I have been working at my first law job for three months now. Mr. Nice Guy, who I interviewed with, has turned out to be an impossible boss. He yells, curses at me, and expects me to know everything and do everything yesterday. I’m at the point where I hide in my office and avoid him as much as possible. I signed a 12-month lease for an apartment, and I know no one in this area. Help! What can I do? I'm losing weight and can't sleep at night. I can't talk to him, but I also can’t afford to have him fire me either.
Lost in Middle America
Dear Lost in America,
This situation sounds familiar. Consider communicating with Mr. Nice Guy. Schedule some uninterrupted time to discuss your concerns with him directly. In a deferential and respectful way, tell him how you feel and express your interest in doing the best job that you can for the firm and for him. Ask if there are ways that you could improve your performance and better meet the firm’s needs. Suggest that the way you have communicated thus far bothers you and that you would like to improve the situation. Reach out to other associates and ask for their advice on how to handle the situation.
Meanwhile, seek out mentors, senior associates, and partners/shareholders of the firm and ask them if they would be willing to serve as your mentor. Once you have begun the mentoring process, ask for their advice on how to deal with this situation. Consider seeking assignments from another supervising lawyer. Give the situation a little time to see if those steps make the situation better and more tolerable. If not, make a careful assessment of your values, your current financial situation, and other employment options. Life is simply too short to be unhappy and to work under a tyrant. If your financial situation is dire, tolerate the situation as long as you can, until you can find another job—perhaps a lower-paying position with a more satisfying environment. Working with people that you enjoy and respect is worth much more for your long-term happiness.
I’m a third-year law student in a large city. Unfortunately, I am not in the top of my class. Actually, I’m in the bottom quarter. All my classmates are getting jobs and I can't even get an interview. I hear there are jobs out there begging for applicants outside the city. How do I find out about these?
Dear Bottom Quarter,
There is a saying that goes “The A students become law professors, the B students become judges, and the C students make millions.” Although this is a cliché, and your situation may appear dismal to you, there truly is an incredible amount of opportunity out there if you simply go out and look. If your grades prevent you from getting in the door at law firms, agencies or other organizations, expand your networking. Get to know lawyers in the community. Join local, state, and national bar associations (such as the ABA), read books on networking, determine what you are interested in, and follow your passion and your heart. Lay out a plan of the steps you would take to accomplish your dreams. I am convinced that anyone can do anything they want to do if they take the appropriate steps to make it happen.
Got a question for Mike?
E-mail D. Michael McBride III at firstname.lastname@example.org
D. Michael McBride III is a Council member of the ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. He also Chairs the Outreach Committee. McBride practices federal Indian law and litigation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he is a Director and Shareholder of Sneed Lang, P.C. He also serves the Kaw Nation as an Associate Justice of their Supreme Court.