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Throwaway999

Just started an associate position and hating it

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 I'm hating it so much that it's affecting my mental health. 

First, what I hate the most is that I'm cloistered in a tiny, isolating office from 9-5 with the lawyer and an assistant, who may or may not be in a good mood. 

Second, this lawyer thinks it's OK to ask me to do her daughter's high school homework, and puts pressure on me to do the homework well. I literally spent hours of my evening writing an essay and re-learning algebra.

Third, this lawyer is SO particular about certain aspects of the work. However, the work product that's expected may just depend on the day and her mood that day. So I feel like I can do nothing right, and everything I do will just have to be re-done. I feel like I contribute very little value. In the past, my supervisors were generally happy with my work. 

Fourth, the lawyer recently started talking passive aggressively about not having enough clients and firing office workers as a result. She's already mentioned that I need to work for my (somewhat meager) salary. Now I feel under pressure to get clients when I don't feel confident in myself yet as a new lawyer. I also don't have any promotional materials out there right now, and even then it might take time. 

Fifth, I have a VERY difficult time getting anything approved because there's just so much going on.

 

Because of all the above and more, it's really taking a toll on my mental health. I'm thinking of asking to work part-time so I don't have to be in the office everyday from 9-5. I'd rather get paid less for the flexible hours, and she might feel more gracious towards me if she's investing less money. I would eventually try to find my own clients to supplement her payments. Is this a good plan?

 

 

(Throwaway account for obvious reasons.)

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35 minutes ago, Throwaway999 said:

Second, this lawyer thinks it's OK to ask me to do her daughter's high school homework, and puts pressure on me to do the homework well. I literally spent hours of my evening writing an essay and re-learning algebra.

Demanding this of you is not only egregious it's unethical (who's the one in high school again? Certainly not you). You need to establish some very clear boundaries of what you are or are not willing to do. And if she refuses to budge on this point, I think it's best if you depart her employ. You're a called lawyer -- you have the pick of any firm looking for an associate, or you can go out and hang our own shingle. It's only one step away from what you're seemingly being asked to do anyway, i.e., receiving no support and having to bring in clients.

If you think dropping down to part-time will help your mental health while you go look for another job (which is advisable) then I would do that. Otherwise, start handing out resumes as quickly as possible. This place doesn't sound like anywhere you want to be long-term.

Edit to add: I'll say the above with the caveat that I don't have much experience myself. I'm a new associate as well. But I certainly would strongly consider the above route if it were me in your situation.

Edited by Ryn
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I'd run. I'd rather work at a bar than do this (if those were the only two options open to me).

I'd personally report the person to the bar, but there are facts I'm probably not aware of, and the whole "it's a small bar" consideration that would probably stop me from going that far. I'd also only do it once I'd burned the bridge permanently, of course.

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This definitely does not sound ideal. Start looking for a new job ASAP. If you absolutely cannot bear to stay at this place any longer due to mental health reasons, then quit now. Your health should be #1.  Although it is easier to find a job when you already have one, I've seen plenty of lawyers land on their feet without too big of a gap on their resumes when looking for a job while unemployed, be it due to being let go, contract work expiring, leaving on their own terms, etc. You'll be fine. Don't let fear keep you in a damaging situation. But make no mistake about it. If you can tough this out while lining up another role - do it.

 

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Why are you working here to begin with? 

Are you actively applying for other positions? 
 

I don’t understand why your “plan” doesn’t involve getting a new job.
 

Why would you continue working for an unethical crackpot who makes you do her daughter’s homework?

 

(On a side note, are you not concerned about completing work that you know is going to be submitted fraudulently as someone else’s work?....) 

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Absolutely start looking and applying for other jobs. This is affecting your mental health - you need to get out ASAP. That sounds like a horrible situation.

