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LunacyLovegood

Career advice for 2nd year associate?

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Hi all,

Just looking for some career advice because there aren't many people in my life I can talk to about this.

Just over 4 months ago I started at a Bay street firm after articling and working as counsel at a clinic. I loved it but due to inconsistent contracts, I thought I should take a permanent job somewhere and make some money and gain some experience. I was offered a job in an area semi-related to my preferred practice area and the salary was great so I took the job.

Fast forward to now and I'm hating my life. I don't like the people I work with and I don't enjoy the work and my mental health has been really suffering. I don't know that I've ever hated a job so much. The partner I work under is not a nice person, to the point that other partners in the firm have been whispering about how long I've made it working for him, which is only 4 months. His last few associates have lasted anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months, but not much longer. It's not a great situation. Everyone keeps telling me it'll get better as I get more comfortable but it's just not happening. If anything, as time goes on, I hate the job even more. 

I do have a significant amount of debt which is what has kept me there. I've been living as frugally as I can and am paying it down as fast as I possibly can and have made a small dent in it over the past 4 months. 

I'd ideally like to go work for a clinic again but it would be a sizeable pay cut, although I think I'd be able to make it work. The problem is that there aren't many jobs available and it could be months or years before I even find a job at a place I'm happy with. I can probably last a few more months, but don't think it will be possible mental health-wise for me to last a year or longer while I job search. I don't think private practice is right for me, and I'm at the point where I'm so disillusioned with the idea of practicing law that I'm considering looking at non-lawyer jobs. Everyone I've talked to always exclaims how many job options are out there for JDs but I can never get specific jobs that I'd be suited for. I do mainly litigation, although I'd say 25% of my practice right now is drafting agreements so I've got some experience doing that (although I don't love it). 

Any advice you have for someone really struggling right now would be wonderful. 

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1 hour ago, LunacyLovegood said:

 

Fast forward to now and I'm hating my life. I don't like the people I work with and I don't enjoy the work and my mental health has been really suffering. I don't know that I've ever hated a job so much. The partner I work under is not a nice person, to the point that other partners in the firm have been whispering about how long I've made it working for him, which is only 4 months. His last few associates have lasted anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months, but not much longer.

...

Any advice you have for someone really struggling right now would be wonderful. 

Your mental health comes first, always. By the sounds of it, your workplace is a living hell for you. Make your exit. You should not have difficulty transitioning a bay street associate position into something else. There are jobs available. There are always jobs available. Sure, it is a competitive market. No, you may not fall into your dream job immediately--lol, nobody does--but start working on getting there now and you'll be fine if you're patient and flexible on location and income.

Life is too short to waste the majority of your time on people you hate. It would be one thing if you simply hated the job itself. Or if you couldn't get along with one or a few of your coworkers. But, if you hate everyone and everything and aren't really fond of the job itself, then leave.

And no, not all lawyers in private practice are toxic people who are difficult to work for. That's the wrong takeaway. Here's the right one: taking a job based on salary and passing interest is not going to make you happy. The most important detail about your prospective employer should be the people who work there. So this time you look, interview your employers as considerably as they do you and be discerning about who you wind up working for.

Also, one thing to perhaps ask yourself--and only you know how worthwhile a pursuit this is given your surroundings--is whether there is any way to try and resolve your toxic workplace head on before you start exploring an escape plan. As in, could you talk to any coworkers and in what way could they help and support you? Could you directly approach the partner you work for and stand up for yourself in any way as opposed? Are there any other partners with whom you have a relationship and could discuss the matter, as opposed to an anonymous message board? If the answer to all of these is no, then ya - get to work on your resume and start making coffee dates.

Edited by FineCanadianFXs
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31 minutes ago, FineCanadianFXs said:

words

this is true. i was in a terrible spot for just over a year. Stayed because I needed a job and was afraid if i left i wouldn't be able to find a gig. 

Quit and sent one CV to a flat out dream level firm and landed the gig after one interview.

There's loads of gigs out there for 2-5 year calls. If you got an interview on Bay Street let alone closed on and worked on a gig, there's scads of places for you to go. The summer-articles baystreeters dip out after 2-5 years because the job's gotten to them, the firms need to fill the gaps. Life's too short to be unhappy. 

Edited by machine

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I'd have to agree with the above. Tons of articling students with 0 experience get placed every year at associate gigs, many of them after only a few months of searching. You are now in your second year of call, so you should be able to as well. Maybe it will take a month or two (or more.... you have to be prepared for that possibility) but in 10 years what will you regret more? Staying in a job where your mental health deteriorated and destroyed your life? Or having a lean 2-3 months as you looked for work?

