Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

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Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:03 am

Hello. I am a rising 2nd year at a big law office (heading towards my 10-month anniversary soon). After my first year in big law, I'm starting to realize that I may just be really, really, REALLY bad at dealing with stress. These days, I dread going to work - like DREAD going. I usually start getting super anxious right after lunch time in the afternoon when emails start piling in. For me, I've come to realize that it's not necessarily the difficulty of the work that stresses me out, but moreso that the emails and TTD keep piling up. Usually, around 8/9PM I start calming down as I get through the list of items, but by then, I am just drained mentally and emotionally that I often times feel like crying (I secretly think I may be a bit bipolar, although I've never gotten checked this out). Given these facts, I am dying to move to another profession, but given the cost of my law degree (and just the difficulty of starting a new career), I'm worried if this would even be a possibility. Are there any other jobs that I can possibly move into where I can make use of my law degree but not feel so miserable? Is it even feasible/possible to move now at my level? Any advice would help. Also, anonymous because I don't want to get outted at my firm for potentially being bipolar.... Thank you....

icansortofmath

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby icansortofmath » Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:07 am

Lots of lawyers (myself included) see therapists and various coaches on weekends. What you’re feeling is pretty normal.

I personally have found them to be very helpful. Partly because they serve as a dumping ground for psychological trash (petty complaints that even my wife is sick of hearing, but she doesn’t get paid to listen to me) and partly because they have given me some genuinely good advice on how to deal with high demand/high stress environments.

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:11 am

icansortofmath wrote:Lots of lawyers (myself included) see therapists and various coaches on weekends. What you’re feeling is pretty normal.

I personally have found them to be very helpful. Partly because they serve as a dumping ground for psychological trash (petty complaints that even my wife is sick of hearing, but she doesn’t get paid to listen to me) and partly because they have given me some genuinely good advice on how to deal with high demand/high stress environments.

OP here. Genuine question, but how do you find it sustainable? I understand that a lot of my colleagues feel stressed out a lot, but I don't think many of them feel like bursting out into tears everyday (unless, they're just really good at hiding it...).

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby 2013 » Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:25 am

The wanting to burst into tears everyday should be the tipping point. You’re right that a lot of people are stressed, but it isn’t unbearable to the point of crying for most people.

Just try to stick it out while you pay your loans. Is there anything you wanted to do when you went to law school (i.e., something you’re passionate about)? There are other avenues in law you could pursue after paying off loans.

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby wonderland5608 » Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:36 am

I think therapy (and potentially a psychiatrist if the therapist/you think mediation might be beneficial) is a good starting point. I'm a junior in corporate and have been seeing therapist consistently since law school. Therapy alone does not change the stressful nature of the job, but it could help you understand why you stress and give you tools to coop with the stress.

Aside from therapy, think about factors other than the nature of the profession that make you stressed out. Maybe it's difficult to keep up with the working style of the partners and senior associates in your group (do they ask every task to be done ASAP? do you feel distracted constantly by minor tasks, i.e. looking up a definition in a document instead of working on the big doc you're drafting?), then a conversation with the partner would be helpful. How are you doing outside of the office, do you have friends/families to hang out and talk about the stress? How is your diet/exercise habit? How do you like your living situation?

I’m sorry you are going through this and I understand a lot of these suggestions seem trivial, but they can have a fairly positive impact on how you are doing emotionally. Try to take steps to seek out therapy and talk to your partners about your workload before considering change gear completely.

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby icansortofmath » Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:38 am

Your current mental state is not the norm and is not sustainable.

It is however not that unusual either and people have successfully learned to successfully navigate the stress. Look into therapy. One of the perks of biglaw (or any high paying job really) is you have access to mental healthcare that many people can’t afford.

Use your health plan if you’re worried about anonymity. Help is available. Worst case you pony up a few hundred bucks per week for an hour of therapy out of pocket.

