{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "[1/2]\n\nHi all, I apologize because I know there have been posts on this bowl with similar subject matter recently, but I really need advice. \n\nI am at a risk of losing my job at the end of this month if I don’t make some changes to my work performance, specifically meeting my monthly billable hour requirement. My work and my work product is not an issue - my partner has repeatedly commended me on everything I produce, but my billable hours are seriously lacking.", "post_id": "6096ebd55795f70024e4cb28", "reply_count": 24, "vote_count": 8, "bowl_id": "5da60c126e5f0d001f32f497", "bowl_name": "Women in Law" }

[1/2] Hi all, I apologize because I know there have been posts on this bowl with similar subject matter recently, but I really need advice. I am at a risk of losing my job at the end of this month if I don’t make some changes to my work performance, specifically meeting my monthly billable hour requirement. My work and my work product is not an issue - my partner has repeatedly commended me on everything I produce, but my billable hours are seriously lacking.

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1) You are not alone and even posting and sharing this is courageous. 2) How badly do you want to keep this job, or are you in a feasible position in life to find something less taxing? 3) What year level? If you have developed substantive skills (ie. more profitable to the firm), you may have more negotiating "leverage" to get paid time off/tell the truth about feeling burned out. Good luck ❤️

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1. I don’t feel courageous - I feel so awful about all of this and, honestly, like I’m the reason for my situation. Been really hard on myself lately but I can’t shake the thought. So, thank you for this. 2. I don’t *want* to keep this job, necessarily. It’s not my dream job. But I also don’t like failing and don’t want this firm to have this impression of me. I want to turn this around. I also really can’t afford to be fired because my spouse currently isn’t working due to COVID layoffs, so that’s an added incentive to work hard to keep this job. 3. I’m a second year, so I don’t feel I have much leverage to use to my advantage under the circumstances. Especially because I’ve been at the firm less than a year and all they’ve seen of me is subpar billing performance.

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I experienced something like this when my dad died by suicide and I went into a depression/grieving for a few months. My firm wasn't a healthy, open place and I was still feeling immense pressure to prove myself as a second year. Plus I did not want to discuss the reasons with anyone at work. So I hid my condition and just blamed myself, tried to gut it out, and tortured myself... Eventually ended up on PIP then was let go. Even though my work was good, it was slow and my hours were down, and I didn't tell them why, just promised (and tried like hell) to improve. Well -No matter how well I thought I was hiding it, partners could see I had no energy or motivation. They concluded I didn't like the work and so I had no future there. I did end up scoring a great Gov job and recovering, but I think by refusing to acknowledge my situation, I made a horrible year worse than it had to be. I would encourage you to consider talking to HR rather than your partners or colleagues, especially if you aren't sure they are safe to confide in (most law firms honestly aren't.) Do you have a therapist or even GP you've seen about exhaustion and /or depression? Maybe they can provide you with a rec for a medical leave of absence without disclosing why, and you can decide what how much to share when you come back. Wishing you a full recovery. I have had a very happy and successful career for the past decade since this happened. You will bounce back.

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A3 I’m in an extremely similar situation right now as a second year. Do you mind if I dm you?

I would consider seeing a medial professional and going out on FMLA. FMLA is absolutely appropriate for mental health issues, and it can get you back to where you need to be. They also can’t fire you for using it. Then you can come back with a fresh start.

likesmart

OP, they could technically fire you, but they would risk a retaliation lawsuit due to the timing. I do employment law on the employer side, and we recommend that someone coming back from FMLA is given a second chance so if we do fire them, it’s for poor performance after their leave.

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Have you tried changing your frame of reference? The hours requirement is stressful and unsustainable because like most humans you have a life and the expectation to be hyper productive everyday is unreasonable. You shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of issues in your personal life or that they take to resolve - it’s a basic part of the human condition. I would tell the partners and ask for their help in getting on track (depending on the type of firm - if NY big law then.....)

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[2/2] Long story short, I have a host of things going on in my personal life that are taking a huge toll on me both mentally and physically. This has resulted in me working long hours on things that should not take me very long because I have a hard time focusing to complete a task, so I ultimately self-censor my time. In addition to that, I am battling depression and fatigue, along with a few other physical illnesses I’ve been blessed with. These things make it really hard for me, not only to get up in the morning but to get up in the morning, get all of my work done in a timely manner, and get all of my time inputted. I’m at the point where I have to have a meeting with the higher ups to explain and hopefully shed some light on why I’m having these issues in the first place. My question to all of you is whether it would be wise for me to be open and honest about my mental and physical health and the struggles I’ve been having, or if I should just shut up and try to do better. I’m worried telling them the truth is only going to appear as though I’m trying to make excuses for things that are not their problem and are, ultimately, inexcusable. Do you think that I would be wise to have this conversation, or would I be better off struggling silently and hoping that I can pull myself together in the next few weeks to do the bare minimum? I have never been in a position like this before. I am normally a great employee or, at the very least, I am the type of employee who is always willing to do more, to stay later or come in early in order to pick up the slack and get things done. I am really struggling with this and I’m afraid it is only making everything else worse. Any advice, words of encouragement, or personal stories of how you all dealt with similar situations would be so much more appreciated than you know. I am willing to provide more detail in the comments or in private messages if that would be helpful for anyone to offer tailored advice.

