Dealing with the stress

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Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 17, 2018 7:53 pm

Compared to most people on this forum I probably don't work as much. I'm insurance defense and bill like 180-200 a month usually. I think I'm generally competent at my job for my experience (in my second year of practice after federal district clerkship for a year). But the stress of this job makes it almost unbearable. I havnt worked the last three weekend because I've felt like mental and physically I just couldn't do it. I dread Sunday nights; I inevitably will wake up at like 3 in the morning tossing in turning over all the shit I've got to do this week. It wrecks my digestive system. My blood pressure skyrockets as soon as I get to the office and invariably start getting emails from clients/partners asking for the status of cases/projects. I honestly hate what I do a lot of the times.

But, I don't work for a screamer, I make pretty decent money, and have good benefits. My firm is a great place to work if you generally like practicing and can deal with the inherent stress of litigation. I'm just not passionate about this job and sometimes feel like my time is running out to try and switch careers and do something I genuinely love, or even like (I'm considering getting my personal training cert on the side and training some on weekends, as I love fitness and am, luckily, still able to work out like six times a week--even if it is a struggle given my physical and mental fatigue at the end of the day). Putting aside a potential careeer change for now, how do y'all deal with the stress of this profession?

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 17, 2018 9:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Compared to most people on this forum I probably don't work as much. I'm insurance defense and bill like 180-200 a month usually. I think I'm generally competent at my job for my experience (in my second year of practice after federal district clerkship for a year). But the stress of this job makes it almost unbearable. I havnt worked the last three weekend because I've felt like mental and physically I just couldn't do it. I dread Sunday nights; I inevitably will wake up at like 3 in the morning tossing in turning over all the shit I've got to do this week. It wrecks my digestive system. My blood pressure skyrockets as soon as I get to the office and invariably start getting emails from clients/partners asking for the status of cases/projects. I honestly hate what I do a lot of the times.

But, I don't work for a screamer, I make pretty decent money, and have good benefits. My firm is a great place to work if you generally like practicing and can deal with the inherent stress of litigation. I'm just not passionate about this job and sometimes feel like my time is running out to try and switch careers and do something I genuinely love, or even like (I'm considering getting my personal training cert on the side and training some on weekends, as I love fitness and am, luckily, still able to work out like six times a week--even if it is a struggle given my physical and mental fatigue at the end of the day). Putting aside a potential careeer change for now, how do y'all deal with the stress of this profession?

I feel like I could have written this—down to the personal training bit. I never LOVE my job; at best it’s bearable. I would say I have it easier than lots of people because I also don’t work for a screamer and don’t pull all nighters but the stress is all consuming. I’m also super paranoid that I’ll get the axe with no backup plan. I’ve actually considered a career change—maybe becoming a RD or going back for my PhD in something entirely different. Then there’s the disappointment and feeling that I’ve failed myself by making such a poor career choice (for me). I have no advice but I do relate. Sadly, I don’t even feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel because there’s nothing I can imagine myself doing that I’d actually enjoy. At least nothing that I’d realistically be able to do once you take into account salary. When I think too much about it, it’s rather depressing.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby lawhopeful100 » Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:43 pm

Save up enough money to the point where you could get fired and you won’t need to worry. My stress level has gone down the more I’ve gotten money saved away. I’m hoping to have enough cash easily accessible that I have about 8 months of rent + loan + living expenses. That way the threat of getting laid off isn’t as severe.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 18, 2018 8:23 am

Don’t have much to offer but to say your post sums up my life has well. 1st year on pace for 2400 hours, but even the 200 a month I bill is never enough. Feel guilty every time I take a day off and invariably regret it. Tired of fire drills that are the result of poor management. I’ve almost rage quit twice over the last month.

I’ve reached a stage where being fired would feel like a blessing. I don’t want to do biglaw and would rather fall back on IBR with an enjoyable law job or go teach English in a foreign country or pretty much do anything else. Three months of pay for escaping this hellhole sounds like the greatest thing on earth right now.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 18, 2018 8:46 am

This is OP. Thanks to my super supportive friends and family, and a tremendous amount of soul searching, I've decided to plan to quit by the end of the year (probably sooner). Life's too short to not at least be happy and healthy. It's going to be rough financially for a while. I just don't care anymore.

