I am a first-year attorney in a 3 person firm (I’m the third). My bosses put me on the PD appointment list to ensure I have work but I absolutely dread court appearances and litigation. I wanted to be a transactional Atty. Over the last 2 weeks I’ve been living in a constant state of panic and (embarrassingly) cry in the bathroom at least once a day due to stress. I’m getting a therapist but am seriously considering leaving the firm with no backup. What do I do?

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Quit. No job is worth your mental health.

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Life comes first, it’s a long road of a career, pivot early when you can

Find a transactional role and then quit. Or, take it as an opportunity to improve on your advocacy.

Just an FYI, I also hated court appearances and trial work when i first started. I would get terrible anxiety about court. But early in my career I had no choice, I needed the money. So I took improv classes, intro to acting, toastmasters, etc. And with time, my anxiety and stress lessened around public speaking and court work. I got so good at it that later firms assumed I was a natural litigator and would assign me to do mostly trial work. It's not that I didn't get nervous anymore, it's that I'd experienced enough that I could ignore it better and perform.

The point is that you can quit if you want to but it might be better for you to try to overcome this. Some things you just need to experience in a safer environment to become better at it.

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Does your firm practice transactional law? I agree, with this level of distress, if you can afford it, I would just quit.

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I used to work at a three-person firm when I was a first year attorney. It was the worst work experience of my life for several reasons (the bosses were micro-managers and extremely invasive/unprofessional and treated me like an assistant; and they were passive aggressive). I quit without having a back up and I had two job offers in less than a week. I now work at a midsize firm and it is so much better. I rarely have court appearances (but if you stay in litigation, you’ll always have some court appearances). Just giving you my experience. Bigger firms have more training and t sounds like you need some training/mentoring.

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If I might take a contrarian position here, this is an opportunity to learn about criminal practice. I am sure you are capable of handling both the stress you are feeling and the cases assigned. The way you grow is to confront the problems and beat them.

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Perhaps I am old fashioned. The chance to do something out of my box excites and challenges me. Furthermore as a professional you need to overcome stress and feelings to do one’s job.

I do and have done pro Bono work for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. Some of what I am told by these clients is heartbreaking. If I were to allow that to stop me, these folks go on being abused.

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Make your mental health the top priority! We can’t tell if you can afford quitting without a back up or what kind of market you’re in (meaning can you find a job easily), so that’ll be up to you alone, but YOU are the most important thing.

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Quitting without a backup plan and needing the money but not having it might be even worse for OP’s mental health - decisions like these should be made with deliberation not reacting to (what is hopefully only) short term stress - everything new is hard in the beginning

If anyone doesn't get nervous, they'll screw something up.

If you're able, try it out. It's great experience. I also thought transactional work only was my path. Then I got into a courtroom and realized how fun it was. And that I really enjoy interacting with Judges.

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Idk if you should quit with nothing else lined up, that is super personal and fact dependent. But if nothing else, at least start sending out a couple of applications, maybe just one a night. Who knows, you might have something lined up sooner than you think.

Court appearances get easier and easier. You get to know the judges and their staff. Everyone gets nervous (if they care), so don’t think you’re the only one.

What is causing you to break down in tears? Stress from what? Fear of entering the court room? I am a transactional attorney and there is plenty to stress here too. I’m wondering if this is a grass is greener situation for you and maybe you need to just learn how to manage stress better, obvious I know, but my point is that it’s probably not the job that is the issue.

I suppose it’s possible that there are some low-stress attorney jobs you can pursue such as government work or something like that, but even those are probably stressful in their own way.

Editing to add: there’s a lot of nuance missing before you decide to quit or continue the job - I think you should try to stick it out and figure out if the stress is from something that will pass (fear of the courtroom and high-level responsibilities thrown on you) or if it’s just truly something that you can’t shake and doesn’t work for you. Either way, it should be thought out and don’t rush to give up your livelihood without a backup plan (assuming you need this job at all)

Why not talk to the partner who assigned you the court work? Just say you’re not cut out for that work and need to change back to office work.

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