Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Career Advice - How much longer do I have?

I worked 2 years inhouse and 2 years at a regional big law f asssociate1205/24/17
What you described doesn't sound like they have faith in you stickysituation05/25/17
You've been put on notice. You probably have about 6-12 mont mrtor05/25/17
I agree with mrtor. Start searching. Worst case, you get a j thirdtierlaw05/25/17
Did you misrepresent your skill set? What area of law? retard05/25/17
I think both parties thought that I was at a higher level. I asssociate1205/25/17
First impressions are hard to change. And if they think you tacocheese05/25/17
The partner told you two things to work on for the next six dingbat05/25/17
^ This. The discussion could very well be a signal of your i ejs201705/25/17
Some good points both ways but I tend to agree with those te pauperesq05/25/17
Maybe I'm being optimistic, but I think that they're simply greenhorn05/25/17
I agree with the others that say its time to start looking. associatex06/07/17
@OP, was the review meeting done in the presence of HR? If justdoingok06/07/17
asssociate12 (May 24, 2017 - 8:57 pm)

I worked 2 years inhouse and 2 years at a regional big law firm. I've been at my new V50 biglaw firm a little over a year and recently received my first review. The review basically in a nutshell was that I didn't have as much experience in a certain field of law as they initially thought.

While I am competent handling more day to day tasks (aka general work), I wasn't able to handle higher level things and that my skills are 1-2 years behind. Everyone liked me but I am not getting certain work because I do not have as much expertise as they initially thought when they brought me in. The main partner that I work for stated that my knowledge is at a good level, but that I just didn't have enough experience to provide practical solutions without him checking my work. My hours aren't super good but they are not bad either. No one has complained about me billing too much.


How long do you think I have before I will get let go? I was thinking probably another review cycle (6 months) and a few months after that. I was hoping to make it to two years before I move but I think I will probably start looking right now.

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stickysituation (May 25, 2017 - 6:23 am)

What you described doesn't sound like they have faith in you as an asset going forward. They have given you as clear a sign as it gets that you are on the chopping block. So if it were me, I'd start looking right now.

But perhaps someone with biglaw experience at this level can chime in: is there any use asking the main partner directly? "Is there any future for me here or should I begin looking elsewhere?" The downside of course is that your work will dry up immediately. But perhaps that will happen anyway.

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mrtor (May 25, 2017 - 10:28 am)

You've been put on notice. You probably have about 6-12 months, but you need to start looking immediately.

Too many people recommend "sticking it out" and waiting to see what happens. This is about your future, not theirs. Waiting for the ax to drop is how you get your head cut off. And once you are unemployed it is an uphill battle to get back into the game. Most people cannot turn things around once the well has poisoned. Thinking you are the exception is how you lose everything.

You can conduct a smart job search under the radar. Simply do not reach out to opposing firms, firm clients, attorneys who work closely with your supervising partners, etc. You may need to consider stepping down a level to avoid a repeat situation. Your firm has been kind enough to give you notice to move and save your career before you are terminated. You best use it.

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thirdtierlaw (May 25, 2017 - 10:41 am)

I agree with mrtor. Start searching. Worst case, you get a job offer and turn it down because your current firm decided to keep you on board. Waiting until you're fired can be extremely problematic. Firms are going to want to know why. Whereas now, you can say, "I do not see a future with my firm and your firm offers greater opportunities and room for growth."

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retard (May 25, 2017 - 6:35 am)

Did you misrepresent your skill set? What area of law?

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asssociate12 (May 25, 2017 - 8:21 am)

I think both parties thought that I was at a higher level. I genuinely thought I was at a high level. Maybe it was because of work I was doing at a midlaw firm and inhouse. The problem is that I am supporting 2 different niche areas of law and they have an expectation that I am at a 4th-5th year level for both areas. At the end of the meeting the partner told me to work on 2 things for the next 6 months. Not sure if that buys me 6 months or if it is just a random statement that he made.

The one partner that I get most of my work from seems to be willing to work with me and has taken time out to teach me certain things.

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tacocheese (May 25, 2017 - 9:23 am)

First impressions are hard to change. And if they think you haven't "figured it out" in a year, I'm not sure you can fix it in six months. I doubt they'll fire you unless they've given you a stronger sign to look elsewhere first.

