What makes a firm's culture bad?

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What makes a firm's culture bad?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:22 pm

Almost mid-level associate here in a major market. Myself and many of the other associates believe the culture of our office is toxic but I am curious to know whether this is just how big law firms are. Associates can't really take any vacation days (seriously), majority of partners are old men who have been here for 25+ years with no intention of leaving, no mentorship program, generally people are all grumpy and unhappy (don't say hi in the hallway or break room and make rude remarks). I literally dread coming to the office every day. Are all big law firms like this? Our attrition is also terrible and before I make a decision on leaving I want to know if any firms actually have fun and nice people to work with or a better culture/care for their employees.

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Re: What makes a firm's culture bad?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Almost mid-level associate here in a major market. Myself and many of the other associates believe the culture of our office is toxic but I am curious to know whether this is just how big law firms are. Associates can't really take any vacation days (seriously), majority of partners are old men who have been here for 25+ years with no intention of leaving, no mentorship program, generally people are all grumpy and unhappy (don't say hi in the hallway or break room and make rude remarks). I literally dread coming to the office every day. Are all big law firms like this? Our attrition is also terrible and before I make a decision on leaving I want to know if any firms actually have fun and nice people to work with or a better culture/care for their employees.


My firm is not like this and it’s a traditional NYC firm. I dislike the culture for other reasons that have to do with biglaw as a whole not my firm individually. People always say hi here, are respectfully of a planned vacation, seem to enjoy the work, etc.

Not sure how you would really look out for good firm culture. Is your firm one of the ones that has a sweatshoppy rep?

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Re: What makes a firm's culture bad?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:34 pm

Doesn't matter if it's a law firm. Bad corporate culture is bad corporate culture. Just because you're at a law firm doesn't mean you excuse crappy cultural values versus if you were working at a Fortune 500 company or at a hospital. What makes a firm's culture bad is bad leadership and poor company values.

With certain very specific exceptions (you've enlisted in the military), you shouldn't accept bad corporate culture or have low expectations because it's a law firm. The more you accept it, the less it will change. I'd leave the first chance I'd get and if they bother to ask why, explain to them how bad their corporate culture is and how that's inhibiting their business.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54X3S5Vz6eA

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Re: What makes a firm's culture bad?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Almost mid-level associate here in a major market. Myself and many of the other associates believe the culture of our office is toxic but I am curious to know whether this is just how big law firms are. Associates can't really take any vacation days (seriously), majority of partners are old men who have been here for 25+ years with no intention of leaving, no mentorship program, generally people are all grumpy and unhappy (don't say hi in the hallway or break room and make rude remarks). I literally dread coming to the office every day. Are all big law firms like this? Our attrition is also terrible and before I make a decision on leaving I want to know if any firms actually have fun and nice people to work with or a better culture/care for their employees.


My firm is not like this and it’s a traditional NYC firm. I dislike the culture for other reasons that have to do with biglaw as a whole not my firm individually. People always say hi here, are respectfully of a planned vacation, seem to enjoy the work, etc.

Not sure how you would really look out for good firm culture. Is your firm one of the ones that has a sweatshoppy rep?


Not a sweatshop rep. The firm as a whole (from my meetings with other associates/partners in other offices) actually seems very laid back and dare I say pleasant. But my specific office is somewhat disconnected and managed very differently than the other offices which is where the toxic attitudes/culture comes from. I would try to work with people in the other offices more but associates are micro-managed here by our own partners.

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Re: What makes a firm's culture bad?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Almost mid-level associate here in a major market. Myself and many of the other associates believe the culture of our office is toxic but I am curious to know whether this is just how big law firms are. Associates can't really take any vacation days (seriously), majority of partners are old men who have been here for 25+ years with no intention of leaving, no mentorship program, generally people are all grumpy and unhappy (don't say hi in the hallway or break room and make rude remarks). I literally dread coming to the office every day. Are all big law firms like this? Our attrition is also terrible and before I make a decision on leaving I want to know if any firms actually have fun and nice people to work with or a better culture/care for their employees.


My firm is not like this and it’s a traditional NYC firm. I dislike the culture for other reasons that have to do with biglaw as a whole not my firm individually. People always say hi here, are respectfully of a planned vacation, seem to enjoy the work, etc.

Not sure how you would really look out for good firm culture. Is your firm one of the ones that has a sweatshoppy rep?


Not a sweatshop rep. The firm as a whole (from my meetings with other associates/partners in other offices) actually seems very laid back and dare I say pleasant. But my specific office is somewhat disconnected and managed very differently than the other offices which is where the toxic attitudes/culture comes from. I would try to work with people in the other offices more but associates are micro-managed here by our own partners.


Was your office once its own midsized firm that got acquired by your current firm? If so, your office is basically a separate firm within a firm.

I second the poster above - life is too short to waste at a job with long hours and where the culture sucks. It’s also not going to be good for your professional development in the long run - they will not work to develop you, throw you under the bus when things get bad, and just stress you out unnecessarily such that you’ll get frustrated with the profession as a whole. I’d look to lateral.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Tue Jun 12, 2018 4:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
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Re: What makes a firm's culture bad?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 12, 2018 4:15 pm

Doublepost

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Re: What makes a firm's culture bad?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 12, 2018 4:32 pm

Yours does not sound great, but I am not so sure I would that is "toxic." It is not ideal, but at least you don't have any screamers.

