Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Job Insecurity

I haven't wanted to blog too close in time to various Big Firm events because then it would be pretty easy for everyone to figure out what Big Firm I worked at. Needless to say, however, my Big Firm is effected like many others out there. We've had layoffs. As far as I'm aware only staff, no attorneys were laid off but attorneys have been let go for performance reasons more quickly than in past years.

A lot of people in my "class" have stuck around - not necessarily because they think they'll make partner but we've been busy and the money (especially bonuses) has been good so no real reason to seek out a new job. Now I wonder if the performance review I'll have next December will be a time for them to let senior associates go who are not close enough to partner material.

I'm not sure really what my situation is. I'm in a smaller department but there aren't a lot of senior associates so I think they'd keep me around until I'm closer to partnership timing. Or they could think of me (hopefully) as partner material. The advice I received at my recent review was to start acting like a partner. But honestly I don't often feel like I have the skill set to not have a partner review aspects of the contracts I draft/comment on - especially in large LBO deals where what is "market" is always evolving. I know I'll get there some day but I'd be okay with another couple of years of supervision as I specialize.

Husband and I recognize that unlike years past I can expect little to no bonus this year even if I could make our minimum billable hours (given that I was on unpaid leave). Firms have been hinting that associates should be happy to have jobs. I agree. I am very, very happy I have a job especially since I like what I do even though the hours suck. The other night I was thinking about how the worst part of my job is how nothing gets started until 3 pm or later. You always have work to do in the AM, but the real crunch is always afternoon to evening which is why I am not counting on being home for bedtime but rather trying to spend 2 hours in the AM with my kids before I head off to work.

Many of my lawyer-mom friends who I've been having playdates with are coming back "part-time" (which is 40 hrs a week). I am okay with coming back full-time. One reason is that it could continue to be slow for another quarter or two. I also think that I need to "prove" that I'm back in the saddle and as dedicated as pre-kids. Based on what I've seen at the Firm you can only make partner if you put your work first. That is probably why it is usually men and not women who make partner - we women are less likely to have someone at home taking care of the house and kids full-time. I don't know yet how I'm going to feel when I miss bedtime after bedtime and the first time I have to work over a weekend. But I told myself that I would give my career a chance and that is what I'm going to do.


LauraC said...

Jon and I grapple with this decision a lot ourselves. He gets paid a lot more to be a traveling software consultant than I get paid to be a non-traveling software developer. And while it is hard that he's not around as much, when the kids were smaller it wasn't as big of a deal. They were very easily adaptable to any situation.

It has started to change now that the boys have gotten older. They ask for Jon a lot and if they are acting out and I discipline them, they will cry for Jon.

For us, we just go with the best decision we can make at the time. For now, it works for our family. My job is flexible enough that I can take up all the slack of his being gone. And because of how much we get paid, we can outsource a lot of the stuff that would take time away from the kids.

I think you can only know how you feel about working once you start working. I used to feel like a "bad" mom because I don't want to stay home. But I feel a lot more fulfilled and happier working outside the home.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog through others I read and have been reading for a while. I feel compelled to comment on this post because it is something that I can totally relate to.

I have 18.5 month old twins and was a corporate lawyer at a Big Firm for several years before they were born. I went back to work full time. It didn't really work for me so I moved to a part-time schedule, which I absolutely loved. The key was that I worked for primarily one partner that was totally supportive of my position and respected my time. The other thing that helped my situation work was that I was flexible...when there were deals that needed to get done, I had to work late or be available to work from home. But, I was home 90% of the time to put my kids to bed. It really is all about what works best for you and your situation. Being a full time lawyer and mom is tough, but some people can do it and I agree that you should give your career a chance. I think if I hadn't tried it, I would have always wondered if I could have done it.

And I speak past tense about my Big Firm job because I left about six months ago to go in house. It was a decision that I probably wouldn't have made on my own...just different things happening at the firm that made it a little unstable. I think if I could have, I would have stayed and worked part time forever. It really was the best of both worlds.

Anonymous said...

Brace yourself: review may sting a little. We learned through back channels that reviews would be tougher to lay groundwork for performance related dismissals.
Sure enough, last week my review included trumped up negatives that defied logic.

Another firm's managing partner said they were going to call it performance related until they realized they had too many to get away with... Nice.