Fired During First Year?

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Fired During First Year?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:12 am

Hi All,

I'm about to start at a V10 firm. During last summer, I screwed up one project (they even mentioned it during my review, but said not to worry as my other ones were good). Now I know there are a million over-anxious posts and I know I won't get fired for that type of thing.

What I am curious about is: let's say I screw up multiple projects instead of just one, or a partner really thinks I'm bad - what are the odds of getting fired within the first year? Has anyone heard of this happening and has a sense of frequency? Again, I get the most reasonable advice is "hey you did fine in the summer, everyone makes a couple of mistakes, don't worry about it." But for some various family and health reasons (anonymous for this reason), I'm much more likely to botch projects as I did in the summer. I don't want to take leave or start late, as I'm only hoping to stay for a year or two in biglaw to help pay off loans.

Thank you! And please assume these are serious botch jobs, not just normal first year stuff. I'm curious to know the threshold for getting fired in the first year.

Ultramar vistas

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by Ultramar vistas » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:34 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:12 am
Hi All,

I'm about to start at a V10 firm. During last summer, I screwed up one project (they even mentioned it during my review, but said not to worry as my other ones were good). Now I know there are a million over-anxious posts and I know I won't get fired for that type of thing.

What I am curious about is: let's say I screw up multiple projects instead of just one, or a partner really thinks I'm bad - what are the odds of getting fired within the first year? Has anyone heard of this happening and has a sense of frequency? Again, I get the most reasonable advice is "hey you did fine in the summer, everyone makes a couple of mistakes, don't worry about it." But for some various family and health reasons (anonymous for this reason), I'm much more likely to botch projects as I did in the summer. I don't want to take leave or start late, as I'm only hoping to stay for a year or two in biglaw to help pay off loans.

Thank you! And please assume these are serious botch jobs, not just normal first year stuff. I'm curious to know the threshold for getting fired in the first year.
Depends on the firm. My V10, first the partner you screwed up for will stop working with you. If you keep doing it, that rep will spread. Once that rep spreads, your hours will decline, but you will have a baseline level of hours from the shitty diligence projects we give to first years (as well as second years no one wants to protect from burnout). Then at your end of year review, they will tell you that you kinda sucked and to pull your act together. If you don’t, you probably have another 6-12 months before someone actually tells you to start looking.

But that’s just us. Other places seem more severe based on stories from this forum.

Regardless, you’re not going to get many opportunities for major screwups because you’re not going to be in charge of anything important. Worst case is probably missing something critical and blindingly obvious in diligence that you were told to look for; that might get you fired on an accelerated timeline if it is combined with a generally poor attitude.

attorney589753

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by attorney589753 » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:35 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:12 am
Hi All,

I'm about to start at a V10 firm. During last summer, I screwed up one project (they even mentioned it during my review, but said not to worry as my other ones were good). Now I know there are a million over-anxious posts and I know I won't get fired for that type of thing.

What I am curious about is: let's say I screw up multiple projects instead of just one, or a partner really thinks I'm bad - what are the odds of getting fired within the first year? Has anyone heard of this happening and has a sense of frequency? Again, I get the most reasonable advice is "hey you did fine in the summer, everyone makes a couple of mistakes, don't worry about it." But for some various family and health reasons (anonymous for this reason), I'm much more likely to botch projects as I did in the summer. I don't want to take leave or start late, as I'm only hoping to stay for a year or two in biglaw to help pay off loans.

Thank you! And please assume these are serious botch jobs, not just normal first year stuff. I'm curious to know the threshold for getting fired in the first year.
If you work hard, show responsiveness, and try to at least learn from your mistakes, then I think it is pretty much impossible to get fired as a first year. I don't really know what a "serious botch job" even is for a first year, because you are only going to be entrusted to handle the most basic stuff, so it's not like a first year is going to ruin the case or the deal. Having said that, reputation is important for long term reasons, and you want to develop the basic skills (like attention to detail, communication, deadlines, responsiveness) during your first year. A few slip ups there isn't going to get you insta-fired, but you want to be trending in the right direction and making fewer mistakes as the year goes on. Possible exception is that extreme attitude issues could land someone on the chopping block pretty early on (like ghosting on your team during a deadline, not listening to your supervisors). Basically my advice would be to try and simultaneously relax (you're not going to get fired) but also get ready to dig in, work hard, and do your best. You're going to make mistakes but you want to minimize and not make the same mistake twice.

