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besmackin

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I’m looking for some advice on a situation at work. I work on a small team with two other junior lawyers under our manager. Some times we get work assigned individually, other times, the manager gives a large file to us and tells the three of us to divide up the work ourselves. The problem is that one of the juniors (“A”) is clearly the the manager’s favourite and gets the lions share of the “interesting” work. A would then do the bare minimum for tedious group tasks like doc review, so we would have to pick up the slack for him. When we hand in the group work, the manager would make a show of thanking everyone. And at least one time, I overheard the manager telling another coworker how impressive it is that A can get so much done. Me and the other junior don’t think it’s very fair that A gets most of the interesting work, and also still gets credit for group work that he didn’t do. We’ve separately talked to our manager about this, but he just brushed it off and said that we should be focused on our performance as a team, and implied that we’re not being team players by complaining. Not sure what else to do, am I SOL here?

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I mean you said that you and the other lawyer discussed the issue with the manager so he is aware of this.  

Hard to say what to do here.

If you generally enjoy the work environment, do interesting work, and the manager is overall a good guy, then you might just have to deal with this inconvenience. 

However, if it's clearly a toxic environment then think about other options. 

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If you have escalated your concerns to the manager and they were dismissed then that says something about the environment where you work. 

I do not know how helpful this is but I will throw some considerations out:

Does the Credit "A" receives have an impact on your growth at the firm? Does A's behaviour have an impact on your ability to get a bonus? on your billable target? If it does and you have shared your concerns and nothing is being done about them then I believe you will slowly start to resent your workplace which will naturally lead to you look for another job. 

Are you getting good experience at this workplace or are you are always stuck doing the grunt work? If you are getting good experience, is it enough to justify working at that place? 

 

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To get around the "you're just whining/complaining/not being a team player" non-answer that your manager gave you, maybe you can go about it another way: book a meeting and talk to him about your personal performance at work. Sure it's important to be a good team player, but at the end of the day everyone's performance has to be evaluated individually.

How does your manager see you as an individual? Does he see potential in you? If he, for some reason, doesn't see you as suited to being staffed on the more interesting files for the time being, what is the root cause of that conclusion? If he really thinks you are not skilled/good enough to handle the work, then use that as a segue to ask the follow-up question of what you need to do next to improve yourself in order to get the type of interesting work you want.

If he keeps evading the questions and seems to only want to keep you there for the grunt work, then you'll know for sure that you are not working for someone who sees potential in you or wants to help you grow, therefore you are definitely not missing out if you accept another job.

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Thanks for the response guys. 

To @cherrytree point above, the annoying thing is when I talk to my manager one on one, he says all the right things (I'm doing good work, on track, etc.) and says he'll keep me in the loop for this or that file that I've expressed interest in etc. But when it's actually time to hand out the work, more often than not I and the other associate get the short end of the stick. I don't know if he just wants to avoid confrontation or what. 

I don't know I would go as far as to describe the environment as "toxic"...for now anyway. I generally enjoy the work and am learning a lot. It's just grating to see this kind of unequal treatment.  I’m a bit worried about my growth and advancement and sometimes think about looking around, but talking to my friends, it doesn’t seem like this is an unusual problem? I sometimes hear about my friends who have to deal with overly competitive colleagues or senior associates who takes all the credit for their work in front of partners etc, which sounds exhausting. Just don’t know how green the grass is on the other side really.

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1 hour ago, artsydork said:

Rather than talking to the manager, have you tried talking with "A"? 

 

We’ve tried, but it’s hard to talk to A because he’s just seems to be oblivious to what’s going on. FWIW I don’t think he’s necessarily purposely doing anything malicious. He just honestly doesn’t feel like he’s being given better treatment, so it’s hard to have that conversation. For example when we point out he’s getting opportunities we’re not, he either downplays it or just says it's random luck and how next time it'll be different. And when we tell him to either pitch him on the group work, he just says how busy he is, but he’ll come to it when he’s wrapped up something. We do all have to work together on a daily basis, so me and the other junior didn’t want to strain things too much, especially knowing the manager would take A's side anyway.

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I would stop focusing on what is good or bad work. Work is work if you are a junior who is not bringing in his or her own clients. Sometimes files are boring and sometimes they are not.  I get frustrated all the time about being a memo monkey at this stage in my career (first year associate). But it is how it goes. As long as you are doing what you need to do to get experience it should be fine, as opposed to doing administrative work. 

