Dear Amicus Agony,
I am a Newly Qualified lawyer and feel a heavy sense of imposter syndrome in my firm specifically, and out of place in the industry generally. To elaborate, there are times I feel that my legal research is not sufficiently thorough and that I hit brick walls too easily, and there are other times I feel like my draft submissions are not up to par. The offshoot of this is that my Senior Associate frequently finds cases that I missed, or makes extensive edits to my submissions such that they read as if my original work was completely discarded.
I feel bad for making my Senior Associate almost redo the work – and it would be somewhat more acceptable if I were still a trainee – but I am not and sometimes I feel completely undeserving of the title of Associate. I see how my other friends in other firms draft submissions and do research so well even though they are NQs as well, and I feel like I am nowhere near their level of competency and am just middling along. Should I stay in my current job and press on or find somewhere else to go outside of law?
Dear Sad Associate,
I sense a lot of frustration with yourself in your message, and it must feel deeply troubling to seem technically and/or professionally lacking in research/drafting skills compared to your peers and colleagues. These feelings are perfectly understandable. Whilst I cannot comment on your research or drafting skills because I haven’t read your work, what is evident is that 1) you graduated from law school, 2) you passed the bar examinations, and 3) you performed well enough during your training contract period to be considered and hired as an Associate. I want to congratulate you on these three achievements from the outset because regardless of the position that you are at now, you surmounted many obstacles and performed well enough with the relevant skillsets to be admitted as a member of the legal profession. I think you should give yourself a pat on the back for this, for the journey has not been easy.
Separately, you may feel guilty or sad at your Senior Associate having to make substantial changes to your work, but I also sense a strong desire to improve. I appreciate that drive to learn and improve, and I think there are several ways to act on it. Perhaps have a coffee chat with your Senior Associate and/or Partner to have them pin down specifically the areas of research or drafting you can improve on. Is it the organisation of the memo or draft? Is it the way in which you conduct research or break down a task? Is it how you approach analysis? Breaking down the big problem of “my research or draft is not up to par” into smaller points for improvement makes the challenge seem less daunting, and it makes it easier to improve upon the work. What could also help is to keep a small journal or diary, documenting your work habits and doing your own “After Action Reviews” on your work, comparing it to the edits which your Senior Associates make and distilling three key learning points for yourself. Then, attempt to incorporate these learning points into your next piece of work.
It is tempting to quit and leave the industry – almost everyone would have thought of it at some point in their careers. However, as I said before, I strongly sense in you the desire to improve, and I hope you give yourself another chance within your current role first. I wish you all the best.
Dear Amicus Agony,
I am just more than halfway through my training contract, and I am not sure if I want to stay in this firm. I frequently feel both overwhelmed with the sheer volume of tasks I am given on a daily basis, yet underwhelmed in terms of motivation to start doing each task. It seems that, sometimes, it is the deadline that drives me rather than interest in the firm’s work itself (although I am not sure if it is too early in my career to be talking about things like passion). The Associates and Senior Associates are nice, but I don’t think I can turn to them regarding these matters. I also don’t really have seniors who are practising in the industry right now who I can turn to and ask for advice. Whom can I turn to?
Dear Troubled Trainee,
I hear that you are struggling on two fronts – with the volume of work you are assigned on the one hand, and deeper questions of whether this firm and the work it does is the right fit for you on the other. I also hear that you feel that you do not have someone to turn to in your personal life or your workplace.
One possible avenue you might want to consider is the Young Lawyers Law Mentors Scheme. It is an informal peer support scheme wherein a young lawyer would be paired with fresh graduates, relevant legal or practice trainees like yourself, or newly qualified practitioners. This support scheme aims to help young aspiring practitioners like yourself who may feel lost as they begin navigating the legal industry at the start of their careers.
I hope you’ll be able to find the support you need and someone to turn to, and I wish you the best in the completion of your training contract.