It's a tough market. Definitely stick it out if you can. Especially because it's easier to get a job as you currently have one. But I agree with the advice that jobs are out there. If you're at a Bay Street firm you're obviously decently competitive. If you truly cannot take it anymore, get out. Only you know if you are at that breaking point, or if this is something you can tough out as you seek greener pastures in evenings and on weekends.

Plus, if your place is as bad as you say it is, odds are others in the legal profession know it, and leaving would not come off as a shock. I can think of two such firms in my practice area alone with a reputation of being toxic. 

Edited by happydude

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Thanks everyone.

 

I wouldn't say the firm itself is toxic - I actually don't mind a lot of people in the firm. The problem is that my group is very small and we're a bit isolated in the office and so I never have a chance to interact with most of the people I do like and I definitely never get to work with them. Some of the partners are definitely toxic and I dislike them, but overall I think most people are nice. It just so happens that one of the toxic people happens to be the partner I work under constantly.

I know finding a job is going to take a while and if possible I'm prepared to stay until the end of July (we have a 2 month hearing that is ending then, and I'm thankfully working with a junior partner on that file which sucks, but sucks significantly less). I'm using some vacation days and taking 2 weeks off for Christmas and maybe I'll be able to regroup and re-energize.

I guess my problem is I'm definitely sure private practice isn't for me so finding a job not in private practice is going to take a little bit longer. I'd lateral to another firm but I'm just worried I'll end up in the same position that I am now... miserable because of lack of work/life balance, not liking the private practice environment, etc. 

But thanks. This helps. I think maybe I just needed to hear it from others that I'm not making a stupid decision or just being dramatic or lazy (all of which friends and family have said to me). 

 

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Every workplace is a mixed bag with horrible and amazing bosses/workflow/colleagues. But private practise, especially Bay street, amplifies this hugely. Let's not beat around the bush - when your health is suffering and you actively hate your job, you are in a very dangerous situation. This is not dramatic, this is not lazy, this is really important. 

It seems that you have a generally manageable unhappiness with the position, but a specific and acute problem with your manager. Your medium term goal should be to exit the firm for a better place, but your short term goal should be to get away from the partner. 

If you feel that you cannot leave the firm# I recommend that you still try to get away from the toxic partner. Many firms are desperate to keep talent and will try to keep you around if possible, especially if the partner is notorious. As a lateral, you may find that you have few people at work who you can trust. If you can develop relationships with some possible mentors - not necessarily file relationships, but just getting coffee with a senior associate or partner can give you an important ally. Junior associates you strive to have multiple mentors, including some with whom they do no work. 

If you've been able to see the ground with the idea that you want to do a different type of work, you might be able to save yourself from you current boss without the upheaval of leaving a firm. This doesn't fix the fact that you want to go elsewhere, which you should still strive for, but it can help you protect yourself in the near term. 

 

Please take care of yourself. Protecting yourself is hard, but really important. 

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I left what I thought was going to be my dream job after two weeks because of the extremely toxic (abusive) environment. It was my first job after articles and a pretty big deal. I had to quit because I was too stressed, not sleeping and dealing with outright hostility from the lawyer who was supposed to be my mentor. Not a fun experience at all, but everything worked out fine. I took a decent non-lawyer but related job for a bit to pay the bills, and now I'm back on track as a lawyer with a job that I enjoy, pays well and has a great work-life balance. Am grateful that I left, even things seemed very dark at that time. 

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18 hours ago, LunacyLovegood said:

Hi all,

Just looking for some career advice because there aren't many people in my life I can talk to about this.

Just over 4 months ago I started at a Bay street firm after articling and working as counsel at a clinic. I loved it but due to inconsistent contracts, I thought I should take a permanent job somewhere and make some money and gain some experience. I was offered a job in an area semi-related to my preferred practice area and the salary was great so I took the job.

Fast forward to now and I'm hating my life. I don't like the people I work with and I don't enjoy the work and my mental health has been really suffering. I don't know that I've ever hated a job so much. The partner I work under is not a nice person, to the point that other partners in the firm have been whispering about how long I've made it working for him, which is only 4 months. His last few associates have lasted anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months, but not much longer. It's not a great situation. Everyone keeps telling me it'll get better as I get more comfortable but it's just not happening. If anything, as time goes on, I hate the job even more. 

I do have a significant amount of debt which is what has kept me there. I've been living as frugally as I can and am paying it down as fast as I possibly can and have made a small dent in it over the past 4 months. 