Do NOT just “stick it out.” Talk to people who’ve had stressful jobs (ibanking, biglaw, and to a more variable extent consulting and sales/trading) and I think you’d be surprised at how many people have at times felt the way you do.
Last edited by icansortofmath on Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:40 am

As juvenile and naive as this probably sounds, I initially went to law school because I thought it would be a stable career-choice (in terms of getting paid). I studied humanities in undergrad, and worked some jobs in my field of study, but really wasn't getting paid that much at all, so I went to law school thinking, hey, I kind of enjoy reading/writing and I did okay in school - why not get a law degree? I will be the first one to admit that I did not really consider life style when making my career choice - as I said before, I did not realize that I would be this bad at handling stress (especially considering I was a pretty good/hard-working student in school). I'm looking to see if there would be another way out that I can make the best of my situation while trying to deal with my student loan debt.

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby icansortofmath » Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:49 am

Again, perfectly normal.

I have friends who were in similar places mentally and some did end up leaving biglaw but most found ways to cope.

To be frank, a number of them just found the “coasting” zone where they get consistent (boring even) work to just barely get to 2k and the quality is just acceptable. One girl I know actually made an Excel spreadsheet with basically various boiler plate language for common issues she kept seeing in her area of practice.

She’s now earned the right to work away from office a significant amount of time as senior associate. Last I heard from her she was complaining about working (with her boyfriend) in a hotel room while on vacation (she technically definitely wasn’t using pod time off). The pictures and location accompanying the Instagram post suggested she had quite a view of some mountains in Wyoming.

I am just giving you an example of how some people coped. Everyone is different and I think you need to see a professional. I have seen people in your situation quit only to get more stressed out due to a variety of reasons, finances being pretty high on list.

For me, what worked was a combination of:
Some people to listen to my petty complaints that I can’t air at work
Gym before work, channeling my resentment at waking up early into barbell instead of Outlook.
Just some time management and inbox management training.
Also some tips on how to politely say no.
Last edited by icansortofmath on Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:57 am

icansortofmath wrote:Again, perfectly normal.

I have friends who were in similar places mentally and some did end up leaving biglaw but most found ways to cope.

To be frank, a number of them just found the “coasting” zone where they get consistent (boring even) work to just barely get to 2k and the quality is just acceptable. One girl I know actually made an Excel spreadsheet with basically various boiler plate language for common issues she kept seeing in her area of practice.

She’s now earned the right to work away from office a significant amount of time as senior associate. Last I heard from her she was complaining about working (with her boyfriend) in a hotel room while on vacation (she technically definitely wasn’t using pod time off). The pictures and location accompanying the Instagram post suggested she had quite a view of some mountains in Wyoming.

I am just giving you an example of how some people coped. Everyone is different and I think you need to see a professional. I have seen people in your situation quit only to get more stressed out due to a variety of reasons, finances being pretty high on list.

Thank you for this. Having a concrete picture certainly helps. I will def put speaking with a professional on my list (figure I need to anyway to get this self-diagnosis out of the way...).

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 20, 2019 9:16 pm

I have lurked on this forum for many years and at long last created an account to post this.

OP, hang in there. I feel for you, and what you are experiencing. I agree with everything that everyone else has said about seeking help. But I can also tell you that what you are experiencing is more common than you think, particularly as a junior associate in a high-stress biglaw environment. As a junior associate in biglaw in NYC, I remember feeling much the way that you do -- severe stress, constant anxiety about coming into work, being at work, what the next email would bring, the uncertainty, etc. To this day, my wife refers to that as a dark period. But I also found that much of that lessens as you progress in your practice -- I think in part because you become more accustomed to the stress (you start realizing that, 99.9% of the time something occurs that causes you great stress, it turns out just fine), in part because you develop new and varied strategies for dealing with the stress, and because, as you become more senior, the nature of the job changes in ways that ameliorate some of that stress. I am now an equity partner at a highly regarded biglaw firm (I won't say more than that), but will never let go of the vivid memories of sitting in my office countless times as a first or second or third year associate on the verge of tears from the nature of the work, the culture of biglaw, difficult colleagues and clients, and all of that. Often times, now, I find myself surprised when something particularly stressful happens and I don't have the reaction I would have had a decade ago. Of course, that feeling the way you do is more standard (or more normal) than one might think is in many respects a very valid critique of the biglaw model. And I am not suggesting that it gets better for everyone -- and if it doesn't, then you should prioritize your mental health and do what is best for you. I am just saying that, sometimes, it does get better with time, and people are more adaptable than you might think.

