Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

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Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Aug 29, 2020 12:14 am

I'm in a situation where I've kind of let time get away from me and become increasingly senior. I've been told recently that I'll be making non-equity at my big law firm. It's not something you "expect" like at some firms. You either have the merit/connections to get there or you die in counsel hell. I've also been told that I'd remain at non-equity for 2-4 years while I build a case for equity.

Where's the problem? I don't exactly know. I like the work. I like the people. I like the firm. I like the money. Sure, I'd like to work less at times. Sure, I'm not interested in many of our clients' businesses. Sure, I find the social value pretty dubious most of the time, though I don't think I'm pouring oil in the local water supply. Still, on the whole, it's a great job, as far as jobs go.

I was offered a senior in-house position (think Assistant General Counsel) at a F500 earlier this year, and I turned it down. The compensation was about the same and the hours better, but I just couldn't pry myself from big law. Being an Assistant General Counsel at a place like EcoLab (example here, not the actual F500) just felt meh. I know that's not a sophisticated answer, but that's how it felt. Partner at my firm just sounded better.

Has anyone else struggled with this sort of problem? I feel like my identity is tied to becoming a partner, despite it being something that I'm not really passionate about, though it doesn't make me actively unhappy. I enjoy being a lawyer, and not being a partner feels like failure. I'm not sure if it is self-aggrandizement but one of my great fears is not being perceived as at the top of my career. I have a great deal of anxiety of being the guy who stalled out at "just" Assistant General Counsel (which I'm ridiculous lucky to be even competitive for). I think a good deal of it stems from watching my mother face a similar struggle. She was basically the deputy C-Suite executive in her function at a F500 for many years and passed over 3x before retiring, and I know that was emotionally devastating to her.

I feel like my brain is a bit fucked. Anyone have any tips?

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blair.waldorf

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by blair.waldorf » Sat Aug 29, 2020 1:40 am

I can’t believe this is a real post.

Barrred

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by Barrred » Sat Aug 29, 2020 1:50 am

Don't listen to the haters, I understand the struggle. It is one that a lot of high achievers face. My advice would probably be to try to work on yourself in order to decouple your biglaw/career success from your sense of self worth. (Easier said than done.)

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Aug 29, 2020 2:16 am

Barrred wrote:
Sat Aug 29, 2020 1:50 am
Don't listen to the haters, I understand the struggle. It is one that a lot of high achievers face. My advice would probably be to try to work on yourself in order to decouple your biglaw/career success from your sense of self worth. (Easier said than done.)
OP here. Thanks for the advice. Anyone have any good book, podcast, etc. recommendations for decoupling self worth from one's career?

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:02 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Aug 29, 2020 2:16 am
Barrred wrote:
Sat Aug 29, 2020 1:50 am
Don't listen to the haters, I understand the struggle. It is one that a lot of high achievers face. My advice would probably be to try to work on yourself in order to decouple your biglaw/career success from your sense of self worth. (Easier said than done.)
OP here. Thanks for the advice. Anyone have any good book, podcast, etc. recommendations for decoupling self worth from one's career?
I'd try an actual therapist

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legalpotato

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by legalpotato » Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:52 am

OP, this post is very relevant to me and I'm interested in the responses because I'm also in a situation where I've kind of let time get away from me and become increasingly senior. I've been told recently that I'll be making non-equity at my big law firm. It's not something you "expect" like at some firms. You either have the merit/connections to get there or you die in counsel hell. I've also been told that I'd remain at non-equity for 2-4 years while I build a case for equity.

Where's the problem? I don't exactly know. I like the work. I like the people. I like the firm. I like the money. Sure, I'd like to work less at times. Sure, I'm not interested in many of our clients' businesses. Sure, I find the social value pretty dubious most of the time, though I don't think I'm pouring oil in the local water supply. Still, on the whole, it's a great job, as far as jobs go.

I was offered a senior in-house position (think Assistant General Counsel) at a F500 earlier this year, and I turned it down. The compensation was about the same and the hours better, but I just couldn't pry myself from big law. Being an Assistant General Counsel at a place like EcoLab (example here, not the actual F500) just felt meh. I know that's not a sophisticated answer, but that's how it felt. Partner at my firm just sounded better.

Has anyone else struggled with this sort of problem? I feel like my identity is tied to becoming a partner, despite it being something that I'm not really passionate about, though it doesn't make me actively unhappy. I enjoy being a lawyer, and not being a partner feels like failure. I'm not sure if it is self-aggrandizement but one of my great fears is not being perceived as at the top of my career. I have a great deal of anxiety of being the guy who stalled out at "just" Assistant General Counsel (which I'm ridiculous lucky to be even competitive for). I think a good deal of it stems from watching my mother face a similar struggle. She was basically the deputy C-Suite executive in her function at a F500 for many years and passed over 3x before retiring, and I know that was emotionally devastating to her.

I feel like my brain is a bit fucked. Anyone have any tips?

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Aug 29, 2020 10:20 am

I don't really get this post. You didn't take in-house because you like your job enough to stay and make partner, not sure what the issue is. I'm trying to leave as a 7th year because it's been 6 years of misery and stress and I can't imagine doing this job for 5 more years, let alone 20. If you like the job and the people and they already told you you're making partner, then why be anxious at all?

I think being 7-8 years into this career and still caring about what "sounds better" is pretty absurd, but par for the course in being a lawyer I guess. Guess its why my entire network on linkedin are now "Ones to Watch".

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Sat Aug 29, 2020 11:08 am

Sounds like you want to make partner (enough) and will make partner. Seems simple to me. If you had wanted to leave, you would have when you had that opportunity. Your gut says stay. So stay.

