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Are You in the Wrong Job?

At Lex Conscientia, we come across lawyers who are the full package; personable, brilliant and hard working, yet they are not doing so well in their current jobs. In their current positions, they may have gained a reputation for not being very clever (despite objective evidence to the contrary), for being an awkward person or for somehow being difficult to work with.

Although these people have a huge amount to offer any firm, for some reason, the firms they work for do not seem to want to have their contributions. We have seen people such as this, move to different jobs/firms where they “fit”, and suddenly, they are stars with their contribution and potential recognised, appreciated and rewarded.

This article may help you to identify whether this situation applies to you and what, if anything, you can or should do about it.

Does this Apply to You?

Nobody can be fully appreciated and appropriately rewarded all of the time. We have spoken to many lawyers, both junior and senior, and have identified some signs that can indicate that you have fallen into a career dead zone in your firm. For more junior lawyers, these signs can include:

  • not having any particular partner interested in your progress/training, that is, having no mentor;
  • constantly being given the absolute minimum pay rise, despite others at your level, being given much greater pay rises for reasons that cannot be measured objectively;
  • always being given the “grunt” work while others at your level are at the forefront of the interesting work;
  • having significantly less training and development opportunities than others at your level; and
  • feeling awkward around your partners when others at your level have an easy rapport with them.

For more senior lawyers, these signs can include:

  • the constant inclusion of more rungs in the ladder between senior associate and partnership while others at your level have been made partner;
  • promises made for two or more years in a row that you should continue to strive for partnership and that it will may well be your year next year;
  • never being included in strategic discussions about the future of your section, despite the inclusion of others at your level;
  • rarely being included in social gatherings that others at your level are included;
  • the continuing organisation of social gatherings that exclude you due to your circumstances (e.g. religion, family commitments or physical disability);
  • being given the minimum pay rise and bonus relative to others at your level for reasons that cannot be measured objectively;
  • feeling strained around your partners while others at your level have an easy rapport; and
  • your contribution to the development of the firm in non-billable hours not being recognised while others’ lesser contributions are feted.

If you recognise your situation in these bullet points, then it may be that, for whatever reason, you are not considered to be the right fit for your firm and are being treated accordingly.


There are many reasons why you may have fallen into the situations described in the bullets above. The first thing to do is to determine whether there is a fair and genuine reason why you are not fitting in with your firm’s culture. This can be extremely difficult.

Some individuals are too quick to blame themselves while others may refuse to acknowledge that the situation has anything to do with them. In the first instance, ask a good friend who you trust for their honest opinion. There are, of course, a myriad of other ways in which you can identify any performance weaknesses you might have including counselling, coaching and psychological testing.

There may also be circumstances in your firm, outside of your control, which have given rise to your situation. For example, certain key people may be racist or prejudice about your gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

What Can You Do?

There are three main ways that you can deal with the misperception of your seniors that has led to career stagnation. First, you can change yourself. If you have found that you do have a weakness in a certain area, for example, your interpersonal skills, then you can try and develop these. The lawyers we have spoken to have done this in different ways including coaching, counselling or joining a club that forces them to socialise and develop their communication skills, for example, a public speaking club.

We note, however, that from our discussions with these lawyers, once a partner’s mind is made up about you (whether positive or negative) it is extremely difficult to change their view regardless of anything you do. Nevertheless, if you have identified a particular weakness, it is worth addressing for the future.

Second, you can try and change the situation with those you work for. Most firms have policies against discrimination, and you may be able to work within the framework provided by your firm to address any discrimination issues. If the discrimination is institutionalised, you may need to address the issues using resources outside the firm. If you decide to tackle your situation in this way, you should keep a clear view of what you hope to achieve and what you are willing to do to achieve it.

Finally, you can change your job to find an environment into which you fit. Our expertise is in this third option.

Finding the Right Job

It may seem that in this market, finding any job is difficult. However, we have seen persistence and dedication pay off many times. If you are committed to finding a job in which you will be recognised and rewarded, then you need to be prepared to put in the hard work to achieve your aim.

From the lawyers we have seen successfully transition from career stagnation to success, a number of common factors stand out including:

  • persistence; treating every unsuccessful interview as a learning experience for future success rather than as a failure;
  • an open mind; being open to new opportunities;
  • knowledge that it will take time to find the right position, in some cases, a few years;
  • huge amounts of interview practice through role play;
  • having a dedicated recruitment agent; and
  • being oneself in interviews; so that any job offers are as a result of who you really are rather than who you have pretended to be.

Next Steps

At Lex Conscientia, we can help you with some aspects of finding a new job that suits you. We can coach you through the process, keeping you on track and positive. We can provide you with mock interviews to hone your interview technique and help review your CVs to ensure you are getting the best mileage out of your CV contents. We work exclusively with the legal community for all lawyer and support roles in-house or in law firms and can help you find the right role. Please give us a call for an obligation free discussion, drop your cv with us or write to our legal recruitment specialists.