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Throwaway999

Just started an associate position and hating it

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1 hour ago, QuincyWagstaff said:

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. 

My firm does not expect new associates to bring in clients (mid-size firm), and I haven't heard of others in similar positions having to do the same. Of course, this is different than not being expected to do any type of business development, which my firm does expect of new calls. 

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33 minutes ago, spicyfoodftw said:

My firm does not expect new associates to bring in clients (mid-size firm), and I haven't heard of others in similar positions having to do the same. Of course, this is different than not being expected to do any type of business development, which my firm does expect of new calls. 

Mine does. We're small and on a fee-split model though so it may be different.

As a junior, if a potential client asks me about something I don't have experience with, my response is always "I haven't personally dealt with that, but I work closely with the partners on all of my files, who are always happy to give guidance." Clients tend to appreciate that they're paying junior rates but getting partner input.

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I was expected to start bringing clients from my first day onwards. Obvs, the managing partner still brought in her own business and assigned me overflow/cases she didn't want, but it is absolutely normal for lawyers, even new calls, to be hustling.  My billable targets grew as my time expanded with the firm.

 

 

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3 hours ago, LawSchoolJock said:

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

It's quite common for those working in smaller firms.

Often the senior lawyers have enough excess work to delegate some work to the associates, however they may not have enough to fill up the associates' entire schedule on a full-time basis. The solution? Hire an associate on a fee split basis or a modest salary + a fee split of billings above a certain amount and expect the associates to help bring in clients.

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11 minutes ago, Toad said:

It's quite common for those working in smaller firms.

Often the senior lawyers have enough excess work to delegate some work to the associates, however they may not have enough to fill up the associates' entire schedule on a full-time basis. The solution? Hire an associate on a fee split basis or a modest salary + a fee split of billings above a certain amount and expect the associates to help bring in clients.

Thank you for taking the time to give me a fuller picture of the situation without being a complete cock about it @artsydork @QuincyWagstaff

Edited by LawSchoolJock

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1 hour ago, LawSchoolJock said:

Thank you for taking the time to give me a fuller picture of the situation without being a complete cock about it @artsydork @QuincyWagstaff

I mean I suppose they could have been less snarky about it, but I hope you got their point. If you want to be a lawyer, one of the first things you should learn is never speak with authority where you don't actually know or have the experience. Just like it would sound stupid for me to say, "so I don't know anything about the US national anthem, but it starts with 'O beautiful, for spacious skies', so start with that verse and go from there", it doesn't make much sense for you to give what sounds like authoritative advice (notwithstanding your disclaimer, which was weak at best) on how law practices work.

2 hours ago, Toad said:

It's quite common for those working in smaller firms.

Yeah it absolutely is. I heard the same from some new calls who took jobs at small firms. I, personally, am not expected to bring in new clients at all and I imagine the junior associates at firms my size or larger are similar. But these kinds of firms, I think, are the exception rather than the rule. I would imagine the vast majority of juniors, who are employed by small firms, are expected to bring in new clients ASAP.

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Thank you everyone for your insightful responses!

I knew I'd be expected to get my own clients eventually -- and I want to as well to supplement the meager salary -- but I was under the impression this would start after a few months of time, and not a few weeks. This is because 1. I've just been kind of overwhelmed with the work itself thus far.  They knew they were hiring a new call with almost no experience in their areas of law.  2. The lawyer I'm working for has a backlog of work starting from the middle of this year, which we haven't even touched yet. 3. On top of that, I'm getting more urgent work pretty frequently. 4. Also, I need to be added to their website and need business cards. The partners haven't talked to me yet about business development. I was told to expect this talk later on. 

In any case, to preempt what would eventually be expected of me, what's the first step in business development? 

Edited by Throwaway999

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On 12/3/2019 at 8:02 PM, pzabbythesecond said:

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.

I strongly suspect, but cannot prove, that there is a special place in hell for snitches. That said, I like you, you are young, and you will soon learn the merits of us fighting the establishment and not each other. 

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4 hours ago, Throwaway999 said:

Thank you everyone for your insightful responses!

