frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do Forum

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frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 10, 2022 3:19 pm

Anon because of my post history. I'm a junior at the HQ office of a big law firm in a medium sized specialist group. I chose this group for the people, but a lot of people left in 2021. Think 7-8 in a 30-40 person group, mostly associates but one partner and to all different places, including competitor firms and in house. We've only gotten two laterals since that time period and less first years than usual chose our group. Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't think it's a culture thing - I think people have been transferring to more general corporate groups in order to get a more general experience base plus the crazy signing bonuses that my firm just wasn't giving. A lot of the departures have been junior level and one of the only other people my year just put in notice. There were four of us; now only two.

I can't help but worry, even though I like the work and the people, that I'm going to be saddled with picking up additional work. I've already seen an uptick recently of people coming to me that didn't usually since a couple of people left at the end of the year. I'm having trouble protecting my time. I really don't want to be billing 200+ hours every month. Has anyone dealt with a shrinking group like this / have any advice? I would hate to leave because I like the work and the people.

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Re: frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 10, 2022 4:37 pm

Just be firm with rejecting staffing that is beyond your comfort level. I was in a similar situation and was asked to take on much more work than I could possibly handle. I rejected dozens of deals. My staffer was so ticked off that she told a senior partner that I was turning down substantial amounts of work. The senior partner called me and told me "the staffer told us that you're turning down a lot of work, but we checked your hours and your hours are above average [(2,500 for the year)], so don't worry about it, just keep doing what you're doing."

As long as you are billing a healthy amount and your performance reviews are well-received and you have some political capital/good relationships with partners, you can reject work without material repercussions.

Also - rookie move by choosing any job for "the people." People come and go all the time. And the same people that ask you to not leave are the same people that would leave for higher pay.

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Re: frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 10, 2022 4:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 10, 2022 4:37 pm
Just be firm with rejecting staffing that is beyond your comfort level. I was in a similar situation and was asked to take on much more work than I could possibly handle. I rejected dozens of deals. My staffer was so ticked off that she told a senior partner that I was turning down substantial amounts of work. The senior partner called me and told me "the staffer told us that you're turning down a lot of work, but we checked your hours and your hours are above average [(2,500 for the year)], so don't worry about it, just keep doing what you're doing."

As long as you are billing a healthy amount and your performance reviews are well-received and you have some political capital/good relationships with partners, you can reject work without material repercussions.

Also - rookie move by choosing any job for "the people." People come and go all the time. And the same people that ask you to not leave are the same people that would leave for higher pay.
Appreciate the helpful advice and the anecdote. Never claimed to be an expert here - literally was a rookie as I was a law student when I chose the group. But the people were really just a tie breaker with another group; I like / liked the work.

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Re: frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 10, 2022 6:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 10, 2022 4:37 pm
Also - rookie move by choosing any job for "the people." People come and go all the time. And the same people that ask you to not leave are the same people that would leave for higher pay.
As I always hear this advice given to everyone, from students to lawyers, what is your recommendation to watch out for?

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Re: frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do

Post by BrowsingTLS » Tue May 10, 2022 7:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 10, 2022 6:12 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 10, 2022 4:37 pm
Also - rookie move by choosing any job for "the people." People come and go all the time. And the same people that ask you to not leave are the same people that would leave for higher pay.
As I always hear this advice given to everyone, from students to lawyers, what is your recommendation to watch out for?
Not the poster you're responding to, but you should watch out for the things that matter to you. Some people want money. Some work life balance. Etc.

Leaving my current firm this month because of the things that matter to me. The people at either firm were not a meaningful factor in the reason I came or my decision to leave.

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Anonymous User
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Re: frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 11, 2022 7:33 am

I dealt with this in a similarly sized group (maybe a bit larger). We had a bunch of departures from senior associates hitting the end of their runway (i.e., nothing to do with culture, etc.) and that meant a lot of extra work filtering down to even the lowest ranks. I admittedly took on too much too fast thinking it was a good opportunity for stretch assignments. Enter the hell of a couple 2900-3100 hour years.

The thing is, if the partners believe your group is short staffed due to these recent departures then you have much more leverage than you think, especially if you're any good. I eventually pushed back pretty hard and even jumped off a few important matters (which upset one particular partner). But the department head understood what was going on and so did most other partners who all spent a lot of time trying to find ways to make my life easier and reduce my workload. I got frequent "how are you doing" calls from partners I wasn't even working with.

