Jump to content
GreysAnatomy

Is this normal?

Recommended Posts

Hi guys,

I'm in my first year of practice and work for a partner in litigation. I find the job quite stressful- everyday, I am getting assignments done, sending it to the Partner with no response, and then she calls me back like hours later without warning asking to revise the assignment. I understand she's busy, but she doesnt set up times to review stuff, and just bombards me at her will. Also, sometimes I will send her an email, she wont read it thoroughly, and gets mad that I didnt resolve something when I drew it to her attention in that email. 

I'm just wondering if this is normal? Is this how you guys work from home? I find it really difficult and it drives my anxiety up knowing that any minute I can expect a call about a document, but I don't know when that call will come. How are things at other firms? Is this just the nature of the practice? Any insight would be appreciated! 

Edited by GreysAnatomy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Totally varies depending on the style and personality of the person you’re working under, obviously. 
 

But being beholden to a senior lawyer’s schedule/ whims when you’re very junior is very common. Why don’t you take the initiative to arrange a time to review? 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, GreysAnatomy said:

Also, sometimes I will send her an email, she wont read it thoroughly, and gets mad that I didnt resolve something when I drew it to her attention in that email.

Regarding the senior lawyer's inattention to your emails, that is her problem, not yours. And it is hard to tell if it rises to the level of a toxic environment or whether her responses are in the realm of reason. I'd need more specifics.

But at the end of the day, she's the senior and you're the junior. She is effecitvely your boss and you need to treat her that way. Depending on how often this happens, you can either suck it up, reply with passive aggressive "as I noted for you in my earlier email" comments, or learn to adapt. If you send an email, how often are you following up? Part of the role of a good junior (in my opinion, and many others) is to try and make the lives of the senior lawyers easier. This is how you build trust, develop a good reputation, and it's also how you learn to develop diligence and strong legal practice hygiene. Before you start worrying about whether its normal, perhaps assume that it is for the time being and figure out what you can do to resolve this issue.

1 hour ago, GreysAnatomy said:

... then she calls me back like hours later without warning asking to revise the assignment.

I'm just wondering if this is normal? Is this how you guys work from home? I find it really difficult and it drives my anxiety up knowing that any minute I can expect a call about a document, but I don't know when that call will come. How are things at other firms? Is this just the nature of the practice? Any insight would be appreciated! 

Get used to it. Yes, receiving phone calls at any time is part of legal practice, and life generally. Phone calls are unpredictable by their nature. They'll come from other lawyers, your existing clients, sometimes maybe prospective clients, and a whole host of other people. So you need to learn to deal with this.

Your question shouldn't be "should I have to deal with someone phoning me without giving me a day's notice?" and rather "how do I set boundaries with other people, and when is it acceptable to let it go to voicemail?" That's on you to figure out, and it'll depend on your particular relationships and circumstances (like, you obviously aren't expected to answer the phone in the middle of a dental appointment). But surely a portion of setting comfortable boundaries depends on your seniority and you have none. So you should probably keep your ringer on during regular work hours and pick up the phone when you can. Say "Hello Senior Partner, what's up? Cool. Happy to help." Then get on with your life and your work.

Edited by FineCanadianFXs
  • Like 11

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, GreysAnatomy said:

I'm just wondering if this is normal? Is this how you guys work from home? I find it really difficult and it drives my anxiety up knowing that any minute I can expect a call about a document, but I don't know when that call will come. How are things at other firms? Is this just the nature of the practice? Any insight would be appreciated! 

It's not normal, but it's not abnormal?  There are a lot of disorganized senior lawyers out there who are far too quick to blame others for their own mistakes.

  • Like 9

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm an articling student and this is pretty normal for me. It is stressful but it's part of it unfortunately it seems.

I've just learned to always get a deadline for a task. Usually it's not included but it can be. That's the least the lawyer can do.

And if it's asap, well you make it work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is totally normal for a lawyer to take several hours to find the time to review a work product and get back to you. To be honest that sounds like a pretty good overall turnaround time. For non-urgent assignments it's not uncommon to get a response with a pile of comments weeks later and completely out of the blue.

As for not reading your emails carefully ... I'm just going to throw it out there but remember there is an art to email drafting and they don't teach it in law school. Information needs to be conveyed up front and concisely. The longer the email, the more likely you're going to lose them. There are actually some decent books/articles on this kind of writing style if you think you could use some pointers.

If this is happening with multiple lawyers then it speaks more to your email drafting than to their patience. If it's happening with just this lawyer and no one else then it's entirely possible this one lawyer is being unreasonable and isn't reading carefully. However, you're about to enter a wonderful career full of clients who are unreasonable and aren't reading carefully. So don't expect this problem to go away any time soon.

