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sunnyskies1992

Boss Placed Me On Probation

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Well, for those with a good memory, I once advised someone here to go out and have indiscriminate sex as a means of dealing with ... honestly, some kind of problem I can't even remember anymore. So I'll agree I'm not really the best judge of appropriate boundaries.

That said, I can see ways in which the travel and move-out advice may have been an attempt - albeit an attempt laden with assumptions and values that may not hold true for everyone - to approach issues like "you really need to grow up" and "find ways to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone." So yeah, I'm not defending all of that. I'm just saying, it may be less obvious than some are painting it as being.

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3 hours ago, Diplock said:

I know that a lot of what's here raises questions about boundaries, appropriate workplace suggestions, and all the rest of it. And I know that many students who haven't been exposed to workplace realities will immediately scream, and many lawyers will gasp. But I was immediately more sympathetic to OP's boss simply because the second sentence was about how she's improved her client retention rates. Because I was thinking ... what? What percentage of them were you losing? And how many are you still losing? Because that's the whole ballgame in a legal practice. If you can't keep your clients as your clients, you have no job. And anyone who's stupid enough to keep employing you anyway, will soon have no job themselves.

So, here's the counter position. It may well be true that your boss is way, way over the line and you simply need to get out. Or it may be that they are trying to help you as much as they reasonably can, and that some of their advice is unavoidably personal. Speaking as a small-time employer who doesn't even try to be HR correct at all times, I'm actually very sympathetic to this problem, from their perspective. Take an employee who just presents badly. Assume their problems are fixable, but if they aren't fixed I simply can't keep them around because they are losing me business. But to even discuss those problems, I need to get personal. Should I dismiss them for non-specific reasons, and thereby cover my ass? Or should I get into the real issues and give them a chance? The second position is actually the kinder, and the more human one. And I'm not saying I know for sure that's what's happening here. But it's at least possible that it could be.

I agree 100% that it's easier to find a job that suits you rather than change to suit your job. But I guess the problem I'm having is this. It isn't clear to me that the OP can be a lawyer at all and not change at least some of what's under discussion. And here's where I hit a real wall in what I know. Maybe the OP's specific boss is very demanding. Or maybe her problems are significant and pronounced. Or maybe some of both. Anyway, you need to figure out if these personality tendencies are in danger of costing you just this job, or the possibility of even a career in law. And then decide if you want to change and are willing to. It's still perfectly valid to not want to change. But at least see what's on the table first.

I hope that doesn't sound unreasonably pessimistic. Clearly you have things going for you, because you were hired in the first place and someone is going to bat for your long-term prospects. But the practice of law is adversarial and the business of law is entrepreneurial. You need to sincerely ask yourself how much of that you want in your life, and how much you're willing to change to accommodate it. It's not for everyone. Nor should it be.

I personally thought that her boss crossed a line because it seems like a number of things on the list she gave OP are both very personal and not very realistic things to accomplish in three months. When you put everything together, it seems like her boss is expecting her to basically become a fundamentally different person. Putting OP on an invasive performance improvement plan and tying her personal life choices into a conversation about how she is being put on probation seems like the least likely way to make her more confident and assertive.


I guess my concern is that her boss is basically asking her to overhaul her life. The kind of change OP's boss wants to see takes a long time and not everyone can do it. It also sounds like a lot of OP's problems might be tied to her depression, which realistically may or may not be helped through a new approach to treatment.

 

If you had the same concerns as OP's boss, would you try to fix the problems or see it as a bad fit and let the employee go? To me, it just sounds like a fundamentally bad fit that probably isn't going to be fixed in the span of a few months. Like you said, losing clients is a big problem and something that would be quite hard to come back from.

 

It seems like OP's boss is setting her up for failure (probably not intentionally). I think her boss's heart is in the right place. But I don't think her approach is kinder in the long run. What if OP makes all these major changes and it is not enough? I don't think the issue is that her boss is being too harsh (it's impossible to tell without knowing more) but I do think her approach was quite poor.

Edited by Starling
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1 minute ago, Starling said:

I personally thought that her boss crossed a line because it seems like a number of things on the list she gave OP are both very personal and not very realistic things to accomplish in three months. When you put everything together, it seems like her boss is expecting her to basically become a fundamentally different person. Putting OP on an invasive performance improvement plan and tying her personal life choices into a conversation about how she is being put on probation seems like the least likely way to make her more confident and assertive.


I guess my concern is that her boss is basically asking her to overhaul her life. The kind of change OP's boss wants to see takes a long time and not everyone can do it. It also sounds like a lot of OP's problems might be tied to her depression, which realistically may or may not be helped through a new approach to treatment.

