Bad associate review?

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Bad associate review?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 04, 2018 1:20 am

I have my first year review coming up. My supervising partner has told me that my review will be ugly. I’ve only worked with two partners. One of the partners who is more senior in the firm didn’t like my work because of an assignment I did for him early in the year.

My supervising partner is a high-strung, yeller who is constantly busy and never has time to discuss anything with me. He expects me to have 5+ years of experience when I am still learning and don’t usually know what I am doing.

I expect my review to go bad. But what can I do during my review to turn it around or at least build some confidence in them about me?

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 04, 2018 1:36 am

Anonymous User wrote:I have my first year review coming up. My supervising partner has told me that my review will be ugly. I’ve only worked with two partners. One of the partners who is more senior in the firm didn’t like my work because of an assignment I did for him early in the year.

My supervising partner is a high-strung, yeller who is constantly busy and never has time to discuss anything with me. He expects me to have 5+ years of experience when I am still learning and don’t usually know what I am doing.

I expect my review to go bad. But what can I do during my review to turn it around or at least build some confidence in them about me?


I’m in the same boat. I don’t think I’m getting a bonus or even a raise this year.

Not sure why you’d want to even stay? I’ve been interviewing elsewhere trying to get out ASAP. I made a few minor mistakes back in February and that’s all they will focus on. Also, they keep trying to stack my work against third years (I’m a first year), and it’s frustrating.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 04, 2018 1:41 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I have my first year review coming up. My supervising partner has told me that my review will be ugly. I’ve only worked with two partners. One of the partners who is more senior in the firm didn’t like my work because of an assignment I did for him early in the year.

My supervising partner is a high-strung, yeller who is constantly busy and never has time to discuss anything with me. He expects me to have 5+ years of experience when I am still learning and don’t usually know what I am doing.

I expect my review to go bad. But what can I do during my review to turn it around or at least build some confidence in them about me?


I’m in the same boat. I don’t think I’m getting a bonus or even a raise this year.

Not sure why you’d want to even stay? I’ve been interviewing elsewhere trying to get out ASAP. I made a few minor mistakes back in February and that’s all they will focus on. Also, they keep trying to stack my work against third years (I’m a first year), and it’s frustrating.


Op Here -

I can relate with you. I want to leave, but have you had a hard time lateraling as a first year? I figured I needed to be here at least two years to do that.

Besides the work, my current firm is great. I can walk to work, it’s 9-6 mostly, I picked up taekwando in the mornings and can work out at lunch no problem. I’ve even lost weight since working here. I don’t make biglaw money though, close to six figures. It’s just the work...that sucks...

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 04, 2018 10:07 am

I suggest you quickly put together a 3-5 page "business plan" of how you plan to improve. Basically have a section that admits your mistakes and another section that sets forth your plan to improve and not make those mistakes again (budget enough time, aggressively read materials that are on point for your industry, etc., budget time to proofread, ask more questions, have a system to keep emails/projects organized), and importantly, have a section on your "victories" - things you did right - so they know there were good things.

I would email this in advance of your meeting and then try to focus the meeting on what you'll do to improve.

This will buy you time while you look for a new job. After a ton of success at my first firm, I went to my home city and worked for a regional firm and the head of the practice group turned out to be a colossal jack-ass. He gave me a horrible review. I put together this "plan" and then he was like wow I've never seen an associate respond to adversity like this. It bought me time while I looked for a job that I now love. And he was disappointed to see me go and has tried to re-hire me several times but while I try to never burn bridges and pretend to be nice, I hate the guy and would not work for him again in a million years.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby UBETutoring » Tue Dec 04, 2018 1:11 pm

I agree about setting out a plan and laying out concrete things you are going to do to change while advocating for yourself in an amicable manner. However, I also agree you should be looking to leave asap. You have to think that from a firm's point of view, they're not going to relay a bad review to you unless they are passive-aggressively suggesting you leave or looking to lay the steps needed to lay you off with minimal legal liability. If they really just wanted you to change something, they'd say something like "you are so good at A, B, and C and have a bright future here but need to change _____". If they wanted you there, they'd convey that in a way that makes that clear, perhaps hyperbolically so.

