Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

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Anonymous User
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Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 13, 2017 6:53 pm

I am a litigation associate at a large regional firm on the biglaw pay scale about to finish my second year (FWIW, I will soon be a fourth-year because I clerked). For various reasons, I have never gotten close to meeting my hours. The volume of work here is pretty unsteady, and I just can't seem to make myself bill the extra hours when I have enough work to do it. Very rarely am I busy enough that I am forced to work the necessary hours.

I don't understand why I was able to put in the hours to do extremely well in law school (just outside T-14 when I was there) but can't make myself do the needful to succeed in my career. I think I get caught up in some kind of weird shame spiral. I might be depressed, but therapists do not understand.

What really worries me is that I am pretty terrible at getting jobs. I barely got this job despite my aforementioned good stats.

Anyway, I want to get out of here before they push me out. I enjoyed numerous government internships in law school, but I don't think there are many jobs in that sector in my city.

Is there hope for me in private practice?

lolwat
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Re: Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby lolwat » Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:54 pm

What's the problem? Were you just not interested in the work you were doing, even when you had "enough work" to bill the hours? Is it a matter of not having deadlines kicking your ass every day so you're not motivated to bill the extra hours? I'm asking to better understand what the issue is.

1styearlateral
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Re: Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby 1styearlateral » Thu Sep 14, 2017 9:49 am

In my experience, if your work product is good enough to justify your lower billables, the firm will keep you around. It's really tough, especially in litigation, to find good writers, and it's not something you can teach someone when they walk through the door. It's learned and crafted over many years. Considering you have clerked, I assume you're already a better writer than 90 percent of the legal population (few judges have patience for shitty writing). If you're only looking at 100-200 short of your billables, I don't really think you'll have anything to worry about, unless partners have straight up told you your work product is not acceptable or you're on your way out the door. It also helps if *key* partners like having you around.

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Slytherpuff
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Re: Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby Slytherpuff » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:09 am

I'd really encourage you to try a new therapist. You definitely do sound depressed, or at least seriously burned out. We've all been there. I think if you get the right therapist, they can help you talk through your issues and figure out if there's a root cause you need to address.

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:23 am

There's hope for you. You might also just not like the job, which is a fine feeling to have and certainly doesn't make you a failure (or else like 97 percent of all biglaw associates ever would be failures). I think most associates also go through periods like you're describing. It sounds like burnout to me.

ETA: and burnout is a real, defined thing. It's not just "I'm too lazy to do this job anymore." read some of this and see if it rings true for you: https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/burnout

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Rowinguy2009
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Re: Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby Rowinguy2009 » Thu Sep 14, 2017 11:04 am

I can relate to this. I've typically been the overachieving, hyper-productive type, but I was never really able to apply that quality to law firm practice. I think I have always been motivated by completing tasks, and I'm also reasonably efficient at doing so, which just doesn't necessarily translate to the law firm goal of billing x number of hours. (In fact, efficiency is in some ways a weird detriment when it comes to firm practice).

You mentioned that you clerked before working at your firm, how'd you do there? Were you reasonably happy/successful at accomplishing what the judge needed you to? I eventually switched to government and have never looked back; I think you should at least give that sector a hard look. Of course, if there aren't many gov't offerings where you are, you would have to at least consider moving. On the flip side, it's certainly possible you would do better at a better managed firm - I think you're really the only person who can answer that though.

Either way, don't feel like a failure. The billable hour model sucks, and doesn't work for a lot of (most?) people. You don't realize that when you're working at a firm, because many of the partners you work for are the unique creatures who have somehow made it work (some are just built for it, but some are almost definitely doing so to their detriment). Find something that works for you, be it gov't, in-house, a different firm, or maybe even transitioning from law altogether if you think that's necessary.

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Re: Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 14, 2017 12:21 pm

I don't understand why I was able to put in the hours to do extremely well in law school (just outside T-14 when I was there) but can't make myself do the needful to succeed in my career


I used to think about this daily, until I realized it is because I give zero Fs about this job, what I am doing, and the people I work with. If that sounds like depression, well it is. But it made me realize that I hate what I do so much that it was affecting me and changing things about me that I thought were fundamentally a part of who I am. Like you, I questioned myself, and that took a toll on me. But recently, I stopped giving myself a hard time and simply accepted that my particular situation (the firm, the office, the practice group, the partners I work for, etc...) was the problem, not me. I convinced myself that I shouldn't feel bad if I absolutely hate corporate work and everything about it, and you shouldn't feel bad either if you realize that you are just not into your job. That doesn't make us failures imho. On the contrary, it takes courage to leave biglaw or, more generally, to make a career move.

