Has working in a soul-crushing environment taken a heavy toll on your physical or mental health? Is your firm’s culture toxic? These are just two of the big red flags that it might be high time to switch firms. Unfortunately, sometimes the warning signs can be hard to spot, especially if you have grown used to putting up with a lot of use and abuse by employers and clients. Here are five signs you may not be in the right environment for your well-being.
1. You Are Not Valued
There are many ways that a law firm can show a lack of appreciation towards hard-working associates:
- It offers no opportunity for advancement
- High-paying cases get assigned to less competent attorneys or attorneys who are friends or relatives of the “higher-ups”
- You are routinely passed over for promotions
- The pay is not competitive
A firm may not pay you well for various reasons, from not being able to afford it to seeing you as a “disposable” employee. The latter is a red flag that the law firm is not right for you. Keep in mind that other employers can value you more, especially if you are a talented attorney with a strong work ethic.
2. There’s Little Room for Growth
Even if they do pay well, there may be little to no room for growth within a law firm. If there are no significant or immediate opportunities for advancement at your current job, it might no longer be the right one to help advance your career.
You can become a decent attorney at a small law firm by doing menial and repetitive work. However, to become an outstanding attorney, you’ll need access to the type of specialized work only large law firms can provide.
Specialized work requires in-depth research, specific skill sets, collaboration with equally talented professionals, and provides plenty of intellectual challenges. For instance, you can plan to spend your whole life being a decent personal injury attorney in Pittsburgh faithfully serving your local community for many years to come. You could also take a big leap and join a law firm in New York or Washington, DC and gain some highly marketable skills.
It is estimated that an attorney should spend four to six years in a major law firm to be equipped to work at a level that offers access to elite clients who can pay exceptionally for the service. In a small law firm, you risk turning into a Jack of all trades instead of a specialized attorney.
3. There’s Little to No Mentoring
Another red flag that it may be time to switch firms is not having access to mentoring. It is not uncommon for a junior associate to receive numerous cases without guidance or input from a senior attorney. With a mentor constantly watching your back, it is easier to spot and avoid mistakes, grow as a professional, and prevent falling into bad habits that are incredibly hard to shake off further down the road.
This issue can sometimes be mended if you bring it up with your current law firm. Nevertheless, if the problem persists, you might need to find an employer who can offer the guidance and support you really need.
4. Working There Is Bad for Your Health
If working in a law firm puts your physical or mental health at risk, it is a sign that it might not be the right place for you. Many big firms demand working late into the night, prioritizing the firm and its clients over everything else (even over the well-being of employees or collaborators). This is a highly competitive domain with a high pressure to provide excellent service.
Some attorneys take a high-pressure environment as a powerful motivator to perform better. However, other attorneys can get seriously ill because of it. Heart attacks in some professionals’ later thirties or forties are not uncommon. Gastrointestinal issues and autoimmune disorders are also huge health risks that affect many lawyers.
In the wrong environment, you may also develop stress-related mental health issues like crippling anxiety and depression. Many law professionals turn to self-medicating with alcohol, illegal drugs, or opioids. Do not become one of them. If the work and culture of a law firm crush you physically and/or mentally, consider switching environments.
5. Toxic Law Firm Culture
Being aligned with a law firm’s culture and values is critical for a long-lasting and rewarding career. However, when your values collide with those of your employer (with little room for compromise), the relationship is doomed.
If the world view and professional standards of your colleagues and bosses are very different from yours, you’ll have to work in an environment where your peers don’t understand you. What is more, your actions might spur unwarranted negativity. If you feel that you are no longer part of a group that trusts and supports you, it is time to move on.
There are many law firms out there that share your views and core values. There’s no need to be stuck in a workplace that no longer wants you. You can know that you have found a favorable environment to settle down when you can grow alongside the firm. Look for an employer that offers support and values your skills, providing a nurturing atmosphere.
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