A bad review from a supervising partner is tough because it probably means they want you out. Unless a partner of comparable or greater power advocates for you, it's not bright. I think it's possible, if not likely that the partner is a jerk nearing retirement who hates coming into work, and is pissed off s/he needs to teach a first-year so went into the project knowing s/he would likely screw you. You may have gotten unlucky being staffed with them, but it is what it is and it is best to get ahead of the curve and move on. If this is the case, then you need to look out for your best interests because by staffing you with such an individual, the firm clearly doesn't give a hoot about your best interests. Even if you could fix it, I'd personally rather take my talents elsewhere if I was in your position. If you want to fix it, the best thing to do would be to change that partner's perception of you by asking to work with them again. They're not going to fire you because you made mistakes A, B, and C but because mistakes A, B, and C impacted the partner's perception of you. The mistakes already happened. All you can change is the perception.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby QContinuum » Tue Dec 04, 2018 1:56 pm

UBETutoring wrote:If you want to fix it, the best thing to do would be to change that partner's perception of you by asking to work with them again.

I generally agree with everything posted so far ITT, excluding the above. IME if a partner's a jerk, or strongly dislikes you for whatever reason, it's extremely difficult to impossible to change that. All you'd achieve by working with that partner more is more chances to get drubbed. Rather, far better to try to branch out and start out fresh with different seniors. In some cases, it's even possible to thrive at a firm after a bad review, if you find different seniors willing to go to bat for you (though on balance, I agree with the advice to look to lateral).

To be clear, I agree that the "business plan" previously suggested could actually work, at least to buy more time at the firm. But I don't think the odds are good that the "plan" works as well as it did for that anon.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 05, 2018 11:04 am

There’s a big chance that you’re going to get fired at your review. You should contact recruiters in every market you have ties with. Once you get a job, I’d think twice about coming back to work after I gave notice. The partner you work for is a douchebag who doesn’t deserve your respect.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby UBETutoring » Wed Dec 05, 2018 12:41 pm

QContinuum wrote:
UBETutoring wrote:If you want to fix it, the best thing to do would be to change that partner's perception of you by asking to work with them again.

I generally agree with everything posted so far ITT, excluding the above. IME if a partner's a jerk, or strongly dislikes you for whatever reason, it's extremely difficult to impossible to change that. All you'd achieve by working with that partner more is more chances to get drubbed. Rather, far better to try to branch out and start out fresh with different seniors. In some cases, it's even possible to thrive at a firm after a bad review, if you find different seniors willing to go to bat for you (though on balance, I agree with the advice to look to lateral).

To be clear, I agree that the "business plan" previously suggested could actually work, at least to buy more time at the firm. But I don't think the odds are good that the "plan" works as well as it did for that anon.

I agree the odds are against it, but my rationale was that if a big name partner wants them out and nobody on equal footing is willing to come to their defense, odds are near 100% that OP is out. Even if he's going to get canned, I think the odds are low it happens at the review if that's the first time they get formally drubbed. It will probably be a few months after. Either way, the advice is the same. If they want to stay, the only way to do that will be to bill a sh*****t ton of hours to show them that you're profitable.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 05, 2018 1:01 pm

Anonymous User wrote:There’s a big chance that you’re going to get fired at your review. You should contact recruiters in every market you have ties with. Once you get a job, I’d think twice about coming back to work after I gave notice. The partner you work for is a douchebag who doesn’t deserve your respect.


I don't necessarily agree that you will be fired. If this was biglaw, I know this would be wrong. Bad reviews occur for first and second years in biglaw all the time -- I've seen it at multiple firms, in different markets, both coveted biglaw. But, barring fiscal issues, associates aren't usually canned until the fall of second year or mid-way third year. So, if you are a first year and get a bad review like this, you still have about 12-18 months of string. The next six months will be pivotal; if people stop assigning you work, and you try and fail to build new relationships, you will likely be fired in the next year. Whereas if you stay busy, you might float by for a couple more years.

