Am I crazy for trying to switch firms? I am a second year and I love my firm and the people I work for are terrific. My previous practice group was terrible but the work and the people I’m with are great and so is the money (big law). The problem is that I’m not getting enough of it. I range between 110-130 billable hours per month and feel like I don’t deserve my salary. The partners I work with seem to love my work and insist that it’s fine but I have started feeling useless (continued)

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If you want to feel worthy just do nonbillable client-developing work, like articles and seminars. Your firm will love you even more for it, you’ll be enhancing your skills/network, and it might even be fun.

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Sorry I hit post before I finished my thought, and now I have no idea what that thought was...carry on.

I think leaving should be your last option, although I commend you for wanting to do more. Ask for more work. Take on pro bono cases. Do more networking and article writing. If you truly think you’re not learning anything new at your current firm then perhaps it’s time to move on, but otherwise try to capitalize on the good fit.

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Mediators are deal makers- love this.

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Uh, yeah. You’re nuts.

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Agreed. No chance in hell I would switch. Enjoy it !!!!!! You have enough work that you are learning

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Are you a woman? A man would never feel guilty about what he was getting paid. Aside from that thought, you are being absurd.

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I got positive assurances too! Until the day I got fired. Big law does not want it leaking out when work is struggling. I also got a 6 month full salary departure period where I didn’t have to work but they listed me as still employed. They wanted me to find a new job so they didn’t have to tell the industry that layoffs were happening.

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You’re insane. Literally insane. Who wants to work MORE?

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You want to work more?? Take the boot out of your mouth

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You are so rude.

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I promise I will eventually stop chiming in on this post. But two more suggestions first!

1 - For stupid reasons it can be very hard in our industry to find work as a 5-7 year instead of a 2-3 year (assuming little or no book of business). At that point firms like young grunts to work, or older attorneys coming with their own clients and $. Your actual skill set will be unknown or irrelevant, which is frustrating.

2 - Re grunts to work, I strongly suggest finding ways to ask about workflow when you interview. I’m a litigator and when I got laid off I interviewed with several firms where I quickly sensed that the only reason they were hiring was because a monster case fell in their lap and they needed midlevel people to help. What’s going to happen in a year or two when that case is resolved? Now the younger lawyers have more experience and I still maybe don’t have much of a book of business. Of course I have no way of knowing this, but it felt like I would be basically a temporary person. Last in - first out sort of scenario. It’s something to look out for.

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OP, after reading through this post, it seems like you are looking for reasons to leave. If you truly believe your job is at risk because there may be layoffs, I agree that you should look. However, if you are just feeling anxious and guilty because you see people working harder around you (I get the drive to want to “grind” and “keep up” as a junior), I would advise you to take serious time to think about the benefits of the position you are in. There are lots of associates who are searching desperately for a firm with good culture, mentorship and balance, and the grass may not be greener where you go.

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If I switch, there is a chance that I wouldn’t like it or I’d get more work than I’d be happy with, and the firms I’m looking at pay the same. The partners I work with now have already told me I’d definitely make partner if I stayed. In essence, my mentor (who left the firm) had told me that if he were in my position, there is no way they’d leave. But i feel like having such low billables is hurting my career.

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Switch for:

1. More money
2. More free time/balance
3. Different practice area or
4. Different client type.

Do not switch simply because you’re having trouble grinding out billable hours, especially if your partners are happy now.

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Goldilocks

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This actually happened to me. I stayed way too long and got laid off. If you’re getting good experience and don’t mind not getting your bonuses, yes absolutely stay.

However, in my situation, the slow work meant that people above me were also looking for hours, so only the most mundane, menial tasks were trickling down the food chain to me. It ended up making me paralyzed as a 3rd-4th year because I felt like I wasn’t learning and I was battling an internal sense of shame that my friends at other firms were obviously moving up in responsibility while I still felt like a rookie. The shame turned into fear that when I did need to get a new job it would be “discovered” that I was way behind the learning curve for my class year. This is bad.

End of story - When I did get a new job I was really scared at first and, looking back, did a pretty terrible job for 6 months or so. It was assumed I knew more than I did and I was too embarrassed to ask questions, so I definitely blundered a lot, but I caught up and now have a ton more confidence.

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On the other hand, if they are giving you appropriate responsibility and tasks, you actually have the time to learn (as opposed to simply getting it done as fast as you can - which a lot of associates billing higher amounts are stuck doing), which will be valuable going forward. Having good colleagues who teach you and invest in your career are invaluable.

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I feel so seen. This is the same scenario that I’m in. I feel useless and guilty for collecting a salary while I just sit there after sending “looking for work” emails to everyone. I keep getting told that the work will come, but it doesn’t help me feel any better.

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Have you tried probono?

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You’re not crazy.

Do not feel guilty about not deserving your salary, that is silly. But do worry about not having enough work, in the long run. You don’t learn as much, you don’t become as good an attorney, you don’t develop as fast as your peers at your level at other firms, and if your firm ends up in hardship, the folks who bill the least hours naturally end up first on the chopping block. Regardless of how good you are, being the very good attorney where the workflow is not enough to support your practice is not a good spot to be in.

It’s very reassuring that your partners keep saying the right thing now, during a recession. I wouldn’t be panicking about this as a second year since that’s naturally a time when you’re still developing your regular workflow. Also during a recession if there’s less work, work tends to get hogged at a senior level. But doesn’t mean it’s not worth exploring the market and seeing what else is out there.

Like A1, I have been in this situation. Was slow, got reassured I was doing great, company was doing great, no plans for layoffs, then suddenly I as well as several others got laid off “out of the blue” but the work slow down signs were there if I had not believed their reassurances. It happens all the time. The firm is a business. It’s not even that they’re lying to you. It’s that things change quickly, and your partners are not in charge of everything. If the firm is doing badly, the firm going to look at which departments are doing badly profit wise, and they’re going to tell your partners “ok cut at least 2 associates from your team” and then that naturally looks to who the “least productive” associates are.

I have also gone through prior recessions where I had slow periods and did not get laid off. A couple others did get laid off in those times. It’s always a risk and it’s a bigger risk the longer the slow periods last.

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Thank you so much - I definitely feel like I am going crazy, especially with some of the more rude responses I’ve gotten. I guess the comforting thing about the firms recruiting for my position is that I know there would be work, otherwise they wouldn’t be hiring. And yeah, I thought a little bit about the whole “skill set” component about in a few years not being able to match up to my peers at other firms. Thank you again for the insight.

I hate to be a downer, but I believe it is time to start looking. No matter what the partner(s) inbuilt group say, unless they are the executive/management committee you are not getting enough work. You want to make sure you stay marketable and on pace with your peers at other firms who are doing around 30-40 percent more than you. It is hard to leave a place you like, but at a minimum you should explore your options.

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Is there a reason you’re not asking for more work? Having a terrific team and firm is priceless!! Are you being knocked for not making hours?

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I mentioned in other comments that I’m repeatedly asking for work, the work just isn’t there (it’s a specialized practice group). No one in my practice group has a problem with my hours actually, I’m just worried management will and that I’ll be screwed Indefnitwly if I’m incompetent compared to my peers at other firms.

Imposter syndrome is my impression here. Laid offs are real things but as a second year you get trained for by grunt work but high skilled work. As long as you are doing good work, I don’t see how you bill 160 a month or even more will make a difference from billing 110-130 a month. Your market value is set in by your year, and so it won’t be easy for you to look for jobs as a second year. Wait till the 3rd or 4th to decide will be the best timing.

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