I knew I'd be expected to get my own clients eventually -- and I want to as well to supplement the meager salary -- but I was under the impression this would start after a few months of time, and not a few weeks. This is because 1. I've just been kind of overwhelmed with the work itself thus far.  They knew they were hiring a new call with almost no experience in their areas of law.  2. The lawyer I'm working for has a backlog of work starting from the middle of this year, which we haven't even touched yet. 3. On top of that, I'm getting more urgent work pretty frequently. 4. Also, I need to be added to their website and need business cards. The partners haven't talked to me yet about business development. I was told to expect this talk later on. 

In any case, to preempt what would eventually be expected of me, what's the first step in business development? 

There is no magic formula.  Be likeable, hustle, blog, network, keep tabs on all your friends and acquaintances who might be in a position to need your services, as well as their friends.  Beef up your LinkedIn profile and self promote.  Go over and beyond for your clients and then ask for a Google Review (if that's your thing).  Look at anyone who is really good at sales and marketing and do what they do.  

More generally for the new calls, unless you're at a huge firm that has an endless stream of work coming your way, you should always be focused on "business development" (and even then, you probably should be).  If you work at a firm, the primary goal of your employer is to make money,  just like any other business.  Building a book of business helps your employer's bottom line and makes you valuable.  Relying on others to give you work makes you much less valuable.  

Re employment standards, all employees (including lawyers) have the right to not be treated horribly at work. 

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16 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

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?

There is nothing in the employment standards acts that I have seen that enforces duties and responsibilities. 

Constructive dismissal is a common law principle that applies to all employees. 

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What sort of law do you practice? My first step was making connections with other lawyers and basically letting them know that I'm available for their conflicts/legal aid files. The referrals started pouring in, especially as I built my reputation. I also grew my reputation as having fast turn around times for documents and urgent matters. Depending on your area of law, word of mouth can be a very powerful tool. Family lawyers are hot topics on mommy blogs/groups...

You can look into joining a local committee to get your face in the community. Get involved in your local practice area BAR, and see from the association's president whether there are any mentorship opportunities with other senior members.

Things would be a bit different from a solicitor's practice but much of the above would still translate well. Make friends with litigators if you're in real estate - my firm doesn't handle real estate despite my large family practice. We send all our transactions to one firm and they send us their litigious family files.

 

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17 hours ago, Adrian said:

There is nothing in the employment standards acts that I have seen that enforces duties and responsibilities. 

Constructive dismissal is a common law principle that applies to all employees. 

Me neither. But even if OP's employer's conduct violates the applicable employment standards legislation or amounts to a repudiation of his/her employment agreement, so what? Presumably OP's end goal isn't damages for wrongful dismissal or an order from an employment standards officer/body to...stop the employer from assigning him/her algebra homework. The obvious, practical answer is that OP should continue working for his/her employer while looking for alternate employment. "Setting boundaries" is pointless. Even if you could convince this person to stop doing X, Y, or Z, how could you justify working for someone who did those things in the first place? The trust is broken.

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12 hours ago, PredictablyDarwin said:

Me neither. But even if OP's employer's conduct violates the applicable employment standards legislation or amounts to a repudiation of his/her employment agreement, so what? Presumably OP's end goal isn't damages for wrongful dismissal or an order from an employment standards officer/body to...stop the employer from assigning him/her algebra homework. The obvious, practical answer is that OP should continue working for his/her employer while looking for alternate employment. "Setting boundaries" is pointless. Even if you could convince this person to stop doing X, Y, or Z, how could you justify working for someone who did those things in the first place? The trust is broken.

This is exactly right. The most practical answer for anyone who has any level of marketability in the labour market is generally to vote with your feet. 

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Thank you everyone for your responses. I've considered everything... but I still haven't quit. To provide an update on the situation: 

Another partner at the firm has been giving me limited amounts of work and investing a lot in training me. He's been happy with my work and has a good track record of retaining employees. He's been encouraging me to bring in work for the firm by advertising. I think there's a realistic possibility I'll be able to, but it's never a guarantee. I feel under a lot of pressure to repay him for his investment. Nonetheless, I see this as one route for me to escape my boss. Once I can bring in clients for him or for me, I'll be less subject to her control.

My boss, however, has become even more intolerable. She's been telling her assistants repeatedly, and within earshot of me, that I'm a burden on her finances and suggesting that I'm useless for her practice. I can tell that her assistants don't respect me. One of them has become outright hostile, insubordinate, and a bully. I try to ignore it as much as possible. 

