Toxic Partners during COVID

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Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Aug 11, 2020 9:54 pm

How has everyone been dealing with micromanaging, manipulative, condescending, etc., partners during COVID? I’ve about had it with one of the toxic partners I work with, and I’m trying to figure out how to not quit on the spot at this point.

When we were in the office, I could just avoid this partner, but now that we’re all working remotely I just get constant calls and emails to check in on me to make sure I’m doing their work ASAP!

It’s been a rocky relationship for like a year and a half, but I think it’s gotten worse during COVID. I’ve considered reaching out to a mentor partner I have at the firm, but I feel like there isn’t anything anyone can do to help.

Anyone in the same boat? How’d you deal with it?

dvlthndr

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by dvlthndr » Wed Aug 12, 2020 2:57 am

Its hard to get off projects. You can talk to your mentor, but I doubt it will do much. Long term, you can try to turn down new projects with this person. Having your plate full with work from other partners is the perfect excuse. Nobody will fault you for turning down work if you genuinely have a full docket.

Whatislaw

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Whatislaw » Wed Aug 12, 2020 3:48 am

I agree with the prior post. Having a full plate is a great way to balance this. Another way is to have a discussion with the Partner about your workload and helping them understand you have other plates to juggle and are not ignoring them, but merely at capacity. Don't let emotions get to you. Staying busy is better than having no work especially in this economy.

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 6:54 am

OP here.

I’ve tried the busy plate tactic and it doesn’t work unfortunately. This partner is so controlling that they go over my head and block others from giving me work at certain points so that the only work I have is their work.

When I tell them I’m busy, they ask who gave me work and then contact that partner to tell them that I’m underwater and can no longer do work for them.

wwwcol

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by wwwcol » Wed Aug 12, 2020 7:44 am

If you’re genuinely on the verge of quitting there’s no harm in going to other partners, esp those who could give you work. The reality is the nightmare partner almost certainly won’t change their ways, so you need a way to get off their matters. Short of refusing to work for them (last resort strategy), you have to get yourself staffed on other matters that will keep you busy.

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Anonymous User
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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:37 am

Do B-/C+ work for a bit.

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 11:53 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Aug 12, 2020 6:54 am
OP here.

I’ve tried the busy plate tactic and it doesn’t work unfortunately. This partner is so controlling that they go over my head and block others from giving me work at certain points so that the only work I have is their work.

When I tell them I’m busy, they ask who gave me work and then contact that partner to tell them that I’m underwater and can no longer do work for them.
I see this happen at my firm a lot. Working with one partner has its advantages if the relationship is positive but what you describe sounds awful. Sometimes taking an extra long vacation can get you replaced on deals and force this partner move on to another associate (at least temporarily). Key is that as soon as you are back, you'd need to get on matters with other partners.

My firm also lets associates do unpaid leave for personal reasons. If your only other option is to quit/lateral, this can be a good way to get a nice reset.

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 1:15 pm

OP, I was there earlier in my career. I had to endure working for an up and coming partner who was overbearing and just plain mean to me. When I couldn't take it anymore, I confided in attorneys I considered allies and eventually--at their recommendation--a senior partner. I thought that partner would swoop in to save me. Look, I was a junior associate. How hard could it be to replace one junior associate with another junior associate? I was also getting great reviews and had been told I had a real future at the firm. Wouldn't they want to protect me? I also conveyed that it was taking a real toll on my mental health. Surely the firm would show some compassion.

Still, I wasn't given the clean break I needed.

So I began to look elsewhere and a few months later got out of there. For what it's worth, I started to feel better the moment I started applying for other jobs. It felt really good to have applications in the oven. At that point I no longer felt suffocated by how I was being treated.

Whatever you do, don't rage quit. I say that as someone who was pushed to the edge multiple times. You can't let that person drill a hole into your resume if you don't find a new job quickly. They've taken too much from you already. Stick it out (by underperforming if you have to) and come out on the other side healthier and happier and with your career intact. Best of luck.

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 1:34 pm

Current senior associate, I would say I've dealt with 3 truly toxic partners in biglaw. By toxic I mean something beyond just demanding or difficult. I'm talking constant yelling, impossible (and usually unstated) expectations, extreme micromanaging, blaming you for things well beyond your control, being truly demeaning, etc.

There are really only 3 options IME.

1) Wait them out. Finish your assignments, do a passable job, and hope they move on to someone else. Works best if it is a service partner with little clout and little work of their own. This may poison the relationship somewhat with the ultimate rainmaker, but your problem will resolve itself. Plus, truly toxic partners are often recognized as such by other partners and the toxic partner's views may possibly be (but are not guaranteed to be) appropriately discounted.