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A1 - I will DM you here in a sec!

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Never cut your own time. It takes you what it takes you and if a partner thinks it took too long, let them cut it.

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I hear you, A4. I was doing this for several months (because my partner told me the same thing), but then I got reprimanded for the amount of time billed for certain tasks. So now I’m too afraid to bill all of my time for things. Mixed signals.

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Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. You are worth more to them than you give yourself credit for.

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Be honest if they are already at the point of having “the talk” (or go to HR if there is an HR option). It sounds like you are nearing burnout - or already in it. Maybe ask for a month off on FMLA so you can get in to see a doctor and psychiatrist and get things rebalanced without the stress of work in the mix. Will they think differently of you when you come back? Maybe. I had to disclose that I had ADHD once because my insurance and doctor were fighting over whether my medication should be authorized for another year and I am crap without my medication. Ultimately, it did impact the way the partner viewed me. But, I was able to stay for several years before that creeped to the point where she was nervous to have someone with ADHD take over her firm. By that time, I had the skills to go it alone and we parted amicably. But, if I hadn’t disclosed, she likely would have fired me that many years earlier. You can always work on lateraling somewhere else later once you get everything sorted out if you feel they are looking at you differently. But, if you keep going as you are then it will be a continuation of the same, which they have already indicated they are dissatisfied with.

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First, you need to sort out the medical and psychological issues. You say you have some physical illnesses, so write them down for your meeting notes. Is ADHD a possibility? That could explain procrastination or focusing issues. If a possibility, get an evaluation and if diagnosed, support. If not, check it off the list. Beyond that, we’ve been in the middle of a pandemic where millions have died all over the world and millions more have suffered major losses such as loss of homes, loss of life savings, and loss of careers and income. And your significant other has lost his job. It would be strange if you didn’t have some significant distraction and depression going on. Also, many people are reevaluating their lives and goals during this time. You need to own your experiences and your challenges and decide what will work best for you and take that into the meeting. At this point, if you are close to losing your job, if you just wallpaper over the issues and say that everything will be fine, the issues will still be there and you will set yourself up to fail by making promises you won’t keep. I think you need to be quite specific about your challenges and needs and see if they can be flexible about your needs. It’s well known that the pandemic has forced many people, especially women, to alter their work lives to meet family needs. It’s also well known that lots of employees are struggling with depression during these times. Do you need an altered schedule? If so, what specifically. I would try to come in to the meeting with a plan to propose, something that you think could work for BOTH you and the job. Also, someone told me when I started working at my first firm job that I should not cut my own hours, but to let the partners do that. They know how much time they want to bill for certain tasks and they need to make monetary goals, so it’s really not your job to be taking money off the table that could be billed before they even have a chance to consider it. Obviously, if you are totally spaced during something, you don’t bill that, but don’t cut real time spent on something. If you are doing that and no one else is, it will surely backfire on you in terms of how your billables look compared to others.

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Definitely do not cut your own time ever. That's for the partner to do if they feel it's warranted. Plus, at least with my firm for some write offs, you still might get credit for the time towards your billable, it just doesn't get billed to the client. Also, make sure that you are billing for everything. I've heard this is sometimes geneder-based (not sure if that is true), but women sometimes do not bill for everything because they rationalize it as non-billable or not taking that much time. Those little bits of time add up and they matter.

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I went through something similar with the emotional/mental health issues before COVID. I saw a therapist and it helped immensely! Just having someone to talk to without risk of judgment was so helpful. I would suggest trying that. As for work, I don’t think any of us can truly know how to advise with regard to how to handle the meeting with your higher ups. Only you know if they would be receptive and understanding to your issues. I hope they are. Good luck and I hope you are able to address your issues.

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Literally in the same situation.

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In the same situation as well.

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I’m in the same situation as well. Nothing helpful to add but you’re not alone.

Went through a really tough time this year too. I ended up take two months of leave. One month was FMLA (had a dying relative) and the other other was unpaid time off. It was the best decision I made. I came back much more myself and ready to grind again. If I didn’t take the time off I know it would have just gotten worse. My firm was very supportive and I was very open about what was going on with HR. I know they ended up speaking to my supervisors (with my permission too). Without giving them details they told them I was going through some tough personal things. I was worried about it at first, but it turned out really well. If you use HR then you are building in protections for yourself too.

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