mental health advice - urgent

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mental health advice - urgent

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 10, 2019 11:45 pm

I am a mid-level in big law. I am having some pretty severe mental health issues (diagnosed). I cry every day after work. I feel so overwhelmed and can barely think straight. I think my work must be suffering, but no one has said anything yet. I don’t like the firm where I work and want to lateral, but the idea of another month or more at this firm makes me cry, literally. I don’t think I can do it, but I don’t know how to find another job in my current condition. I don’t care about burning bridges at my current firm because I want to leave anyway.

What can I do? Can I take some kind of medical leave? Short-term disability? I am desperately trying to get my psychiatrist to fit me in for an appointment ASAP.

Can I look for a new job while on leave? Will this kill my career? Do you know anyone who has done something like this? Please help.

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Re: mental health advice - urgent

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:56 am

I’ve been in that position and it is a dark place to be. Sorry you are going thru it.

First thing I would do is try to take a weekend off for yourself. Take a Friday off and go to a really nice hotel, sit in the hot tub, take some fitness classes, and leave your phone off.

Take the time to sleep and spend two hours updating your resume.

I would then talk to a good recruiter. I’m sure if you ask around, you’ll be able to find a good reference. Marvel Consultants out of Cleveland is fabulous. Wegman is good too. Let them or another good recruiter do the job search for you. They have experience and contacts and can really help.

Then just remind yourself you can do it for another few weeks. With light at the end of the tunnel, it will be much more manageable. You can do it!

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Re: mental health advice - urgent

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 11, 2019 1:32 am

If you're at the point that you think this is urgent, get help. Take medical leave. Go to a partner you trust and talk to them, if you have someone you feel you can talk to. This is a tough profession, but if you're at this stage of burn out, your work product is suffering, and the firm would rather pay for medical leave and treatment than have anything happen to you or (if it's fixable to the point biglaw would still make sense to you), lose you long term.

Maybe a new firm would help, maybe it wouldn't. Either way, if you're already considering lateraling, you have no reason not to take a medical leave where you are. Worst case, your reputation at the firm suffers a bit and you lateral anyway after getting your head in the right place. Because, if you lateral now, worst case is you're at a new firm and still burnt out, and don't make the first impression you want to.

Right now is the time to worry about you, not your career. The career will follow you getting help.

(For the record, this comes from another mid-level at a vault law firm.)

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AVBucks4239

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Re: mental health advice - urgent

Postby AVBucks4239 » Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:18 pm

I would get in to see a psychiatrist as soon as you are able, get FMLA leave authorized from your doctor, make HR aware of your condition, and seek immediate FMLA leave. I would relax as much as possible, and once you are in a good place mentally, start thinking about your career trajectory.

On a broader picture, and to maybe get you to start thinking outside the box, I would begin looking beyond big law for your career. I will seriously never, ever, ever be able to figure out why so many otherwise intelligent people put themselves through that bullshit just for a cozy paycheck. And big law is especially terrible if you have diagnosed mental conditions. I seriously could not imagine, and I have a lot of empathy for you.

But start thinking of some alternatives that might be less prestigious and pay less, but would ultimately be better for you. You don't need to make $200,000 a year. You could make half that and live extremely comfortably almost anywhere in the United States. Hopefully you've saved money to give you a brief period of financial independence where you are not dependent on income to sustain yourself.

Going back to your career trajectory, smaller firms are much, much, much less demanding. My billing requirement at my old firm (25 attorneys) was 1,400 hours a year. I'm a solo now, which has its different stresses, but I take time off when I mentally need it. My small firm compadres all work a lot, lot less than my big firm friends, and they all seem happier.

In sum, take FMLA leave, then I would probably leave big law. It's not worth it.

Good luck to you.

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Re: mental health advice - urgent

Postby Npret » Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:34 pm

Can you come up with a family emergency or something that will get you away for a few days without having to do work?
If not you need to get your work covered and get a break. No one wants you at the firm while you are having a breakdown. Is there an HR person you can talk to about your leave options?

You need a solid break before you figure out anything.
If you are in New York, the city bar has a free referral program and you can see someone pretty quickly.

You aren’t suicidal or thinking of hurting yourself?

