Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

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biglaw atty

Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

Post by biglaw atty » Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:44 pm

(Some info slightly tweaked to avoid outing)

I'm a 2016/2017 law school grad. Earlier this year, I was stealthed (with severance and web site time) from my first firm, where I was a summer. I was told it was for performance issues (e.g. making too many mistakes and not doing a good job of incorporating feedback/comments) and it was suggested that I find a firm that is more "structured". In law school, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My medication helps, but I still have manic and depressive episodes pretty frequently. Throughout my time at this firm, I had a few really bad manic episodes in the office that resulted from very stressful matters and I missed a lot of work time due to my disorder. This firm has a rep for being a sweatshop, and the people that I worked with often got angry about my absenteeism. I never told the firm that I was bipolar, but I told some colleagues who I worked closely with, and most of the senior people I told didn't seem to care and I got phased out of a couple of those matters.

Luckily, I was interviewing with other firms when I got stealthed and got an offer shortly after at a firm that was definitely more structured and seemed like a better fit. Unfortunately, I had the same performance issues, but my disorder wasn't affecting my work as badly. I never told the new firm that I'm bipolar. I got fired very recently from the second firm after 5 months with no severance and no website time, but I'm still trying to negotiate. My performance issues were mentioned and the partners and senior associates in my group said they couldn't trust me to perform at the level they needed me to perform.

I have no idea what to do. At this point, I feel like I'm just a lemon. I was fired from both of my high school jobs, a couple of college part-time jobs, and got no-offered at a college internship. I did hold my first job out of undergrad for 3 years, but I was going to get fired at the end of the year if I didn't go to law school, and I got "resourced out" of the first group I was in at that company due to performance issues. Academically, I've been very successful and had good grades at a top 3 law school.

I still have about $100k in student loans, but I do have enough cash to pay my bills/expenses for at least a year. I'm too afraid to go back to school for anything because I don't want more debt and to end up not being able to hold a job in that new field. I have a lot of medical expenses, so no health insurance would suck, but I can pay for COBRA for a little while.

Any advice would be extremely helpful. The only people I know with bipolar disorder either live off trust funds, work for their parents, or work minimum wage jobs. None of these are options for me. I plan on applying for unemployment and disability. I spent about 6 months towards the end of last year trying to transition out of law, and had 1 first round interview after applying/networking for about 200 jobs.

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Re: Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

Post by ymmv » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:50 pm

Have you considered legal work somewhere less demanding than a big law firm? Or even something adjacent, like law school recruiting?
I apologize if this sounds ignorant — I don’t really know much about workplace disability — but do you think it might be easier to make it work somewhere if you disclosed your condition and the accommodations it requires? Not necessarily before hiring, I mean, though at least after.

I’m really sorry to hear how rough it’s been. Hopefully someone here can speak with more firsthand experience. The fact that you performed so well as a student suggests to me this really is a matter of finding the right structure and an accommodating work environment. I wonder if it’s worth reaching out to your alma mater about help or resources navigating from here.

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Re: Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

Post by Nony » Thu Jul 11, 2019 3:13 pm

Yeah, I can’t give very specific advice, but I did want to say that you’re not a lemon. No one is suited for every job out there and it’s a question of finding something that works for you. You’re obviously extremely intelligent and capable of success, from your academic history - you just may have to look harder for the right circumstances than some people.

I think applying for disability does make sense here, given that you have some difficulty managing your bipolar (that’s not meant to sound critical, it’s not always within your control) - and also I think bipolar would count as a disability for the purposes of the ADA, and require accommodations? But that’s not legal advice about what to do, just advice to maybe consult a lawyer. I don’t think it would do anything about the past but could give you some strategies for the future.

Anyway, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this but I bet in the long run you’ll end up in better place.

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Re: Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

Post by HelloYesThisIsDog » Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:57 pm

Get legal advice re disability issues and your previous jobs/needing accomodations, and definitely look at jobs that aren't biglaw/are less stressful. There seems to be a pattern forming where biglaw may not be very compatible with your bipolar disorder.

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Re: Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

Post by lolwat » Thu Jul 11, 2019 5:58 pm

I don't know if legal advice about disability issues is necessarily going to help, but I suppose it can't hurt. To me, it's more about finding an environment and a job where this disability won't affect performance so much that it becomes a real issue. I also think disclosing the disability at some point would probably help your employer(s) at least understand what you're going through; otherwise they just see chronic absenteeism and poor performance without a legitimate explanation. But really, I know nothing about navigating this situation. I do think a "top 3 law school" (HYS?) should have some resources to help here.

