Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

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Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 2:41 pm

Can I get a reality check as to whether (a) it is reasonable for me to be irritated by this and (b) what I should do, if anything, to correct things?

So I work in a large law firm with many offices. I graduated in 2015. The nature of my particular line of work is such that I end up working with attorneys in other offices on most matters. Also as a result of my line of work, there are certain things I can do efficiently and correctly because I do them all the time and they take little thinking or discretion. There is no attorney below me in seniority in my "niche" at my firm. So I always ending up doing those repeat, specialized tasks, even though a first year associate could do them. I wish I had a more junior associate in my "niche" to delegate those sorts of things down to, and also to delegate to when I have too many things that must get done all at once. But that's not happening as far as I know, and in any event I have no control over it. I mention this as a possible reason why I might look like I am a junior associate if you don't check my class year.

But an issue I might have some control over is that I am on matters where a more junior associate is giving me assignments that anyone could do. At first, I thought that it was a one-off "oh hey, can you do this, I'm slammed" kind of thing (even though they didn't specify as such). But it has become clear that there are multiple associates who are either my year, or junior to me, that "give" me lower level work on matters we are both on. None of these associates have met me in person or are in my "office," so it's possible they are mistaken in terms of my seniority (although it's possible to check, and I am accurately listed, along with my higher billable rate).

For context, before I came to my current firm, I was at a law firm that was large, and I worked in a large department. But everyone was under one roof, and so you were very aware of where you fell in terms of class year. It was accepted that associates could delegate work "down" to more junior associates. When that happened, it was more "telling" and less "asking" although if you absolutely couldn't take on a task for some reason, other associates were reasonable. You could even delegate "down" to people one year below you (like a second year supervising document review/doing second level review of documents reviewed by first years, making sure they were on track to get all the batches done etc.) There were some downsides to this (some partners really passed off any responsibility for "managing" to associate) but generally speaking, it worked well and I learned a lot from associates I worked "for" and felt like I was a mentor to the associates who worked "for" me. The associate pool at my old firm was also heavily pyramid shaped which also allowed this. By the time I was a third year, I was in the top 50% most senior associates (the 8th through 3rd year associates were outnumbered by the 1st and 2nd year associates). But no one ever delegated or gave assignments "up." At most, you might ask someone to talk something over or ask how to do something, but in the posture of a "favor." You usually didn't ask more senior people to "cover" for you on a matter, unless they were already on it. Because I could delegate down at my old firm, there were certain tasks that I didn't do beyond my first and second year, but I am back to doing it on ALL or MOST of my matters now, either because I am the most junior person on the team that does my niche thing.

I realize that my old firm might have been on the extreme end of the spectrum of a rigid hierarchy, but I can't help feel like I am disrespected if I am being asked to do what I would consider junior level work when there is a more junior associate on the matter, especially when asked BY the junior associate. I also want to be a team player and have partners and senior associates continue to give me work, but on the other hand, I won't grow as an attorney if I don't get substantive, stretch opportunities. And doing junior level work takes up my time and also I worry that I am perceived as a "worker bee" by certain teams of attorneys in other offices. Or that they actually think I am a junior associate!

How do I bring this up or otherwise address it? I want to respond to emails giving me assignments with "you realize I am a sixth year right?" But that's probably too hostile lol. The only upside is that since they are actually my peers or junior, they don't get to review me (but if a partner is cc'ed on the email, I feel like I have to say yes). Thanks.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 2:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 2:41 pm
Can I get a reality check as to whether (a) it is reasonable for me to be irritated by this and (b) what I should do, if anything, to correct things?

So I work in a large law firm with many offices. I graduated in 2015. The nature of my particular line of work is such that I end up working with attorneys in other offices on most matters. Also as a result of my line of work, there are certain things I can do efficiently and correctly because I do them all the time and they take little thinking or discretion. There is no attorney below me in seniority in my "niche" at my firm. So I always ending up doing those repeat, specialized tasks, even though a first year associate could do them. I wish I had a more junior associate in my "niche" to delegate those sorts of things down to, and also to delegate to when I have too many things that must get done all at once. But that's not happening as far as I know, and in any event I have no control over it. I mention this as a possible reason why I might look like I am a junior associate if you don't check my class year.

