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Female partner goes public with decision to quit ‘toxic’ law firm

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‘I’ve been killing myself taking crazy assignments and working intense hours’, writes mystery lawyer in candid Reddit post

A 38-year-old female partner has gone public with her decision to quit the “toxic” law firm she worked at for 13 years.

“I’ve been killing myself taking crazy assignments and working intense hours in order to further my career,” writes the unnamed lawyer, who goes by the username ‘feeling-likealoser’, in a candid post on social news forum Reddit. “I sacrificed so much for this company,” adds the lawyer, who does not name the firm but appears to be based in the US.

Once she made partner she realised she was exerting effort to the point where the money wasn’t worth it. “While I made good money, I was not pulling in even 50% of the comp[ensation] compared to my male partners that managed a book of business about one third of my size.”

We learn in the short post shared in the ‘relationships’ subreddit, that the woman resigned after the partner in charge of her department (again, unknown) didn’t make any of the changes she requested. She now faces unemployment because she hasn’t lined up another job and seeks readers’ advice because everyone around her is questioning her decision to leave whilst at the pinnacle of her career.

“Ever since I resigned, everyone in my life other than my husband has been questioning my decision even when I have clearly set boundaries,” she continues. “I have three more weeks with the firm and have agreed to transition the clients. Every client, co-worker, family member, and friend has been in shock that I don’t have something lined up. They think it’s crazy to leave at the peak of my career in the middle of a pandemic.”

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

But she says she’s “so burnt out” to the point that she’s not looking for another position. “I feel like a complete loser that I don’t have something lined up but I really don’t have the energy anymore to put even a tiny bit of effort to find the next job.”

The post, first spotted by our friends over at Above The Law, continues:

“I just want to be free of that toxic place and take the next six months or so to recover. Honestly after all of this, I just need some time to myself. I’m completely drained.”

She asks readers how best to respond to people that are “baffled” by her decision to resign and whom she says don’t understand why she no longer wants to work in her thirties. “I don’t know how to best respond to this without ruining relationships or being way to personal with people that I don’t feel comfortable sharing my innermost thoughts,” she says, adding: “What would you say to people when they ask why you are leaving and where you are going when 1) some are people you are not close with and 2) some are people you are very close with and care deeply about?”

In addition to her predicament the anonymous lawyer says she has known some of her colleagues for a long time and has gone through “the trenches” with them so she doesn’t want to risk saying anything that “makes them feel bad about staying”. She concludes: “I also feel like a complete failure when I say I’m taking time off.”

In the comments, the OP (original poster) says she has no immediate financial concerns. “When you work all the time and forgo taking a vacation, shopping, or even having kids for more than a decade, it’s a lot easier to save money.”

OP received lots of comments in support of her career decision. One user neatly put:

“Your time and your physical and mental health are important. This is a big wide open world, and our lives are very short, you are so brave to take the life you want. If anyone had a problem with it, they can go duck themselves.”

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40 Comments

Anonymous

Bye! There are always those that can’t take the heat.

(213)(231)

Poopot

Nice.

(2)(2)

Nona

And there are always those who easily can but realise that there are better things to do in life.

(169)(153)

Kirkland 3PQE rainmaker

Savage bantz young king! You keep smashing those deals, earning phat stacks and powering down the streets of London in your new Lambo. We don’t need the weak ones to slow us down.

(35)(30)

Non-millenial

The problem with the desire for work life balance, is that there will always be people willing to work when others aren’t. It would take everyone, in all parts of the work chain, so change their culture. All clients would need to be willing to only work with firms that don’t overwork their employees. It only takes one client to break ranks for the entire thing to fall apart, as the firm that pushes people harder mops up. Imagine the GC telling the CEO “you know on that big £500m litigation, well we went with X firm because they don’t flog their associates to death rather than the firm that ensures they all leave the office at 5pm and don’t check emails at night.” Now the standard retort to that is people don’t work efficiently when overworked – but you can be worked pretty hard before that really happens.