Partner gunners aside, most associates take on too much work out of (a somewhat irrational) fear of being pushed out if they don't. That concern all but disappears when a group has a retention problem and too much work to go around. Partners will be afraid of pushing you out too, which would exacerbate the problem. They get even more concerned if you say something about it (you don't have to cry uncle - just lightly suggest that working X hours is not something you're willing to do).

Just make sure you're respectful when you turn down work. I normally use the "that sounds like a great opportunity, but I'm already jammed up with X deadlines on Y matters and I don't think I could keep up the quality work Z partners on those matters expect if I took on this new one" line.

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Monochromatic Oeuvre

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Re: frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do

Post by Monochromatic Oeuvre » Wed May 11, 2022 12:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 10, 2022 6:12 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 10, 2022 4:37 pm
Also - rookie move by choosing any job for "the people." People come and go all the time. And the same people that ask you to not leave are the same people that would leave for higher pay.
As I always hear this advice given to everyone, from students to lawyers, what is your recommendation to watch out for?
Pick a firm rich enough to always be at the top of the market but that doesn't have a reputation as a sweatshop. Then pick your favored city that firm is in. Then find the group where you're most likely to hit any applicable bonus minimum plus one hour. Then find the two or three most reasonable partners, do good work for them, and ignore everyone else.

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Re: frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do

Post by Anonymous User » Thu May 12, 2022 7:46 am

Monochromatic Oeuvre wrote:
Wed May 11, 2022 12:02 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 10, 2022 6:12 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 10, 2022 4:37 pm
Also - rookie move by choosing any job for "the people." People come and go all the time. And the same people that ask you to not leave are the same people that would leave for higher pay.
As I always hear this advice given to everyone, from students to lawyers, what is your recommendation to watch out for?
Pick a firm rich enough to always be at the top of the market but that doesn't have a reputation as a sweatshop. Then pick your favored city that firm is in. Then find the group where you're most likely to hit any applicable bonus minimum plus one hour. Then find the two or three most reasonable partners, do good work for them, and ignore everyone else.
^^^ hits all the key points, one of the best posts I’ve read here. Keep it simple.

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Re: frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do

Post by CanadianWolf » Thu May 12, 2022 11:28 am

Monochromatic Oeuvre wrote:
Wed May 11, 2022 12:02 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 10, 2022 6:12 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue May 10, 2022 4:37 pm
Also - rookie move by choosing any job for "the people." People come and go all the time. And the same people that ask you to not leave are the same people that would leave for higher pay.
As I always hear this advice given to everyone, from students to lawyers, what is your recommendation to watch out for?
Pick a firm rich enough to always be at the top of the market but that doesn't have a reputation as a sweatshop. Then pick your favored city that firm is in. Then find the group where you're most likely to hit any applicable bonus minimum plus one hour. Then find the two or three most reasonable partners, do good work for them, and ignore everyone else.
I was expecting an additional line:

Then wake up from your dream and get back to work.

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CanadianWolf

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Re: frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do

Post by CanadianWolf » Thu May 12, 2022 11:37 am

When 7 or 8 individuals out of a group of 35 leave for various other opportunities in a short period of time, there is a problem--or problems--with the current specialty group. Typically, problems involve low pay, unfulfilled promises, or abusive work environment.

When I read the original post, I thought that I knew the exact group--which had all 3 issues listed above. Same size & same number of folks left even though it was the most prestigious & well respected specialty group of its kind in the nation. (Wish I knew OP's office location or specialty type.)

I cannot offer any specific advice since I do not know enough about you & your current situation. Hopefully, the remaining senior members of the specialty group recognize the issues & will address the issues. Otherwise, you may want to contact your former associates to ask for advice & to inquire whether or not the grass is greener elsewhere.

P.S. When folks transfer to get "more generalized" work experience, it may be because they tried to leave earlier but were rejected due to being "too specialized".

The good news is that if you are happy in your current situation, then there will be plenty of work & your value to the firm should have increased--and hopefully that will be rewarded. If not, then you may want to look elsewhere.

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Re: frequent departures in group at big law firm- what to do

Post by Anonymous User » Thu May 12, 2022 11:54 am

I have a similar situation. Satellite office, so practice group is small. Have seen roughly 30% turnover in the last 6 months. Each for different reasons, and they do get replaced. And I like the people who are currently there. But it's concerning. Not sure what to do.

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