But an issue I might have some control over is that I am on matters where a more junior associate is giving me assignments that anyone could do. At first, I thought that it was a one-off "oh hey, can you do this, I'm slammed" kind of thing (even though they didn't specify as such). But it has become clear that there are multiple associates who are either my year, or junior to me, that "give" me lower level work on matters we are both on. None of these associates have met me in person or are in my "office," so it's possible they are mistaken in terms of my seniority (although it's possible to check, and I am accurately listed, along with my higher billable rate).

For context, before I came to my current firm, I was at a law firm that was large, and I worked in a large department. But everyone was under one roof, and so you were very aware of where you fell in terms of class year. It was accepted that associates could delegate work "down" to more junior associates. When that happened, it was more "telling" and less "asking" although if you absolutely couldn't take on a task for some reason, other associates were reasonable. You could even delegate "down" to people one year below you (like a second year supervising document review/doing second level review of documents reviewed by first years, making sure they were on track to get all the batches done etc.) There were some downsides to this (some partners really passed off any responsibility for "managing" to associate) but generally speaking, it worked well and I learned a lot from associates I worked "for" and felt like I was a mentor to the associates who worked "for" me. The associate pool at my old firm was also heavily pyramid shaped which also allowed this. By the time I was a third year, I was in the top 50% most senior associates (the 8th through 3rd year associates were outnumbered by the 1st and 2nd year associates). But no one ever delegated or gave assignments "up." At most, you might ask someone to talk something over or ask how to do something, but in the posture of a "favor." You usually didn't ask more senior people to "cover" for you on a matter, unless they were already on it. Because I could delegate down at my old firm, there were certain tasks that I didn't do beyond my first and second year, but I am back to doing it on ALL or MOST of my matters now, either because I am the most junior person on the team that does my niche thing.

I realize that my old firm might have been on the extreme end of the spectrum of a rigid hierarchy, but I can't help feel like I am disrespected if I am being asked to do what I would consider junior level work when there is a more junior associate on the matter, especially when asked BY the junior associate. I also want to be a team player and have partners and senior associates continue to give me work, but on the other hand, I won't grow as an attorney if I don't get substantive, stretch opportunities. And doing junior level work takes up my time and also I worry that I am perceived as a "worker bee" by certain teams of attorneys in other offices. Or that they actually think I am a junior associate!

How do I bring this up or otherwise address it? I want to respond to emails giving me assignments with "you realize I am a sixth year right?" But that's probably too hostile lol. The only upside is that since they are actually my peers or junior, they don't get to review me (but if a partner is cc'ed on the email, I feel like I have to say yes). Thanks.
This question is kinda above my pay grade since I'm not at your level of seniority, but I think your experience of delegating at your first firm is pretty typical from what I gather. Your current experience tho—I do wonder that perhaps it isn't the juniors that are delegating the low-level work to you but rather their seniors in their group? And maybe the juniors are just the messengers? Because as a junior, I've had to do that before and it made me feel weird haha. Just a thought to maybe help you root out the problem (i.e., maybe to fix the issue, you need to call the associate up the ladder in that junior's group)

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 2:55 pm

Are you a specialist? If you are then I don’t think it’s necessarily assigning up or being disrespectful. It’s hard to gauge this without understanding what group you and the juniors are in. If you’re not a specialist, then that’s really bizarre and your juniors are insane lol.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 2:59 pm

I'm a junior, and that sounds weird to me. I might ask a mid-level/senior for help with an assignment if I didn't know what I was doing, but I'd never ask them to just do the thing.

In terms of response, maybe ask them why they're trying to delegate and emphasize that the client is not going to pay your billing rate for the task. Then offer to review work product before it goes to a partner.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 3:01 pm

It drives me crazy when juniors do this to me, especially when it’s clear that it’s not that they’re too busy, they just don’t want to do it. Can you make it a billing rates thing? Like “hi [junior], did [senior associate or partner] specifically indicate that I should handle this? Unless this task involves something unique to my [niche practice area], I’m hesitant to bill at a sixth-year rate for a task that the client will (reasonably) expect to be done by a junior associate.”