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by kaiser » Sat Aug 29, 2020 11:28 am

If you feel like you need to achieve that brass ring of making partner, then stay and do it. It sounds like you want that at some level. And if you don't like it, or want to move onto something else, you would have just as many if not more opportunities for excellent in-house positions at that point.

Honestly, I agree with the suggestion that you speak with a therapist. It sounds like you may be tying your self-worth a bit too much to things that don't even sound all that important to you. And thats a recipe for dissatisfaction regardless of outcome. I'm no therapist and don't like to play armchair psychologist, but it sounds like there is something there that would be worth talking about with someone who could coach you through it.

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Sat Aug 29, 2020 2:33 pm

I don't think your situation is very complicated: You want to be partner because you're competitive. The title or w/e holds meaning for you. And that's fine. Go get it.

Is it sorta irrational? Yeah I guess, but lots of lawyers (and frankly, people) make career decisions based on these kind these sorts of non-monetary/lifestyle reasons. They leave BigLaw become AUSAs or impact litigators or policy analysts because that work + title has some sort of meaning for them that BigLaw doesn't.

All that is to say: I don't really see a difference between staying in BigLaw to make partner for the intangible psychic benefits of "Being A Law Firm Partner", and leaving BigLaw to do impact litigation at the ACLU for the intangible psychic benefits of "Making The World A Better Place." If you were doing the latter, no one would bat an eye.

Maybe because so many are jaded with BigLaw, we assume that "public service work" is fulfilling but private practice isn't, and I don't think that's true for everyone. I wouldn't last two weeks at a nonprofit. And my s/o's dad -- a wonderful guy -- just retired from a firm that's talked about a lot on this board. He loved his job while he did it, and being a "Partner" still has a lot of meaning for him. If it were just about the money he would have left 15 years ago.

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Aug 29, 2020 6:47 pm

OP here. Thanks for the advice, everyone. I've been in therapy for about a decade (and would recommend it to everyone who can afford it), but this is something I wanted to air out with a crowd that has a bit higher understanding of the specific roles in the legal industry.

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Aug 30, 2020 4:38 pm

You probably aren't making partner, so I would accept that.

Is the money worth it as counsel? Maybe. I say no. Hence why I will be leaving post-corona uncertainty.

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:45 am

Spend some time to see if there is anything you would actually be passionate working on for hours on end, which passion cannot be supplemented by a donation to any particular non-profit. Not having passion for what you do sounds like your only issue -- and frankly it's one I (and I'm sure many biglaw lawyers) share. I've been working on side hustles after work to see if there's anything else I could work on that I would actually be passionate about -- and so far have come up empty.

I'm starting to think I may just not be passionate about almost any job -- and that's not crazy and doesn't require going to therapy.

Once that question is settled, you either see if pivoting to your passion is worth the loss in lifestyle for you and your family or you keep chugging along at what is otherwise a pretty good gig. If you accept that passion for you doesn't come from any particular task and instead comes from how successful you are at whatever task it is life handed you, it makes complete sense to want to dedicate your life to and for you to find happiness through achieving a "partner" title.

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RedGiant

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by RedGiant » Mon Aug 31, 2020 11:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Aug 29, 2020 6:47 pm
OP here. Thanks for the advice, everyone. I've been in therapy for about a decade (and would recommend it to everyone who can afford it), but this is something I wanted to air out with a crowd that has a bit higher understanding of the specific roles in the legal industry.
I think you should talk with a therapist who understands biglaw: Will Meyerhofer, JD LMSW is a Biglaw attorney turned psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. A former Sullivan & Cromwell associate, he holds degrees from Harvard, NYU School of Law and The Hunter College School of Social Work.

I definitely relate to what you're talking about--you've been climbing the prestige mountain for a really long time, and you got really close to the peak, and it's frustrating that you did not make it to the peak, and now you're a little burnt out, and not sure if you should muster up the extra energy to try to summit, but going to a different mountain (in-house) doesn't look as enticing. I've had a ton of friends go through this.

I would talk to a law-specific career coach. Another thing I'd do is reach out to some of the non-equity partners at the firm (if you're close enough to any of them) to chat about their thoughts and seek encouragement about what their journey toward equity partner has been like.

For one, you could think about whether lateralling somewhere else to be a service partner makes sense, if a book would be shared with you (so there's no expectation of lots of BD input--your work would be enough). Separately, I would speak with friends who are in-house, to ask them what they like and dislike about it. I spent a lot of years thinking that in-house would be boring, but now that I am here, I don't feel that way at all--the trick is to choose an exciting company, not just a good title.

Good luck--your feelings are valid, and not making partner "right away" is really devastating. I absolutely believe your post is real, and I hope you find a way forward that makes you excited about your next steps.

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Re: Combating anxiety around leaving biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 31, 2020 3:20 pm

I had a similar experience but in my pre-law career as an academic (anon because this is pretty identifying). For years I drank the kool-aid, poured for me by well-meaning advisors and mentors, that being a professor at an ivy-league school was the pinnacle of achievement. But the process of going for tenure just felt so......unrewarding and uninspiring. I finally took a moment to close out the voices of all those around me and really listen to my own voice - even if I could get tenure where I was or at a comparable institution, is that what I really wanted? Deciding it was not - and deciding to make a complete career change as a result - was a really difficult decision, but one that, years after the fact, I am glad I made. All to say, I think in your heart you know the right answer to this question for yourself, and only you - no therapist, no mentor, no stranger on the internet - can change what that answer is.

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