Should I start looking around?

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Should I start looking around?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 04, 2017 10:44 am

About to finish my first year in a litigation specialty group at a firm that has separate and distinct practice groups—i.e., my group is not part of the larger litigation group at my firm. Staffing on matters for junior associates like myself comes from 1-2 junior partners whose job it is to try to ensure everyone has work. I summered at this firm, spent time in this group during my summer, and I really liked it. However, because of work concerns detailed below, I am wondering if it is time to look around.

I started at the firm almost a year ago now, and off the bat I was fortunate to get some really good experience. For anonymity purposes I won't go into too many details, but suffice to say, I was able to get experiences that I know more senior juniors in my group have yet to get. I was told after this matter concluded that my reviews were great and that I should keep pushing more senior people to let me do challenging work.

Since that matter concluded in the spring, I haven't had much that is consistent. Much of this seems to be because of circumstances out of my control. I've had a few substantive assignments here and there, but the vast majority of my billable work since that initial matter ended has consisted of doc review-like assignments.

I realize that all junior associates have to do doc review in their careers, so I am not trying to bitch about just that. However, 80%+ of my work in the last six or so months has been doc review, and for various reasons, it's been difficult to get more substantive work on these matters (i.e. the matter only needs doc review at this point in time, more senior associates were doing the only substantive work on the matter, the partners on these matters are largely absent and therefore it's more difficult to get plugged into the matters, etc.).

Even the doc review itself is frustrating because—again for a multitude of reasons—I haven’t been able to get fully integrated into the larger teams working these assignments. And so I often end up reviewing documents without understanding how the review fits into the larger picture. The amount of doc review as a % of my overall work I've done has certainly been higher than that of other similarly-situated juniors in the group, but from what I can tell, this seems to be largely happenstance and not purposeful (i.e. b/c my work product sucks). Of course, I could be wrong.

Part of the issue seems to stem from the fact that it is well-known in this group that the amount of work seems to be down from where it was 6 months or a year ago. There are other associates in the group, including some mid to senior, that have no work or very little work at this time. The partners in the group have largely shrugged this off as just a hiccup, and I think (?) I believe them. The group is well ranked in Chambers and seems to have a solid reputation in the field. The group is also bringing in a boat-load of first-year associates to start next year, so I have to assume they would only do that if they were confident in the group's financial position moving forward. That being said, things have been slow the last 6 or so months, and it's unclear if and when they will pick up.

At this point, I am very frustrated for two main reasons. First, I go to work every day and struggle to find purpose, and therefore struggle to find any motivation to do anything. Before starting this job, work/school has always been a major source of fulfillment for me, and I came into biglaw ready to work long hours and really dig in. Right now, I don't even feel like I have that opportunity. I don't even feel like I have the opportunity, for example, to get more (and better) work and try to distinguish myself from my peers. I am not sure I am adequately explaining my frustration, but suffice to say, I am pretty miserable at work these days and it's starting to impact my personal life as well.

Second, I am worried that because I am not getting adequate experience I am falling behind my peers. I haven’t gotten to do much writing, or even critical thinking the past few months, and I worry that this is going to make me less marketable and desirable as my career goes on.

So, is it time to move? I like the firm and generally like the people. The firm is financially stable and they let people stay around as long as they want, so I don’t really need to worry about getting laid off or fired. However, my current predicament is causing me daily consternation, and I don’t want to look back on this time in my life in 2-3 years and wonder what the hell I was doing.

Danger Zone

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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby Danger Zone » Wed Oct 04, 2017 10:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:I am pretty miserable at work these days and it's starting to impact my personal life as well.

For this reason alone, you need to get out of there. You'd be surprised at the number of opportunities available for junior associates. Just get out there and start looking.
Last edited by Danger Zone on Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 04, 2017 10:58 am

I am in the exact same boat and could have written this post. I live every day waiting for the other shoe to drop and feel like my department has given up on me and I am past the point of caring. I'm also at a place where they won't let you go until at least year four (just finished first), but am constantly wondering "then what?" given my remarkable lack of actual experience.

I just finished what I think is the final interview for a new job, and though I'd take this job in a heartbeat, I can't help but also worry about what happens if this one doesn't work out, having left this one so soon. I'm also trying to find another department in my present firm that may be busier/I may fit in better with. It sucks a lot, but you gotta keep pushing forward. You're only a junior associate once and being a midlevel without the knowledge or experience to back up the expectations is not going to be fun.

