Is this something to leave a firm over?

(Deciding to leave, same firm different office, Reference requests)
Anonymous User
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Is this something to leave a firm over?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jan 28, 2021 10:47 pm

Throwaway for obvious reasons. Not sure if this fits with this sub and if it isn't let me know. I typically don't like to ask professional advice on Reddit, but it seems like there are a lot of professionals on this sub and I am looking for advice from other lawyers. Kinda long so buckle up.

Okay, preamble over. I work at a law firm that is "biglaw" in my rural midwestern state but probably would be considered midlaw in most states. 80+ attorneys. I work in a satellite office with only 5 other attorneys. We do general civil defense work. I've been out of law school for five years and civil defense has made up a large part of my practice. It is the type of work that I like doing. I previously worked at a small firm of about 20 attorneys doing the same work. However, probably a week into practicing law, a partner stuck me with a plaintiff's contingent fee case and it drug on for two years after I filed the complaint. It was a total loser and everyone at the firm kinda washed their hands of it and left it with me. It murdered my collections because it was a fairly complex case, and it was still raging when I left two years ago. Honestly, nothing on earth is a stinker to me quite like a bad Plaintiff's case. I probably had over $150k in that sucker that I just took a bath on every year. I got good reviews and bonused, but the case really stressed me out to the point of insanity and was a big reason for my leaving.

So I go to my new firm, which is a definite upgrade in terms of prestige and pay. Let's say I make $90k a year. However, on my first day working, literally my first day of orientation, one of the partners says he has heard great things about me and wants to put me on this case that he has. Wanting to work with the partner and not knowing anything really, I agree and feel as if I need to do this to get in good with this partner and need the work ya know? Later, I find out that this is another Plaintiff's contingent fee case. And let's just say that it resembled the one at my last firm and my partner has totally washed his hands of the case. I've taken every deposition and it has blown up into a time consuming and complicated matter. I have poured a ton of money and time into it. This is the only contingent fee case going on at the firm

Our bonus system is based on collections, money in the door by midnight on December 31. If I bring in X amount of money, I get a percentage of any amount of money I bring over Y. I assume a lot of firms have a similar setup. Well, at the end of the year I have brought in juuuust under enough to qualify for a bonus. I got nothing. If you apply my normally hourly rate to the hours I have put into this case and pay me those hours, I hit about a $25k bonus. However, because money doesn't collected until the end of a contingent case, I don't get the benefit of that money and the year is over.

This has burned me so bad that it bugs me a fair amount of time away from the office. This bonus is what I work for all year, and I have been working my butt off with this case, I even billed the most of any associate in the firm, but I got nothing to show for it. Just a pat on the back, a "good job" and promise that when the case cashes in it will be all worth it. It just isn't satisfactory to me anymore. I worked at my old place and got my fair share of good jobs and attaboys and good reviews and "next years." I'm tired of that. I want my time compensated and it hasn't been. I kicked and screamed about it and no one has responded. I'm just fed up but I feel like kind of a diva.

To the crux, is this just normal? Should I suck it up? I told myself that if the case was still going on into 2021 that I would start looking for new employment opportunities, but then the pandemic hit. Is this not a big deal and am I just overreacting? Should I just shut up, try again, and be happy that I have a job? Or is this a real problem that would cause an attorney to leave? Please give me your thoughts.

Also, FYI, this is totally anonymous. This account is not tied to my personal information in any way. Neither is this computer. Please fire away.

FND

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Re: Is this something to leave a firm over?

Post by FND » Thu Mar 25, 2021 12:34 pm

It's not my area, but, I assume the bonus will carry over? i.e. when the case is over you'll get a huge bonus undiminished by the fact it took 3 years?

It sucks to be shafted with something like that, but, if you think the case is a winner, it may be worth sticking around for. If you're really unhappy, you might want to talk to the partner who dumped the case on you, explain how you just missed the bonus, and ask if there's any way something can be done.

Of course, I'd make sure I have a job offer lined up before that, so if they say no you can quit on the spot.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Is this something to leave a firm over?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Mar 27, 2021 9:23 am

I'm not a "big law or bust" type of guy or anything, but it would eat at me that thousands of first-year attorneys who can't work how to turn on a computer are making $200k while you're barely scraping by. I recognize you need to expect a discount in a smaller legal market, but $90k for a senior attorney is pushing it.

If I were you I'd start saving up to start my own practice. Either that or try to go in-house or find another firm that would actually pay you what you're worth. You shouldn't do man-crushing hours and terrible work like that just to make other people rich and not make anything for yourself.

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