What gives me pause is that this is a smaller, non-market firm. It's possible in that model that you could be terminated as a first year. That's probably market and firm-dependent.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 05, 2018 2:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:There’s a big chance that you’re going to get fired at your review. You should contact recruiters in every market you have ties with. Once you get a job, I’d think twice about coming back to work after I gave notice. The partner you work for is a douchebag who doesn’t deserve your respect.


I don't necessarily agree that you will be fired. If this was biglaw, I know this would be wrong. Bad reviews occur for first and second years in biglaw all the time -- I've seen it at multiple firms, in different markets, both coveted biglaw. But, barring fiscal issues, associates aren't usually canned until the fall of second year or mid-way third year. So, if you are a first year and get a bad review like this, you still have about 12-18 months of string. The next six months will be pivotal; if people stop assigning you work, and you try and fail to build new relationships, you will likely be fired in the next year. Whereas if you stay busy, you might float by for a couple more years.

What gives me pause is that this is a smaller, non-market firm. It's possible in that model that you could be terminated as a first year. That's probably market and firm-dependent.


Op here -

Thanks, this is solid insight. Associates at my firm usually become partner once they reach the 7-10 year mark. My supervising partner is such a spazz though that it’s hard to know my future. He’s told me that the firm doesn’t fire people but just slowly stops giving associates work. But he also has told me that my personality (I am on friendly terms with most partners inside and outside of my department) is the only thing keeping me from getting fired. So I really don’t know.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby Npret » Wed Dec 05, 2018 3:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:There’s a big chance that you’re going to get fired at your review. You should contact recruiters in every market you have ties with. Once you get a job, I’d think twice about coming back to work after I gave notice. The partner you work for is a douchebag who doesn’t deserve your respect.


I don't necessarily agree that you will be fired. If this was biglaw, I know this would be wrong. Bad reviews occur for first and second years in biglaw all the time -- I've seen it at multiple firms, in different markets, both coveted biglaw. But, barring fiscal issues, associates aren't usually canned until the fall of second year or mid-way third year. So, if you are a first year and get a bad review like this, you still have about 12-18 months of string. The next six months will be pivotal; if people stop assigning you work, and you try and fail to build new relationships, you will likely be fired in the next year. Whereas if you stay busy, you might float by for a couple more years.

What gives me pause is that this is a smaller, non-market firm. It's possible in that model that you could be terminated as a first year. That's probably market and firm-dependent.


Op here -

Thanks, this is solid insight. Associates at my firm usually become partner once they reach the 7-10 year mark. My supervising partner is such a spazz though that it’s hard to know my future. He’s told me that the firm doesn’t fire people but just slowly stops giving associates work. But he also has told me that my personality (I am on friendly terms with most partners inside and outside of my department) is the only thing keeping me from getting fired. So I really don’t know.

If a partner had told you your personality is the only thing keeping you in a job, I don’t think you will last there much longer.
You should not attempt to work with people who dislike you already. It’s wasted effort because - and this is what concerns me the most- you seem clueless, really clueless, about how and why you got to this position.
The fact you are taking classes in the morning and working out at lunch makes me think you could possibly be totally out of touch with your firm.
You’ve explained the life style but nothing about why your work is so bad and how you might correct it.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 06, 2018 6:02 pm

OP Here -

To provide an update, I had my review yesterday with the managing partner, my partner, and another partner. The managing partner told me that everyone in the firm likes me and they want to see me succeed, but she told me that my notes reflect that I have issues in (1) attention to detail and (2) in legal writing. They know my substantive experience is low but they know that would get better over time.

I know that I have had issues in the past where I turn in work that has spelling errors. I really get surprised when I get these pointed out to me because I shouldn't be making them. I work on something for such a long time, and then to find spelling or grammar errors (or mistakes in the footer or header) really just sucks. I don't know why I miss them before turning them in. I know one solution is just to spend more time in proofreading, but I want to find a system so that I don't make errors that I myself could catch.