I asked a recent NQ at a Magic Circle firm what he thought about his work shy contemporaries. His answer was that he loved it – because he knew in due course that he would get picked when others had clocked off at 5.30pm. He just had to virtue signal and then surreptitiously go and ask for more work from the partners.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love the idea that this profession could instigate a pleasant work life balance – but it just isn’t ever going to happen.

(74)(7)

Kirkland NQ

That MC NQ knows where it’s at. This way he’ll be on track to earn his phat stacks bonus…oh wait, he doesn’t work at a megalaw US firm lmao

(11)(21)

Anon

True, but that NQ will be sniffing powder and pretending he’s still 25 age 45, while I’m enjoying time with my two children.

I’m not saying there’s a right or wrong answer (though if you are going to wholeheartedly commit yourself to a calling at the expense of family life, I can think of a million things better and more meaningful than being a corporate solicitor). But I support a system that lets people who prioritise other things over their work carve out some sort of niche.

The workaholics can still work. The people who don’t want to have that life are fully aware there is a choice to be made – they just want to be able to make it.

(46)(3)

Realist

>”The people who don’t want to have that life are fully aware there is a choice to be made – they just want to be able to make it.”

They can: go in-house, or change career entirely. No one owes us a living, less still a lifestyle optimised for our idealised preferences.

(20)(4)

anon

The free market doesn’t have all the answers, you know. That’s why the law provides for minimum holidays, free weekends, maternity leave, paternity leave, sick leave, etc.

This issue is no different. We don’t say to those who don’t want to work at weekends “why don’t you just change career then”.

Anonymous

They want the money of the job but not to do the hours. Pathetic.

anon

Jul 8 2020 6:07pm: We don’t say to those who don’t want to work at weekends “why don’t you just change career then”.

Yes, we do.

Truth Serum

“I’m not saying there’s a right or wrong answer (though if you are going to wholeheartedly commit yourself to a calling at the expense of family life, I can think of a million things better and more meaningful than being a corporate solicitor). ”

This is the realist thing I have read on Legal Cheek for a while. By all means sacrifice a family life for something, but let it be more important than capital markets or private equity.

(54)(0)

Realist

I trained at a magic circle firm, then moved to a US firm on qualification. You are correct. What you say applies even more so at US firms, as we have higher expectations re. billable hours and availability.

10 billable hours/working day is a typical baseline for us, equating to about 12 hours in the office (pre-COVID 19). We’re also expected to be responsive at weekends, and potentially even on holiday. I’m not criticising those who make different choices: I respect my friends who decided that they would rather be in-house, but your point about ‘work-life’ balance is well-founded. If people don’t like it, they need to look elsewhere. (This would be different of course if firms struggled to recruit people, but they don’t.)

We are extraordinarily well paid, we are volunteers, and if we don’t like it, we can leave.

(31)(1)

MEGA DOLLAH

Go back to your contract law foundations textbook you arrogant law student. People like you are the first to sink in practice.

(0)(10)

rosefinch

you’re horrible

(0)(0)

Questionable

“I was not pulling in even 50% of the comp[ensation] compared to my male partners that managed a book of business about one third of my size.” There are objective metrics to hit for a certain level of compensation. There might be a certain level of discretionary compensation but I think here there is an element of exaggerating to prove a point.

(37)(9)

Anonymous

Or it is a firm where equity is paid by reference to equity. Newbie impatience.

(15)(0)

MC@CE

If a 38-year-old partner with a triple-size book of business was on the market anyone would pay a triple-size salary for that. Preposterous to think firms would put gender over profits.

(32)(5)

Bigger book != more profit generated

75 RTA claims < 25 big transactions

(3)(0)

Kirkland Lambo Owners' Club

The problem is that there will always be people willing to work themselves into an early grave for that much money. If you quit in search of work life balance, more power to you, but there’ll be 5 others frothing at the mouth for the position. There won’t be a culture shift, because even if a firm wide policy of better hours is implemented, clients will just use a different firm which will get things done faster. Ultimately a client isn’t going to care a great deal about the work life balance of the firm they use, especially when you look at the hours worked in other financial industries. Whilst I admire her principles, the biennial C-Class, swish apartment (with the promise of a country pile later down the line) and drinks at the Ned are enough to keep a certain type of person firmly anchored in place.