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 3:10 pm

Are you a specialist? If you are then I don’t think it’s necessarily assigning up or being disrespectful. It’s hard to gauge this without understanding what group you and the juniors are in. If you’re not a specialist, then that’s really bizarre and your juniors are insane lol.
I tried to explain this above (but by avoiding specifics I probably made it hard to follow). I am in a specialized area of litigation, and so there are some things that I just do because it would take too long to explain to a junior associate who does other types of litigation or general litigation who will never do it again, so I don't care if they ask me to those sorts of things. But the things I am bothered by are things that literally any general litigation associate could do (grab a case from Westlaw, update an internal administrative/tracking document, email an internal support department and get those folks to do something and check that they did it, grab a document from a database, review a bunch of documents and summarize what is in them).

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 3:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 3:10 pm
Are you a specialist? If you are then I don’t think it’s necessarily assigning up or being disrespectful. It’s hard to gauge this without understanding what group you and the juniors are in. If you’re not a specialist, then that’s really bizarre and your juniors are insane lol.
I tried to explain this above (but by avoiding specifics I probably made it hard to follow). I am in a specialized area of litigation, and so there are some things that I just do because it would take too long to explain to a junior associate who does other types of litigation or general litigation who will never do it again, so I don't care if they ask me to those sorts of things. But the things I am bothered by are things that literally any general litigation associate could do (grab a case from Westlaw, update an internal administrative/tracking document, email an internal support department and get those folks to do something and check that they did it, grab a document from a database, review a bunch of documents and summarize what is in them).
Gotcha. I would use the billing rates point the other person said. I think specialist dd is distinguishable, even if they’re documents more people could theoretically review, but I’m not a litigator so maybe litigation is different. Rest is just yikes.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 3:28 pm

It drives me crazy when juniors do this to me, especially when it’s clear that it’s not that they’re too busy, they just don’t want to do it. Can you make it a billing rates thing? Like “hi [junior], did [senior associate or partner] specifically indicate that I should handle this? Unless this task involves something unique to my [niche practice area], I’m hesitant to bill at a sixth-year rate for a task that the client will (reasonably) expect to be done by a junior associate.”
OP here. It especially drives me crazy because I think relative to the rest of the firm, my local "team" is busier than most--although anyone can be slammed at any given time. I had three months in a row of 220-240 hours, which is definitely more than the department average so it was really getting to me then.

Your script is good, except the senior associate or partner is usually copied on these emails. So it makes me think that the message is coming from above/there is a deeper issue. But I don't understand! I think maybe the partners want to keep the "good" work for "their" associates and use me to do the low level work and make sure things don't fall through the cracks. Idk.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 3:34 pm

I think specialist dd is distinguishable, even if they’re documents more people could theoretically review, but I’m not a litigator so maybe litigation is different. Rest is just yikes.
This includes pretty basic document review, like reviewing the production from the other side, marking important docs and listing what is in there. It is also like, the client sent us a zip of documents, draft a list of what is in there and what we're missing. Now, the mid-level or junior associate is the one who usually drafts the briefs and does oral argument, so it seems like the fact that I am a "specialist" doesn't mean they can't understand what they are looking at. And sometimes it's a mixed matter and the documents are more up their alley.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 3:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 3:28 pm
It drives me crazy when juniors do this to me, especially when it’s clear that it’s not that they’re too busy, they just don’t want to do it. Can you make it a billing rates thing? Like “hi [junior], did [senior associate or partner] specifically indicate that I should handle this? Unless this task involves something unique to my [niche practice area], I’m hesitant to bill at a sixth-year rate for a task that the client will (reasonably) expect to be done by a junior associate.”
OP here. It especially drives me crazy because I think relative to the rest of the firm, my local "team" is busier than most--although anyone can be slammed at any given time. I had three months in a row of 220-240 hours, which is definitely more than the department average so it was really getting to me then.