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Re: Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

Post by CS1775 » Thu Jul 11, 2019 8:23 pm

+1 with everyone else saying that you may want to try another legal choice besides BigLaw. BigLaw stresses out the average associate to the point where its probably one of the highest attrition rates in law. BigLaw, literally, is not for everyone.

If you're concerned about the $100k in debt, might be a good idea to investigate public interest law and look into PSLF. Government employers, at least at the state level, have much less demanding hours. For example, my supervising attorney's supervisor (I'm currently a student practitioner at a PD) has or had cancer. He left a very nice private practice to have access to less demanding hours, three weeks of vacation time, excellent benefits such as top notch medical, dental, etc. and a state pension, and quite frankly, a life. He puts it this way: in 20-something years of private practice, he had three days off. Now, he has three weeks off as part of his employment every year. He loves what he does and he always tells my supervisor and I "have fun."

I will say, being a public defender can be a demanding job due to trial prep and having large amounts of (sometimes ungrateful) clients. Prosecutors tend to have it a little easier. There's also counsel for government departments and a bunch of other options like legal aid.

Try reaching out to your law school or a mentor or law school friends. But think about it this way: you have a JD and a bar license. That's more than most people ever will have and legal practice is a huge career area.

Again, just a law student, so feel free to disregard. But I wish you well.
Last edited by CS1775 on Fri Jul 12, 2019 5:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

Post by HelloYesThisIsDog » Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:05 pm

Also don't beat yourself up. You're struggling with a very challenging condition that, as you note, leaves a lot folks unable to maintain normal lives. I actually think it's impressive you've been able to do everything you've done. And, the law student is right. Biglaw is fucking terrible in terms of stress. I recently had to get back on anti anxiety meds (an SSRI) because I was having crippling attacks. This is not a normal place to work and it eats away at even the healthiest of folks, let alone those with any existing or latent issues.

You don't mention this but are you on medication that's helping? Is it possible your current regimen is not as effective as it could be? No need to answer, just something to consider.

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Re: Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

Post by lolwat » Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:29 pm

HelloYesThisIsDog wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:05 pm
Also don't beat yourself up. You're struggling with a very challenging condition that, as you note, leaves a lot folks unable to maintain normal lives. I actually think it's impressive you've been able to do everything you've done. And, the law student is right. Biglaw is fucking terrible in terms of stress. I recently had to get back on anti anxiety meds (an SSRI) because I was having crippling attacks. This is not a normal place to work and it eats away at even the healthiest of folks, let alone those with any existing or latent issues.

You don't mention this but are you on medication that's helping? Is it possible your current regimen is not as effective as it could be? No need to answer, just something to consider.
He did say his meds help but he still gets episodes pretty frequently.

I think the solution has to go beyond just getting a non-Biglaw job though. I'm making some inferences based on the first post but it sounds like OP's condition makes it so that they have to take time off frequently and randomly. They didn't just get fired from biglaw, they've gotten fired from jobs before even going to law school. Clearly OP's intellectual capabilities are there, but it sounds like the problem is holding down regular hours and meeting deadlines. So I don't think just going into public interest or government will necessarily help in and of itself, though those jobs will be infinitely less stressful than biglaw. I mean anything litigation is probably going to be tough because it's so deadline based. My suggestion would be to think outside the box, find something that doesn't revolve around deadlines and something where you won't have team members thinking you're dragging them down by being absent, etc. Maybe some researching, publishing, type of stuff. I don't know~

biglaw atty

Re: Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

Post by biglaw atty » Wed Jul 17, 2019 6:59 pm

Thanks for the responses everyone. I'm currently gunning for midlaw and I'm going to try to get some contract work. My practice group is pretty hot right now and a lot of the smaller players in the industry use outside contractors for their more routine stuff, and it pays better per hour than what I would get at a firm.

My second firm was towards the smaller end of biglaw, so I don't think landing a midlaw gig is going to be the solution. But it would be good income so that I can pay off my loans and have more flexibility in what I can do. I've been reading up on what jobs other people with my mental health condition enjoy. It's incredible how many of these books/articles explicitly mention that being a lawyer is probably the worst possible job.

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Re: Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

Post by GodSpeed » Sat Nov 30, 2019 6:38 pm

Start your own shop. Seriously.

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Re: Fired from 2 biglaw jobs in 6 months - please help

Post by -__________________- » Sat Nov 30, 2019 11:07 pm

is this performance art

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