume spammers- they can severely hurt your chances. You almost certainly know a lot of people in town at other firms. Pick up the phone and start talking to people. Schedule in-person meetups where possible. Where it's not possible, just let people know you are looking. Find out who has needs and try to back-channel meetings with the partners.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Thu Mar 02, 2017 3:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

didntretake

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby didntretake » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:00 pm

Is it weird that I sort of wish this would happen to me? OP - I think you will be better off wherever you end up.

johndhi

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby johndhi » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:09 pm

Sorry to hear that. From your post, you're clearly a good writer, so don't feel down on your law skills. Law skills are barely a thing, anyhow.

I recommend downloading an app called Insight Timer (it's a guided meditation thing) and listening to one called Accepting Change by Sarah Blondin ("Live Awake"). That really helps me feel better when I feel like I'm floating in a vacuum and scared of the future.

You've probably heard it before and won't listen until you know it's true, but these moments are when we really grow.

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby gaddockteeg » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:34 pm

whattodowithmylife wrote:I am a junior corporate associate at the office of a top 10 firm. I've been slow for basically the entire time I've been here, except for very sporadic late nights when deals were closing. Mainly, it seemed like people just forgot I existed (it's a smaller satellite office, with no centralized staffing, unlike our factory-like NYC headquarters). I billed probably 1500 hours last year, plus a ton of pro bono for the fun of it and to pad my hours. (Love pro bono. Guess Big Law was the wrong decision.)

At my annual evaluation, the two partners said "We think you should leave" and justified the main reason as my lack of taking "ownership" over my work, i.e., not taking the extra step to ask questions and re-examining the document at hand, but rather just doing what I was told. It was all quite vague. They kept saying the word "ownership" again and again. Out of curiosity, I asked if my work product had been bad, and they admitted it was fine, but not "exceptional enough" to outweigh this so-called ownership problem. I call BS on the firing; I know there must be more to the story that they aren't telling me. They also said it was the Personnel Committee's decision based on my senior attorneys' comments and tried to absolve themselves of the guilt. Whatever.

The reason I'm not freaking out completely is because: 1) I know our firm is downsizing so I'm not taking this TOO personally, though of course I immediately started crying after and felt like a failure; 2) I have three months to find a job, using their career services and of course my own hustling, then after three months, we'll have a "check-in" on my progress and perhaps set an end-date by then; and 3) Perhaps most importantly, I really dislike corporate work and had actually been actively thinking about how to leave my firm. This feels like a mutual break-up, except I wish I'd dumped my firm first.

I just feel really weird right now. I graduated with honors at a T14 school, but this is of little comfort. I'm concerned I am terrible at having a job, period?! I think I'm writing here out of a need for community, as I'm too ashamed to tell my friends about this -- I'd love feedback on any of the below:

1) Has this ever happened to anyone else, and can they please commiserate? I'm sure it has, but I don't know anyone personally and feel super alone/embarrassed.
2) Do law firms generally suck, or should I try to lateral to a different practice area? I was thinking government investigations since it doesn't involve pure litigation and truly seems interesting, but it'd be a challenge to weave a convincing narrative on why I wanted to lateral to a different practice area.
3) I don't think I like law generally (I dislike legal research/litigation) and would prefer to do policy work (or legislative work in the government) above any law firm work, but I don't know exactly where I would find these jobs/how to sell myself.

Please only positive energy here! Am feeling terrible!


The most shocking part of this to me is that this is a top10 firm and you didn't make any mistakes. I was considering leaving my current firm, but now I'm terrified of doing so.

whattodowithmylife

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Re: Fired from Big Law today

Postby whattodowithmylife » Thu Mar 02, 2017 11:18 am

johndhi wrote:Sorry to hear that. From your post, you're clearly a good writer, so don't feel down on your law skills. Law skills are barely a thing, anyhow.

I recommend downloading an app called Insight Timer (it's a guided meditation thing) and listening to one called Accepting Change by Sarah Blondin ("Live Awake"). That really helps me feel better when I feel like I'm floating in a vacuum and scared of the future.

You've probably heard it before and won't listen until you know it's true, but these moments are when we really grow.


I haven't heard of these apps actually, but will download now! Even though I am an atheist, right now I am totally needing spiritual guidance and even considered visiting a Unitarian church....

Also, thanks so much for the compliment on writing - that is so meaningful to me.



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