Your script is good, except the senior associate or partner is usually copied on these emails. So it makes me think that the message is coming from above/there is a deeper issue. But I don't understand! I think maybe the partners want to keep the "good" work for "their" associates and use me to do the low level work and make sure things don't fall through the cracks. Idk.
Really annoying. In that case my best recommendation (more senior associate-appropriate than partner, perhaps) is to wait until you get a super menial request and then forward it to the senior and say “hey [senior], happy to do this kind of thing if it makes sense relative to everyone’s availability, but I just wanted to double-check whether there’s anyone more junior that it might make sense for me or [junior] to reach out to first to avoid future pushback from the client on the bill - at my old firm, we sometimes had billing entries rejected if we had someone at my billing rate doing this kind of thing versus having a first or second year handle in the first instance.” It’s a really frustrating position to be in, though. Ugh.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by lolwutpar » Mon May 03, 2021 3:37 pm

I don't see the harm in being assertive - you gotta stand up for yourself. Pick up the phone, ask the junior what's up - you can use that script someone else posted, but basically just say, "Hey, I'm trying to understand where this request is coming from. I'm a sixth year, so I'd like to understand if this is coming from you or from [senior or partner]."

If they don't say it's direct from a senior or partner, simple enough to tell them their requests aren't appropriate.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 3:50 pm

lolwutpar wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 3:37 pm
I don't see the harm in being assertive - you gotta stand up for yourself. Pick up the phone, ask the junior what's up - you can use that script someone else posted, but basically just say, "Hey, I'm trying to understand where this request is coming from. I'm a sixth year, so I'd like to understand if this is coming from you or from [senior or partner]."

If they don't say it's direct from a senior or partner, simple enough to tell them their requests aren't appropriate.
IDK OP’s situation but I find that this kind of approach is usually only accepted from men. Women tend to just get the “uptight bitch” label, after which juniors become even more difficult to work with.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 4:02 pm

IDK OP’s situation but I find that this kind of approach is usually only accepted from men. Women tend to just get the “uptight bitch” label, after which juniors become even more difficult to work with.
OP here. I am a woman, and so I am hesitant to take that tactic.

The one time I gave a similar talking to to a junior associate at my old firm, he basically gaslit me that it was an issue and was like "calm down." (It was a slightly different situation--I was a third year, we were both some matters together, and he'd talk about how the partner had given him a big task in that matter, I and I would be like "oh that's a lot of work and those always end up taking longer than you think First Year, let me know if you want me to tackle a piece of that, I have some bandwidth). For example, preparing depo outlines--I offered to take 2 out of 5. He declined. Weeks later I ended up pulling several late nights because--you guessed it--he wasn't finished. This happened three times! (depo outlines, key doc review, and the trial exhibits) and after the third time, after we'd finished the task, I went to him and tried to approach him with it as feedback. "Hey, I noticed that a couple of times I have ended up taking on some of your assignments at the last minute. I get that anyone can end up in a jam, but in the future please try to plan ahead better. Also, I helped out because it's my client too, and I am on this case and at the end of the day it's my responsibility too, but if the partner gives you an assignment, it's your job to handle it, and you shouldn't be coming to a more senior associate to bail you out. That time I knew I was in the right at least--the consensus on that guy from pretty much any female associate or paralegal that was around him was that he was a sexist blowhard.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 4:13 pm

I can see why this might be frustrating for you. I would recommend asking if the juniors need help understanding the assignment or with checking the work. Sometimes it is just expected that juniors understand how to complete a task, but it also possible in this environment that they have not been trained to do what they're asking for help from, from you. As a junior, in this covid environment, I can say that I have received next to no training on how to do anything I've been assigned and it has been really, really difficult to meet the needs of people more senior to me. I would recommend calling them up and asking what the deal is with a little compassion, they may just be internally freaking out all of the time. May be worth it to give them the benefit of the doubt as you seem to be doing in your post.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 4:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 4:13 pm
I can see why this might be frustrating for you. I would recommend asking if the juniors need help understanding the assignment or with checking the work. Sometimes it is just expected that juniors understand how to complete a task, but it also possible in this environment that they have not been trained to do what they're asking for help from, from you. As a junior, in this covid environment, I can say that I have received next to no training on how to do anything I've been assigned and it has been really, really difficult to meet the needs of people more senior to me. I would recommend calling them up and asking what the deal is with a little compassion, they may just be internally freaking out all of the time. May be worth it to give them the benefit of the doubt as you seem to be doing in your post.
These aren't associates who are first or second years. Third and fourth years. If they were first years and they wrote to me with that tone asking me to do something low level administrative thing, I probably would have directly addressed it immediately because I would have assumed they knew so little and were so lost they were actually confused about who I was.

edits for spelling

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by legalpotato » Mon May 03, 2021 6:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 3:50 pm
lolwutpar wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 3:37 pm
I don't see the harm in being assertive - you gotta stand up for yourself. Pick up the phone, ask the junior what's up - you can use that script someone else posted, but basically just say, "Hey, I'm trying to understand where this request is coming from. I'm a sixth year, so I'd like to understand if this is coming from you or from [senior or partner]."