 

If you had the same concerns as OP's boss, would you try to fix the problems or see it as a bad fit and let the employee go? To me, it just sounds like a fundamentally bad fit that probably isn't going to be fixed in the span of a few months. Like you said, losing clients is a big problem and something that would be quite hard to come back from.

 

It seems like OP's boss is setting her up for failure (probably not intentionally). I think her boss's heart is in the right place. But I don't think her approach is kinder in the long run. I don't think the issue is that her boss is being too harsh (it's impossible to tell without knowing more) but I do think her approach was quite poor.

That's a very good point. I left my former firm and went into business with my current partners because the lifestyle/work-life balance/demands of the firm didn't suit where I was at personally. At that time, it wasn't right for me to be there without making a lot of drastic changes that may or may not have worked. So I preserved our good working and personal relationship and left. 

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Wow this does not make me feel good. I pretty much tick every box as far as the criticisms directed at you. 

I tend to agree with others who are saying it's easier to change your job than personality. Some of those criticisms are things you can legitimately work to improve on if they're apply to you, but that list seems unreasonable. Also, rather than working on a dozen things all at once, wouldn't it make more sense to do one at a time?

Hope it woks out, OP. 

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You know, I'm about to contradict my earlier advice about how some of these problems may suggest you don't belong in legal practice at all. Which, I should stress, wasn't to say get out of legal practice, but rather consider if you want to change in necessary ways to stay in it or not. But leaving that point aside for a moment, I want to talk about family law as a practice area.

I don't really know family law. But I'm around it enough to have an idea of what it's like. And I'm not joking when I say I could never do it. People say that to me as a criminal defence lawyer, and I reply that criminal defence isn't hard. Family law is hard. Here's just a quick run down on why.

1. Every one of your clients, pretty much, is going through one of the worst experiences in their lives.

2. Everyone on the other side is going through one of the worst experiences in their lives, too.

3. Your clients often have grossly unrealistic expectations tied directly to their self-esteem. They expect you to convince a court that whatever fucked up thing is happening in their lives is someone else's fault, and not only is this very important to their goals but it's important to their self-image. They don't deal well when you fail at that.

4. Any time you deal with opposing counsel, not only do you have your own unrealistic client climbing up your ass but you're dealing with someone else who has an unrealistic client climbing up their ass.

5. Family law isn't quite the wild west of legal practice the way criminal law is, sometimes, but it's closer to the frontier than most. This means that many of the lawyers you'll deal with are individualistic and difficult people. Even when things don't need to be miserable otherwise, opposing counsel may make your life suck anyway, for no good reason.

I could go on. But I think that's enough for now. Family law is a tough area of legal practice. And yet you seem to be saying that if you don't stay where you are you'll just go do it elsewhere, which suggests a very serious commitment to it.

I know it seems like I'm changing gears a lot on your question, and if you aren't interested in answering feel free not to. But what is it, about family law, that attracts you to the practice area? Is it what you believed it would be, when you started? And if not, have you considered some other practice area? Because yes, despite my earlier comments, law is always adversarial and always entrepreneurial. But there are degrees. And you really aren't making it easy on yourself.

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8 hours ago, Diplock said:

Well, for those with a good memory, I once advised someone here to go out and have indiscriminate sex as a means of dealing with ... honestly, some kind of problem I can't even remember anymore. So I'll agree I'm not really the best judge of appropriate boundaries.

That said, I can see ways in which the travel and move-out advice may have been an attempt - albeit an attempt laden with assumptions and values that may not hold true for everyone - to approach issues like "you really need to grow up" and "find ways to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone." So yeah, I'm not defending all of that. I'm just saying, it may be less obvious than some are painting it as being.

I'm with you, looking at the totality of the employers concerns, they seem to revolve around a lack of independence on the part of the op. Those are legitimate concerns for a legal employer. And while some of the advice might not be appropriate advice from an employer, it is advice you might get from a friend - maybe the employer here wears (or is trying to wear) both hats.  That's hardly a bad thing. I mean, the alternative could just as readily be "look, you're not right here, consider this your two weeks notice". Hands up everyone who would prefer that option. 

I mean take the seemingly two most controversial suggestions, (i) taking some time off and (ii) moving out of the op's parents house. Well, why not? You're not going to live with your parents forever, right? Not saying that's something you need to do NOW, but might that be something you want to do (and if not, ask yourself why not).  Yes, yes, some cultures have kids living with their parents until they get married - trust me, my neighbours were mostly portguese and Italian. But there is value in getting out from under your parents wings - I see that difference between my friends who moved out early and the ones who continued to live with their parents. Ditto, would it kill you to take a week or two off and see a bit of the world?  

