{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "I constantly see caution from those practicing advising newbies to cut and run/quit this profession. Do you feel you were ill prepared for what being a lawyer actually entails or is it more burnout? What led you to law and what has pushed you to advise those considering law or about to start practicing to consider alternatives?", "post_id": "6107b43e8b2b48002fd3ef1b", "reply_count": 18, "vote_count": 6, "bowl_id": "5da60c126e5f0d001f32f497", "bowl_name": "Women in Law" }

I constantly see caution from those practicing advising newbies to cut and run/quit this profession. Do you feel you were ill prepared for what being a lawyer actually entails or is it more burnout? What led you to law and what has pushed you to advise those considering law or about to start practicing to consider alternatives?

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The emotional drain. Pleasing unreasonable partners/seniors and putting up with toxic behaviors just because they're higher up on the hierarchy. Missing plans. Inadequate learning because you're too overwhelmed billing for tedious mundane tasks. Playing the billables game. Feeling dumb for not knowing something when higher ups won't make an effort to actually teach or train. Fire drills over non urgent unimportant things. Unilaterally taking much needed support from my romantic partner with nothing left to give back. I'm only two years in -- pray for me.

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💯

I don’t think I was ill-prepared, it’s just that work sucks. I’m in my 5th year of practice and recently left biglaw to go in-house. There is literally no amount of money that would convince me to go back to biglaw. The hours, unpredictability, lack of control, obsessive need to please, being at the mercy of partners and clients, countless lost weekends, tedious work, 1000+ emails a day, etc etc is NOT conducive to a good life for me. I was in finance in nyc so it was especially bad. That being said, I probably wouldn’t have landed the job I have now (which is 1000 times better) without first going through that special hell. I also made some really good friends in my associate class, which I am the most thankful for. Of course, I think I could have been equally happy doing something else too that didn’t involve law. I tell people that if there is ANYTHING else they wish to pursue in life, they should do that instead rather than go to law school because it’s simply not worth it otherwise. Biglaw is a place where you slowly forget how much more to life there is than work. And so it’s especially dangerous in that regard.

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Whether you are happy or not depends, to a large degree, on what type of work you do and whether it fits your style as well as where you work. Some people like litigation and others like transactional. If you get the chance to do a bit of each then do it because you will get a feel for both. Then, you can decide which one you like more. The right place to work is harder. Also, a good place to work can turn toxic. So, you may feel like you hit the jackpot and realize ten years later that it’s not what it used to be. The hours are long, the job is emotionally and mentally demanding (some areas more so than others) and when something goes wrong clients like to point the blame at their attorneys. So, there can be a constant worry that you will get sued. Even if it is frivolous, you still have to deal with it (which is where a good malpractice policy can make a huge difference). Also, a lot of law either deals with fixing clients’ mistakes or outright willfully poor decisions or cautioning them not to make bad decisions that they then decide to do anyway. A large segment of the population finds little joy in talking to an attorney. Clients can also have poor boundaries on their expectation of their attorneys’ availability. Partners are squeezed from the top (either self-imposed or imposed upon them) and that trickles down. So, it can feel really frustrating for a long time. But, if you make it your goal to find a place that is a good fit for you with work you like and a place you like to work at you can find that. Of course, that may mean chucking it all and working for yourself. But, there are good firms out there, too. You also have to ask whether you would be happier doing non-attorney work. Many non-attorney jobs are not as mentally challenging and, therefore, create their own stress from that since attorneys tend to be happy (sometimes miserably happy) when they are challenged. Bad bosses and bad organizations can be found in all professions. So, there is no guarantee you would be in a better place outside of law. But, you may find better work life balance. Depending on if you are in Big Law or something smaller you may or may not easily find another job that pays as well when you find something that does provide work life balance. Beware the tendency to align your spending with your salary. If you do that, then you may find it impossible to get out if you end up hating it. Once your monthly expenses hit a certain threshold it can be very hard to downsize to accommodate a lower salary if needed later. But, helping people solve their problems and putting the puzzle pieces of a case or transaction together can be really, really satisfying. We have the ability to help people solve great problems in their lives or to help them achieve things that work out really well for them. That comes with both prestige and great personal satisfaction. You will need to spend time getting to know the attorney you and then find out where that attorney you fits best in the world. Most people who are miserable either don’t know their attorney selves or do know and know they can’t get to a situation where their attorney selves are satisfied. It’s not easy, but it is doable. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made to find that place where we each belong, though.

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Wow FPA1: this is super wise. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

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I think law was a perfect fit for me on paper. I’m a transactional associate & I honestly can’t fault myself for choosing this. I think business concepts are fascinating. I love solving complex problems. I love building relationships with clients. I love the project management aspect of major deals. Despite all that though, I’m miserable. I hate my job and I’ve spent years trying to get out. For me, it’s the surrounding facts & circumstances that make everything unbearable. The constant anxiety & fear of making a mistake, the emotional drain, the unreasonable timelines, never being able to turn off, lack of support, lack of collaboration…the list goes on & on. I never tell people not to go into law, but I’m *very* direct about the downsides. I did years and years of research before I started law school. I shadowed & had coffee with many lawyers before i went & during law school. Not one of them told me about the downsides. I’m not sure I would have taken a different path if they had been honest…but I really wish I had been given all the facts.

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The partner and firm make a world of difference. I was ready to quit the profession 4 months ago and having serious anxiety issues. Recently switched to a new firm with much better support, way better partner, and renewed trust in my experience and skill level and it’s been a whole new view on being a lawyer. I don’t think it was unrealistic expectations for the profession as much as the attempt to normalize toxic work environments and toxic partners that drives people out.

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Does it somewhat get better once you are at a partner level or is that a myth? Or even "senior"?

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It’s because you have to do your own work, review and fix everyone else’s on your team, train everyone else on your team and just generally be responsible for everything. You’re leading all calls, have to be on all calls and dealing with all emails so by the time you start doing your own work like marking up a merger agreement, it’s midnight but that’s the only time you can have to do it. Juniors and mid-levels have no appreciation for what it means to be a senior, so they just serve up their work and expect a senior to fix it, have no problem in sending you a draft of something that needs to go out that same day, or tell you that they are underwater on another matter so they can’t do any of your matter’s work today that is due today. Everything falls on to plate.

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When I was young, I thought I just need to work hard as I’d be lucky to have this job. Over the years, you start to grow up and resent it and realize that you shouldn’t have to drop everything else for the sake of this job. I wouldn’t call myself clever - just hardworking. Joining big law has allowed me to earn a lot of money in a short space of time and without being exceptionally clever. Not many jobs give you this but it comes at a high price later. If I knew what it entailed would I have gone into it - probably yes for the reasons above. So who am I to discourage others who are looking to join for the same reasons. All other reasons - reconsider profession.

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