(26)(1)

Anon

The Ned – lol. Give me a pint at Craft Beer Co Leather Lane over the Ned any day.

If the Ned is your idea of ‘great’ I’d question why you don’t just move to Dubai or some other materialistic hole full of gauche idiots.

(21)(17)

Anonymous

She makes some very good points, her gender isn’t an issue and she doesn’t appear to be trying to make it so.

(15)(21)

Anon

Interesting take.

My sister was a partner at an MC shop and quit for similar reasons, but very nearly didn’t because the lifestyle is so entrapping.

She’s suffered with eating issues her whole life (all girls boarding school for you) but in her mid-30s just had a complete breakdown. Despite the huge harm to her health, afterwards she genuinely couldn’t see how she could quit and live on less than (her own words) “nothing ludicrous, maybe just three or four hundred grand”.

The only reason she didn’t go back was because my brother in law, a doctor, got a consultant job outside London and pointed out that another breakdown was inevitable if she stayed and any ensuing divorce would see him get the kids as they barely knew her. She moved, changed practice area and is much happier now, but sure lots of people go through similar and just go straight back to the treadmill afterwards.

(37)(0)

Anon

I think you have to really know yourself whether you can withstand that working culture for how long. People have different temperaments. There are pros to moneylaw law firms such as big money, excellent savings (if you’re good with money), amazing deals, great connections etc. Then I think we all know the cons: constantly being available, shit work life balance, mental health. Personally, I do think it’s one of those careers (unless you have ambitions to be partner which also fine) to spend how many years milking it and then perhaps find a less stressful job with a better work life balance whilst still being moderately rich and experienced. Again, that’s just a decision you have to make.

(20)(1)

Senior lawyer

Like with any job, it’s either works for you and your personality or it doesnt. It isn’t one size fits all. I personally couldn’t be a doctor or a paramedic but for those people they thrive on it. PE deals are fast paved, document heavy and across different time zones which means lawyers need to be on call and working 24/7. Personally I’ve never found this an issue for me – on holiday I can respond to emails on the beach or I can use my iPad whilst out and about no big deal. If you’re the type of person who feels this is too stressful or who doesn’t enjoy the on call culture then it’s not for you and that’s fine but totally normal – don’t get what the issues is. As a client I’d prefer my lawyer to be responsive to my emails.

(14)(3)

Anon

The issue I have with holidays isn’t to be responsive to clients, that’s fine and why you get paid so much, it’s the expectation you’ll actually do the deal whilst you’re there.

I recorded 86 billable hours on my last fortnight holiday for a deal I’d never even worked on before I went, that’s a decent chunk of the holiday gone on work with no chance of getting it back. Maybe our firm’s particularly under staffed/psychopathic, but I don’t think it’s unusual.

(10)(0)

Anon

I feel for you.

Take some time as you have the finances to support yourself and give yourself a break to decide what you want to do.

If you want to stay in law consider a smaller firm in a different area and where there is a good mix of female lawyers at the top.

Don’t let your bad experience ruin your future. Enjoy the time now, learn a language or even do nothing. Reassess things and move forward.

Good luck to you.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

Its not a gender issue. There may have been a lot of female lawyers at the firm she left for all we know. She doesn’t say that she doesn’t want to have a male boss.

(5)(15)

Random passer-by

As hard as some people work in law, by 40 you should really be a wealth creator and not just a salary slave. Some people become so comfortable, then they look up at 55 and have no kids or have kids that are spoilt and don’t know their parents, and all you’ve done is work for someone else. To be successful in life, at some point you have to put in intense hours. However how much better to do that when young then by 35 set up your own business, go into politics, become an academic etc. Even bankers are out by 35-40 and go and do their own thing after that. Work for yourself, the rewards are much greater.

