My Shingle

Burning Bridges, Finding New Ones

by Carolyn Elefant on May 10, 2008 · 2 comments

in Biglaw Practice and Issues, Leaving A Firm

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In this earlier post, I criticized a Paul Hastings associates for outing the her firm for the circumstances surrounding her firing.  I agreed that the firm acted boorishly, but I didn’t believe that was anything new – and felt that the associate may have burned bridges and harmed her chances for future opportunities. And now, I’m happy, albeit embarrassed, to admit that I was wrong on a few counts.

The comments to my post and the here and here provided more information and also lead me to reconsider initial position.  Originally, I’d thought that  the associate expressed her views about the firing out of vengeance or anger.  However, her motive was to help associates laid off for economic reasons avoid the same self-doubt and loss of self-esteem that she herself had faced.  And it’s ironic that I missed this intent completely – given that in my book, Solo by Choice, I devoted an entire sidebar to discussing my own firing for the same reason.  I wanted people to know that even when you’re fired, it doesn’t mean that you lack ability and won’t find more success at another job.

However, more importantly, what I’ve also learned from the post and the blogosphere is that in today’s internet world, even in burning bridges, you can create new opportunities.   Happily, the associate has received an outpouring of support who are willing to help her locate new employment – and that probably would not have happened had she not come forward.  And now that she’s made herself available for interview, her firm is stuck in the uneviable position of remaining silent and letting its reputation take a hit.  I have to admit that after all this time of working outside of law firms,  I still underestimate how much pent up frustration and resentment exists against large law firms.   And that after all of this time blogging, I still don’t always fully appreciate the capacity that the Internet offers us for constant reinvention.

Still, this recent story shouldn’t serve as license to go hog-wild when you’re let go from a job.  As I said, initially I was confused about the associate’s motive because I didn’t have the whole story – so if you’re going to send a message to your firm, try to be clear about the intent so the more obtuse of us out here will understand your position.  Several years ago, Denise Howell gracefully discussed her termination by her firm in this post which seemed to strike the right chord.  Finally, good luck to Shiyung Oh in taking advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.

  • http://disgustedbeyondbelief.blogspot.com/ Disgusted Beyond Belief

    First, kudos to you for changing your mind and admitting it publicly. It is always hard to admit publicly to one thing then admit publicly to the opposite – just human nature, that. And a sign of someone who follows evidence over ideology.
    Your post also got me thinking about what things are like in an internet world – before the internet and the web, things could have gone much worse for this associate, in the sense that if what she did got out in the general sense among other big firms, she may very well have simply been shut out by them, unable to tell her side of the story. But with the internet, everyone knows her side of the story, knows that she was wronged, and that made a lot of people sympathetic and willing to help.
    On a final note, I personally have heard almost nothing but bad things about working for large law firms – not just in terms of poor treatment but in terms of what you mention in the next post-associates often don’t get to do any real work or get any good experience. A rather bad combination. Maybe for some the huge pay makes up for that, but I think it can also trap people. I have never worked for a large firm (though in a previous professional life I worked for some very large corporations), so I can only go by second-hand accounts, but they have been enough for me to never want to work for a large firm.

  • http://disgustedbeyondbelief.blogspot.com/ Disgusted Beyond Belief

    First, kudos to you for changing your mind and admitting it publicly. It is always hard to admit publicly to one thing then admit publicly to the opposite – just human nature, that. And a sign of someone who follows evidence over ideology.
    Your post also got me thinking about what things are like in an internet world – before the internet and the web, things could have gone much worse for this associate, in the sense that if what she did got out in the general sense among other big firms, she may very well have simply been shut out by them, unable to tell her side of the story. But with the internet, everyone knows her side of the story, knows that she was wronged, and that made a lot of people sympathetic and willing to help.
    On a final note, I personally have heard almost nothing but bad things about working for large law firms – not just in terms of poor treatment but in terms of what you mention in the next post-associates often don’t get to do any real work or get any good experience. A rather bad combination. Maybe for some the huge pay makes up for that, but I think it can also trap people. I have never worked for a large firm (though in a previous professional life I worked for some very large corporations), so I can only go by second-hand accounts, but they have been enough for me to never want to work for a large firm.

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