If they don't say it's direct from a senior or partner, simple enough to tell them their requests aren't appropriate.
IDK OP’s situation but I find that this kind of approach is usually only accepted from men. Women tend to just get the “uptight bitch” label, after which juniors become even more difficult to work with.
Get the concern about the double standard women are held to, but I think if OP is nice and sticks to the scripts above, it is totally reasonable (and should be expected by other senior associates) to push back on this. If OP is a specialist and being asked to do junior-level specialist work, then OP should absolutely do it. If OP is being asked to do general work by a junior, it sounds like the junior trying to take advantage of a situation to get more off of the junior's plate, and OP should definitely [kindly] confirm and push back.

Need to be assertive especially now-a-days -- I don't know what it is, but the current crop of juniors are particularly bold at saying no (which is a good thing, in one sense, because biglaw needs more push back on the erased boundaries, but in reality it is bad because partners don't get the memo, senior/mid-levels just have to pick up the slack because the buck stops at them).

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 7:16 pm

legalpotato wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 6:45 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 3:50 pm
lolwutpar wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 3:37 pm
I don't see the harm in being assertive - you gotta stand up for yourself. Pick up the phone, ask the junior what's up - you can use that script someone else posted, but basically just say, "Hey, I'm trying to understand where this request is coming from. I'm a sixth year, so I'd like to understand if this is coming from you or from [senior or partner]."

If they don't say it's direct from a senior or partner, simple enough to tell them their requests aren't appropriate.
IDK OP’s situation but I find that this kind of approach is usually only accepted from men. Women tend to just get the “uptight bitch” label, after which juniors become even more difficult to work with.
Get the concern about the double standard women are held to, but I think if OP is nice and sticks to the scripts above, it is totally reasonable (and should be expected by other senior associates) to push back on this. If OP is a specialist and being asked to do junior-level specialist work, then OP should absolutely do it. If OP is being asked to do general work by a junior, it sounds like the junior trying to take advantage of a situation to get more off of the junior's plate, and OP should definitely [kindly] confirm and push back.

Need to be assertive especially now-a-days -- I don't know what it is, but the current crop of juniors are particularly bold at saying no (which is a good thing, in one sense, because biglaw needs more push back on the erased boundaries, but in reality it is bad because partners don't get the memo, senior/mid-levels just have to pick up the slack because the buck stops at them).
OP again. I think I've been pretty clear I'm happy to do the stuff that is specific to my practice area because it is most efficient. Please believe me that the things I have an issue with are things that literally any litigation associate at the end of their first year should be able to do. (And some things are honestly stuff they should send directly to support departments, paralegals, or secretaries themselves).

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 04, 2021 9:02 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 4:36 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 4:13 pm
I can see why this might be frustrating for you. I would recommend asking if the juniors need help understanding the assignment or with checking the work. Sometimes it is just expected that juniors understand how to complete a task, but it also possible in this environment that they have not been trained to do what they're asking for help from, from you. As a junior, in this covid environment, I can say that I have received next to no training on how to do anything I've been assigned and it has been really, really difficult to meet the needs of people more senior to me. I would recommend calling them up and asking what the deal is with a little compassion, they may just be internally freaking out all of the time. May be worth it to give them the benefit of the doubt as you seem to be doing in your post.
These aren't associates who are first or second years. Third and fourth years. If they were first years and they wrote to me with that tone asking me to do something low level administrative thing, I probably would have directly addressed it immediately because I would have assumed they knew so little and were so lost they were actually confused about who I was.