I really don't think trying to convince your manager that you are the diamond in the rough when he or she feels to think that your coworker is will go well either. Law is about appearances a lot of the time, and it could be that your coworker just presents better (not saying that is the case). It is not just about your actual work, plenty of great lawyers can't sell themselves so the people that do  get more credit/clients, as everything is sales when it comes down to it. And I don't think complaining about unfair treatment is a great way to sell yourself to a firm that presumably you might want to stay at for the long term. 

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Just curious, what is "interesting" work? You might prefer to work in something that you are interested in, but why does your employer need to give you that "interesting" work?

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On 3/3/2020 at 10:51 PM, SuperBig said:

Just curious, what is "interesting" work? You might prefer to work in something that you are interested in, but why does your employer need to give you that "interesting" work?

I'm using that term as a short hand to differentiate between work like drafting arguments/appearing in court etc. vs doc review. 

 

On 3/3/2020 at 9:34 AM, adVenture said:

I would stop focusing on what is good or bad work. Work is work if you are a junior who is not bringing in his or her own clients. Sometimes files are boring and sometimes they are not.  I get frustrated all the time about being a memo monkey at this stage in my career (first year associate). But it is how it goes. As long as you are doing what you need to do to get experience it should be fine, as opposed to doing administrative work. 

I really don't think trying to convince your manager that you are the diamond in the rough when he or she feels to think that your coworker is will go well either. Law is about appearances a lot of the time, and it could be that your coworker just presents better (not saying that is the case). It is not just about your actual work, plenty of great lawyers can't sell themselves so the people that do  get more credit/clients, as everything is sales when it comes down to it. And I don't think complaining about unfair treatment is a great way to sell yourself to a firm that presumably you might want to stay at for the long term. 

I'm not trying to get out of doing boring work. It's one thing to say my coworker should get better opportunities because he's a better lawyer (I know for a fact that he's not, but whatever),  bu now I'm not even getting credit for work that I actually do. The common advice on this forum is to speak to your coworker/employer first if you're having problems, which is why I did that.  If you're not going to be treated fairly, what's the point of staying long term? 

 

Anyway, I'm not really all that desperate to sell myself here. More so I just wanted to see if this kind of favouritism was common in other workplaces. 

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13 minutes ago, besmackin said:

Anyway, I'm not really all that desperate to sell myself here. More so I just wanted to see if this kind of favouritism was common in other workplaces. 

How long has it been?

As a student, I was in a position where I don't think I was a lawyer's favourite to start -- she worked really closely with someone else and I barely got anything good for the first little while. Overtime though, I wormed my way on to more files, and eventually started getting lots of really interesting work from her. In that case, I never raised it as an issue and wasn't really overt in taking credit for my work. I just kept expressing interest in certain cases, would volunteer to do things that I wanted to do, and would try and do a really thorough job with them. 

But I guess it depends on your situation.

 

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19 minutes ago, besmackin said:

I'm using that term as a short hand to differentiate between work like drafting arguments/appearing in court etc. vs doc review. 

 

I'm not trying to get out of doing boring work. It's one thing to say my coworker should get better opportunities because he's a better lawyer (I know for a fact that he's not, but whatever),  bu now I'm not even getting credit for work that I actually do. The common advice on this forum is to speak to your coworker/employer first if you're having problems, which is why I did that.  If you're not going to be treated fairly, what's the point of staying long term? 

 

Anyway, I'm not really all that desperate to sell myself here. More so I just wanted to see if this kind of favouritism was common in other workplaces. 

I mean even if you were doing the "cool" stuff, so what? Do you think your managers really ultimately care/distinguish between worker bees A, B and C? You guys are just tools to them. If you broke they'd discard you and get a new one.

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10 minutes ago, realpseudonym said:

How long has it been?

As a student, I was in a position where I don't think I was a lawyer's favourite to start -- she worked really closely with someone else and I barely got anything good for the first little while. Overtime though, I wormed my way on to more files, and eventually started getting lots of really interesting work from her. In that case, I never raised it as an issue and wasn't really overt in taking credit for my work. I just kept expressing interest in certain cases, would volunteer to do things that I wanted to do, and would try and do a really thorough job with them. 