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Guchster

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Re: mental health advice - urgent

Postby Guchster » Fri Jan 11, 2019 2:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I am a mid-level in big law. I am having some pretty severe mental health issues (diagnosed). I cry every day after work. I feel so overwhelmed and can barely think straight. I think my work must be suffering, but no one has said anything yet. I don’t like the firm where I work and want to lateral, but the idea of another month or more at this firm makes me cry, literally. I don’t think I can do it, but I don’t know how to find another job in my current condition. I don’t care about burning bridges at my current firm because I want to leave anyway.

What can I do? Can I take some kind of medical leave? Short-term disability? I am desperately trying to get my psychiatrist to fit me in for an appointment ASAP.

Can I look for a new job while on leave? Will this kill my career? Do you know anyone who has done something like this? Please help.


You are not the only person in biglaw going through something like this (now or in the past)--you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed and I've definitely been in the cry every day after work (and often times during work) phases over the years. The spouse who wrote the article about the Sidely partner who died by suicide wrote, "During this terrible spiral, I told him to quit. I told him we could sell our beautiful house and move to Mammoth, our happy place, and snowboard all winter and then figure it out. He said he couldn’t quit in the middle of a case. The irony is not lost on me that he found it easier to kill himself."

Emergency leave, getting fired, quitting abruptly--none of these things will kill your career (or even set you back at all if you take some time to figure out how to spin them right). I know because I've seen colleagues go through each of these, and come out in as good (if not better) position on the other side.

There are so many option out there, within biglaw and outside of big law, and you just need to give yourself a break and allow yourself to explore them. Positions open up, talking to law school connections, friends, people in the community you've met over the years, and recruiters and a diligent job search can help open up all kinds of doors--opportunities your panicked state doesn't allow you to even see right now.

In terms of an immediate band aid---I HIGHLY encourage you to see a therapist as soon as possible to chat. It's helped SO MUCH to give me perspective and realize I'm not in as terrible as a position as I find myself in, and contemplate about how awful I treat myself sometimes.

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Re: mental health advice - urgent

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 11, 2019 2:34 pm

First, you should absolutely get the help you need for your mental health. That is priority number one. Do what you need to do to get away from the office and take time off, talk to someone, call a hotline. Anything. You can't make good decisions if you're not in a good state of mind.

Second, it is a myth that you won't be able to recover from a gap in your resume. I struggled with severe anxiety about having a supposed "black mark" on my resume before I quit my first job. I've been through having a gap twice now (I'm also a mid-level) and it hasn't affected anything prestige-wise or in terms of earning potential. Sometimes you just need to leave an unhealthy situation and future employers are still human beings who understand that. The sooner you see your career as only one part of your self-worth and a marathon, not a sprint, the sooner you will find balance in your life as a whole. Do what gives you more happiness than pain. Nix everything else.

Don't make any big decisions until you've taken some time off. I disagree about not caring about burning bridges. Relationships can help you out down the road in surprising ways.

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Re: mental health advice - urgent

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 11, 2019 3:51 pm

I think this thread is full of good advice.

One thing I will add is that in addition to talking to a therapist, it is also a good idea to see your psychiatrist as soon as possible - since you are under their care, they can provide short-term medication, if needed, but also some form of official doctor's note you can provide to HR - they also know how to be discrete as this situation is probably more common than you know.

Depending on how severe your condition is, I think some sort of leave may be the best approach - either some informal use of a few weeks of your vacation now or a more formal leave. Some firms have unpaid leave that you can use for any reason and do not necessarily have to tell them it is for mental health. Your firm may also have some form of short term disability insurance that would provide paid leave but you would likely have to disclose some health information to the firm's insurance carrier.

If your condition is severe, I suspect that if you raise this to a trusted partner in your group (you can be vague and not explicitly describe it as mental health issues), they will understand and will likely take everything off your plate and give you some time. People are reasonable about this kind of thing and likely will respect you more for temporarily sidelining yourself than spiraling down and letting your work quality slip. It is easier for partners to restaff/cover your matters now than have to fix mistakes after the fact. Don't worry about inconveniencing the partners or other associates - law firms are built to handle these kinds of adjustments seamlessly.

Once you are recovered, I think you will be surprised at how well things work out and the opportunities you will have - but they key is that you need to put things on pause now and take the time to recover.



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