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby Raiden » Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have lurked on this forum for many years and at long last created an account to post this.

OP, hang in there. I feel for you, and what you are experiencing. I agree with everything that everyone else has said about seeking help. But I can also tell you that what you are experiencing is more common than you think, particularly as a junior associate in a high-stress biglaw environment. As a junior associate in biglaw in NYC, I remember feeling much the way that you do -- severe stress, constant anxiety about coming into work, being at work, what the next email would bring, the uncertainty, etc. To this day, my wife refers to that as a dark period. But I also found that much of that lessens as you progress in your practice -- I think in part because you become more accustomed to the stress (you start realizing that, 99.9% of the time something occurs that causes you great stress, it turns out just fine), in part because you develop new and varied strategies for dealing with the stress, and because, as you become more senior, the nature of the job changes in ways that ameliorate some of that stress. I am now an equity partner at a highly regarded biglaw firm (I won't say more than that), but will never let go of the vivid memories of sitting in my office countless times as a first or second or third year associate on the verge of tears from the nature of the work, the culture of biglaw, difficult colleagues and clients, and all of that. Often times, now, I find myself surprised when something particularly stressful happens and I don't have the reaction I would have had a decade ago. Of course, that feeling the way you do is more standard (or more normal) than one might think is in many respects a very valid critique of the biglaw model. And I am not suggesting that it gets better for everyone -- and if it doesn't, then you should prioritize your mental health and do what is best for you. I am just saying that, sometimes, it does get better with time, and people are more adaptable than you might think.


You sound like a great partner to work for. Now that you made an account, you should do a Q&A thread on your journey from junior to partner.

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby totesTheGoat » Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:54 pm

I definitely understand the feeling of not handling the stress well. Back when I worked in the law firm, I was in a quarterly cycle of depression. Feel good for 3 weeks, decline for 3 weeks, bottom out for 3 weeks, improve for 3 weeks. There was a solid couple of years of that.

I'm in a "cushy" in-house job now, and it still gets to me sometimes. However, in the past it was more about imposter syndrome than the work actually being stressful. Now that I have a decent grasp of the job, the stress increases when 5 super important projects are all going at the same time or I'm stuck on a project with somebody I don't work well with or even when the work wanes and I'm not super productive for a couple weeks. Some of the cause of the stress is the "loans aren't paid off so I can't afford to lose this job" voice in the back of my head, some of it is simply that I need to relax and not take work so dang seriously.

Best advice I can give is this. Take it a day at a time. Spend 30 minutes with your morning coffee going through emails and planning out your tasks for the day. I don't usually write down the list anymore because I track my tasks on Trello, but just having a comprehensive idea of what needs to be accomplished for the day reduces stress.

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 21, 2019 11:52 pm

Raiden wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I have lurked on this forum for many years and at long last created an account to post this.