2) Get so busy on other matters you can't take on more from the toxic partner. Not always possible depending on workflow and there's a distinct possibility the toxic partner just adds more on top of your pile (i.e., anything under 250 hours a month means you have more availability) or says you have to do their work to the exclusion of other partners. This is probably the best option, as even though it sacrifices short-term work/life balance you maintain your long term standing at the firm.

3) Lateral. The last option, but if you are really stuck in a bad situation (e.g., toxic partner is the head of your office / practice group and it's small enough you can't avoid them), it might be the only possibility. Not ideal because it means starting over with a new group of colleagues and forging new connections. Also not ideal because you only get a limited number of reset buttons before you're out of biglaw time. Depending on your future desires, it could be a good time to explore in-house / government (hiring has slowed, but not stopped, for both).

I agree with the above that quitting should not be on the table. As satisfying as it may seem, and believe me, I visualized MANY times snapping and giving a toxic partner a good dressing down, it isn't worth it.

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Anonymous User
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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2020 8:41 pm

OP here.

Thanks for the advice.

Towards the end of last year, I went on vacation (around thanksgiving) and the partner had no problems emailing me incessantly for work even after I told them I would be out of pocket. So taking a vacation isn’t going to change it.

This partner is a rainmaking partner who happens to be the chair of the practice and dictates which projects get priority (always theirs). We are more too heavy, so I don’t even know who the partner would give work to. There is one other associate but they have their own issues with another partner.

Therefore it appears that my only real option is to lateral, which will be slightly difficult in this market for my practice. I spoke to a recruiter who said there are maybe 5 jobs at my level nationally.

I’ve dealt with difficult partners and demanding partners before, but this is a different level of unbearable. I’ll try to hold out until bonus season (if we even get one) to see if I can lateral. Hopefully the market picks up.

hdr

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by hdr » Thu Aug 13, 2020 9:50 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Aug 12, 2020 9:37 am
Do B-/C+ work for a bit.
You should only resort to this strategy if you would otherwise quit. The goal is to become disfavored by the partner without doing something unacceptable or developing a poor reputation at the firm.

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Aug 14, 2020 8:03 am

Any chance you could change practice groups or offices within the firm (obviously the office part is less meaningful during COVID)? The NYC office of my firm used to have a PE partner who was notorious as a nightmare to work with (2 a.m. team meetings, stuff like that, according to the stories) and multiple people transferred to different practice groups within corporate or left the NYC office to avoid working with him.

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:45 pm

I "quit on the spot" (without having another job lined-up or even interviewing at other places) largely due to a horrible partner at the biglaw firm i worked at out of school. When things get to the point that you're not only questioning "wtf am i doing with my life," but also starting to lose respect for yourself for putting up with the bullshit, it's just not worth it. Quitting ended up being one of the best decisions i've made in my professional life; it also felt amazing. That said, i had decent resume to fall back on, so I wasn't to worried about finding another job.

If you're not in a position to quit on the spot, or just don't think you'd ever do it, i'd recommend raising the issue with other partners you're working for who you trust (or at least have a good relationship with). In my case, that led to a big pow-wow amongst all the partners i was working for, where they set limits on how much work each of them could give me per month. It worked for almost an entire few weeks, until "horrible partner" just stopped abiding by it

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Anonymous User
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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Aug 14, 2020 6:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 8:03 am
Any chance you could change practice groups or offices within the firm (obviously the office part is less meaningful during COVID)? The NYC office of my firm used to have a PE partner who was notorious as a nightmare to work with (2 a.m. team meetings, stuff like that, according to the stories) and multiple people transferred to different practice groups within corporate or left the NYC office to avoid working with him.
OP here. I’m a midlevel, so it’s difficult to ask to change groups. I have brought it up, but no one has really taken that request seriously.

TXgal

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by TXgal » Fri Aug 14, 2020 8:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:45 pm
I "quit on the spot" (without having another job lined-up or even interviewing at other places) largely due to a horrible partner at the biglaw firm i worked at out of school. When things get to the point that you're not only questioning "wtf am i doing with my life," but also starting to lose respect for yourself for putting up with the bullshit, it's just not worth it. Quitting ended up being one of the best decisions i've made in my professional life; it also felt amazing. That said, i had decent resume to fall back on, so I wasn't to worried about finding another job.