But I guess it depends on your situation.

 

It's been about a year and half? Good to see that it goes away sometimes, though I'm not optimistic that would be the case here

 

10 minutes ago, Eeee said:

I mean even if you were doing the "cool" stuff, so what? Do you think your managers really ultimately care/distinguish between worker bees A, B and C? You guys are just tools to them. If you broke they'd discard you and get a new one.

So what? How about doing things you're interested in, and learning/developing new skills

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17 minutes ago, Eeee said:

I mean even if you were doing the "cool" stuff, so what? Do you think your managers really ultimately care/distinguish between worker bees A, B and C? You guys are just tools to them. If you broke they'd discard you and get a new one.

This is only true if it's a really poorly run firm. Excellent and even good organizations realize the value in keeping employees happy and providing advancement opportunities. This is HR 101.

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1 hour ago, Eeee said:

I mean even if you were doing the "cool" stuff, so what? Do you think your managers really ultimately care/distinguish between worker bees A, B and C? You guys are just tools to them. If you broke they'd discard you and get a new one.

ruthless. every law firm like this or just eeee's

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1 hour ago, Eeee said:

Do you think your managers really ultimately care/distinguish between worker bees A, B and C? You guys are just tools to them. If you broke they'd discard you and get a new one.

Wow! I hope no one ever has to work for you. 

Sarcasm aside, a law firm is not a beehive. Juniors become seniors, seniors become partners, and the people who work for you become your colleagues. And presumably remember a time when you gave no shits about the working relationship and treated them like tools to be discarded on disrepair. That cannot be a good way to retain talent or preserve harmony in the workplace.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, besmackin said:

I'm using that term as a short hand to differentiate between work like drafting arguments/appearing in court etc. vs doc review. 

 

I'm not trying to get out of doing boring work. It's one thing to say my coworker should get better opportunities because he's a better lawyer (I know for a fact that he's not, but whatever),  bu now I'm not even getting credit for work that I actually do. The common advice on this forum is to speak to your coworker/employer first if you're having problems, which is why I did that.  If you're not going to be treated fairly, what's the point of staying long term? 

 

Anyway, I'm not really all that desperate to sell myself here. More so I just wanted to see if this kind of favouritism was common in other workplaces. 

Okay -- I understand where you are coming from. I mistook your legitimate frustration for someone who is probably just expecting too much from a job. I would be pretty upset too. I've never experienced what you are going through, probably because I never worked with lawyers in the same year of call (small practice area). And given that you said somewhere else that you had been at this job for 1.5 years, I think at this point you should say something because you are making a real investment and deserve a comparable return.

When I was in a situation where I wanted to quit my last job over perceived poor treatment (being yelled at, etc.) I talked with a senior lawyer/now manager and said well is this all normal? And I was told it was not, so I started working less hours and looking for a new job. Once that was over with and I was hired, I quit, and I am doing much better now. So I would consider talking to someone with more experience that you trust and get a second opinion. If they agree with you, well then you should start thinking about (a) informing you manager despite the consequences and (b) starting to look for a new job if you don't want to do (a),but also don't want to keep working at a firm that undervalues you.

Edited by adVenture
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12 hours ago, adVenture said:

Okay -- I understand where you are coming from. I mistook your legitimate frustration for someone who is probably just expecting too much from a job. I would be pretty upset too. I've never experienced what you are going through, probably because I never worked with lawyers in the same year of call (small practice area). And given that you said somewhere else that you had been at this job for 1.5 years, I think at this point you should say something because you are making a real investment and deserve a comparable return.

When I was in a situation where I wanted to quit my last job over perceived poor treatment (being yelled at, etc.) I talked with a senior lawyer/now manager and said well is this all normal? And I was told it was not, so I started working less hours and looking for a new job. Once that was over with and I was hired, I quit, and I am doing much better now. So I would consider talking to someone with more experience that you trust and get a second opinion. If they agree with you, well then you should start thinking about (a) informing you manager despite the consequences and (b) starting to look for a new job if you don't want to do (a),but also don't want to keep working at a firm that undervalues you.

Thanks for the advice. Good to hear that it gets better out there. It mostly just sucks because the line of work is what I want to do, so I didn't want to move, but doesn't look like things will get better, so guess I'll have to keep my eyes open

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