If it were me, I'd work at it for some more time and try to informally talk to one of your partners about whether you've improved or whether they think the job is not a good fit.

Disclosure: never worked biglaw

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dingbat (May 25, 2017 - 10:10 am)

The partner told you two things to work on for the next six months. While you are potentially on the chopping block, you also potentially can make it up.
You need to work really hard on those things. No one knows how long it'll be before you run out of time, so you need to catch up ASAP. Show them that (a) you're serious about putting in the effort to catch up and learn, and (b) that you're actually capable of operating at the level they need you to be at.

If you're serious, put in the extra time and effort, work your butt off, and make sure the partners know it. Learn things that are above your level, ask them (not too often) about some technical aspects that you could be expected to know by this time next year but may not have come across during regular work, etc.

Depending on the partner (be very careful about this) you may want to ask for help - schedule a meeting, or preferably a series of meetings at regular intervals, where you can ask high-level technical questions or go over issues that you may not have come across yet but can reasonably expect in the future.
This will give you an opportunity to (a) prove your dedication to learning, (b) showcase your progress, and (c) create a better relationship with said partner.
Early in my career I had a partner literally block off half a day for me to ask any and every question I could think of. The fact that I brought up something on a current transaction that no one had picked up on, and was an actual error, is something that the partner would mention years afterwards. (this transaction involved teams of lawyers at 4 different firms, not to mention the in-house attorneys at 2 large banks and a very sophisticated boutique financial firm)

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ejs2017 (May 25, 2017 - 10:37 am)

^ This. The discussion could very well be a signal of your impending termination. It could also be an attempt to kick you in the backside.

You are obviously talented enough to have gotten into that firm in the first place. Look at it as an opportunity.

Cure your knowledge deficiencies, bring up your hours and, if you go down, at least do so fighting.

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pauperesq (May 25, 2017 - 10:59 am)

Some good points both ways but I tend to agree with those telling you to start looking elsewhere. If it were me, I would have taken that review as a "read between the lines" discussion. Of course, I could be wrong, but why wait around to find out? Putting in time to improve your skill set MIGHT save your job, but you're expected to do that anyway.

Reach out to recruiters that can help you with a lateral move. As someone above said, it's much easier to explain to a potential employer that your current firm just wasn't a good fit rather than explaining why you were terminated.

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greenhorn (May 25, 2017 - 11:54 am)

Maybe I'm being optimistic, but I think that they're simply giving you a chance to improve and develop as an attorney with the firm. I think that if you were really as "bad," as you think you are, that "review," would have turned into a meeting that involved a cardboard box and walking papers.

You said they like you and it seems as if you get along with you co-workers. If so, that's a big plus, and this meeting was simply a "heads up," about what they want you to improve on. I would do two things during the coming months. 1.) Start improving and learning more about that particular niche area of law and 2.) start looking around....just in case.

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associatex (Jun 7, 2017 - 1:45 am)

I agree with the others that say its time to start looking. Its never a good sign when a partner tells you after a year of supervising you that he isnt pleased at having to review your work product. What happened to OP happened to me when I first started out, I should have taken it as a sign that the ax would fall (which it did shortly afterward) than just a gentle kick in the pants (it all happened near the holidays when billing was super slow so I was caught completely off guard). Fortunately I waa able to find a job literally a week after being told the firm "wasnt a good fit", but I dont regret taking on the challenge of having pushed myself to land the job offer knowing I was completely inexperienced for the position.

It sounds like this firm is giving you a chance to get up to speed within 6 months, so you are in a tough spot because now the pressure is on you to deliver results that meet their expectations. I would start working up that LinkedIn profile and brush off the resume now, you may think 6 months is all you need but it could be even sooner if the partners change their mind.

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justdoingok (Jun 7, 2017 - 8:33 am)

@OP, was the review meeting done in the presence of HR? If so, it is to document that notice was given. If not, then it may be more of a genuine 2nd chance meeting, but still could be a more informal notice.

I've seen a few instances of the notice meetings in big law. It does depend on your partner and how niche your areas of law is. If they think they can get another person in the door in 6 months with the required rxperience, then they may be looking to let you go. If it is a hot niche area (tax, certain IP) where there are not many qualified candidates, then they may wait some more time to see if you improve.

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