Neurodiverse young attorney here (soon to be in my 4th year of practice). Neurodiverse attorneys, how do you deal with the “follow the rules” vs. “use your common sense” balancing act? Specifically with office culture and partner expectations, not the law part. I feel like I’m constantly trying to know the rules and expectations and follow them. But when I do follow them, I get told it’s less about the rules and more using your common sense. It’s confusing. All thoughts and guidance appreciated.

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To know when to follow the rules versus when to break them, you need to know the rule and why the rule is in place/what the rule is trying to accomplish. That means sometimes (in appropriate settings) asking someone more senior than you why we do things a certain way. When I understand why we do things a certain way, I can think through whether I need to follow the rule in each particular scenario.

Could also just be a function of who you work with/your company culture. Different people fit into different environments, so it might not be an issue with you but with an inconsistent environment with erratic partners who expect you to guess their every whim

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I completely agree with you on understanding the reason behind why we do what we do. I feel completely validated by the 2nd part, because that’s exactly how I feel. I don’t think it’s a winnable fight at this point.

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Fellow neurodivergent lawyer here (going into 8th year- big-ish firm litigation). The only way I’ve found is trial and error, observation and adaption where you can (MUCH easier said than done as an ND person, of course), and giving yourself as much grace as you can within reason.

Odds are the people setting the rules/tone don’t have a great grasp of when to follow them versus when to use common sense, either. They just look better by comparison because they had the power to set them in the first place.

I know that may come off as cold comfort, but it’s the only way I’ve been able to cope.

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Ah, that makes a lot of sense. Godspeed!

Update: No longer with the firm. Collected a nice big last paycheck. Multiple clients stayed with me. And I was able to take my power back in a respectful and professional manner. Both working the cases that stayed with me AND looking for another, healthier position. Thank you everyone for the advice. I appreciate all the support!!

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