Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

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Re: Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 13, 2020 3:22 pm

TheoO wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 12:20 pm
replevin123 wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 12:03 pm
Haven't started biglaw yet, but I don't understand the wifi point either. *IF* you are trying to coast and have OK savings, why not just take a true vacation (ignore all work stuff regardless of wifi access) with sufficient notice? The worst that can happen is you get fired, which if you are coasting isn't that bad (also factor in the probability of being immediately fired for taking a true vacation once a year is probably not anywhere close to 100%). If you do solid work but are unavailable for a 5 day block at some point, seems like you should be reasonably safe and if you're fired over that then just move somewhere else. Is this naive (given assumption of decent savings)? If you aren't gunning for partner, then what's the point of blowing up important life moment vacations or even just maintaining sanity?

[edit-punctuation]
When I made the decision to quit my last firm. I took a 2.5 week vacation trekking in the Himalayas, where I had absolutely no WIFI or data access for almost the entire time (and kept my laptop back in the city, so I didnt have it with me while hiking). But I had another firm lined up that I planned a later start date. But once you know you're going, and have proper plans, I think check the fuck out and enjoy yourself. I feel like it's a brief moment of respite in an otherwise exhausting biglaw experience.
I've actually strategically quit two firms and taken 2 months off in between to go on hiking/camping trips. Talk about a refreshing few months. Definitely recommend doing this at least once during your career in big law.

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Re: Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 13, 2020 3:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 1:38 pm
Just to provide a counter-example, at my firm (V20) I've had no trouble taking two-week vacations without work interruption. You just need to be diligent about lining up coverage. In my (corporate) practice, we line up a associates of similar seniority to cover each matter we're working on and just give the partner a heads up a week or two in advance. Usually the covering associate will start sitting in on calls shortly before the vacation begins so they're up to speed and the client knows to include them on emails and meetings. Then on vacation the only work I might do is forwarding emails to whomever is covering, and maybe providing a bit of context if necessary. We coordinate coverage informally amongst associates, so you have to be willing to help out others if you expect the same in return. (I've always been quick to say yes to providing coverage so that I have a long list of people who owe me one.) It helps that I work in a specialized area but with about a dozen or so other associates with relatively fungible skills. It takes a bit of work to clear the deck for a vacation (and obviously this means it's generally not worth it to extricate yourself for something like a long weekend, so we tend to take long vacations) but in my experience it's totally possible to get a real vacation.
I agree, when I was at a V10 my vacations were sacred and people were expected to cover for you. I got burned a few times when too many people were out of the office and ended up billing 280-320 hours those months. So I agree that the vacation time is easier to get away, but the rest of the time work was so stressful that it made vacations seem almost like I was gas-lighting myself into thinking my work-life was manageable. Not having real weekends or nights is something I just never got used to even with using my full 4 weeks of vacation each year.

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Re: Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

Post by replevin123 » Mon Jul 13, 2020 3:26 pm

OP, thanks for the reply. I can see that and understand that mentality. For the people who are burned out and looking to coast and don't care that much about getting laid off (i.e. should I quit or get fired?), politely, why does it matter so much how crucial they are to a deal? If they are generally good, the firm will either put up with that person or let them go. If the client is so affected by the senior's vacation and decides to drop the firm or something substantial, it doesn't really matter to the burned out associate does it?

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Re: Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

Post by hdr » Mon Jul 13, 2020 4:20 pm

replevin123 wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 3:26 pm
OP, thanks for the reply. I can see that and understand that mentality. For the people who are burned out and looking to coast and don't care that much about getting laid off (i.e. should I quit or get fired?), politely, why does it matter so much how crucial they are to a deal? If they are generally good, the firm will either put up with that person or let them go. If the client is so affected by the senior's vacation and decides to drop the firm or something substantial, it doesn't really matter to the burned out associate does it?
In many situations, refusing to work over a vacation would not be seen any differently than refusing to work while in the office. When something urgent comes up, the client, its investors, government agencies, etc. often can't wait a week until you're back from vacation, and the expectation is you'll drop your plans and take care of things. Unless you intend to leave the profession, you don't want to burn your relationships with partners and clients; otherwise finding your post-biglaw job could become much harder.

Even if you're content not hustling for work and are OK billing ~75 hours/month until you find a new job or get laid off (what I would consider coasting), you should still aim to leave on good terms.

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Re: Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

Post by replevin123 » Mon Jul 13, 2020 4:43 pm

Thanks!