Hope everyone figures out what's best for them and can be happy. I appreciate the feedback. It's nice to just share these thoughts and know they are not that uncommon

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 18, 2018 12:22 pm

Good on you for figuring this out earlier on in your career. We only get a few years on this earth, and it does not make much sense to spend some of the most productive tied to your desk or stressed out about what is mostly just a paper pushing job, no matter how people try to dress it up to be more than that.

Right now your objective should be to retake as much of your time as possible to help you transition into a new career while saving some money. Just know that you probably will not be fired immediately unless you really screw something big up. The real hurdle is not ragequtting in the meantime. I’d spend some time considering your past experiences, current caseload, etc., and determining a system for figuring out what you absolutely have to accomplish, for pushing work and deadlines off, or maybe for delegating to other people, so that it frees up more time.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby johndhi » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:14 pm

Nice posts here. Just wanted to drop in to say, (1) 180-200 is probably on the high side of hours the average person is billing in biglaw, (2) I was recently looking through my old emails and saw something about “stress” I was talking to my girlfriend about like a year ago. In retrospect, I wondered, what the heck was I stressed about? There has been nothing to really worry about all of these years. It’s easy to say that in retrospect, given things have worked out fine for me, but still I think it’s helpful to remember that a lot of the weight of the world we put on ourselves doesn’t need to be there. So, whether you get a new job or rage quit or whatever, and whether you’re in a really tough situation right now, try to remember that maybe a chunk of the stress you’re feeling isn’t logical or strictly necessary.

I’m in house now and the ‘generalized stress’ has definitely lessened to a good extent. There are other stressors and I certainly complain all the time, but that ‘I’m holding up my life by a string’ feeling isn’t really there anymore, and that’s a nice thing. So maybe that’s something you could work towards if it interests you. But, like with all things emotional, it’s good to just be in the moment and remember you’re still alive, in good health, and have time to think about and explore what’s next and might be a better fit.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:24 pm

johndhi wrote:Nice posts here. Just wanted to drop in to say, (1) 180-200 is probably on the high side of hours the average person is billing in biglaw, (2) I was recently looking through my old emails and saw something about “stress” I was talking to my girlfriend about like a year ago. In retrospect, I wondered, what the heck was I stressed about? There has been nothing to really worry about all of these years. It’s easy to say that in retrospect, given things have worked out fine for me, but still I think it’s helpful to remember that a lot of the weight of the world we put on ourselves doesn’t need to be there. So, whether you get a new job or rage quit or whatever, and whether you’re in a really tough situation right now, try to remember that maybe a chunk of the stress you’re feeling isn’t logical or strictly necessary.

I’m in house now and the ‘generalized stress’ has definitely lessened to a good extent. There are other stressors and I certainly complain all the time, but that ‘I’m holding up my life by a string’ feeling isn’t really there anymore, and that’s a nice thing. So maybe that’s something you could work towards if it interests you. But, like with all things emotional, it’s good to just be in the moment and remember you’re still alive, in good health, and have time to think about and explore what’s next and might be a better fit.


Do you think the generalized stress has lessened as a result of moving away from big law and into your in house role? At what year did you move in house and how did you land your job?

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby johndhi » Tue Jun 19, 2018 5:31 pm

Do you think the generalized stress has lessened as a result of moving away from big law and into your in house role? At what year did you move in house and how did you land your job?

I think so, on some level. Part of the stress from biglaw came from the idea that someone was always “gunning” for me – was someone going to ask me to do more work? Was I going to make hours? Was I going to have too much work and be unable to do the work I had? Bigger: can I plan a weekend away with my girlfriend and be certain I won’t have to cancel it? If I go to dinner, is there at least a small chance that someone will tell me they need me to stay in the office, thus screwing over the dinner or Christmas or birthday plans?

But some of that was self-imposed and I didn’t deal with it in an ideal fashion. I did OK, but not perfect, with that stress.