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:42 am

Some firms, groups, partners, and senior associates tolerate more mistakes - quantity or severity - than others. Some tolerate close to zero mistakes. It’s hard to infer a threshold at which no firm will tolerate some hypothetical mistake, but I think a mistake on a filed pleading/closing document leading to the dismissal of a case/inability to close a transaction would be high on the list —assuming you’ve garnered the reputation to be staffed on such matters.

Every other mistake is expected as long as you don’t repeat it —it’s the nature of learning to practice law.

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:39 pm

Will also depend on how many people you’re working with. Are you in a small group or a pool/rotation? I’ve seen first years burn bridges with some groups due to mistakes but find a home with others. That’s harder (or impossible) to pull off if you’re in a small group / at a small firm.

Making an effort will go a long way. The first years I know who have been asked to leave just didn’t care enough. They would blow deadlines, show up late and/or leave early, take forever to respond to emails/voicemails, etc. Other firms may take a different approach, and you may have less slack in this economic climate.

I would also echo a prior post—try to stay calm but work hard. Mistakes are inevitable—you are going to break down if you can’t accept that in this type of work environment they happen from time to time.

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kaiser

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by kaiser » Sun Sep 06, 2020 12:11 pm

Its not likely that a 1st year is going to get canned that quickly. What happens is that fewer and fewer people will want to work with you until your hours become low, or you genuinely build up a known reputation as someone people don't want to work with because of your mistakes and poor work. What you will usually find is an unspoken agreement when a partner decides not to work with you that they won't go out of their way to speak poorly of you to others. That way, you at least have an opportunity to salvage things on your own. But if this happens enough times, the word inevitably gets around. The smaller and more tight-knit the group, the more quickly it would lead to consequences.

From what I have seen, a first year is almost never let go in the first year simply due to mistakes in their work. As long as someone has a good attitude, is responsive, cares about deadlines, and appears engaged, that is going to go a long way.

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Sep 06, 2020 2:58 pm

I was fired as a first-year associate.

The partners were sociopaths who hated my guts. It didn't help that there were too many of us and not enough work to go around.

If you're at a V10, there should be enough work to go around: just keep your hours up, and you should last at least 2 years.

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Law2020hopeful

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by Law2020hopeful » Sun Sep 06, 2020 4:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Sep 06, 2020 2:58 pm
I was fired as a first-year associate.

The partners were sociopaths who hated my guts. It didn't help that there were too many of us and not enough work to go around.

If you're at a V10, there should be enough work to go around: just keep your hours up, and you should last at least 2 years.
I’m sure it had absolutely nothing to do with a poor attitude or mistakes.
Last edited by cavalier1138 on Mon Sep 07, 2020 6:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Outed for anon abuse.

Anonymous User
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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Sep 06, 2020 9:48 pm

At my firm, the bar for first year work is pretty low. As above posters have said, attitude/responsiveness is much more important to keep a good reputation. People expect it will take some time for you to get your feet under you.

It's common for first year work product to require a lot of work before it is ready to go out he door. The first years that I've seen that gain bad reputations (and risk being asked to leave early) are ones that deliver such poor work product that it would be easier for the reviewing attorney to start from scratch than try to fix their work. Again, that is a pretty low bar. Basically as long as your work product is timely and helpful to move things forward even if it needs a lot of tweaks, that is all people in my group really expect from a first year taking a first shot at something.

For example, if you are summarizing contracts, at a minimum make sure whatever you put in your summary is what the contract actually says. You may not have the right conclusions/analysis but if you at least get the facts right, the more senior attorney can come in and make the tweaks / ask you follow up questions so they can get the work product out the door. But if your summaries don't match what the contract actually says, then they can't be trusted and are basically useless. Do that consistently and people will quickly not want you on their deals.

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person237

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by person237 » Sun Sep 06, 2020 10:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Sep 06, 2020 4:14 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Sep 06, 2020 2:58 pm
I was fired as a first-year associate.

The partners were sociopaths who hated my guts. It didn't help that there were too many of us and not enough work to go around.

If you're at a V10, there should be enough work to go around: just keep your hours up, and you should last at least 2 years.
I’m sure it had absolutely nothing to do with a poor attitude or mistakes.
The sarcasm here is not productive or useful. You don’t know that persons’ situation. Anyway I’ve heard of first-yearS getting fired this year as part of “layoffs.” Idk if it had to do with their work or just Bc of covid corrections, but it seemed one of them was very oblivious and not really taking cues/picking stuff up/trying.