edits for spelling
Damn...as a woman it's getting kind of hard to say that some sort of gendered aspect isn't happening here. As a woman in big law, on all of my teams, I tend to get the grunt work 9/10 where equivalently ranked junior men will not. It's fucking frustrating as hell, especially when I haven't been assigned that work and I'm only doing it because the other junior just doesn't really feel like it and is trying to make it my issue. The only antidote for me has been seeking out teams run by women or other women more senior than me to talk to. I really recommend that you reach out to a woman you trust at work as well, maybe she can help you game plan a way to ask what's going on or get to the bottom of it. Sorry that this is happening to you. Stay strong.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 04, 2021 9:50 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 9:02 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 4:36 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 4:13 pm
I can see why this might be frustrating for you. I would recommend asking if the juniors need help understanding the assignment or with checking the work. Sometimes it is just expected that juniors understand how to complete a task, but it also possible in this environment that they have not been trained to do what they're asking for help from, from you. As a junior, in this covid environment, I can say that I have received next to no training on how to do anything I've been assigned and it has been really, really difficult to meet the needs of people more senior to me. I would recommend calling them up and asking what the deal is with a little compassion, they may just be internally freaking out all of the time. May be worth it to give them the benefit of the doubt as you seem to be doing in your post.
These aren't associates who are first or second years. Third and fourth years. If they were first years and they wrote to me with that tone asking me to do something low level administrative thing, I probably would have directly addressed it immediately because I would have assumed they knew so little and were so lost they were actually confused about who I was.

edits for spelling
Damn...as a woman it's getting kind of hard to say that some sort of gendered aspect isn't happening here. As a woman in big law, on all of my teams, I tend to get the grunt work 9/10 where equivalently ranked junior men will not. It's fucking frustrating as hell, especially when I haven't been assigned that work and I'm only doing it because the other junior just doesn't really feel like it and is trying to make it my issue. The only antidote for me has been seeking out teams run by women or other women more senior than me to talk to. I really recommend that you reach out to a woman you trust at work as well, maybe she can help you game plan a way to ask what's going on or get to the bottom of it. Sorry that this is happening to you. Stay strong.
OP again. Unfortunately I'm not on any active matters with female partners, and there aren't any women in my office who are senior to me. So there aren't really any women who are my peers or senior to me that I would have a reason to reach out to. I've considered talking to a male associate I work with often who is senior to me since he seems likely to notice that something is off (he delegates down to me too, obviously, but doesn't really send the dumb tasks like emailing me to ask me to email a support department to do a thing, and he is senior so it's normal), but I wanted to get a temperature check before I complained to him.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 04, 2021 10:07 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 9:50 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 9:02 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 4:36 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon May 03, 2021 4:13 pm
I can see why this might be frustrating for you. I would recommend asking if the juniors need help understanding the assignment or with checking the work. Sometimes it is just expected that juniors understand how to complete a task, but it also possible in this environment that they have not been trained to do what they're asking for help from, from you. As a junior, in this covid environment, I can say that I have received next to no training on how to do anything I've been assigned and it has been really, really difficult to meet the needs of people more senior to me. I would recommend calling them up and asking what the deal is with a little compassion, they may just be internally freaking out all of the time. May be worth it to give them the benefit of the doubt as you seem to be doing in your post.
These aren't associates who are first or second years. Third and fourth years. If they were first years and they wrote to me with that tone asking me to do something low level administrative thing, I probably would have directly addressed it immediately because I would have assumed they knew so little and were so lost they were actually confused about who I was.

edits for spelling
Damn...as a woman it's getting kind of hard to say that some sort of gendered aspect isn't happening here. As a woman in big law, on all of my teams, I tend to get the grunt work 9/10 where equivalently ranked junior men will not. It's fucking frustrating as hell, especially when I haven't been assigned that work and I'm only doing it because the other junior just doesn't really feel like it and is trying to make it my issue. The only antidote for me has been seeking out teams run by women or other women more senior than me to talk to. I really recommend that you reach out to a woman you trust at work as well, maybe she can help you game plan a way to ask what's going on or get to the bottom of it. Sorry that this is happening to you. Stay strong.
OP again. Unfortunately I'm not on any active matters with female partners, and there aren't any women in my office who are senior to me. So there aren't really any women who are my peers or senior to me that I would have a reason to reach out to. I've considered talking to a male associate I work with often who is senior to me since he seems likely to notice that something is off (he delegates down to me too, obviously, but doesn't really send the dumb tasks like emailing me to ask me to email a support department to do a thing, and he is senior so it's normal), but I wanted to get a temperature check before I complained to him.
If it truly is a task that a non-attorney or support department could do, have you considered delegating the task yourself? Situation specific of course, but I think you can do it in a way that is not passive agressive. If there is a partner on the email that the request might be coming from, and the midlevel asks you to pull cases, maybe you could respond all and forward the request on to your secretary, maybe adressing the email to the partner/associate (not the midlevel alone) to make clear you see the request as coming from the partner.