I wonder how many more people like us are out there.

jhett

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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby jhett » Wed Oct 04, 2017 11:06 am

Anonymous User wrote:The group is also bringing in a boat-load of first-year associates to start next year, so I have to assume they would only do that if they were confident in the group's financial position moving forward.


Don't assume that is true. Legal hiring is done two years from the actual associate start date, so there is often a mismatch between incoming associates and amount of work. In fact, that might be bad news because there will be even more mouths to feed and the partners may start trimming more senior attorneys.

Definitely start looking around. Lateral moves may take several months, and you can always turn down other jobs if things bounce back at your firm. Also, try to find out if work is slow just for your firm, or across all firms. If the former, it's definitely a red flag.

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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 04, 2017 11:14 am

Anonymous User wrote:I wonder how many more people like us are out there.


There are dozens of us. I'm transactional and have barely been on any deals this year. While the pay to work ratio is awesome, and my review was positive, the constant "will I be fired?" In the back of my mind is no fun and knowing my lack of experience will bite me down the line sucks as well.

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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 04, 2017 11:18 am

jhett wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The group is also bringing in a boat-load of first-year associates to start next year, so I have to assume they would only do that if they were confident in the group's financial position moving forward.


Don't assume that is true. Legal hiring is done two years from the actual associate start date, so there is often a mismatch between incoming associates and amount of work. In fact, that might be bad news because there will be even more mouths to feed and the partners may start trimming more senior attorneys.

Definitely start looking around. Lateral moves may take several months, and you can always turn down other jobs if things bounce back at your firm. Also, try to find out if work is slow just for your firm, or across all firms. If the former, it's definitely a red flag.


I'm the first anon who could be op. My firm also hired a bunch of first years (knowing full well I was bored, because I had told them repeatedly and asked for work). I am starting to wonder if some of it isn't a "if we look like we're super busy, clients will think we're busy, and will come to us" approach because it makes exactly zero economic sense. Fuck, I'd lay me and at least four other associates in my department off tomorrow if I was in charge.

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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 04, 2017 11:41 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I wonder how many more people like us are out there.


There are dozens of us. I'm transactional and have barely been on any deals this year. While the pay to work ratio is awesome, and my review was positive, the constant "will I be fired?" In the back of my mind is no fun and knowing my lack of experience will bite me down the line sucks as well.



As someone averaging 100 hours / month in a corporate group during my first year at a large NY firm (and with good reviews and no big screw-ups, etc.): I feel you. First 6 or 7 months was fine, but at this point I'm actually really worried/stressed on a daily basis about lack of work.

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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 04, 2017 12:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I wonder how many more people like us are out there.


There are dozens of us. I'm transactional and have barely been on any deals this year. While the pay to work ratio is awesome, and my review was positive, the constant "will I be fired?" In the back of my mind is no fun and knowing my lack of experience will bite me down the line sucks as well.



As someone averaging 100 hours / month in a corporate group during my first year at a large NY firm (and with good reviews and no big screw-ups, etc.): I feel you. First 6 or 7 months was fine, but at this point I'm actually really worried/stressed on a daily basis about lack of work.


Shit I don't even average 100

lolwat

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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby lolwat » Wed Oct 04, 2017 12:53 pm

It sounds like you've thought it through. I think you should start looking, but make sure this isn't just a cyclical thing. For me, there are some months where I'm doing getting credit for doing stuff that senior associates/partners would otherwise be doing. Other months I'm on dumbass depo summaries and discovery. I always start getting depressed when I'm on dumb assignments but it usually gets better... then gets worse again.

Anonymous User
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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
At this point, I am very frustrated for two main reasons. First, I go to work every day and struggle to find purpose, and therefore struggle to find any motivation to do anything. Before starting this job, work/school has always been a major source of fulfillment for me, and I came into biglaw ready to work long hours and really dig in. Right now, I don't even feel like I have that opportunity. I don't even feel like I have the opportunity, for example, to get more (and better) work and try to distinguish myself from my peers. I am not sure I am adequately explaining my frustration, but suffice to say, I am pretty miserable at work these days and it's starting to impact my personal life as well.

Second, I am worried that because I am not getting adequate experience I am falling behind my peers. I haven’t gotten to do much writing, or even critical thinking the past few months, and I worry that this is going to make me less marketable and desirable as my career goes on.