I don't want this to sound like I'm blaming you. You might be doing everything right. But given that blaming the more senior lawyer (or a client down the road) doesn't provide much of a practical solution (even if it's actually their fault), consider how you might try and resolve the issue in spite of that.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks guys!

This is really helpful. I didnt mean to sound whiny, because I know as a first year, your job is to tough it out, be concise, and adapt. I was just wondering whether the disorganized nature of the partner was something thats typical. Im from a mid-sized firm.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/2/2020 at 4:11 PM, artsydork said:

Type of practice? Size of firm? Location? All of these are relevant.

General lit, mid sized firm in toronto!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/3/2020 at 12:55 AM, bernard said:

It is totally normal for a lawyer to take several hours to find the time to review a work product and get back to you. To be honest that sounds like a pretty good overall turnaround time. For non-urgent assignments it's not uncommon to get a response with a pile of comments weeks later and completely out of the blue.

As for not reading your emails carefully ... I'm just going to throw it out there but remember there is an art to email drafting and they don't teach it in law school. Information needs to be conveyed up front and concisely. The longer the email, the more likely you're going to lose them. There are actually some decent books/articles on this kind of writing style if you think you could use some pointers.

If this is happening with multiple lawyers then it speaks more to your email drafting than to their patience. If it's happening with just this lawyer and no one else then it's entirely possible this one lawyer is being unreasonable and isn't reading carefully. However, you're about to enter a wonderful career full of clients who are unreasonable and aren't reading carefully. So don't expect this problem to go away any time soon.

I don't want this to sound like I'm blaming you. You might be doing everything right. But given that blaming the more senior lawyer (or a client down the road) doesn't provide much of a practical solution (even if it's actually their fault), consider how you might try and resolve the issue in spite of that.

As an aside - I’m interested in learning what these books/articles are if you’re willing to share! 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, starlord said:

As an aside - I’m interested in learning what these books/articles are if you’re willing to share! 

Well, this is awkward. I said that because I remember reading a (very short) textbook on this for an undergrad course but that was a long time ago and I can't remember the name or author. Anything about "getting to the point" will probably be helpful. Also, I'm a big believer in Orwell's six rules of writing.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, starlord said:

As an aside - I’m interested in learning what these books/articles are if you’re willing to share! 

  • Elements of Style, Strunk and White
  • Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, Joseph Williams
  • Everyone for the rest of your legal career will continue acting as though they're the only one who's ever read John Laskin's "forget the wind-up"
  • of Orwell and Window Panes, Pamela Samuelson
  • This random article about approaching emails like military writing I found interesting
  • Garner's "Legal Writing in Plain English" is a good beginner's text

There are many, many more good texts out there about how to write well, and how to adopt succinct point-first writing. I'm sure there's a few articles by Justice Stratas floating around the internet too.

At the end of the day, the goal is just literally to adopt point-first communication. There are many people out there in legal practice who pretend they know what point-first means and even cite the above texts, yet fail to ever do it. It can feel scary to say the important thing first,  because you feel you need to support it with key information facts and details before you're allowed to say it. You don't. Once you get past that fear, you will become a better communicator. "I think you should do this, and here's why" is better than "I'm going to lay out all the context and then tell you what the purpose of that context is."

Edited by FineCanadianFXs
  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, FineCanadianFXs said:
  • Elements of Style, Strunk and White
  • Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, Joseph Williams
  • Everyone for the rest of your legal career will continue acting as though they're the only one who's ever read John Laskin's "forget the wind-up"
  • of Orwell and Window Panes, Pamela Samuelson
  • This random article about approaching emails like military writing I found interesting
  • Garner's "Legal Writing in Plain English" is a good beginner's text

There are many, many more good texts out there about how to write well, and how to adopt succinct point-first writing. I'm sure there's a few articles by Justice Stratas floating around the internet too.

At the end of the day, the goal is just literally to adopt point-first communication. There are many people out there in legal practice who pretend they know what point-first means and even cite the above texts, yet fail to ever do it. It can feel scary to say the important thing first,  because you feel you need to support it with key information facts and details before you're allowed to say it. You don't. Once you get past that fear, you will become a better communicator. "I think you should do this, and here's why" is better than "I'm going to lay out all the context and then tell you what the purpose of that context is."

Thanks very much, appreciate you sharing!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The comment about everyone thinking they’re the only one to read “Forget the wind-up” is gold, Jerry.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the senior lawyers I work with is notorious for forgetting about almost everything I send (even after multiple e-mails and reminders). Does not have great admin support so I have had to step in many times and remind. Not ideal, annoying, and I should not have to do it but it is what it is. 

I find that bolding certain dates or important information in e-mails helps people pay attention. Odds are that some people will be reading your e-mail on a cell phone so headings can help as well depending on who is on the receiving end of your e-mail and how long it is.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...