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Re: Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:03 pm

I'm a senior associate who's been at a couple of biglaw firms over my career. The only uninterrupted vacation I had was my honeymoon. Every other time I was bothered in some way. Often not significantly, but it's hard to understate how much billing even an hour or two can destroy a vacation day (because it often disrupts plans for far more significant amount a time than that) and, more importantly, how much being tied to your phone can weigh everything down. Plus, if you're traveling with a group/family they will probably be somewhat miffed if you have to deal with work too often, or even at all.

I do agree that if you are in good standing and have a good amount of hours banked up, going the "Hiking/camping" or otherwise cell-inaccessible route is probably the best play. I know people who say that regardless of where they're going and it usually works out well for them. That said, it isn't always an option to just go off the grid and some people don't want to bend the truth even a tiny bit, so it won't work out for everyone.

Edit: I also cosign the poster above's advice who suggested maximizing time off between firms if you are able. To date, that has been the only time (along with my honeymoon) where I felt really, truly disconnected. And it makes a world of difference.

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Re: Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 13, 2020 9:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:03 pm
I'm a senior associate who's been at a couple of biglaw firms over my career. The only uninterrupted vacation I had was my honeymoon. Every other time I was bothered in some way. Often not significantly, but it's hard to understate how much billing even an hour or two can destroy a vacation day (because it often disrupts plans for far more significant amount a time than that) and, more importantly, how much being tied to your phone can weigh everything down. Plus, if you're traveling with a group/family they will probably be somewhat miffed if you have to deal with work too often, or even at all.

I do agree that if you are in good standing and have a good amount of hours banked up, going the "Hiking/camping" or otherwise cell-inaccessible route is probably the best play. I know people who say that regardless of where they're going and it usually works out well for them. That said, it isn't always an option to just go off the grid and some people don't want to bend the truth even a tiny bit, so it won't work out for everyone.

Edit: I also cosign the poster above's advice who suggested maximizing time off between firms if you are able. To date, that has been the only time (along with my honeymoon) where I felt really, truly disconnected. And it makes a world of difference.
This. I had to do an entire multihour drafting assignment for a partner during a vacation. I did it over the course of a few days, during the night. So basically there was a period of like 4 days where I got something like 2-3 hours of sleep a night. I didn't want this to eat into my SO's time and wanted to maximize my vacay. It really sucked though (especially as I thought it was entirely unnecessary that I have to do it).

I honestly think the best type of vacay while in biglaw is one in a very different time zone. Asia and Europe. if you have 7-8 hours difference, that can mean that any work you need to do can be done either early in the morning if you wake up early enough or at night. It still sucks, since it may mean that you may be low on sleep.

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Re: Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 13, 2020 10:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 9:06 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:03 pm
I'm a senior associate who's been at a couple of biglaw firms over my career. The only uninterrupted vacation I had was my honeymoon. Every other time I was bothered in some way. Often not significantly, but it's hard to understate how much billing even an hour or two can destroy a vacation day (because it often disrupts plans for far more significant amount a time than that) and, more importantly, how much being tied to your phone can weigh everything down. Plus, if you're traveling with a group/family they will probably be somewhat miffed if you have to deal with work too often, or even at all.

I do agree that if you are in good standing and have a good amount of hours banked up, going the "Hiking/camping" or otherwise cell-inaccessible route is probably the best play. I know people who say that regardless of where they're going and it usually works out well for them. That said, it isn't always an option to just go off the grid and some people don't want to bend the truth even a tiny bit, so it won't work out for everyone.

Edit: I also cosign the poster above's advice who suggested maximizing time off between firms if you are able. To date, that has been the only time (along with my honeymoon) where I felt really, truly disconnected. And it makes a world of difference.
This. I had to do an entire multihour drafting assignment for a partner during a vacation. I did it over the course of a few days, during the night. So basically there was a period of like 4 days where I got something like 2-3 hours of sleep a night. I didn't want this to eat into my SO's time and wanted to maximize my vacay. It really sucked though (especially as I thought it was entirely unnecessary that I have to do it).

I honestly think the best type of vacay while in biglaw is one in a very different time zone. Asia and Europe. if you have 7-8 hours difference, that can mean that any work you need to do can be done either early in the morning if you wake up early enough or at night. It still sucks, since it may mean that you may be low on sleep.
Do you regret doing it? Do you wish you would have set up stronger boundaries? What if you would have emailed the partner “Sorry, I’m on vacation, X Colleague said they’d cover for me. I’ll be able to handle things beginning [1 day after you return home]. Thanks for understanding and see you soon.”?