I knew I was going to be unhappy if I didn’t at least explore in-house and learn about what it was like, even if it was the same or worse. One of the stressors for me started to be the fear that I wouldn’t be able to land an in-house gig, too.

I moved in-house as a fourth year and I got the job by applying to a bunch of jobs, interviewing a lot, having friends and friends of friends do internal references, and finally getting one.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 19, 2018 6:03 pm

johndhi wrote:
Do you think the generalized stress has lessened as a result of moving away from big law and into your in house role? At what year did you move in house and how did you land your job?

I think so, on some level. Part of the stress from biglaw came from the idea that someone was always “gunning” for me – was someone going to ask me to do more work? Was I going to make hours? Was I going to have too much work and be unable to do the work I had? Bigger: can I plan a weekend away with my girlfriend and be certain I won’t have to cancel it? If I go to dinner, is there at least a small chance that someone will tell me they need me to stay in the office, thus screwing over the dinner or Christmas or birthday plans?

But some of that was self-imposed and I didn’t deal with it in an ideal fashion. I did OK, but not perfect, with that stress.

I knew I was going to be unhappy if I didn’t at least explore in-house and learn about what it was like, even if it was the same or worse. One of the stressors for me started to be the fear that I wouldn’t be able to land an in-house gig, too.

I moved in-house as a fourth year and I got the job by applying to a bunch of jobs, interviewing a lot, having friends and friends of friends do internal references, and finally getting one.


How long have you been in house and do you think you'll stay there for a good chunk of time? Did you ever feel like law, in general, was just a bad choice? If so, did that feeling lessen once you moved in house?

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 19, 2018 6:05 pm

Maybe you can join Greenberg Traurig, they want to make their associates less stressful by being cheap bastards :roll: https://abovethelaw.com/2018/06/greenbe ... -salaries/

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby johndhi » Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:40 am

Anonymous User wrote:How long have you been in house and do you think you'll stay there for a good chunk of time? Did you ever feel like law, in general, was just a bad choice? If so, did that feeling lessen once you moved in house?


I've been in house about a year and a half. I don't really have plans of leaving -- I certainly don't have plans of going to a law firm, so I guess I'd stay until I want to retire? I'd also consider going into a non-law role if it's an interesting role. Don't think about that too much.

I don't ever really feel like law was a bad choice for me. I understand that other people think that, but I liked law school and I generally find legal issues engaging, if challenging. I don't regret going to law school, but I was lucky enough to do well, get into big law, get paid, and get out, and to pay off my loans.

My feelings on this haven't changed a lot since going in house. I'm glad I did in house since I now feel I have a broader understanding of the career options of a lawyer. There are also problems with in house that big law doesn't have, which can definitely be frustrating, but at least the individualized stress is lessened/gone.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby eastcoast_iub » Wed Jun 20, 2018 12:07 pm

johndhi wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How long have you been in house and do you think you'll stay there for a good chunk of time? Did you ever feel like law, in general, was just a bad choice? If so, did that feeling lessen once you moved in house?


I've been in house about a year and a half. I don't really have plans of leaving -- I certainly don't have plans of going to a law firm, so I guess I'd stay until I want to retire? I'd also consider going into a non-law role if it's an interesting role. Don't think about that too much.

I don't ever really feel like law was a bad choice for me. I understand that other people think that, but I liked law school and I generally find legal issues engaging, if challenging. I don't regret going to law school, but I was lucky enough to do well, get into big law, get paid, and get out, and to pay off my loans.

My feelings on this haven't changed a lot since going in house. I'm glad I did in house since I now feel I have a broader understanding of the career options of a lawyer. There are also problems with in house that big law doesn't have, which can definitely be frustrating, but at least the individualized stress is lessened/gone.


Can you elaborate on the problems in house that big law doesn't have?

I'm reaching the end of my rope with big law stress and considering going in-house. Curious to know what the downsides are. Would hate to leave and take a sizeable pay cut only to realize that's it not much better.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:00 pm

eastcoast_iub wrote:
johndhi wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:How long have you been in house and do you think you'll stay there for a good chunk of time? Did you ever feel like law, in general, was just a bad choice? If so, did that feeling lessen once you moved in house?