There are so many things wrong with her asking you to do her child's homework. When asked, you could respond a few different ways to help manage the situation: 1) this is not a part of your role/responsibility as a lawyer called to the bar; 2) this is unethical; 3) this is affecting/preventing you from doing work that IS a part of your role and responsibilities as an associate lawyer; 4) I don't feel comfortable doing this - here's some contact information for a high school tutor that you might find helpful. Proceed with whatever best suits your mood that day ;)

Is there someone in your office that you can confide in/have a mentorship relationship with? This could help you in the interim while you're managing the day to day actual work stuff - until you get out of there, as it sounds like you're not getting this from your current supervisor. Is there someone you have or can have a mentorship relationship with outside of the office that can support you in networking and navigating the transition to another job opportunity?

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@Throwaway999

I don't think Ryn's and Quincywagstaff's specific point can't be emphasized enough.

You knowingly doing her daughter's homework - leaving aside practically whether or not it would come to light - could well be a problem for you with the law society. Which would really screw things up. I haven't researched the ethics specifically, I assume/hope it doesn't fit within criminal law regarding personation (which I am expressing no opinion on, neither giving legal nor ethics advice), but even if not it's really bad to do this. You do see that, don't you?

You're a lawyer. Yes, get help for your mental health. But also, you must be able to refuse to do improper things. This is actually the kind of thing where maybe you should get legal advice from another lawyer, not just stop doing something so stupid!

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19 hours ago, Throwaway999 said:

Second, this lawyer thinks it's OK to ask me to do her daughter's high school homework, and puts pressure on me to do the homework well. I literally spent hours of my evening writing an essay and re-learning algebra.

Fourth, the lawyer recently started talking passive aggressively about not having enough clients and firing office workers as a result. She's already mentioned that I need to work for my (somewhat meager) salary. Now I feel under pressure to get clients when I don't feel confident in myself yet as a new lawyer. I also don't have any promotional materials out there right now, and even then it might take time.

K besides the ethical points that have been made above, how are you supposed to be working to pay your own salary through client work and building a practice if you're spending hours doing her daughter's homework?

I'm sorry you're dealing with this. It sounds like a terrible situation and you should get out. Your mental health is worth so, so much more than you're getting out of this job.

If you can go down to part-time while you're interviewing, do it, but be clear about your hours. You are only working Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you will not be in the office or reachable on Thursday or Friday (or you're only in 9-1 every day, whatever the schedule is). Put up boundaries. It sounds like she's the kind of person who won't respect them, so you need to be firm.

Wishing you lots of luck.

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Taking what OP is saying at face value, this sounds like one of the most exploitative arrangements I've heard of. Get the hell out and best of luck. You deserve better!

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Ignoring all ethical, moral, and legal elements, I have to point out the OP's boss seems quite stupid. They are paying a lawyer's salary for high school tutor work. I'm pretty certain I could find companies online willing to write an essay for $50...maybe there's a reason the office has no work.

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While I would personally be thrilled if part of my job responsibilities involved tutoring algebra, I fail to see how simply doing her homework will help her learn how to do it herself.  

Oh, and run.  

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I don't know the ins out of how private practice works, but I would say planning to attract your clients may not be the best idea for a few reasons:

1-Depending on the type of law you practice this might not even be feasible (i.e. it's going to be a lot harder for someone who works in corporate downtown in major city to open up their own shop as opposed to someone whose background is in family law and lives near a fairly large suburban area).

2-Unless you have contacts/connections cold calling clients to get business is going to be challenge. The success rate here is very low and you need to have a high tolerance for failure/thick skin to get rejected regularly. Also for the amount of work this requires and lack of stability it provides I would personally only resort to this if it were my last option.

3-Most clients want a lawyer whose experienced, this isn't to say that you aren't very knowledgeable and a competent attorney but I take it that if you are a new associate being 'young' may lead people to think rightly or wrongly that you're inexperienced. The harsh reality is that sometimes perceived value matters much more than actual value. 