I also know from experience on lit teams, some partners will organize a lit team where they have one junior attorney they can ride like crazy, and funnel all their orders through them. So it might not be that they are actually "delegating up," they could literally just be the messanger, giving you more context than the partner can be bothered to do themselves. I realize that doesn't exactly help (and it sounds like you already know that could be what is happening sometimes), but understanding why the dynamic exists might help you solve the problem.

I would also highly recomend talking to a more senior attorney you trust, who knows some of the office dynamics outside of your perspective. I think that's going to be far more helpful than any of us. Good luck!

target_corp

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by target_corp » Tue May 04, 2021 11:26 am

IMO OP, you just need to nip this in the bud by telling people you're too busy to do x, x being whatever BS these guys are asking you to do instead of doing themselves. I really doubt the partners had a hand in this, unless the work is something that could conceivably be construed in any way as relating to your specialty. If it doesn't relate to your niche area like that and the 3rd/4th years can do it, make that clear in your response. These guys will get the hint after a couple of times of setting boundaries.

Only caveat is that I'm pretty cynical.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by whats an updog » Tue May 04, 2021 4:09 pm

target_corp wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 11:26 am
IMO OP, you just need to nip this in the bud by telling people you're too busy to do x, x being whatever BS these guys are asking you to do instead of doing themselves. I really doubt the partners had a hand in this, unless the work is something that could conceivably be construed in any way as relating to your specialty. If it doesn't relate to your niche area like that and the 3rd/4th years can do it, make that clear in your response. These guys will get the hint after a couple of times of setting boundaries.

Only caveat is that I'm pretty cynical.
I agree with this and sympathize with you OP. This would bug the hell out of me.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by TLSReturntoWork » Wed May 05, 2021 2:51 pm

It sounds like the solution here is clear.

I'm junior. Partners and seniors in my group ask me to tell senior people in other groups to do something, because it's not within our group (think asking a bankruptcy or litigation person to do corporate work). This is normal, as people have been saying, because no one in corporate should have to do bankruptcy or litigation tasks. If this is what's happening, do the work. If it's not clear, ask the junior (why are you scared to ask your juniors questions? You have a right and it's odd to think any of my seniors would be afraid to ask me something.).

If it's not work that is in your department, then you need to get your juniors in check. It doesn't matter that you're a woman, male, banana, frog. I'm a male and if a senior, woman or not, tells me to get shit done (I work for a lot of women) then I need to get it done. Only you can let juniors walk on you.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 05, 2021 8:21 pm

“Hi [associate],

Thanks for keeping me in the loop on on this. As you know, I’m always happy to help out on [niche subject matter] matters, but unfortunately I don’t have the bandwidth to take on more of the general tasks that might be a better fit someone else on the team, especially given my billing rate and client sensitivity to more senior associates doing work that a more junior associate might handle. It may make sense to send this one to [junior associate on team], or perhaps utilize [support team]. Happy to connect if helpful to help figure out the appropriate breakdown.

Best,
[Peeved senior specialist]”

Something like that should do the trick, I’m not sure about the billing rate part, depends on your group’s culture and if there are really client complaints about that.

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Re: Junior associates assigning work "up" to me

Post by Itcamefromthesea » Sat May 08, 2021 1:36 pm

I agree with target_corp’s response.

If the request is coming from a partner, the junior needs to tactfully flag that in their request to the mid-level/senior. It’s not rocket surgery in a profession built on effective communication. If the request is coming from the junior, assigning non-specialist work up is inefficient for both time and billing (in addition to the tension from whatever feelings on seniority may be involved). They either need to stop doing that or clarify where the request is coming from.

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

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