I've been in house about a year and a half. I don't really have plans of leaving -- I certainly don't have plans of going to a law firm, so I guess I'd stay until I want to retire? I'd also consider going into a non-law role if it's an interesting role. Don't think about that too much.

I don't ever really feel like law was a bad choice for me. I understand that other people think that, but I liked law school and I generally find legal issues engaging, if challenging. I don't regret going to law school, but I was lucky enough to do well, get into big law, get paid, and get out, and to pay off my loans.

My feelings on this haven't changed a lot since going in house. I'm glad I did in house since I now feel I have a broader understanding of the career options of a lawyer. There are also problems with in house that big law doesn't have, which can definitely be frustrating, but at least the individualized stress is lessened/gone.


Can you elaborate on the problems in house that big law doesn't have?

I'm reaching the end of my rope with big law stress and considering going in-house. Curious to know what the downsides are. Would hate to leave and take a sizeable pay cut only to realize that's it not much better.


I second this. Would love to hear the good and bad since I’m dying to make a move.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 20, 2018 1:15 pm

eastcoast_iub wrote:
Can you elaborate on the problems in house that big law doesn't have?

I'm reaching the end of my rope with big law stress and considering going in-house. Curious to know what the downsides are. Would hate to leave and take a sizeable pay cut only to realize that's it not much better.


I'm obviously not the person you directed the question to, but I'll answer as somebody who has some biglaw experience and currently works in-house. One is that the salary and bonus structure doesn't work like a law firm. Despite being sold a "competitive bonus structure", my bonus last year was $0 and my bonus this year is likely to be around $5k. If the company doesn't perform, nobody gets a bonus.

Since legal is a cost center rather than a revenue center, you're constantly looking over your shoulder whenever there's a hiccup in the company's profitability. Legal is some of the highest paid staffing in the entire company, and it's not unheard of for the C-suite to ignore the long term consequences of laying off half of the legal department.

There are a few other things that I almost split out into a list, but they can all be summed up in one point. There is very little automation, organization or hierarchical structure, resulting in a lot of inefficiency and a doing a lot of your own clerical and IT work. How much of that is the specific company? Probably more than a little. If you're the kind of person who needs to feel like they're being productive, this may be a hangup.

Overall, I'd never go back. The projects, the hours, the level of autonomy, the low stress level, and the flexibility are completely worth the lower pay.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby johndhi » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
eastcoast_iub wrote:
Can you elaborate on the problems in house that big law doesn't have?

I'm reaching the end of my rope with big law stress and considering going in-house. Curious to know what the downsides are. Would hate to leave and take a sizeable pay cut only to realize that's it not much better.


I'm obviously not the person you directed the question to, but I'll answer as somebody who has some biglaw experience and currently works in-house. One is that the salary and bonus structure doesn't work like a law firm. Despite being sold a "competitive bonus structure", my bonus last year was $0 and my bonus this year is likely to be around $5k. If the company doesn't perform, nobody gets a bonus.

Since legal is a cost center rather than a revenue center, you're constantly looking over your shoulder whenever there's a hiccup in the company's profitability. Legal is some of the highest paid staffing in the entire company, and it's not unheard of for the C-suite to ignore the long term consequences of laying off half of the legal department.

There are a few other things that I almost split out into a list, but they can all be summed up in one point. There is very little automation, organization or hierarchical structure, resulting in a lot of inefficiency and a doing a lot of your own clerical and IT work. How much of that is the specific company? Probably more than a little. If you're the kind of person who needs to feel like they're being productive, this may be a hangup.

Overall, I'd never go back. The projects, the hours, the level of autonomy, the low stress level, and the flexibility are completely worth the lower pay.


Happy to elaborate.

One issue anon above identified regarding pay and bonus I generally agree with. But I think most people probably already know this: in house generally pays less and there isn't a lockstep salary/bonus increase at the same rate of biglaw.