4-Your current boss being a POS. Based on the working relationship you described I imagine your boss to be a fairly demanding character and even if she agrees to let you work part time your schedule still won't be your own. As a result, this can make it rather difficult to schedule meetings with clients and will require you to constantly lie to your boss when she asks you to do something at the last minute but already committed to meeting with a hypothetical client that you secured. I'll avoid giving my take on the ethical arguments that can be made on this issue because it's not place to do so, but imagine that shit storm that would ensue if your boss finds out that you've been getting clients while her firm is struggling financially. I wouldn't put it past her to fire you and then you could be caught in the situation of loosing a steady/reliable base salary while not having enough clients to support yourself. 

tl;dr you are in a really position and I genuinely feel for you and hope that you make it through ok. That being said, I would hesitate before going out on your own and consider other alternatives before committing to that course of action. 

Hope it works out and please keep us posted!

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13 minutes ago, LawSchoolJock said:

I don't know the ins out of how private practice works, but I would say planning to attract your clients may not be the best idea for a few reasons:

1-Depending on the type of law you practice this might not even be feasible (i.e. it's going to be a lot harder for someone who works in corporate downtown in major city to open up their own shop as opposed to someone whose background is in family law and lives near a fairly large suburban area).

2-Unless you have contacts/connections cold calling clients to get business is going to be challenge. The success rate here is very low and you need to have a high tolerance for failure/thick skin to get rejected regularly. Also for the amount of work this requires and lack of stability it provides I would personally only resort to this if it were my last option.

3-Most clients want a lawyer whose experienced, this isn't to say that you aren't very knowledgeable and a competent attorney but I take it that if you are a new associate being 'young' may lead people to think rightly or wrongly that you're inexperienced. The harsh reality is that sometimes perceived value matters much more than actual value. 

4-Your current boss being a POS. Based on the working relationship you described I imagine your boss to be a fairly demanding character and even if she agrees to let you work part time your schedule still won't be your own. As a result, this can make it rather difficult to schedule meetings with clients and will require you to constantly lie to your boss when she asks you to do something at the last minute but already committed to meeting with a hypothetical client that you secured. I'll avoid giving my take on the ethical arguments that can be made on this issue because it's not place to do so, but imagine that shit storm that would ensue if your boss finds out that you've been getting clients while her firm is struggling financially. I wouldn't put it past her to fire you and then you could be caught in the situation of loosing a steady/reliable base salary while not having enough clients to support yourself. 

tl;dr you are in a really position and I genuinely feel for you and hope that you make it through ok. That being said, I would hesitate before going out on your own and consider other alternatives before committing to that course of action. 

Hope it works out and please keep us posted!

I would suggest refraining from giving business advice when you acknowledge that you're not sure of the inner workings of private practice.  Lawyers are expected to draw in clients - you're advising otherwise. That is... yeah.

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2 minutes ago, artsydork said:

I would suggest refraining from giving business advice when you acknowledge that you're not sure of the inner workings of private practice.  Lawyers are expected to draw in clients - you're advising otherwise. That is... yeah.

Immediately after being given an associate's position?!? What firm do you work for lol.

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1 minute ago, LawSchoolJock said:

Immediately after being given an associate's position?!? What firm do you work for lol.

Yes. Many, perhaps even most small firms would expect a new associate to do some of this type of business development. 

I second the recommendation that you, with respect,  STFU if you have no experience in private practice. 

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17 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

This is why the legal profession needs to be subject to employment standards too.

(I am not an employment lawyer, nor do I have any experience in that area)

Curious, how do you see the application of employment standards legislation (hypothetically) assisting someone in a similar position to the OP? 

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13 minutes ago, QuincyWagstaff said:

I second the recommendation that you, with respect,  STFU if you have no experience in private practice

Jock is in undergrad, applying to law school this year. So certainly no experience in private practice. 

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25 minutes ago, QuincyWagstaff said:

(I am not an employment lawyer, nor do I have any experience in that area)

Curious, how do you see the application of employment standards legislation (hypothetically) assisting someone in a similar position to the OP? 

I don't have experience with employment standards legislation either, but from the little I know, aren't there enforcement of the tasks you are asked to do, based on the position you signed up for?

I'm thinking of constructive dismissal, but that doesn't fit great here since OP is still doing legal work, and his role never "changed"?

Again, I really don't know employment law. I just figured there are some standards protecting you from the tasks you're asked to do (within reason).

@Jaggers?

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