Question & Answer
The Coming Bloodbath
January 22, 2013
I work at a top NYC firm. I am paid very well and the quality of work I get is outstanding. My problem is there is not enough of it! My department has had little work for the past 12 months (enough to keep things "ticking over" but little enough that it is seriously boring).
I am concerned that my skills are not developing and, as I become more senior, I will not be equipped with the required skills. I have raised this with the partners who simply say that it has been a below average year but that, hopefully, something will come along by the end of the year.
Should I leave now before a bloodbath? Even if I survive that, ought not my professional development dictate that I move to another firm?
You are not wrong to be concerned, if not only for the fact that you are "seriously" bored. I do wish that you had told us how many years of experience you have at this point in time. Are you a first or second year attorney or are you far more experienced that that? Have you been practicing for at least three or four years?
Based on the little you have told us, I suspect you are somewhere around two, possibly three, years into your career (of course, this is just speculation). These years, as you morph from a junior into a mid-level associate, are critical years in terms of development. You are correct to be concerned that your skills are not developing and that as you become more senior, you will be ill-equipped to take on the practice skills expected of your class year.
I must say that being "seriously" bored is a terrible way to face the work-day. That, in and of itself, would be a reason for recommending you start a job search in order to find a firm that will be stimulating and rewarding. But I also must say that in this difficult job market where work is slow for many associates, sometimes it is better to be gainfully and securely employed over having a grand old time in a firm that is about to implode.
And so, that leads me to tell you this - being bored is a result of not having anything much to do as you seem to know. You have told us that you don't get enough work to really keep you all that busy even though you are at a top BigLaw firm. It's great that you enjoy the work that you do get but let's look at the bigger picture here. Recognizing that your department has been slow for at least the past year, you have done all the right things by speaking with the partners. However, they basically shrugged off your concerns and said that this has been a below average year but HOPEFULLY things will pick up. That's not good enough.
First you should take a look around and make sure that the other associates in your department have also been very slow. If they aren't then that would say the partners are doling out the assignments to associates other than you and your job is definitely in jeopardy. Start a job search immediately!
But should you discover that the entire department really has had a below average year and all the rest of the associates are sitting around hoping for a better year, then this is something you need to examine closely. The department is definitely in trouble and if this pattern of a lack of business continues, there surely will be some cuts in the department. As a junior associate, you may be one of the first to be asked to leave.
In either case, I do think that you should start a job search as soon as possible rather than waiting around and hoping that things will pick up at your current firm, because . . . what if they don't? Just remember to keep your job search confidential because you want to stay with your current employer until you have a new place to practice. Best wishes!
Ann M. Israel