Regarding my legal writing, I feel like its so subjective to be able to please my partner. I can't really say that, even after a year, I really know the style of writing he likes. I plan on looking at the work I have done for him in the past, his corrections, and try to see if I can find a pattern in the mistakes I make and the way he likes to see things. Maybe my structure is way off. I just don't know where to really start here. This seems like the most daunting task for me to fix. But if other associates can do this, I should be able to too.

They told me I have 5 months and they will review my work again. At that point, they will make a decision to keep me on or not. I really hope to improve. I like the firm. One partner has completely written me off and won't give me any work. I want to talk to the partner about this. I have nothing to lose at this point. Any way to tackle that?

Any advice? I know, I should look to lateral, but I want that to be my last option. I want to fix this.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby misterjames » Thu Dec 06, 2018 6:15 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP Here -

To provide an update, I had my review yesterday with the managing partner, my partner, and another partner. The managing partner told me that everyone in the firm likes me and they want to see me succeed, but she told me that my notes reflect that I have issues in (1) attention to detail and (2) in legal writing. They know my substantive experience is low but they know that would get better over time.

I know that I have had issues in the past where I turn in work that has spelling errors. I really get surprised when I get these pointed out to me because I shouldn't be making them. I work on something for such a long time, and then to find spelling or grammar errors (or mistakes in the footer or header) really just sucks. I don't know why I miss them before turning them in. I know one solution is just to spend more time in proofreading, but I want to find a system so that I don't make errors that I myself could catch.

Regarding my legal writing, I feel like its so subjective to be able to please my partner. I can't really say that, even after a year, I really know the style of writing he likes. I plan on looking at the work I have done for him in the past, his corrections, and try to see if I can find a pattern in the mistakes I make and the way he likes to see things. Maybe my structure is way off. I just don't know where to really start here. This seems like the most daunting task for me to fix. But if other associates can do this, I should be able to too.

They told me I have 5 months and they will review my work again. At that point, they will make a decision to keep me on or not. I really hope to improve. I like the firm. One partner has completely written me off and won't give me any work. I want to talk to the partner about this. I have nothing to lose at this point. Any way to tackle that?

Any advice? I know, I should look to lateral, but I want that to be my last option. I want to fix this.


On the bolded, they said that explicitly? They straight up told you in 5 months they'll review again and, if not good, they will ask you to leave? If they actually said that, then my advice is to absolutely start looking for a new gig. I've seen this before and the truth is, you're viewed negatively right now. You're no longer fighting to prove how good you are but rather to prove you're not bad, and changing that opinion is near insurmountable. Right now their view is "we told this guy he needs to improve" and they will scrutinize every action with that thought in mind. Think about it - if you succeed, you'll only be back to level-pegging. They've given you 5 months, next time they won't.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby QContinuum » Thu Dec 06, 2018 6:17 pm

Congrats on surviving your review yesterday. Eliminating spelling errors sounds like something you should be able to figure out how to fix. Re: legal writing, try to dig up relevant "model docs" your partner (or his star associates) prepared in the past, and model your future work product after those templates. Much easier to learn writing style from a good template than to learn from comments/corrections on your own work.

Re: lateraling, there's a clear and present danger that you will be let go 5 months from now. Given the warning they gave you yesterday, you shouldn't expect to get a long "runway" to look for another job if you receive another negative review in 5 months - you may be given only 2 weeks' notice or even no notice at all.

You should start looking to lateral immediately - it can easily take 2-3 months to land an offer, and then an additional month for background & conflicts clearance, by which point you'd be up to 4 months. Factor in that the end-of-year holidays are also going to eat up some of your cushion, and you really don't have any time to spare. Please don't risk not looking. If you land something 3 or 4 months from now, you always have the option of staying at your current firm if you've managed to turn things around by then and are being showered with praise*. Don't run the risk of waiting until you're told to leave before starting to look. It's infinitely easier to lateral whilst employed than after being laid off.

(*I use the phrase "showered with praise" because, short of that, I think it'd be incredibly risky for OP to turn down a lateral offer to stay at their current firm. OP shouldn't rely on mere lack of criticism as a positive sign - lack of criticism could simply indicate the firm giving up on OP and deciding to wait out the remainder of the 5 months before letting them go.)