(36)(0)

Anon

Never a truer word said.

I’m not knocking those people who have salaried jobs and perform valuable services – doctors, teachers etc.

But the only way to be truly free in life (other than inheriting vast wealth) is to successfully freelance. You need to be your own boss if you want freedom. And no I don’t mean be a self employed barrister – they are still bossed by other people.

(16)(0)

Student

I frequently see London US firm (not K&E) Partners on LinkedIn making partner at 8-10PQE. How common is this and is it salary or equity?

(1)(1)

Anon

Depends on practice area and firm, but 8 would probably be a budding superstar or someone who fell lucky when a partner retirement in their team and they inherited a client book. 10 is pretty common and, on the whole, if you’re going to get the nod it will probably come at 10-12 PQE.

Unless the partnership’s all equity you’d be going in as fixed share 99% of the time.

(1)(0)

Not a snarky comment

In all seriousness, focus on the TC for now, and don’t get your head stuck in the partnership timetable. getting the TC, surviving the LPC (if you get the accelerated one), performing well in your TC and being kept on is hard enough on its own. Once you get past that hurdle, you can start contemplating partnership in a practical ‘how many years will it take me’ way, but until then that’s just wishful thinking.

(15)(0)

Yup

Agree wholeheartedly Randompasserby

(0)(0)

Random passer-by

Cheers. I think it is good to work hard, get top A levels, go to a good Uni and get a good TC. Then work for some years to get good commercial experience, professional discipline and contacts and build up your savings. But after that, much better to spend 16 hours a day building your own business or pursuing a passion. Most lawyers get great experience from firms but are not courageous enough to use that in business (in fairness many perhaps lack the social skills). A good solicitor is like a waiter at a business lunch. Important to the experience and gets a tip at the end, but isn’t part of the discussions where the real money is made.

(9)(0)

Sceptical

Whilst I agree with you, it’s really not that easy to just go start a successful business and keep the mortgage and bills paid. If you have done it, fantastic. But beware winners’ bias.

As a insolvency barrister, I see all the business failures, the debt, the bankruptcy, the divorce, the litigation. Even if you have managed to save 2/3/4 hundred grand by your mid the late thirties it is still a massive punt to just quit everything and start a business.

To be honest, I view a lot of these entrepreneurs/ failed businessmen (mostly men) as self-indulgent and selfish. I appreciate that this is how capitalism works and society benefits but it can be so destructive when it (usually) fails. The vast vast majority of people are not wealth creators or visionaries. Most people have never really had an original thought.

Really, if you had any sense on a high salary, you would save every penny and invest in appreciating assets (stocks) and manage the money and watch it grow at 7% compound interest. With £500,000, this would be nearly £4m in 30 years.

The unfortunate reality is that ‘wealth creation’ these days usually means asset appreciation. The big boys sitting at the big table are usually playing with big boy money gained on capital appreciation rather making millions the next app (even those apps don’t seem to make money but are thrown money but private equity having generating so much money investing in equity stocks that they are simply happy to throw it around and find out what sticks)

(24)(0)

Anon

One’s experience can be coloured by exposure to the barrow boy end of the market re businessmen. I should know – I’ve represented many.

Not every start up has to be the loadsamoney, Dagenham Dave types. The ones you mention who are selfish, worship at the altar of mammon to the exclusion of all else, and end up bust and divorced with their trophy ex wife not letting them see the kids for the sole reason they don’t keep her in Louboutins any more.

There are a wide range of people who start businesses. Some are actually quite bright and thoughtful. If you are one of those types, that’s who you will be. But if you always were Dagenham Dave…

(6)(1)

Anon

If you have absolutely no ambition, you can head to the career graveyards of the offshore world, such as the BVI. True enough, nobody will take you seriously from a professional perspective, but you will have a short commute and a generally higher quality of life.

(41)(1)

Blonde Kurt Mercury

Goes public; doesn’t name firm. I’m gonna buy insurance on that story, thank you.

(1)(0)

Fred

Clickbait idiots

(0)(0)

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