I'd ideally like to go work for a clinic again but it would be a sizeable pay cut, although I think I'd be able to make it work. The problem is that there aren't many jobs available and it could be months or years before I even find a job at a place I'm happy with. I can probably last a few more months, but don't think it will be possible mental health-wise for me to last a year or longer while I job search. I don't think private practice is right for me, and I'm at the point where I'm so disillusioned with the idea of practicing law that I'm considering looking at non-lawyer jobs. Everyone I've talked to always exclaims how many job options are out there for JDs but I can never get specific jobs that I'd be suited for. I do mainly litigation, although I'd say 25% of my practice right now is drafting agreements so I've got some experience doing that (although I don't love it). 

Any advice you have for someone really struggling right now would be wonderful. 

I am surprised that no one has mentioned this, but I would advise you to speak with someone that practices employment law. 

Depending on the specific facts of your situation you may have a constructive dismissal claim or depending on the nature of any harassment a human rights claim. 

The firm seems to know that this has been a problem in the past, yet they allow it to continue. There is just no place for toxic behaviour in any workplace, let alone a law firm.  

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22 minutes ago, OWH said:

I am surprised that no one has mentioned this, but I would advise you to speak with someone that practices employment law. 

Depending on the specific facts of your situation you may have a constructive dismissal claim or depending on the nature of any harassment a human rights claim. 

The firm seems to know that this has been a problem in the past, yet they allow it to continue. There is just no place for toxic behaviour in any workplace, let alone a law firm.  

I mean that is definitely an avenue, but I am not sure how advantageous it would be to be known as the associate who files human rights complaints against your seniors, regardless of the merit they may have.

This is not to say that it should not be done, and in fact it may be wanting, but I would proceed with caution if considered.

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2 hours ago, FingersCr0ssed said:

I mean that is definitely an avenue, but I am not sure how advantageous it would be to be known as the associate who files human rights complaints against your seniors, regardless of the merit they may have.

This is not to say that it should not be done, and in fact it may be wanting, but I would proceed with caution if considered.

Also, not a lot of law firms enjoy being sued and losing a lawsuit isn't exactly great PR, so they tend to throw a good bit of resources at an issue like this.

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I'm not sure I'd go down the lawsuit path. I'd like to burn as few bridges as possible as I make my inevitable exit from the firm. I think I'd also feel bad because I don't think my supervisor is inherently a bad person, I just don't think he really knows how to work with juniors. Also maybe just has a few anger issues.

I think (and know) people can survive working under him and become friends with him - 2 of our partners were his juniors and they're friends. I just think  for someone like me, who has fairly bad anxiety to begin with, the fit isn't great.

It's funny, because the job posting was to initially work under the other senior partner and I would have loved that. Everyone loves working for him. But they thought my experience would fit better with my supervisor, so they juggled things around. Things could have ended up very differently..... 

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It sounds like your primary problem is you work for a nightmare partner. The hired back juniors probably know enough to avoid him or her so you are stuck to them yourself. Things were probably juggled around because no one wants to work for the partner.

The thing about a-holes who have a lot of business, is while they might not be kicked out of the firm because of their business, the rest of the firm usually knows how bad they are. There should be someone whose job it is to deal with your concerns, like an associate coordinator or something. They will already know your partner's reputation. Same for other lawyers who might provide you alternate work.

Getting away from an important partner is difficult. The easiest way without rocking the boat is taking on incrementally more work from elsewhere. Whether this is even possible will depend on your group and how your firm distributes work. 

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Life's too short to be unhappy at work; this partner sucks, but you are responsible for your own happiness, so here is what I would do (if I were you): Start letting it be known that you're unhappy and you're considering leaving; tell it to your friends and to the HR person/associate coordinator/partners who care about you. Start reducing the work you take from said partner and seeking out work from ppl you like. You can't drop things you are working on now, but don't take anything new from him. If nothing changes, leave when you have another position lined up (no one will be surprised and you will not have burned any bridges). If the toxic partner torpedoes your career at the firm, and it works, then it's a shitty firm (or at least a poorly managed firm), and you don't want to work there. Best case scenario, I think, is that you successfully transition away from this person, you start building a practice you like, and you stay at a firm that pays you well and gives you meaningful experience. Start tomorrow.

Edited by conge
Clarity.

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15 hours ago, LunacyLovegood said:

I'm not sure I'd go down the lawsuit path. I'd like to burn as few bridges as possible as I make my inevitable exit from the firm. I think I'd also feel bad because I don't think my supervisor is inherently a bad person, I just don't think he really knows how to work with juniors. Also maybe just has a few anger issues.

I think (and know) people can survive working under him and become friends with him - 2 of our partners were his juniors and they're friends. I just think  for someone like me, who has fairly bad anxiety to begin with, the fit isn't great.

It's funny, because the job posting was to initially work under the other senior partner and I would have loved that. Everyone loves working for him. But they thought my experience would fit better with my supervisor, so they juggled things around. Things could have ended up very differently..... 