Because I’m pretty sure I will do exactly that if I’m in the same situation as you and while I have no intention of making partner (or even staying beyond another couple years), I also don’t want to make a huge faux pas that would get me summarily fired. I imagine this will vary by firm/group/even partner to partner but I’m just curious whether you even considered doing that. This question is open for all associates who chose to begrudgingly work through a vacation - more than just a few hours a day that chipped away at sleep.

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Re: Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 13, 2020 11:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 10:57 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 9:06 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:03 pm
I'm a senior associate who's been at a couple of biglaw firms over my career. The only uninterrupted vacation I had was my honeymoon. Every other time I was bothered in some way. Often not significantly, but it's hard to understate how much billing even an hour or two can destroy a vacation day (because it often disrupts plans for far more significant amount a time than that) and, more importantly, how much being tied to your phone can weigh everything down. Plus, if you're traveling with a group/family they will probably be somewhat miffed if you have to deal with work too often, or even at all.

I do agree that if you are in good standing and have a good amount of hours banked up, going the "Hiking/camping" or otherwise cell-inaccessible route is probably the best play. I know people who say that regardless of where they're going and it usually works out well for them. That said, it isn't always an option to just go off the grid and some people don't want to bend the truth even a tiny bit, so it won't work out for everyone.

Edit: I also cosign the poster above's advice who suggested maximizing time off between firms if you are able. To date, that has been the only time (along with my honeymoon) where I felt really, truly disconnected. And it makes a world of difference.
This. I had to do an entire multihour drafting assignment for a partner during a vacation. I did it over the course of a few days, during the night. So basically there was a period of like 4 days where I got something like 2-3 hours of sleep a night. I didn't want this to eat into my SO's time and wanted to maximize my vacay. It really sucked though (especially as I thought it was entirely unnecessary that I have to do it).

I honestly think the best type of vacay while in biglaw is one in a very different time zone. Asia and Europe. if you have 7-8 hours difference, that can mean that any work you need to do can be done either early in the morning if you wake up early enough or at night. It still sucks, since it may mean that you may be low on sleep.
Do you regret doing it? Do you wish you would have set up stronger boundaries? What if you would have emailed the partner “Sorry, I’m on vacation, X Colleague said they’d cover for me. I’ll be able to handle things beginning [1 day after you return home]. Thanks for understanding and see you soon.”?

Because I’m pretty sure I will do exactly that if I’m in the same situation as you and while I have no intention of making partner (or even staying beyond another couple years), I also don’t want to make a huge faux pas that would get me summarily fired. I imagine this will vary by firm/group/even partner to partner but I’m just curious whether you even considered doing that. This question is open for all associates who chose to begrudgingly work through a vacation.
1) It absolutely varies by group. The larger the group, the easier the coverage. Mine is very small. So harder coverage.
2) It also turns on how much knowledge/prep the individual covering you has on the deal. Sometimes, you are needed even if there's coverage since you've been handling a task for long enough and have greater insight/knowledge. It helps to prep someone before you leave, with an updated checklist or various notes on where things stand, but things can always come up. It may also be that the individual covering you is also swamped, and doesn't have the capacity at that moment. You'll need to be on.
3) If you're getting a call during a vacay, you either have little/no coverage or an incredibly unreasonable partner (I, sadly, have both). Your proposed response will likely not work in those circumstances.
4) Even with coverage, you may need to be on some calls that occur, perhaps because of (2) above or because of rapport or maybe because you need to keep updated. Whatever the reason, that may happen. The call may be an hour, may be 30. But it absolutely sucks to break out of a dinner, or rush to find some good data/connection because suddenly you need to connect with someone.

In this case, I did actually push back, and those 10 or so hours I worked could have turned into 20 if I hadn't found the coverage. That said, I have law school debt. I need this job for at least a few more years. Could I have said no? Perhaps, and I likely would not have been fired (assuming pre-Covid), but hey, then things like Covid happen and suddenly you seem a lot more expendable. Tables turn. And now you were the one who pushed back against the partner that time and pissed them off, and they need to make cuts to the group.