In addition,  she's becoming more stingy in giving me work.  I'm afraid to directly ask why, because I think it's partially that she will have to pay a greater portion of my salary if more of my time is dedicated to her practice.  There was also a promise that I would get a portion of my billings if I billed above my salary, and she's pretty much told me she doesn't want to honour this promise. Also, her assistants can do a lot of the in-office work, so why would she give it to me.  As such, I worry about the transition phase between becoming independent and relying on her for work to justify my salary. 

I think my options are to either try to transition as quickly as possible to being independent (and hope I succeed), or quit ASAP.  

On a final note, my boss is approaching the end of her career and has yet to train and retain a junior lawyer. Others at the office told me she's notoriously difficult and her practice produces a high turnover rate. She's retained one assistant long-term by paying her large sums of money. However, they have a toxic relationship. I actually like it when they fight, because the negative energy is transferred onto each other, and I'm less of a scapegoat for their frustrations, at least temporarily. Also, she told me that if I apply for another job, she'll hear about it through the grapevine. She won't let me create a website for myself as a marketing mechanism. (I might do it anyway.)

Edited by Throwaway999

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8 hours ago, Throwaway999 said:

Thank you everyone for your responses. I've considered everything... but I still haven't quit. To provide an update on the situation: 

Another partner at the firm has been giving me limited amounts of work and investing a lot in training me. He's been happy with my work and has a good track record of retaining employees. He's been encouraging me to bring in work for the firm by advertising. I think there's a realistic possibility I'll be able to, but it's never a guarantee. I feel under a lot of pressure to repay him for his investment. Nonetheless, I see this as one route for me to escape my boss. Once I can bring in clients for him or for me, I'll be less subject to her control.

My boss, however, has become even more intolerable. She's been telling her assistants repeatedly, and within earshot of me, that I'm a burden on her finances and suggesting that I'm useless for her practice. I can tell that her assistants don't respect me. One of them has become outright hostile, insubordinate, and a bully. I try to ignore it as much as possible. 

In addition,  she's becoming more stingy in giving me work.  I'm afraid to directly ask why, because I think it's partially that she will have to pay a greater portion of my salary if more of my time is dedicated to her practice.  There was also a promise that I would get a portion of my billings if I billed above my salary, and she's pretty much told me she doesn't want to honour this promise. Also, her assistants can do a lot of the in-office work, so why would she give it to me.  As such, I worry about the transition phase between becoming independent and relying on her for work to justify my salary. 

I think my options are to either try to transition as quickly as possible to being independent (and hope I succeed), or quit ASAP.  

On a final note, my boss is approaching the end of her career and has yet to train and retain a junior lawyer. Others at the office told me she's notoriously difficult and her practice produces a high turnover rate. She's retained one assistant long-term by paying her large sums of money. However, they have a toxic relationship. I actually like it when they fight, because the negative energy is transferred onto each other, and I'm less of a scapegoat for their frustrations, at least temporarily. Also, she told me that if I apply for another job, she'll hear about it through the grapevine. She won't let me create a website for myself as a marketing mechanism. (I might do it anyway.)

Look for another job. Don't do anything that are not authorized (create your website) and land yourself in  hot water.

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12 hours ago, Throwaway999 said:

My boss, however, has become even more intolerable. She's been telling her assistants repeatedly, and within earshot of me, that I'm a burden on her finances and suggesting that I'm useless for her practice. I can tell that her assistants don't respect me. One of them has become outright hostile, insubordinate, and a bully. I try to ignore it as much as possible. 

This behaviour sounds to me like workplace harassment. 

I have been reading this thread but not replying, because it makes me want to say a lot. So... sorry for the over-long post. Some of the sentences are also a bit convoluted because I'm trying hard to identify neither the former employer I'm going to mention, nor the supervisor I had a problem with. Also, this is my experience. 

Many years ago, I had a supervisor who was a bully. I was in a senior management position at the organization I was working for (second in command, on paper, at our location), but my boss would regularly dress me down in public or in front of consultants I had hired, and once or twice in front of clients, normally this was for small things or minor errors, and usually involved shouting. He would also badmouth me to others, and seemed to be actively trying to undermine me, even to my friends and people outside our organization. It was terrible.  This was my first year in the type of work we were doing, and I had been given responsibilities I had openly admitted were not yet in my skill set, though I could learn. His response at the beginning had been to say that I was up to the challenge, and that he would help me out where I needed it (my previous supervisor had given me a stellar job review). This was not what ended up happening. 