I am not saying to start drafting the claim today. ;) 

But it may be a good idea to consult with someone who practices employment law to know your options and where you stand from a legal standpoint. Knowledge is power. Then armed with that  information talk to HR. If they know you are unhappy and that you know your options they may be more accommodating. Who knows they might move you to work with someone who isn't an asshole. 

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What bothers me most about this job is that I can't take work from anyone else. The way we're set up is that I'm the dedicated junior for 2 partners and I can't take work from anyone else. I've expressed interest in taking work from the other half of the group but i'm mostly told that it doesn't work like that. 

We don't really have HR (which I find very strange). There's one administrator who wears many hats who is called HR but I mean... associate concerns fall to the bottom of the barrel. We have an associates mentoring committee but the heads have retired and it's never been re-set up. The management and treatment of the associates is actually a fairly big concern among the associates... but there's turnover happening so perhaps things will change.

But thanks everyone. I'm definitely actively searching for some new jobs. I spoke with some former colleagues last night who have agreed to throw any job postings they see my way. For now I'm going to try to keep my head down, do my work, and just relish in the days my manager is working from home. 

Edited by LunacyLovegood

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6 hours ago, LunacyLovegood said:

 

What bothers me most about this job is that I can't take work from anyone else. The way we're set up is that I'm the dedicated junior for 2 partners and I can't take work from anyone else. I've expressed interest in taking work from the other half of the group but i'm mostly told that it doesn't work like that. 

We don't really have HR (which I find very strange). There's one administrator who wears many hats who is called HR but I mean... associate concerns fall to the bottom of the barrel. We have an associates mentoring committee but the heads have retired and it's never been re-set up. The management and treatment of the associates is actually a fairly big concern among the associates... but there's turnover happening so perhaps things will change.

But thanks everyone. I'm definitely actively searching for some new jobs. I spoke with some former colleagues last night who have agreed to throw any job postings they see my way. For now I'm going to try to keep my head down, do my work, and just relish in the days my manager is working from home. 

If the firm is getting a new managing partner, perhaps things will improve. It might be worth sticking it out at least to see how that plays out. Otherwise, I think you have the right idea. Start looking for new jobs and take one with a good environment when it comes along. If things ever become truly unbearable for your health before then, just quit, but hopefully it doesn't come to that.

Sorry you are going through this. This problem, sadly, is hardly unheard of in the legal profession. I'm only two years out and have already heard some real horror stories from my peers and through the grape-vine. It seems when it comes to smaller firms, the character of the partner(s) running the show can be either their biggest blessing or their biggest curse. When things are bad, it seems they can get really bad. Toxic environments, total disorganization, none of the safeguards you would see in your large Bay Street firms (HR, many other partners to drum up work from to thereby shield yourself a bit from the crazy ones, etc)

Edited by Ryn
Edited quote to correspond with edited original

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2 hours ago, LunacyLovegood said:

What bothers me most about this job is that I can't take work from anyone else. The way we're set up is that I'm the dedicated junior for 2 partners and I can't take work from anyone else. I've expressed interest in taking work from the other half of the group but i'm mostly told that it doesn't work like that. 

We don't really have HR (which I find very strange). There's one administrator who wears many hats who is called HR but I mean... associate concerns fall to the bottom of the barrel. We have an associates mentoring committee but the heads have retired and it's never been re-set up. The management and treatment of the associates is actually a fairly big concern among the associates... but there's turnover happening so perhaps things will change.

But thanks everyone. I'm definitely actively searching for some new jobs. I spoke with some former colleagues last night who have agreed to throw any job postings they see my way. For now I'm going to try to keep my head down, do my work, and just relish in the days my manager is working from home. 

Sounds like the firm isn't being managed properly; they may be great lawyers but their firm management is shit.

My next suggestion would have been to just push for the ability to take work from others, but it's not worth investing in such a place.

Good luck with the job search!

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On 12/3/2018 at 5:05 PM, LunacyLovegood said:

I think I'd also feel bad because I don't think my supervisor is inherently a bad person, I just don't think he really knows how to work with juniors. Also maybe just has a few anger issues.

I think there's very few "inherently" bad people (in the sense that they act like a jerk for no discernible reason), but we are what we do. If your supervisor acts like an asshole all day, guess what, he's an asshole!  Don't feel bad about doing whatever you need to do to be happy. 

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Threads like this seem to revolve around quit or sue (or quit and sue).

I'm not an employment lawyer or job counsellor or anything like that, but does no-one ever take the approach of talking (possibly with written confirmation follow-up...)? Either to the problem person or to someone else like another partner or HR or something?

Sure, there's a risk of being fired or other consequences. There's also a risk of being fired if one does nothing, or of having worse mental health problems.

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