It might take a different office, or different type of law altogether, but please try not to blame yourself - biglaw sucks!

jd20132013
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Re: Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby jd20132013 » Thu Sep 14, 2017 2:29 pm

Just know that failing at biglaw doesn't make you a failure.

lolwat
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Re: Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby lolwat » Thu Sep 14, 2017 2:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I used to think about this daily, until I realized it is because I give zero Fs about this job, what I am doing, and the people I work with. If that sounds like depression, well it is. But it made me realize that I hate what I do so much that it was affecting me and changing things about me that I thought were fundamentally a part of who I am. Like you, I questioned myself, and that took a toll on me. But recently, I stopped giving myself a hard time and simply accepted that my particular situation (the firm, the office, the practice group, the partners I work for, etc...) was the problem, not me. I convinced myself that I shouldn't feel bad if I absolutely hate corporate work and everything about it, and you shouldn't feel bad either if you realize that you are just not into your job. That doesn't make us failures imho. On the contrary, it takes courage to leave biglaw or, more generally, to make a career move.

It might take a different office, or different type of law altogether, but please try not to blame yourself - biglaw sucks!


It's going to be an individualized, case by case situation, but one cautionary point about this: I would not always think that it's everybody else's fault, either, because then you'll never take responsibility for anything that might be your fault. I see this way too much in my life.

OP never answered my questions. The point I was trying to drive at is that most junior litigation associates in biglaw get stuck with discovery and low level grunt work. And that might be part of the problem. OP clerked and likely did more substantive work there than at the biglaw firm, which might be contributing to the burn-out. I know when I transitioned from clerking to working at my (boutique) firm, I was bored to tears whenever I had to deal with discovery issues, summarize depositions, prepare outlines, and stuff, and couldn't really handle billing more than 7-8 hours a day on it if I weren't given a hard deadline and absolutely had to complete those tasks by a certain day. But if I'm given a hard deadline or when I got assigned work I felt was more interesting, I'd bill 10+ hours a day easily.

It could be the work. It could be the people.

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Roy McAvoy
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Re: Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby Roy McAvoy » Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:29 pm

Some of it also may be that you're not invested in the work. There's a big difference between clerking, in-house, etc., where you see the results of your work and why it matters, and being essentially a contractor performing services, which is what you're doing at a law firm. I think there's also something to the thought that being efficient and a quick worker can be somewhat of a detriment in a firm.

I would encourage OP to seek out something like an in-house opportunity, probably in a small legal team, where you have a direct impact on the issues you're working on. By that, I mean you are the one fixing issues, giving advice, etc., which is much different than doing discovery for a partner on a case that you're not invested in. Some people just aren't cut out for firm life, and that definitely doesn't make you a failure. Try not to be so hard on yourself, but I know that's easier said than done.

Anonymous User
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Re: Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 14, 2017 6:50 pm

Anyone have any experience switching from corporate to lit approximately 2-3 years in?

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elendinel
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Re: Leaving biglaw feeling like a failure

Postby elendinel » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I don't understand why I was able to put in the hours to do extremely well in law school (just outside T-14 when I was there) but can't make myself do the needful to succeed in my career. I think I get caught up in some kind of weird shame spiral. I might be depressed, but therapists do not understand.


I definitely echo the suggestion to try a new therapist (or several, if necessary). It can often take awhile to find one that can work well with you (both because they may not understand what you're going through, but also because even if they do understand, they may not be able to help you in a way that actually benefits you personally).

FWIW I and many people have been where you are in one respect or another, and the majority of people in biglaw eventually move on to something else. You're not a failure for deciding earlier than others that it's not for you, and if it helps I think pretty much anyone can guarantee that plenty of people have decided as early as their first year that their firm/practice group/even biglaw/firm life in general was not what they wanted and that they wanted to get out ASAP. It's worth looking at your options (another partner's work, another firm, another type of practice, another type of law, even) and figuring out what might make you, specifically, happier. Biglaw, at your first firm, in your first practice group, etc. is hardly the end-all, be-all (and neither is working at a firm at all, for that matter).




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