I think this is a critical point that a lot of partners/older associates only tangentially understand or think about. Oftentimes I think they even view it as them doing you a favor when they literally just do an assignment immediately after "giving" it to you (and sometimes worse than what you would have done). The view appears to be that you're getting the same pay and they know that they didn't give you the chance to do it so it doesn't hurt your standing at the firm. But your concerns are very real OP and I agree with you that the above is an issue.

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Johann

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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby Johann » Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:20 pm

read all the comments, and some thoughts that touch on some of the thematic concerns across the board for all of these anons

some bad news - lots of firms overhired class of 2017 and 2018. the market for legal services has tapered off and not continued growing. (do not read this as crashing. it is not crashing).

the good news - slow periods and peaks and pits are part of the legal services model, and everything is priced accordingly in firms (for the most part). diff practice groups serve as hedges. high billing rates mean a lawyer can be profitable well below 2000 hours. bonuses that get awarded over 2000 hours serve as a protection for when times are not as great (i.e. less costs when getting less revenue).

overall, i dont think theres any need to panic if you are doing good work and you can tolerate the environment.

but many anons here seem to be frustrated by the very nature of the job. there is no way to shine for most juniors, midlevels, and sometimes even seniors. that's because the nature of serving huge clients with huge matters is to ensure at all costs that every client is properly serviced which means you will never get the opportunity to perform an assignment "punching above your weight" so to speak. it is a very slow process and long road to get meaningful work that requires thinking/practicing law because tasking juniors with that work is too much of a liability for a firm. this is a very common complaint for people in biglaw: baby steps, there are no As only pass-fails for now. it takes a long time to earn trust to do more.

if you are not happy in this type of environment (you wont be the first or last to not like it), you should leave and do something else. it will take years for this to change for a 1st year.

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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:52 pm

I'm quite fine with the work, but I'm just paranoid that billing 1300 in my first year is going to mean I'm shitcanned before my second year ends. You've put me a little at ease, though.

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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 05, 2017 2:35 pm

Johann wrote:read all the comments, and some thoughts that touch on some of the thematic concerns across the board for all of these anons

some bad news - lots of firms overhired class of 2017 and 2018. the market for legal services has tapered off and not continued growing. (do not read this as crashing. it is not crashing).

the good news - slow periods and peaks and pits are part of the legal services model, and everything is priced accordingly in firms (for the most part). diff practice groups serve as hedges. high billing rates mean a lawyer can be profitable well below 2000 hours. bonuses that get awarded over 2000 hours serve as a protection for when times are not as great (i.e. less costs when getting less revenue).

overall, i dont think theres any need to panic if you are doing good work and you can tolerate the environment.

but many anons here seem to be frustrated by the very nature of the job. there is no way to shine for most juniors, midlevels, and sometimes even seniors. that's because the nature of serving huge clients with huge matters is to ensure at all costs that every client is properly serviced which means you will never get the opportunity to perform an assignment "punching above your weight" so to speak. it is a very slow process and long road to get meaningful work that requires thinking/practicing law because tasking juniors with that work is too much of a liability for a firm. this is a very common complaint for people in biglaw: baby steps, there are no As only pass-fails for now. it takes a long time to earn trust to do more.

if you are not happy in this type of environment (you wont be the first or last to not like it), you should leave and do something else. it will take years for this to change for a 1st year.


I'm the anon above you. I agree with your point generally. Juniors as a general rule know nothing, me included. And so in the vast majority of situations it doesn't bother me at all; in fact, it seems crazy to me that people would be a solo or doing much of anything immediately out of law school. But it can be very frustrating in the situations where you as the junior have been doing all of the research and so do in fact know more about this narrow topic (not the broader issues or facts about the client) and you are overruled or ignored with respect to the narrow issue. In a couple of these instances you can tell that the senior or partner doesn't fully grasp your point and is rejecting it out of turn. That's still part of the job, like you said, but sometimes in that situation it is actually doing a disservice to the client. Again, completely agree with the general conclusion that the assignments you're doing as an associate are often pass/fail or don't provide an opportunity to shine and just need to be completed accurately and efficiently.

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Re: Should I start looking around?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:55 am

you should start looking. i empathize with your position (although I am unfortunately also managing to bill obscene hours because we have lots of mindless work).

the part of the job that you find mind numbing and pointless isn't going to change any time soon. unless you need the 200k a year (and many do), move on.



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