Review (phew?)November 18, 2009 at 10:19 am | Posted in little bug, Starbucks, tax law is sexy, the firm | 4 Comments
Tags: Big Law, law firm layoffs, lawyer mom, performance reviews
I was so sure I was going to be let go/laid off/fired (or whatever the current euphemism is for what is happening at BigLaw performance reviews these days) on Tuesday that I booked a painter to begin working on Thursday. Rumors were rampant at work about cuts to be made, not based on performance, but based on hours. Although due to no real fault of my own I’d like to think (I’m a tax lawyer, I don’t work on deals, I don’t do document review), my numbers were, by BigLaw standards, atrocious. So, by Tuesday morning I had done some cursory research of Massachusetts employment law as it relates to maternity leave (can your maternity leave be halted once you have begun it?) and also had consulted with former colleagues who had been downsized right before their maternity leaves to compare what sort of severance they had been given. I was prepared.
I walked into my review with a truly racing heart. My nerves were tingling in a way they had not since I opened up that letter from the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners. I also had convinced myself that being laid off right now would be great, actually. I would have three months at home with my Little Bug before the baby arrived. I could get the house decorated, prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas, cook, watch Oprah. Tim could truly focus on his increasingly demanding job for awhile. I’d have the baby, and in the spring I’d think about what came next.
At the same time, I was thinking about how and with whom I’d network. I’d try to start freelancing for the Boston Bar Journal. I’d join some professional groups. I’d get my references lined up. And I had already started to do some soul-searching: why were my hours so low that I was laid off? What sort of message was I putting out – consciously or subconsciously – into the universe about my desire to work full-time at a big firm? What could I have done better? And, worse, I had started asking myself: was this really an hours-based layoff? Was I really a good lawyer?
In the end, I had a glowing performance review. I was truly stunned when, after the first few moments, it became clear that not only was I not going to get fired, but that people actually appreciated my work. “Come on, you didn’t really think they were going to let you go,” was the chorus from my family and friends. But I did – I truly did. See, I’m not sure I’m world’s greatest tax lawyer. This stuff is difficult, and not only do I not take to it as intuitively as others, I’m also quite sure I don’t work as hard. I get Starbucks with my colleagues. Most nights, I rush out of here to get home before 6, and I don’t work from home unless I really need to. I write on my blog, I read the news, I watch crappy TV. If they were going to have to let the lowest-producing lawyers go for economic reasons, why not me?
Oh, I am so lucky to have a job – any job – right now. I have stimulating, supportive colleagues. A caring nanny whom my child adores. A husband who rarely travels and will get home in lieu of me almost any night I ask (and when he can’t, family who can step in.) And, the bottom line is: I could stay home if I wished. I am acutely aware that I have this choice. But, historically, I’m also really bad with choices: I second-guess to the point of anxiety. (I’ve written about this before, of course.) I am extremely satisfied and proud and grateful in the wake of this review that my choice to become a Big Law attorney seems to have been a good one, but it doesn’t make walking out the door each morning any easier. I am supporting my family and (hopefully) becoming a role model for my daughter, who can now say, “I want to be a lawyer!” But is that any better than being home with her, reading to her, making her lunch? I just don’t know. I can’t know. As irrational as it seems, maybe the choice should have been made for me.