Anonymous User wrote:One partner has completely written me off and won't give me any work. I want to talk to the partner about this. I have nothing to lose at this point. Any way to tackle that?

You can certainly reach out to that partner and express that you understand the issues with your past work product and hope to be given a second chance. But don't get your hopes too high.

misterjames wrote:I've seen this before and the truth is, you're viewed negatively right now. You're no longer fighting to prove how good you are but rather to prove you're not bad, and changing that opinion is near insurmountable. Right now their view is "we told this guy he needs to improve" and they will scrutinize every action with that thought in mind. Think about it - if you succeed, you'll only be back to level-pegging. They've given you 5 months, next time they won't.

+1 to the above. To some extent, of course, OP's problems, once fixed, should stay fixed. Once OP figures out how to stop turning in docs with spelling errors, I don't think they'll go back to turning in sloppy work. But still, I agree that OP's reputation is already shot. Lawyers have long memories, and it'll take a lot for partners who view OP negatively now to start viewing them positively in future. Not saying it's impossible, but it's definitely an uphill struggle. Much easier and less risky to get a fresh start at a new firm, IMO.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby Npret » Thu Dec 06, 2018 6:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP Here -

To provide an update, I had my review yesterday with the managing partner, my partner, and another partner. The managing partner told me that everyone in the firm likes me and they want to see me succeed, but she told me that my notes reflect that I have issues in (1) attention to detail and (2) in legal writing. They know my substantive experience is low but they know that would get better over time.

I know that I have had issues in the past where I turn in work that has spelling errors. I really get surprised when I get these pointed out to me because I shouldn't be making them. I work on something for such a long time, and then to find spelling or grammar errors (or mistakes in the footer or header) really just sucks. I don't know why I miss them before turning them in. I know one solution is just to spend more time in proofreading, but I want to find a system so that I don't make errors that I myself could catch.

Regarding my legal writing, I feel like its so subjective to be able to please my partner. I can't really say that, even after a year, I really know the style of writing he likes. I plan on looking at the work I have done for him in the past, his corrections, and try to see if I can find a pattern in the mistakes I make and the way he likes to see things. Maybe my structure is way off. I just don't know where to really start here. This seems like the most daunting task for me to fix. But if other associates can do this, I should be able to too.

They told me I have 5 months and they will review my work again. At that point, they will make a decision to keep me on or not. I really hope to improve. I like the firm. One partner has completely written me off and won't give me any work. I want to talk to the partner about this. I have nothing to lose at this point. Any way to tackle that?

Any advice? I know, I should look to lateral, but I want that to be my last option. I want to fix this.


You need to lateral whether you want to or not. They are basically giving you 5 months to find another job. Don’t over focus on the idea they are giving you time to improve. Focus on the fact they decided you arent good enough now. I wonder if they are just giving you more time because they don’t want to fire juniors or get the reputation for firing juniors.

I’m getting the impression that you may be naive about your work quality and your firm. You have worked there how long and you still turn in work with typos? Making typos is a huge deal in law firms. It’s not some minor mistakes, but reflects on your quality of work and attention to detail - which is also an essential quality in law.

You should have been learning and reviewing from corrections to legal writing from day one. I’m not sure why you haven’t, unless you just aren’t getting it?

I wouldn’t bother a partner who already dislikes you and ask for work. You are putting a loaded gun to your head. Work with the people who are still willing to give you a chance.

I know I’m very blunt here but you need to understand: attention to detail and legal writing are the two most important functions of being a lawyer. These are huge problems to address and impossible to overcome at your current firm.

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Re: Bad associate review?

Postby jarofsoup » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:49 pm

I agree you need to plan to lateral. First, it seems like you work for an asshole. Second, you seem at risk.

As a junior typos make you look careless. When you get more senior and you have produced 100s of assignments for a person, then the typo here or there is forgiven.

To be honest you should not feel discouraged. This is part of the game. A lot of people get pushed out of a firm, make a graceful exit, then go onto the next firm and do well. You should focus about rocking it day one at the new gig, rather than salvaging your current position.



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