OP, hang in there. I feel for you, and what you are experiencing. I agree with everything that everyone else has said about seeking help. But I can also tell you that what you are experiencing is more common than you think, particularly as a junior associate in a high-stress biglaw environment. As a junior associate in biglaw in NYC, I remember feeling much the way that you do -- severe stress, constant anxiety about coming into work, being at work, what the next email would bring, the uncertainty, etc. To this day, my wife refers to that as a dark period. But I also found that much of that lessens as you progress in your practice -- I think in part because you become more accustomed to the stress (you start realizing that, 99.9% of the time something occurs that causes you great stress, it turns out just fine), in part because you develop new and varied strategies for dealing with the stress, and because, as you become more senior, the nature of the job changes in ways that ameliorate some of that stress. I am now an equity partner at a highly regarded biglaw firm (I won't say more than that), but will never let go of the vivid memories of sitting in my office countless times as a first or second or third year associate on the verge of tears from the nature of the work, the culture of biglaw, difficult colleagues and clients, and all of that. Often times, now, I find myself surprised when something particularly stressful happens and I don't have the reaction I would have had a decade ago. Of course, that feeling the way you do is more standard (or more normal) than one might think is in many respects a very valid critique of the biglaw model. And I am not suggesting that it gets better for everyone -- and if it doesn't, then you should prioritize your mental health and do what is best for you. I am just saying that, sometimes, it does get better with time, and people are more adaptable than you might think.


You sound like a great partner to work for. Now that you made an account, you should do a Q&A thread on your journey from junior to partner.


Thank you for saying that. I certainly hope that is the case. I think that so many folks have a remarkably short (or selectively short) memory when it comes to such things, and forget what it was like coming up in this business. I will do a Q&A one of these days when I can find the time.

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 24, 2019 8:18 am

I will echo and expand upon the general advice given about therapy. If you really think you're bad at dealing with stress, you need to fix that regardless. You could have the least stressful job in the world and you would still need to fix that, because life is going to find a lot of other ways to stress you. So accepting that as a personality trait and planning your life around it is not a plan. The good news is that it's very fixable, as these problems go. There are tons of strategies you can learn and different angles from which to address it. Don't give up on law, or even biglaw, before seeing a therapist about managing stress. You fought your way to a highly desired job, and you owe it to yourself not to let a fixable problem run you out of it.

Feeling like crying after a long day of being constantly overwhelmed isn't really evidence of bipolar disorder (it's not great evidence of... anything, really; it's the expected/ normal reaction), but if you're worried, you might as well get checked out for peace of mind. For therapy, ideally find a psychologist (PhD) who works in a practice with a psychiatrist, or works closely with a particular psychiatrist. They'll be better placed than a random counselor to make an accurate diagnosis. Use your insurance web site to find a list of practitioners who take your insurance. You may need to call down the list a little (some of them may not be taking on new patients) but it's an investment and you need to do it. (Btw, since someone mentioned weekends, that's great if there's availability, but I have never had a weekend appointment. I just leave work and come back (or get into work late, or leave a little earlier in the evening, etc.). I'm a professional and my medical crap isn't my employer's business.)

Source: Bipolar-NOS, ADHD-PI, am highly valued senior associate.

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Re: Realized I'm bad at dealing with stress... Career advice...

Postby yodamiked » Mon Jun 24, 2019 8:45 am

While I agree with everyone that counselling is a good (and very common) path forward, I also just want to add that in no way do you need to stay in your current job (unless you honestly won’t be able to survive because of loan payments). Biglaw is honestly a terrible career. Firms often treat their associates in an inhuman way, demanding unhealthy hours, and more importantly, unhealthy attention/responsiveness 24hrs a day. Even for those who aren’t struggling with your issues, it takes a large toll. There is literally NOTHING WRONG with deciding you want a more normal career environment.

So really the big question is how much debt you have and if you can survive on a lower salary. If you literally can’t survive, then yeah, maybe do what you can to cope and adapt to your job until you can make a jump in-house as soon as possible (definitely still take advantage of counseling). If your debt is maneagable on a more modest salary, then maybe consider something outside big law.

One big thing that helped me get through the first couple of years was when people would remind me that I’m not trapped. I always have other options. Just might mean a different path than I had originally thought and worked for. But sometimes that’s more than okay.



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