Dear Amicus Agony,
I am a junior associate in a medium-sized firm. Recently, Client X sent an e-mail to the firm’s partners (including the managing partner!) to, among other things, criticise me for not being easily contactable and being late in sending e-mail updates.
The infuriating thing about this situation is that I don’t think Client X’s tirade is justified at all! Partner A (who is the sole Partner on the file) had expressly instructed me to only contact Client X via e-mail (and not give my mobile phone number) as Client X is known for sending A LOT of unnecessary correspondence. Partner A has not been approving my updates timeously, thus delaying these updates.
The fact that Client X has gone so far as to send an e-mail to the firm’s management to criticise me has made me so embarrassed and angry. It’s situations like these which make me want to leave the industry.
Why Always Me?
Dear Why Always Me?
Your position is certainly unenviable. However, before you make any rash decisions, reflect on how this situation arose and how it can be rectified.
“Damage control” should be your priority. As the other partners are presumably not on the file, you should assist them by providing context to Client X’s complaint. Take pains to ensure that you present it in a measured manner and provide relevant e-mails to help management decide how to rectify the situation.
As you are assisting Partner A with Client X’s file, it would be good to discuss with Partner A how workflow can be made more efficient. I’m sure that you know “bottle-necking” of work is a problem many seniors face. However, this is not a reason to derogate from our duty as lawyers to have timely communications with our clients. All clients appreciate timely updates and juniors are expected to help ensure this.
Above all, it is important that management has a chat with Client X to understand the root of his complaint and to assuage his/her concerns. For all you know, you might not have been the reason for Client X’s outburst, but merely the trigger.
Regardless, this episode is definitely a lesson in client management and one which I’m sure you will never forget!
Dear Amicus Agony,
I am a 2PQE associate.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that the world is heading towards a recession. I’m certainly seeing signs of it – workflow has slowed down significantly in recent weeks and I find myself waiting around for assignments.
As much as I appreciate this new-found free time, I can’t help but worry that retrenchment is an eventuality and that the firm’s headcount will be trimmed in order to cut losses. I want to have a career in the legal industry, but I worry that a departure is inevitable.
It’s heartening to see that you genuinely want to pursue a career in law. Rest assured, many like you are worried about their future.
The first thing you should consider doing is to speak with your direct supervisor(s) on the firm’s financial health and whether your employment may be compromised. This will be a good opportunity to show your initiative and interest in the firm’s strategies.
Don’t forget that you are the master of your new-found free time. If you are concerned about workflow slowing down, perhaps consider speaking with seniors outside of your immediate team for work which you would not normally do.
Apart from work, there are numerous opportunities to be explored. Business development is certainly something you should try your hand at since you are keen on pursuing a legal career. Starting early will definitely be to your benefit. You can also use this time to further your skills by writing an article on a topic you are interested in, or attending webinars. If you want to use your free time to wind down, perhaps try picking up a new skill or reading books which are collecting dust.
These are strange times that we live in. Until the future becomes more certain, the best we can do now is to work within our realm of control. Best of luck to you and may you have a fruitful career.