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Sep 07, 2020 2:23 am

Echoing what everyone else has said: first years get fired for attitude not work. We fired a first year in my group this year who I actually worked with a ton because he was doing doc review on my team. I don't believe anyone should be fired in their first two years of working, but he honestly deserved it. He consistently did not pay attention in meetings (asked the same question multiple times, would daze off and then suddenly ask a bunch of questions after hearing the partner say something like "that's the most important thing", etc.) he didn't reply to emails after he left the office, he left the office early, he openly complained about the hours he was told to work, he lacked basic social cues like (e.g. when he asked for a 4 week vacation he was told that isn't common in our office and the department head would have to approve such vacation, so he asked "when will I hear back on the department head's decision?"), etc.

First years (and big law in general) aren't paid a ton because clients think their legal analysis is going to be top notch. Big law pays a lot because you sell your time and freedom. Showing that you are unwilling to do either (especially when you first start and building your reputation) will get you fired.

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Sep 07, 2020 2:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Sep 06, 2020 9:48 pm
At my firm, the bar for first year work is pretty low. As above posters have said, attitude/responsiveness is much more important to keep a good reputation. People expect it will take some time for you to get your feet under you.

It's common for first year work product to require a lot of work before it is ready to go out he door. The first years that I've seen that gain bad reputations (and risk being asked to leave early) are ones that deliver such poor work product that it would be easier for the reviewing attorney to start from scratch than try to fix their work. Again, that is a pretty low bar. Basically as long as your work product is timely and helpful to move things forward even if it needs a lot of tweaks, that is all people in my group really expect from a first year taking a first shot at something.
I would say something similar for first years at my V100 firm. It's not about being the perfect junior when it comes to technical expertise or lawyering skills, it's about effort and being willing to put the time in, being responsive, following up and not waiting for people to track you down for your work. Making it easy for people to work with you, really.

That said...some groups can be more forgiving or demanding than others. There's a small group at my firm that consistently brings on a first year and doesn't have enough work for them, so any mistakes they make are magnified (and because other juniors are fighting for work, if a first year disappoints a partner the partner can move on and never work with that first year again, or not put in effort to correct the mistakes and help the first year improve). No one gets fired as a first year, and definitely not for making "mistakes" but second years are definitely told to move on before hitting two years of experience because they "aren't a good fit" (sure...) or because their hours are low even though there's "plenty of work" (there isn't) which clearly means there's a problem with the first/second year.

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 10, 2020 3:02 pm

So far Fox Rothschild fired five first year associates (that I personally know) accross offices and groups. So in the pandemic era it is not impossible to get fired as a first year.

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Re: Fired During First Year?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Sep 11, 2020 9:22 pm

Anon because my post history would out the firm:

My firm no offered the other summer who was with me in a satellite market and it was no fault of hers--they had overhired based on who was clerking and who was returning, and she just got screwed because she was shy and awkward. It was so mean!

And then a few years later they fired one of the first years one year in. The reason what that first year would prioritize the satellite partners' work over home office's work, and home office was really abusive about thinking that satellite juniors were at their beck and call, while the satellite office was keeping the local juniors very busy. The juniors couldn't be all things to all partners, even when they tried to communicate competing deadlines. It was really unfair, and our satellite partners basically shrugged and didn't stick up for the first year who, in my opinion, was doing a very good job managing being between a rock and hard place. The reason the partners didn't fight for the first year was that they were on their way out themselves (voluntarily) because the firm was such a dumpster fire organizationally and financially. Now that firm has merged and magically, two turds have made a polished stone...or something like that. But yes, I saw a first year get fired for no fault of their own.

And of course, many first years got fired at Latham during the downturn, and they did nothing wrong but be members of a class where there had been overhiring....not all of them got fired. So there had to be some measurement, whether it was hours or "important" cases or deals they had worked on: something separated the "keep" from the "drop" folks.

Moral of long-winded story--do your best work. If you make a mistake, fess up ASAP and have a plan for how you're going to fix it, and don't do it again. All first years make mistakes, and a little-known secret is while they may seem catastrophic to the first year, the fact is that we often don't give first years enough responsiblity to actually majorly screw up.

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