Finally, it might be easier to change your job then your personality (I'm not sure that's true when the personality issues are confidence or independence - those are traits that can be reinforced), but does anyone think there's a raging market for lawyers who just go along with what others tell them? Who are unable to stand up and present/defend their position?   As I see it, the op has got a boss who sees something in him/her and is giving them largely concrete and constructive suggestions on maximizing their ability - other employers might not be willing to give that kind of advice/time.  I would try to make the most of the opportunity they're giving you. 

 

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@sunnyskies1992 I thought @whereverjustice and @Diplock made sense (not to exclude others...), in particular the concern by the latter about family law, which can be extraordinarily stressful compared to some other areas of law, both for the participants and the lawyers (or paralegals). See what your qualified advisors think, is the best thing to find a different area of law? You mention updating your resume to look for other family law positions, is that because you love family law that much, or don't know what else to do? Don't feel the need to reply here, I mean think about it.

But also agreeing with them that your boss's heart seemed to be in the right place. Don't overshare (more!) if revealing too much personal identifying info but if, for instance, your staying with your parents causes additional stresses to you (e.g. do they worry if you're in late or ask you about your day when you just need to not deal with anyone, or whatever) and/or it's a long commute, or whatever, there may be good reasons to consider moving elsewhere from the employer's point of view?

Perhaps if any family members know enough about you and enough about the stresses of family law their advice may be helpful to you also - I mean, obviously mental health professionals this is their area of expertise, but I assume they have limited experience dealing with lawyers and/or family law lawyers?

If you think doing everything is too much - and it sounds like it may well be! - my thinking - and this is NOT something to rely on given how little I know but just to discuss with your qualified advisors if you choose - is that your mental health and professional development is much more important than meeting your billables. Both because health is more important, and on a more mercentary level. If you meet your billables but still have all these other problems, your boss will still fire you. If you make significant progress on client retention and how you present yourself, but don't meet your billables, your boss may see progress and give you more time, or even if firing you may be impressed enough with your progress to give a decent reference? As for the week off in January or whatever, not to be negative but if you might be fired in March, take a vacation now while you can enjoy it a bit more...

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I think there is some confusion around whether the list of things are necessary to pass probation or are suggestions to help improve in order to pass probation.  Obviously, move out of your parents house or your fired is not cool.  But if the idea is that the extended probation is to see whether, for example, the OP can build self confidence and here are some ways you can try to do that I think, while its much further than I have ever seen an employer go, it is not really problematic.  To somewhat echo MaxBob, would it be preferably for the boss to say, you have three months to improve, you need more self confidence? There is nothing actionable there to help the OP along.

 

At the end of the day, try to get to the point where you need to be in your practice and if you get there without taking all of the actions noted then your boss should be satisfied.  And if she isn't then at least you spent three months on self improvement foeyour next job.

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14 minutes ago, Adrian said:

I think there is some confusion around whether the list of things are necessary to pass probation or are suggestions to help improve in order to pass probation.  Obviously, move out of your parents house or your fired is not cool.  But if the idea is that the extended probation is to see whether, for example, the OP can build self confidence and here are some ways you can try to do that I think, while its much further than I have ever seen an employer go, it is not really problematic.  To somewhat echo MaxBob, would it be preferably for the boss to say, you have three months to improve, you need more self confidence? There is nothing actionable there to help the OP along.

 

At the end of the day, try to get to the point where you need to be in your practice and if you get there without taking all of the actions noted then your boss should be satisfied.  And if she isn't then at least you spent three months on self improvement foeyour next job.

This.  It's presumably results that matter to your boss.  

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30 minutes ago, Adrian said:

I think there is some confusion around whether the list of things are necessary to pass probation or are suggestions to help improve in order to pass probation.  Obviously, move out of your parents house or your fired is not cool.  But if the idea is that the extended probation is to see whether, for example, the OP can build self confidence and here are some ways you can try to do that I think, while its much further than I have ever seen an employer go, it is not really problematic.  To somewhat echo MaxBob, would it be preferably for the boss to say, you have three months to improve, you need more self confidence? There is nothing actionable there to help the OP along.

 

At the end of the day, try to get to the point where you need to be in your practice and if you get there without taking all of the actions noted then your boss should be satisfied.  And if she isn't then at least you spent three months on self improvement foeyour next job.

If I am in OP's situation, I will use the 3 months time to find another job

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1 minute ago, Luckycharm said:

If I am in OP's situation, I will use the 3 months time to find another job

That is the OP's prerogative.   But, and this is again echoing MaxBob's point, how fruitful that search would be in three months is in significant doubt.  Further, what guarantee is there that this same thing won't simply happen again? 