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Anonymous User
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Re: Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jul 14, 2020 11:25 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 10:57 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 9:06 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:03 pm
I'm a senior associate who's been at a couple of biglaw firms over my career. The only uninterrupted vacation I had was my honeymoon. Every other time I was bothered in some way. Often not significantly, but it's hard to understate how much billing even an hour or two can destroy a vacation day (because it often disrupts plans for far more significant amount a time than that) and, more importantly, how much being tied to your phone can weigh everything down. Plus, if you're traveling with a group/family they will probably be somewhat miffed if you have to deal with work too often, or even at all.

I do agree that if you are in good standing and have a good amount of hours banked up, going the "Hiking/camping" or otherwise cell-inaccessible route is probably the best play. I know people who say that regardless of where they're going and it usually works out well for them. That said, it isn't always an option to just go off the grid and some people don't want to bend the truth even a tiny bit, so it won't work out for everyone.

Edit: I also cosign the poster above's advice who suggested maximizing time off between firms if you are able. To date, that has been the only time (along with my honeymoon) where I felt really, truly disconnected. And it makes a world of difference.
This. I had to do an entire multihour drafting assignment for a partner during a vacation. I did it over the course of a few days, during the night. So basically there was a period of like 4 days where I got something like 2-3 hours of sleep a night. I didn't want this to eat into my SO's time and wanted to maximize my vacay. It really sucked though (especially as I thought it was entirely unnecessary that I have to do it).

I honestly think the best type of vacay while in biglaw is one in a very different time zone. Asia and Europe. if you have 7-8 hours difference, that can mean that any work you need to do can be done either early in the morning if you wake up early enough or at night. It still sucks, since it may mean that you may be low on sleep.
Do you regret doing it? Do you wish you would have set up stronger boundaries? What if you would have emailed the partner “Sorry, I’m on vacation, X Colleague said they’d cover for me. I’ll be able to handle things beginning [1 day after you return home]. Thanks for understanding and see you soon.”?

Because I’m pretty sure I will do exactly that if I’m in the same situation as you and while I have no intention of making partner (or even staying beyond another couple years), I also don’t want to make a huge faux pas that would get me summarily fired. I imagine this will vary by firm/group/even partner to partner but I’m just curious whether you even considered doing that. This question is open for all associates who chose to begrudgingly work through a vacation - more than just a few hours a day that chipped away at sleep.
Do I regret working on vacation? I mean there is nothing to regret, it had to be done. Transaction was signing in a week and the junior didn't understand the deal and the partner can't do everything, just the way it is. Do I regret going to law school? Absolutely, worst mistake I've made in my life. Also, even just working a few hours a day on vacation takes away the point of being on vacation and you don't have your work setup, so it takes longer to do everything. It's one thing to spend 7 AM - 9 AM working for like one day, but that often isn't the case when you are more senior. It's really not up to you how people will respond. If you are good, you can throw your weight around more, but I wouldn't recommend doing that in times like these unless you truly don't care anymore. I'm going camping in two weeks and have already told everyone I'm out of pocket. I can do that because it would be a blessing to be fired at this point. For those actually worried about keeping their job, its not a good look. Just the nature of the job. It's filled with anxious and high-stress people that are smart and very over-worked.

Reminder - this job sucks.

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Re: Biglaw Burnout - Quit or Get Fired?

Post by attorney589753 » Tue Jul 14, 2020 1:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 10:57 pm

Do you regret doing it? Do you wish you would have set up stronger boundaries? What if you would have emailed the partner “Sorry, I’m on vacation, X Colleague said they’d cover for me. I’ll be able to handle things beginning [1 day after you return home]. Thanks for understanding and see you soon.”?

Because I’m pretty sure I will do exactly that if I’m in the same situation as you and while I have no intention of making partner (or even staying beyond another couple years), I also don’t want to make a huge faux pas that would get me summarily fired. I imagine this will vary by firm/group/even partner to partner but I’m just curious whether you even considered doing that. This question is open for all associates who chose to begrudgingly work through a vacation - more than just a few hours a day that chipped away at sleep.
I will say that my personal experience has been pretty different, that folks generally respect vacation, and colleagues will try (even stretch) to help provide coverage. What's interesting is that in my experience, not every associate seems to respect their own vacations equally, some of which probably reflects the projects/partners they are on, but some of which (I think) reflects other things. I think we all know that there may be times in biglaw when we are staffed on a big enough project, or have an important enough role, that fully "getting away" isn't possible, but my personal experience is that is the exception and associates are fairly interchangeable if you spend enough time getting people up to speed, etc. If you are good then it is in the law firms' interest to give you a few weeks a year to recharge (which most people really need) so that you might stay longer.

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