Thinking about leaving law after second lateral move

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Thinking about leaving law after second lateral move

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:13 pm

I’m a senior level associate associate at a big firm. I started out at a small firm in a small market, where I practiced for several years, had ties to the community and was seen as a promising new leader, etc. I never felt like I was doing a great job practicing law there and was never really happy doing it, but I got a number of good results on hard cases, and gained lots of experience taking expert depositions, arguing motions, doing solo bench trials, etc., even in my second and third years. I left because my wife got a great job offer elsewhere that she wanted to take, so I found a job at a medium-sized firm in that city, where I did well, had really good relationships, and stayed for a couple of years. I had real concerns about my practice group’s financial future though, was being paid well under the market rate, and was still never really in a situation where I would say “I love what I do.” My attitude was more like “I like these people and can put up with practicing law here.” To date, though, that firm was the closest to a professionally satisfying and pleasant experience I have had while practicing law.

Then a headhunter found me an objectively very attractive biglaw senior associate position, which doubled my salary and had reasonable-for-biglaw billable hour expectations. I liked everyone in the interviews, and I still like everyone I work with as individuals.

But...I’m miserable and demoralized, and my performance is slipping. The work volume is unlike anything I’m accustomed to, and much of it is not what I would call practicing law (significant time on huge document review project, drafting simple discovery over and over again, etc.). I feel spread too thin, strongly dislike most of my daily work, have very limited contact with people except in the context of getting assignments and talking about them, and find several partners unduly difficult to work with (even though I don’t dislike them personally). Though I know some people would thrive in the same circumstances, I am not thriving. I have extreme trouble concentrating on my work, am not sleeping, have gotten out of shape, am behind on everything, and have recently made errors that I would not tolerate in others.

My recent performance review was positive, but at least two partners have expressed surprise recently at some of my work (errors were after reviews came in). I think they would be justified in firing me, but I don’t think they would at this point due to the way their policies are structured.

I’ve practiced with three law firms now, and while there has been some variation in my level of satisfaction at each, I’ve never actually been “happy” at any of them. Fundamentally, I do not think I am well-suited to practicing law, even though I’ve had some individual instances of good results here and there. If I were well-suited to this, I would know it by now, and would be doing better. Being miserable is no way to live life, and no salary is worth it.

I want to stay long enough to finish out a full year, but I want to find something else to do entirely relatively soon. I don’t know what that might be at this point, but I’d be okay with a very significant pay cut. My wife makes enough for us to eat and keep our house and cars if I’m making much less than I make right now (or even if I was making nothing, we would be fine—we would just have to adjust our lifestyle; also, she’s okay with me quitting, we don’t plan on having kids, and we’ve had periods when I worked and she didn’t).

Anyone here have experience jumping ship, particularly shortly after starting a new job? If so, your stories and any lessons learned along the way would be much appreciated.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Thinking about leaving law after second lateral move

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:36 pm

Damn reading this breaks my heart. Sorry op about how you feel. In many ways I can relate to your experience, as Im sure many others here do. The way I see it, working with crazy/insane/mean boss is way worse than boring work, but I think a job will always be just a job. I agree no salary is worth living miserably regardless of the source. Im only 3 yrs into this but I always had this idea in the back of my mind that Im not going to be practicing law in the long run. I feel like good people are in short supply in this field.

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Re: Thinking about leaving law after second lateral move

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:39 pm

I have no experience with what you're planning but I relate to feeling like the work of biglaw isn't for me

I encourage you to follow your heart on this one--you're fortunate to have a supportive wife who's making money

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Re: Thinking about leaving law after second lateral move

Postby Rowinguy2009 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:34 pm

Is there any chance that leaving the law firm life, but staying in law, would help? I was at a regional firm for two years and felt almost exactly like how you described. I left for a clerkship, followed by a government lawyer gig, and was/am considerably happier in both positions. There is far less stress, the work is often more interesting, and you feel like you are applying the law in a "just" way as opposed to just doing so in the way that benefits whoever you happen to represent (to be sure, there are some downsides to government as well).

What made you go to law school in the first place? At this point you have a lot of time invested in this career, and probably have a great resume, so it might be worth at least exploring something like government or in-house.

All that being said - life if short and you have put in your time. Do what makes you happy.


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Re: Thinking about leaving law after second lateral move

Postby CanadianWolf » Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:13 pm

Assuming that you have no student loan debt, then you might consider a government position which requires a law degree.

It is difficult to make other suggestions because you have shared little information about your particular skills & education. For example, if you have a degree in finance or in computer science, then there are obvious career options for you to investigate.

Based on your posted info,. you may get fired. Seems like you are making significant money (approximately $200,000), but making mistakes that you would not tolerate by others. If you're miserable there, then the partners may feel the same about you.

Have you considered earning an MBA or an Executive MBA ?

In short, need more info. about you.


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Re: Thinking about leaving law after second lateral move

Postby Subban_Fan » Sun Jan 28, 2018 2:48 pm

Have you thought about project management? You said you're put on a large document review and discovery project. Maybe you could ask your firm to make you a Project Manager instead of Attorney at the firm? Or at least see if it's a possible track.

Some of the Project Managers in discovery at my firm don't do any legal work (you can get the position without a law degree if you've been a project manager elsewhere). They also hire JDs too. If you can do this job for a couple years and gain experience, you can get out of the legal industry entirely and get a Project Manager job elsewhere.

It's a path to a complete career change without having to go back to school, quitting completely and competing in the regular job market. For all the crap the legal industry gets for being oversaturated, finding employment in the regular job market (without a STEM degree) makes it look like a walk in the park. Not knowing much else about your experience or education, using your current position to move into Project Management might actually give you a chance at a completely new career.

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Re: Thinking about leaving law after second lateral move

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 29, 2018 8:50 am

Thanks for all responses.

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