My previous firm had a bad culture (not big law). There was one old partner that ran the show. He would belittle the employees, including the attorneys; yell at the lawyers and other staff; and he was borderline unethical. Everyone walked around on egg shells around there. That was toxic culture to me as I dreaded going in to work every single day. Dreaded eating lunch too long/having my door closed too long.

I think the general consensus for big law is that it is largely going to depend on what group & partners you are working for rather than a firm as a whole.

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Re: What makes a firm's culture bad?

Postby jacketyellow » Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:01 pm

I think my firm has a bad culture. Actually, my firm in DC is exactly like yours. But, I do think it depends on the practice group--my practice group here is insufferable. I also dread coming to work in the mornings. I thought I could give it two to three years, but I realized long ago that I need to take care of myself. I am about to lateral to a government position--just have to find the right time to give my 2 weeks and go on vacation before I start the new job.

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Re: What makes a firm's culture bad?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Yours does not sound great, but I am not so sure I would that is "toxic." It is not ideal, but at least you don't have any screamers.

My previous firm had a bad culture (not big law). There was one old partner that ran the show. He would belittle the employees, including the attorneys; yell at the lawyers and other staff; and he was borderline unethical. Everyone walked around on egg shells around there. That was toxic culture to me as I dreaded going in to work every single day. Dreaded eating lunch too long/having my door closed too long.


I've heard that before, in fact I worked at a firm where people would say "well at least there are no screamers here, so the culture here is good." WTF? Is that how low a standard attorneys have set for good culture? If someone doesn't scream a lot at you, then we're in the good?

Imagine working at a large company like Google, Toyota, or Saks Fifth HQ and you just had a boss that had a screaming problem. This boss wouldn't last even the year, people would think he had some type of mental problem. The employees would either out him to HR or sabotage him.

Plus, it's the information age, you know how bad you can make it for a firm with glassdoor reviews, forum posts, and blogs? You out a crazy manager or attorney, he's got his name out there with his company, forever. You don't think corporate reads those posts? Even a juggernaut like Uber is still reeling from a single blog post on Medium written by 1 mid-level software engineer.

Attorneys here generally think that they're "stuck" at a firm or they have to do their time and suffer until they have enough experience to leave. The truth is, you're almost never stuck. You're only stuck to the appearance of having "status." The solution to a bad job with poisonous culture is to apply for new jobs, and then leave.

I know someone that resigned from a "good" attorney job with no backup plan. They ended up treating her way better there. Sometimes, just showing you're not a punching bag or letting them know how ridiculous they're being is enough. Screaming because you want paperwork done a couple minutes faster? I'd tell them, calm down buddy, this isn't the emergency room, no one got shot. We're not the NY Fire Department, no one is going to die because I didn't push this paperwork out 30 minutes faster. And screaming at me isn't going to get it done faster. It's actually counterintuitive to getting your employees to work hard for you, as explained in the video I linked above, so if you want work done faster, it'd probably be more efficient to STFU before you die of a heart attack.

Anonymous User
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Re: What makes a firm's culture bad?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
I've heard that before, in fact I worked at a firm where people would say "well at least there are no screamers here, so the culture here is good." WTF? Is that how low a standard attorneys have set for good culture? If someone doesn't scream a lot at you, then we're in the good?

Imagine working at a large company like Google, Toyota, or Saks Fifth HQ and you just had a boss that had a screaming problem. This boss wouldn't last even the year, people would think he had some type of mental problem. The employees would either out him to HR or sabotage him.

Plus, it's the information age, you know how bad you can make it for a firm with glassdoor reviews, forum posts, and blogs? You out a crazy manager or attorney, he's got his name out there with his company, forever. You don't think corporate reads those posts? Even a juggernaut like Uber is still reeling from a single blog post on Medium written by 1 mid-level software engineer.

Attorneys here generally think that they're "stuck" at a firm or they have to do their time and suffer until they have enough experience to leave. The truth is, you're almost never stuck. You're only stuck to the appearance of having "status." The solution to a bad job with poisonous culture is to apply for new jobs, and then leave.

I know someone that resigned from a "good" attorney job with no backup plan. They ended up treating her way better there. Sometimes, just showing you're not a punching bag or letting them know how ridiculous they're being is enough. Screaming because you want paperwork done a couple minutes faster? I'd tell them, calm down buddy, this isn't the emergency room, no one got shot. We're not the NY Fire Department, no one is going to die because I didn't push this paperwork out 30 minutes faster. And screaming at me isn't going to get it done faster. It's actually counterintuitive to getting your employees to work hard for you, as explained in the video I linked above, so if you want work done faster, it'd probably be more efficient to STFU before you die of a heart attack.


This doesn't happen enough in law because lawyers are risk-averse. The only time I've ever seen this is that O'Melveny blog from the NY to 200k thread, and its author appears to be well-off. I wish there were more blogs about the day to day life of a lawyer.



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