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27 minutes ago, Adrian said:

That is the OP's prerogative.   But, and this is again echoing MaxBob's point, how fruitful that search would be in three months is in significant doubt.  Further, what guarantee is there that this same thing won't simply happen again? 

 

There is no guarantee in life. I can not predict how fruitful that search will be. 

However, I think it is easier to look for another job while you are still employed. 

There is a difference between "I quitted" and "I was fired".

 

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1 minute ago, Luckycharm said:

There is no guarantee in life. I can not predict how fruitful that search will be. 

However, I think it is easier to look for another job while you are still employed. 

There is a difference between "I quitted" and "I was fired".

 

And when the boss is asked for her reference, she can say "she quit during her extended probation period".  Or, if the OP doesn't find a job in the next three months, she can't say she quit because she was fired. 

 

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25 minutes ago, Adrian said:

And when the boss is asked for her reference, she can say "she quit during her extended probation period".  Or, if the OP doesn't find a job in the next three months, she can't say she quit because she was fired. 

 

It seems like you're just trying to argue. A lot of legal employers don't request a reference when you currently hold a position, as they realize the importance of discretion and the delicate nature of trying to lateral (i.e. you do not want your current employer knowing you're looking to get out, and then not get the job). 

It is unquestionably better to be looking for work while employed than it is to be looking while unemployed. 

Edited by beentheredonethat4
grammar
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1 minute ago, beentheredonethat4 said:

It seems like you're just trying to argue. A lot of legal employers don't request a reference when you currently hold a position, as the realize the importance of discretion and the delicate nature of trying to lateral (i.e. you do not want your current employer knowing you're looking to get out, and then not get the job). 

It is unquestionably better to be looking for work while employed than it is to be looking while unemployed. 

Well a couple of points: 

1. the OP may not be looking for another legal job

2. You said "a lot" not "all"

3. It seems naive that a legal employer wouldn't want some more assurances when a person applies to them with a grand total of three months from their previous employment. 

4. This may all be happening after the OP has already been fired for focusing on a career search rather than improving her practice.  

5. My entire point was that it is better, on balance if the goal is to continue to be a lawyer, to improve legal skills than focusing on jumping ship. 

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19 hours ago, whereverjustice said:

It's easier to change your job to suit your personality than it is to change your personality to suit your job.

I don't know if she's pushing you out the door - it sounds like, despite a fairly intrusive approach (as @Hegdis noted), her heart is in the right place. But your concerns seem exactly right to me.

I think you should accept her suggestion that you start standing up for yourself more. And you should begin by aggressively seeking a new job, right now.

It sounds like her heart is in the right place, but speaking from my personal point of view, this screams "just leave, please".

If an employer said to me "Here is this large, unreasonable list of things, some of which I can't even legitimately ask you to do as your employer, and if you don't commit 100% to basically changing who you are as a person, in 3 months, then I'll terminate you."  I would take that as three months in which to find a new job.

As an aside, even if its a genuine attempt at help, I don't know how smart that list is; I feel like there are def. some issues there from an employment point of view that could come back to bite her.

 

 

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10 minutes ago, conge said:

It sounds like her heart is in the right place, but speaking from my personal point of view, this screams "just leave, please".

If an employer said to me "Here is this large, unreasonable list of things, some of which I can't even legitimately ask you to do as your employer, and if you don't commit 100% to basically changing who you are as a person, in 3 months, then I'll terminate you."  I would take that as three months in which to find a new job.

As an aside, even if its a genuine attempt at help, I don't know how smart that list is; I feel like there are def. some issues there from an employment point of view that could come back to bite her.

 

 

If it was a "just leave, please" scenario, why even go through the bother - the op is a junior lawyer at a firm, I expect any severance would be modest, the boss could just fire them.  

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6 minutes ago, maximumbob said:

If it was a "just leave, please" scenario, why even go through the bother - the op is a junior lawyer at a firm, I expect any severance would be modest, the boss could just fire them.  

Reduce chance for wrongful dismissal?

Edited by Luckycharm
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42 minutes ago, beentheredonethat4 said:

It seems like you're just trying to argue. A lot of legal employers don't request a reference when you currently hold a position, as they realize the importance of discretion and the delicate nature of trying to lateral (i.e. you do not want your current employer knowing you're looking to get out, and then not get the job). 

It is unquestionably better to be looking for work while employed than it is to be looking while unemployed. 

Sure - and many employers will make an offer conditional on satisfactory reference.   mine always have. 

And surely the issue isn't finding a job, but keeping one. If the current employer has concerns with the op (and none of the concerns described here strike me as particularly unreasonable), those concerns aren't going to go away just because the op changes jobs. And there are limits to how often you can change jobs. Move once, hey, maybe the job didn't fit you, move twice, people start thinking it's you. 

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