Because of the stress at work, I started losing sleep and experiencing deep anxiety. I wanted to quit, but felt trapped. But then, following the advice of my partner at the time, I made a list of all the occasions when this boss had bullied me. I wrote them up in a letter (which came to 3 pages), and made an appointment. The letter was very direct, and accused him of repeated instances of unprofessional behaviour towards me, which I was careful to be able to demonstrate, and for each of which I included the date and location, including the names of witnesses when possible, or the precise day and time of emails, etc. I read this letter aloud during our meeting, stating that if his behaviour did not change, this would be my resignation letter to his supervisor at head office (which is who had hired me). This would have been a very serious complaint, especially if accompanied by the resignation of a senior staffer. I later learned that it would not have been the first complaint, or the first resignation, as a result of this person's behaviour. 

He immediately responded by promising to change, and for the next several months, things were better. Eventually, he reverted to form, worse than before, but by then I was in a better position to quit, and did so almost immediately (I didn't follow through on my threat to send a letter at that point, though I did ask for an exit interview, where I was praised for my way of handling things. My willingness to directly confront the problem and not simply melt or whine had been reported by a colleague to head office).

Quitting that job is a decision I have never regretted (except for the fact that I believed at the time that I would need his recommendation to keep working for the organization, which I would have liked to do. I learned too late that that they would have kept me on at a different location, had I asked for a transfer).

From this experience I learned a lesson about bullies in the workplace, and how to deal with them, and I have applied it since. This is personal to me, so YMMV, but here it is:

1) If someone is abusing you, they have abused others. The reason they continue to do so is that they can. Ignoring it is likely to make it worse, not better, and in the process you will almost inevitably lose the respect of many who observe it. 

2) Document everything. Deal with the bully in writing as much as possible.

3)  The ideal is to change the power relationship. It helps to find leverage, an ally (or allies - unions are useful here), a credible threat, etc., all without yourself acting in any way unethically or illegally, and as far as possible without opening yourself to reprisals.. The right kind of evidence can make the bully back off, but you have to be willing to follow through. Don't bluff. Don't lower yourself.

4) This means, in part, that you have to give yourself permission to quit your job if necessary. A willingness to walk away always strengthens one's negotiating position, except perhaps when the other side wants you to walk away (and if they want to get rid of you, then it seems to me it's not a bad idea to leave on your own terms rather than waiting for them to impose theirs). And if you are forced to quit, then you have to decide, carefully, whether to expose the exact reasons, and in how much detail. Sometimes, that's not what you want to do (for example, I would have done so when I made my initial complaint, by submitting the letter. But I didn't do so when I finally did leave, because by then it seemed to me it might have appeared petty). Remember that your own reputation is in play here as well. If you have to do it, you have to do it right. I gave 8 weeks notice, using the end of my contract as the date I would leave (the contract would normally have been automatically extended). 

5) The effect of standing up to my bully has been extremely good for me, psychologically; the effect of initially not standing up, extremely negative. Standing up also earned me the expressed respect of colleagues, and has been good for my career. 

6) Should you manage to change the power relationship while remaining in the same workplace with the same supervisor, this is likely to revert over time as your supervisor starts to once again feel comfortable. Your fight will then be more and more difficult over time, so leaving must always remain a live option. You can't guarantee a positive outcome, no matter how you deal with this kind of situation.

Since leaving that job, I have had another employer whose management style was also characterised by bullying and intimidation. I drew from my earlier experience and responded more quickly. In the end I was not one of those in my workplace who was treated like a doormat. 

Please note!  I am not telling you what to do; I am telling you what worked for me.  I suppose it counts as advice, but your situation is not the same as mine.  I'm just distressed by your story. 

Edited by GreyDude
removed a detail that could identify someone.
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14 hours ago, Throwaway999 said:

My boss, however, has become even more intolerable. She's been telling her assistants repeatedly, and within earshot of me, that I'm a burden on her finances and suggesting that I'm useless for her practice. I can tell that her assistants don't respect me. One of them has become outright hostile, insubordinate, and a bully. I try to ignore it as much as possible. 

Honestly, fuck her and her assistants. Just keep your cool meanwhile finding another job. I personally would not hope for a long-term solution by accepting work from the other partner, considering this workplace dynamic. It's very toxic and bad for your mental health. 

Edited by Trew
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