Feel like I'm not learning anything and cannot leave biglaw Forum

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Feel like I'm not learning anything and cannot leave biglaw

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:14 am

I'm a third year in a biglaw firm, focusing on ECM. I've definitely learnt some marketable skills (like knowing how an IPO generally proceeds, how the overall structure of a deal is, filing deadlines, dealing with clients and third parties in a timely and cordial matter, deal management, some tidbits here and there about specific documentation, etc.). But this is all information one can learn from a practice note on Westlaw. Honestly, the main thing I still do is red flag due diligence and update documents at the hand of received comments. So if you'd ask me a question on what my view is on the law or what we should write down in a certain piece of documentation, I'm lost. And if I do know something, it's mainly because I look it up via a precedent. I can never be proactive on a deal, because I have no clue what we are supposed to do; I can only do what is assigned to me and then follow it up with a ton of questions. In other words: I have no idea how I'll ever be able to run a deal on my own.

For me, that is fine, at the moment. But I'd like to leave and join a company and become some inhouse counsel sooner rather than later, as I plan to have kids in the next few years and I want to make sure I can make it home for dinner (nearly) every day. Except I have no clue what value I'd bring. Join a large entity to advise them on regulatory deadlines? Beats me what you have to file. Join a start-up who wants to IPO at some point? Beats me what they need and how to get there.

Am I just too much "doom and gloom" and will I still be an attractive candidate, purely because I'm relatively intelligent, hard-working, and know how to compose an e-mail, or am I destined to just fake it at whatever job is next? Or is there some government job where I can hide?

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Re: Feel like I'm not learning anything and cannot leave biglaw

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:18 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:14 am
am I destined to just fake it at whatever job is next?
'tis life--what adulting is all about.

Anonymous User
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Re: Feel like I'm not learning anything and cannot leave biglaw

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 9:38 am

I recently went in-house and had a similar feeling. Granted, I spent 2-3 years learning my practice that I'll now be doing full-time in-house, but most of the actual work I did in biglaw was grunt work where I happened to be exposed to the "real" practice.

The lesson I learned is: In today's job market, that doesn't matter. Just the fact that I had *seen* the practice and knew what the magic words meant was enough to get me hired, because other applicants had literally zero experience in the field, and something is better than nothing when it comes to experience.

Anonymous User
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Re: Feel like I'm not learning anything and cannot leave biglaw

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 9:39 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jan 24, 2022 8:14 am
I'm a third year in a biglaw firm, focusing on ECM. I've definitely learnt some marketable skills (like knowing how an IPO generally proceeds, how the overall structure of a deal is, filing deadlines, dealing with clients and third parties in a timely and cordial matter, deal management, some tidbits here and there about specific documentation, etc.). But this is all information one can learn from a practice note on Westlaw. Honestly, the main thing I still do is red flag due diligence and update documents at the hand of received comments. So if you'd ask me a question on what my view is on the law or what we should write down in a certain piece of documentation, I'm lost. And if I do know something, it's mainly because I look it up via a precedent. I can never be proactive on a deal, because I have no clue what we are supposed to do; I can only do what is assigned to me and then follow it up with a ton of questions. In other words: I have no idea how I'll ever be able to run a deal on my own.

For me, that is fine, at the moment. But I'd like to leave and join a company and become some inhouse counsel sooner rather than later, as I plan to have kids in the next few years and I want to make sure I can make it home for dinner (nearly) every day. Except I have no clue what value I'd bring. Join a large entity to advise them on regulatory deadlines? Beats me what you have to file. Join a start-up who wants to IPO at some point? Beats me what they need and how to get there.

Am I just too much "doom and gloom" and will I still be an attractive candidate, purely because I'm relatively intelligent, hard-working, and know how to compose an e-mail, or am I destined to just fake it at whatever job is next? Or is there some government job where I can hide?
I went in-house at about your level of seniority. I was also nervous. Biglaw makes us excessively anxious - most legal work is not super sophisticated and can be done by anyone who has a basic understanding of legal principles (i.e. went to law school) and just makes a sincere effort. In my four-person legal team, whenever a novel question comes up that no one has addressed before, we'll be on a call and everyone basically agrees someone should just look up the probably solution on practical law or, if it's important enough, ask outside counsel.

attorney589753

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Re: Feel like I'm not learning anything and cannot leave biglaw

Post by attorney589753 » Mon Jan 24, 2022 11:26 am

It sounds like you might be understating exactly how much you know. Yes, all these concepts and buzzwords exist in a WestLaw practice note, but you really know them. And you know how to get a deal done — that's also a skill in and of itself.

It's also the case that junior associates do the majority of the grunt work and the substantive work really starts to trickle in around third year or so. (I assume you are just starting third year now?) You could consider having a frank conversation with a mid or senior associate you work with and respect and ask them how you stack up compared to where they were at year three. You may also need to proactively seek out a wider variety of deal/project experience because it sounds like your long term goals are fairly generalist.

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DoveBodyWash

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Re: Feel like I'm not learning anything and cannot leave biglaw

Post by DoveBodyWash » Mon Jan 24, 2022 11:49 am

Most of the expertise you'll have to offer (especially on corporate side) comes from repetition as opposed to some legal nugget in a doc - the ability to recognize trends and the history of certain terms, what is or isn't market, the consequences of certain terms and events, how to interact with other players on your deals, etc. You probably know more than you realize and are over-estimating the knowledge of certain others (e.g., imaginary/potential in-house colleagues). Also doesn't surprise me that a new third-year would feel this way. Whether you feel ready or not, you will asked to lead deals (or at least meaningful workstreams inside the deal) very shortly. You'll figure it out by drawing on a hodge podge of resources and by making educated guesses. In another year you'll feel more confident. Just the nature of making the transition into a mid-level.

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Re: Feel like I'm not learning anything and cannot leave biglaw

Post by legalpotato » Mon Jan 24, 2022 12:05 pm

attorney589753 wrote:
Mon Jan 24, 2022 11:26 am
It sounds like you might be understating exactly how much you know. Yes, all these concepts and buzzwords exist in a WestLaw practice note, but you really know them. And you know how to get a deal done — that's also a skill in and of itself.

It's also the case that junior associates do the majority of the grunt work and the substantive work really starts to trickle in around third year or so. (I assume you are just starting third year now?) You could consider having a frank conversation with a mid or senior associate you work with and respect and ask them how you stack up compared to where they were at year three. You may also need to proactively seek out a wider variety of deal/project experience because it sounds like your long term goals are fairly generalist.
Agree w/ this. Really feel like biglaw training is Mr. Miyagi style. You do wax on and off for ever and are like what the actual fukk am I doing, but then it all comes together. Might sound silly, but that is how it was for me - just stick with it OP.

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Re: Feel like I'm not learning anything and cannot leave biglaw

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jan 24, 2022 1:01 pm

I think that’s pretty much all legal training. I’m not in biglaw but that was exactly my experience as well.

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Re: Feel like I'm not learning anything and cannot leave biglaw

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jan 25, 2022 3:24 pm

OP here. Thanks a lot everyone! Really helps to know it's not completely out of the ordinary to feel like you're not really knowing what you're bringing to the table. But will take some more steps anyway to get more substantive experience.

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