Nervous, I Think – But Look! Dragons!

October 25, 2011

Rumors are afloat in my firm: We are over capacity.  We have too many lawyers (esp. in my department) and not enough work. Cuts Will Be Made.


As I believe I’ve mentioned here in the past, I had a very slow summer.  It started in April.  Which is Spring.  But I’m still calling it summer.  It didn’t feel good while it was happening, but it was so very widespread throughout my department (i.e., everyone I spoke to), it was hard to take it too personally.  Nevertheless, it was clear to me (through the amount of reading and sleeping I was doing) that I was escaping the situation, and putting my head in the sand.

For a while I felt that my biggest issue was going to be Bonus Season.  That I would – perhaps – not get one.

In my field, in my type of firm, bonuses are commonplace.  Before 2009, they were commonplace and they were large.  In 2009, they were smaller, but still the norm.  2010 brought another smaller bonus, but the bigger firms found that their overall profits had become public(ish), and they could not get away with keeping the lower bonus without some backlash from the Top Law Graduates.  So they supplemented, effectively bring 2010 bonuses on par with pre-recession levels.

For me, a bonus is a nice way to pad the college fund without tightening the belt.  Pretty soon, however, (even with this grossly overpaying job) with Lemon’s college breathing down our necks, the belt will be tightening.  It actually has already been tightening.  The bonus – instead – makes paying for college feasible.  Or at least – it makes paying for the first YEAR of college feasible.  (The first out of 8 ….)

In the meantime — as a backdrop of the lack of business in my department and the worries about the bonus — a lot of people in my class and those classes right above and below me have been leaving.  On their own.  They’re doing the things I should be doing: looking at the job market, at their interests and their experiences, and sending out resumes.  They haven’t been told “hey, it’s time to get out!” but they do not have their heads in the sand, either (I still do, though).  Our slice of the economy has allowed for this, for which we are grateful.

Instead of lighting a fire under me, this has made me think, “Oh, well.  This means enough people are leaving, and I can stay here, all fat & happy.”

Another little education for those who do not work in large law firms:  When I was hired, I was one in a class of approximately 200 lawyers.  None of us are up for partner until our 9th year.  Currently, there are approximately 65 of us left, across all departments.  The attrition is fast & furious, and expected to be.  In a typical year, 9-10 people are made partner.  So, really, that’s 9 out of 200.  The business model relies upon people coming to large firms for training & experience, and then getting the hell out.

It’s no surprise that the day will come, nor is it a surprise that it might be soon.

But my head, and the sand, and the college tuition.

This week, people in the know have been talking about the fact that Cuts Will Be Made.

And I’m kind of shitting my pants.

And kind of reading Game of Thrones at a frantic pace.

It’s tough to focus.  Because the summer was slow.  But the fall has not been.  I’ve been working my ass off, and things have been going well (and, really, other than the slow-ness, things haven’t gone poorly, ever).  But I know that in a firm of hundreds upon hundreds of attorneys, and a review process that is not really all that personal, it doesn’t matter how things are going today.  What matters is the bottom line.

They need to make cuts.  My hours have been low.

I caught wind of the reality of the cuts on Friday.  It may be happening within the month.

I was up from 3 a.m. – 4 a.m. on Friday night, and from 3 – 4:30 on Saturday night, and from 3:30 – 5 a.m. on Sunday night.  Last night (Monday), I gratefully slept a little sounder, but I also decided to work from home today.  I slept late, but still logged onto the system at an appropriate hour and stayed available.  I did do some work, but I was in yoga pants.

And I felt disconnected, and stressed.  When I wasn’t working, I was updating my iPhone to OS5 (will I still be able to afford an iPhone?); I went shopping with WD to purchase a mask for a work-related masquerade ball on Friday night (I couldn’t get the mask I really liked, because then I’d have to buy a new dress, and I don’t know that I’ll have an income in 3 months . . . ) I came home and did work and responded to emails, but then … I read Game of Thrones (Book III).


I don’t even have a resume.  






  1. Good luck. It’s even gotten to the point that downtown Washington law firms are reducing headcount. When that happens, you know it’s not that good…

  2. […] a minute … Mom; lawyer; wife. « Nervous, I Think – But Look! Dragons! Never Easy Anymore October 25, […]

  3. Wow, that sucks. I hope everything works out ok. I can’t imagine how stressful it is to have to wait out news like that.

  4. Oh, how stressful.

    Not to add pressure, but you need to get that resume together a.s.a.p. If you’d like me to look at it with an editor’s eye afterward, just let me know.

    Hang in there.

  5. […]  The job front continues to look bleak.  Our final year’s hours reports are out, and mine is pathetic.  The department is still […]

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