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Allardlawstudent5

How honest should I be with my principal?

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I'm partway through articling and have monthly meetings with my principal, where we usually speak for <1hr. Usually during these meetings I catch her up on the kind of work I've been doing and occasionally ask her a question about a particular issue I've faced. 

I would like to be able to share a little bit more of my struggles with my principal. Due to a variety of reasons, I've really struggled to keep up with work. Part of it is that I'm overworked (who isn't) and part of is that I feel very unsupported at my firm (again, not out of the norm for articling students). Covid and family issues are not helping either, but as a whole there are no extenuating circumstances. 

I'm not sure to what extent I should talk about this with my principal. On the one hand, some of the issues are directly related to the firm's response to COVID and I feel like I should advocate for myself and the other students and try to get some improvements for us (students at our firm really slip through the cracks). I also could use another perspective on how to handle the time management/ lawyer relations issues I'm running into. On the other hand, I don't want to rock the boat, and perhaps I should be putting up a good front every time I meet with her so that I look good by the time hireback decisions are made. I certainly don't want to be known as someone who complains, but I'm starting to really struggle and would like to get some advice from her.

I feel like the replies will be that it depends on the principal, but generally is the principal-student relationship meant to include mentoring, or are these meetings more of a monthly opportunity to show why I should be hired back?

Thanks for any input!

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Employment is a two way street.  Why are you so concerned about getting hired back when you aren't even happy with the job?

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I started articling with a fellow articling student who struggled on a day to day basis with articling. To me and other students, that fact was amply clear, but I am not sure how much of that they shared with the principal. Anyway, they ended up getting hired back, but departed 3 months after it became very clear that the firm and this person were not a good fit.

My point is, early disclosure of personal troubles could change the trajectory of your early career for the better.

But I wouldnt advise you to idealistically "be completely honest." I would put the things you want to say into three bins:

1) MUST share - Your personal struggles and personal inconveniences

2) MAY share - Your comments about things that affect articling students in general.

3) DO NOT share - Your thoughts about general betterment of the firm. While your principal may appreciate it, generally speaking it is not your place to speak to that.

Good luck.

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My first reaction was the same as utmguy's. Why would you want to work at a place where you feel you can't get mentorship because of fears of being fired?

On the other hand, your principal is not your therapist or your friend. You shouldn't use them as a sounding board to talk about your personal struggles. It isn't an issue of honesty, but of professionalism. It is appropriate to get guidance on managing your workload, what the expectations are and the issues with the firm's COVID response. But the guiding star in these discussions is that it should be oriented around being constructive, particularly in how you can adapt. 

Articling is difficult, particularly early, and COVID has been a struggle for most people. 

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57 minutes ago, Allardlawstudent5 said:

 

I feel like the replies will be that it depends on the principal, but generally is the principal-student relationship meant to include mentoring, or are these meetings more of a monthly opportunity to show why I should be hired back?

 

I think you've already hit the issue on the head. 

Some mentors just don't want you to complicate their lives; they just want you to successfully complete articles with minimal disruption.

Some mentors actually want to mentor you, and the relationship will benefit if you are open and honest about struggles. 

I would try to read the situation and then consider who will be helped by your conversations. If it's not you being helped, I would avoid it.

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I'm not a principal since I don't practice anymore, but I am a manager of a team of professionals.  My two cents would be that I would welcome a conversation if someone is struggling, but would echo that it should be focused on being constructive about realistic changes that could occur then generalized grousing.  

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4 hours ago, utmguy said:

Employment is a two way street.  Why are you so concerned about getting hired back when you aren't even happy with the job?

Yea fair question. Though I'm not happy with the firm in general, there is a practice area within it where I enjoy the people and the work more. 

Anecdotally, I know several people who weren't hired back from their various firms in the spring and are still looking for an associate position now, so I'm just concerned about the job market in general too.

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