If you're not in a position to quit on the spot, or just don't think you'd ever do it, i'd recommend raising the issue with other partners you're working for who you trust (or at least have a good relationship with). In my case, that led to a big pow-wow amongst all the partners i was working for, where they set limits on how much work each of them could give me per month. It worked for almost an entire few weeks, until "horrible partner" just stopped abiding by it
Would you feel comfortable sharing how you addressed your situation in interviews after you quit (e.g. how did you respond to "why you left firm X" or "why did you quit without something else lined up")? Did it take you very long to find something else? Did you end up going to another firm, or doing something else entirely?

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Sep 02, 2020 5:58 pm

TXgal wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 8:08 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:45 pm
I "quit on the spot" (without having another job lined-up or even interviewing at other places) largely due to a horrible partner at the biglaw firm i worked at out of school. When things get to the point that you're not only questioning "wtf am i doing with my life," but also starting to lose respect for yourself for putting up with the bullshit, it's just not worth it. Quitting ended up being one of the best decisions i've made in my professional life; it also felt amazing. That said, i had decent resume to fall back on, so I wasn't to worried about finding another job.

If you're not in a position to quit on the spot, or just don't think you'd ever do it, i'd recommend raising the issue with other partners you're working for who you trust (or at least have a good relationship with). In my case, that led to a big pow-wow amongst all the partners i was working for, where they set limits on how much work each of them could give me per month. It worked for almost an entire few weeks, until "horrible partner" just stopped abiding by it
Would you feel comfortable sharing how you addressed your situation in interviews after you quit (e.g. how did you respond to "why you left firm X" or "why did you quit without something else lined up")? Did it take you very long to find something else? Did you end up going to another firm, or doing something else entirely?
The truth more or less, dressed up with some BS. I had been billing crushing hours (think 3000) the past two years, basically hunkered down in my office, without ever getting into court or other opportunity to develop as an attorney; worse yet, most of that time was spent on cases involving an area of law i never saw myself having a future in; didn't see things changing any time soon; decided to leave so i could do my due diligence and interview broadly, which was near impossible to do given my work obligations. Some people aren't going to like that answer, and you won't get an offer from their firm, that's the simple reality of it (i'm not saying there's no risk). But others seemed to "get it" and didn't really care once they realized I'm hardworking and semi-capable. I think i interviewed at 5 or 6 firms after i left; getting interviews wasn't a problem. I eventually took an offer at one of them (which was lower in the V100 than where i was at but same pay) around 3 months later. Took a job at the DOJ a little while after that, which i wouldn't have landed but for the experience i got after leaving the first firm.

TXgal

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Re: Toxic Partners during COVID

Post by TXgal » Wed Sep 02, 2020 7:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Sep 02, 2020 5:58 pm
TXgal wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 8:08 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:45 pm
I "quit on the spot" (without having another job lined-up or even interviewing at other places) largely due to a horrible partner at the biglaw firm i worked at out of school. When things get to the point that you're not only questioning "wtf am i doing with my life," but also starting to lose respect for yourself for putting up with the bullshit, it's just not worth it. Quitting ended up being one of the best decisions i've made in my professional life; it also felt amazing. That said, i had decent resume to fall back on, so I wasn't to worried about finding another job.

If you're not in a position to quit on the spot, or just don't think you'd ever do it, i'd recommend raising the issue with other partners you're working for who you trust (or at least have a good relationship with). In my case, that led to a big pow-wow amongst all the partners i was working for, where they set limits on how much work each of them could give me per month. It worked for almost an entire few weeks, until "horrible partner" just stopped abiding by it
Would you feel comfortable sharing how you addressed your situation in interviews after you quit (e.g. how did you respond to "why you left firm X" or "why did you quit without something else lined up")? Did it take you very long to find something else? Did you end up going to another firm, or doing something else entirely?
The truth more or less, dressed up with some BS. I had been billing crushing hours (think 3000) the past two years, basically hunkered down in my office, without ever getting into court or other opportunity to develop as an attorney; worse yet, most of that time was spent on cases involving an area of law i never saw myself having a future in; didn't see things changing any time soon; decided to leave so i could do my due diligence and interview broadly, which was near impossible to do given my work obligations. Some people aren't going to like that answer, and you won't get an offer from their firm, that's the simple reality of it (i'm not saying there's no risk). But others seemed to "get it" and didn't really care once they realized I'm hardworking and semi-capable. I think i interviewed at 5 or 6 firms after i left; getting interviews wasn't a problem. I eventually took an offer at one of them (which was lower in the V100 than where i was at but same pay) around 3 months later. Took a job at the DOJ a little while after that, which i wouldn't have landed but for the experience i got after leaving the first firm.
Thank you for sharing your story! I like the "so I could do my due diligence" explanation--I may file that one away for future use. I feel like its darn near impossible to get any perspective/analyze options when you're billing those kinds of hours and I personally think it makes perfect sense.

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