On the second point about getting laid off, I personally haven't experienced this, but it really depends on the legal department you go into. It boils down to, how much do the executives respect the legal team and value it? Often companies that respect and value legal have experienced a 'legal reckoning' in their history. For example, prior to Cambridge Analytica, Facebook's legal department, I understand, wasn't looped into everything and was a little less viewed as "absolutely necessary." Now, post it, I bet everyone at Facebook wants to involve legal and make sure they have sign off before they do anything. You want to go to a company where legal is respected, even revered. I've been lucky to have that myself, so I don't agree that the issue anon described always applies, but I can see that it could.

On clerical work, I don't care. I don't mind doing clerical work, but I used to be a clerk myself so maybe that's just me.

The issues I had in mind basically derive from the fact that you're working at a corporation, not a law firm partnership. Corporations are built of multiple different departments who have fairly different objectives. Finance cares about the money making sense and being recorded. Sales cares about their quarterly quotias. Engineering wants to build good products and take all the time necessary to do their very best work. Legal wants legal compliance. Sometimes, these things don't align: if legal compliance requires extra engineering effort or slowing down or even eliminating certain sales, it'll ruffle feathers and create "political issues." Political issues can also surface simply from the personalities of the people involved.

In a law firm, we're mostly all aligned all the time, and when we're not, there's a clear hierarchy for decision making: have the senior partner decide. We all want to win the lawsuit, or we all want to close the deal with the best terms. At a company, there isn't the same alignment, and that can create friction. Because of this, I experience more "intraoffice politics" in house than I did at the law firm. People complain to me about other people in the office; people backstab each other or sabotage each other a little bit. This is better or worse in certain companies, but I think it's something most companies deal with that you largely don't deal with at a law firm. At a law firm, you're on a small team (at most, twenty lawyers), but at a company, your team is hundreds or thousands of people: the corporation.

My job is different from my law firm job in a lot of ways. I talk to more people, solicit more opinions, meet with more "stakeholders." Sometimes I get frustrated when two senior leaders basically disagree with one another, and we direct our outside counsel in a schizophrenic fashion. I expect these issues are better at some organizations than others, but this is my experience.

Hope that is helpful.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby jennyf » Thu Jun 21, 2018 4:33 pm

My experience was incredibly similar - I was absolutely miserable in BigLaw. I had a few "final straw" moments, and though it meant close to a 100k salary reduction, I am so happy I switched to gvmt work. Life really is too short to be miserable.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 21, 2018 10:05 pm

johndhi wrote:
In a law firm, we're mostly all aligned all the time, and when we're not, there's a clear hierarchy for decision making: have the senior partner decide. We all want to win the lawsuit, or we all want to close the deal with the best terms. At a company, there isn't the same alignment, and that can create friction. Because of this, I experience more "intraoffice politics" in house than I did at the law firm. People complain to me about other people in the office; people backstab each other or sabotage each other a little bit. This is better or worse in certain companies, but I think it's something most companies deal with that you largely don't deal with at a law firm. At a law firm, you're on a small team (at most, twenty lawyers), but at a company, your team is hundreds or thousands of people: the corporation.


I'm the Anon from above. I found this paragraph interesting. We have a bit of backstabbing and intraoffice politics, but I always marked that down as being because lawyers are sucky people. I never had any of that experience when I was an engineer.

The misalignment of priorities is very familiar to me. Getting people from different departments to give me the time of day is hard, let alone when I need a longer engagement than an email or two. I'm a distraction to the R&D folks, I'm a distraction to the IT folks, and I'm a distraction to the business, sales, and marketing folks. Unless we're paying them for their time, they pretty much ignore us.

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 21, 2018 10:29 pm

jennyf wrote:My experience was incredibly similar - I was absolutely miserable in BigLaw. I had a few "final straw" moments, and though it meant close to a 100k salary reduction, I am so happy I switched to gvmt work. Life really is too short to be miserable.


What kind of government work do you do? What year did you leave?

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Re: Dealing with the stress

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 22, 2018 8:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
What kind of government work do you do? What year did you leave?


I left tax (which I loved) for finance and regulatory work (which I grew to love). I’ve been in this field for almost a decade now. I had very little in loans so I was able to leave after just over a year. But this was before all the public sector forgiveness options - now even if you have a lot of loans leaving firm life seems possible.



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