I’m Plodding as a Seventh Year Associate


QI am a 7th year associate at a megafirm. Let me be honest, I am nowhere near as bright as the associates in adjacent offices. I haven’t been made a senior associate because I am simply not good enough. I keep my job because there are certain aspects of the job I am good at (grunt work) and I get on really well with the really junior associates and have the patience to answer all their questions and guide them through mindless document review tasks at 2am on a Monday morning.

My problem is this. There are two slightly more junior associates (5/6 years) in my group who are champing at the bit for senior associateship and they see me as a roadblock. In all probability I am. They are both very smart and very good at their jobs. I think they perceive that the partners won’t make them up without first making me up (presumably not to upset me).

They are making their frustrations known and are really making my life miserable and generally trying to undermine me. My reviews are fine, and I’m the top paid associate in the firm (but I earn less than all the senior associates—one of the partners went out for lunch with a hard drinking client before doing my last review and was less guarded than he ought to have been). I get on well with the two partners, I am their go-to guy for stuff they (and the senior associates) don’t want to do themselves, but conversely would like it done by someone with some experience (and done well).

I am really very content with my job—I’m happy just plodding. I have been considering trying to relieve the pressure by approaching the partners and telling them that I am comfortable not being a senior associate and if they want to go ahead and promote the two more junior associates they should do so without reference to me. Conversely, this approach may be complete suicide for the sake of a little peace on my part. Thoughts?

AHey, if you’ve been plodding successfully now for more than seven years, why not plod along some more? Except I wouldn’t. And I don’t think you really want to. At least not in the sacrificial sense. So, yes, it would be suicide for a little peace. But if the price of peace for you is large, go for it.

But think about it. The partners like your work, your reviews are fine, and you don’t really seem to care that you are paid less than the more senior associates, which I assume are the eighth and ninth year associates that some firms are now calling “counsel.” You are valued. So, why undervalue yourself and throw things to the sacrificial career altar? This time, don’t be a plodder. Be a deal maker. Pick the one partner you trust for a drink or smoke or coffee or whatever you megafirm lawyers do to relax these days. Lay out how you see your options and work toward striking a deal that works. It may not be the best deal, but for this you need to take some control, including a way to snuff out the complaints of the fifth and sixth year juvenile junior associates.

Honestly, you are like the enforcer in American hockey. The knuckling and beefy guy who is required to brawl to maintain a warped sense of order in the game. Not that you are a brawler—far from it—but you do essential stuff no one else wants to do. And you’re good at it. That’s your value. Don’t sacrifice it.

Have a question for Ex-Bitter? Email it to us at editor@bitterlawyer.com. Although we do not reveal the writer’s identity, we’ll need a valid email address to verify that you actually exist (and to send a $25 gift ecard if we pick the letter as the best one in a particular month).

Post image from Shutterstock.com

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

3 Comments

  1. Guano Dubango

    February 24, 2012 at 11:17 am

    In my firm, I do all of the heavy lifting on matters that others do not relish. As a result, I continue to have work to do. Unfortunately, this has not scored any points with the ladies, who just presume that I am just another senior associate. How can I get some mileage with my status with the ladies?

  2. southern bitter

    February 27, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Why do anything? Like the partners care about hurting your feelings? If they want to promote Bubba and Earl over you, who cares? Big law sux

  3. Bruce Jr

    February 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Hello. I love the legal field and this site as well because it grants me insight about what Lawyers do versus the prime time legal shows. I watch a lot of legal shows from different aspects. I watch The Good Wife, The Firm and Damages-three dynamic television series to say the least. Do you think that [as of now] it is worth going to law school?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>