Fairly sure I was crap at my job (lawyer) BEFORE mat leave

(11 Posts)
HotKentMess Wed 02-Nov-16 10:00:49

I'm beginning to think about my return to work, DS is ten months and I'm going back at the start of December. I'm very lucky, I work in quite a nice place and they have agreed to part time hours. I get paid reasonably well. On the flip side my immediate boss and I have a major personality clash, I have a long commute and I always get given the crappiest work because the others in my team at 20 years older than me.

All of that aside, I know deep down that I'm just not that good at my job. I'm OK, passable, but I'm not great. I'm in litigation and to be honest I'm not a conflict person. I'm a bit soft and too easily intimidated. I also don't necessarily have a really good understanding of the legal principles behind what I'm doing, mostly because I'm low down the food chain and a lot of what I do is processing small value matters through the lower court system until they are resolved. Writing it down sounds absolutely pathetic.

I privately raised with a few trusted friends/colleagues that I didn't feel I was that good at my job to see if they had any advice. They basically just said I was fine because I wouldn't be sacked (on mat leave!). No one has actually ever told me I'm any good.

I probably sound absolutely ridiculous and pathetic but I don't know what to do. I have a good job, I'm so lucky but I feel a duty to myself and my clients to do something I'm more suited to. I attend regular training but somehow it makes no difference.

Does anyone else feel anything similar? Or have any advice? sad

Ps I'm competent enough, and always have my clients' interests first, but I would love to feel like I was actually really, really good.

HotKentMess Wed 02-Nov-16 10:02:48

And my worry is that returning from mat leave I on part time hours I will be 10 x worse than I was before!

FinallyHere Wed 02-Nov-16 10:07:00

Feeling this way, even before any DC arrive, is much more common that you might imagine. Many, many people, especially but not exclusively women, feel this way and think everyone else has it all sussed. Try googling 'imposter syndrome’

JaneAustinAllegro Wed 02-Nov-16 10:07:24

litigation is a hard specialty to do part time, because when something is in full flow, it's in full flow. Equally suggesting that you get the crap work because the others are older is likely to be absolute rubbish - they have far higher PQE and will therefore have dealt with issues / procedures many times more and will also have had the time to develop client relationships and get instructed directly more. That you can't do anything about apart from put the time in. However - the obvious plus points to the job and their willingness to be flexible suggests that you should suck it up a little for now particularly if you think you might take another maternity leave. Go back and get used to working and reevaluate. Perhaps PSL work might be better? or do you specialise in any particular industry? Wouldn't make any rash decisions based on your own perception of your performance at such a delicate time, and be grateful for what you have. You may find you don't want to go full throttle as soon as you get back.

Mymouthgetsmeintrouble Wed 02-Nov-16 10:07:59

You're having a crisis of confidence because you've been off work and have had a baby it can make you feel like that aswell as the feelings of not wanting to leave baby , you are absolutely good at your job if you were'nt they would have got rid of you during your probationary period , maybe do a bit of reading up to re familiarise yourself and treat yourself to a new suit and lipstick (do not confide in colleagues about how your feeling , there will always be someone who will get a kick from it ) go in there head held high and every time you have a bit of a wobble tell yourself you can do this im sure after a few days you will be back on your feet

emotionsecho Wed 02-Nov-16 10:09:57

Is it the job/career for you? Are you just going through the motions? Do you look forward to going to work or is it just something you have to do?

Be honest with yourself, is it where you work or what you do?

Do you think you would be happy doing this for the rest of your working life, or do you think you would look back in say 20 years time and wish you'd done something different?

If you are not really interested in what you are doing you are not going to give your all to it.

DEMum101 Wed 02-Nov-16 10:12:26

Could you consider moving to a different area on your return? Is that an option. For example, Private Client might suit your personality better and is an interesting area to work in. If you are relatively junior it might not be too difficult to retrain at this stage (and certainly in relation to PC, there are courses you can do to bring you up to speed - CLT used to run one and may still do).

The other thing you could consider is becoming a PSL perhaps? It is definitely a step onto the "mummy track" in most firms but it is less stressful, can be moulded into the hours you are working and gives you an opportunity to get your technical knowledge up to speed so you could change back to fee earning at some time in the future if you wanted.

It sounds like you just lack confidence and as no one has ever said anything good about your work, that lack of confidence will probably be leading to you performing less well so it becomes a bit of a spiral downwards. Getting away from your boss might be all you need to start improving, but as that might not be the easiest thing to manage, a change of role could improve things short term.

HotKentMess Wed 02-Nov-16 10:19:41

Wow thank you so much for the responses. They have helped.

I'm in Personal Injury (insurance) and I do enjoy it to an extent, especially when I have (rare) success in actually defending something. There is no real client contact, often just emailing into a void with my results for the week! I trained in private client and property and preferred that daily contact with real people but couldn't find a job in that field when I qualified. I felt more confident as a trainee than I do now, partly because I could rely on my 'soft' people skills a bit more than currently.

I do think I'll spend this month retraining myself while DS is settling in to nursery. That should help my confidence. I really am fortunate in my position so I will keep going a little longer and see how I get on.

lifeistooshort Wed 02-Nov-16 10:24:08

OP I feel for you. Lawyer here too and I know what you mean. What you don't realize is that you are probably a LOT better than you think and you obviously care very much. I have been told time and time again by people who know these things that I am a very good lawyer but I always feel like a fraud. Also being a lawyer is more than one thing. For example I am not and probably never will be a born negotiator. I work very hard at it and have seen some improvement but I very much doubt I will every be one of these charismatic negotiators. On the over hand, I am ace at drafting, structuring and managing complex deal etc.. Also it took me a long time to realise that a lot of lawyers are actually not as good as I/;they thought they are.

I am sure you too have some strengths that you are probably underestimating like good client care, following up and managing cases diligently etc. Also it is VERY common for returning lawyers to think they can't do it etc. My best friend who is one of the best lawyers I know was absolutely crippled by self doubt and lack of confidence before returning from maternity leave.

So OP my advice is try to be not so harsh on yourself, your employer doesn't seem to have complained. From what you are saying, you are still quite junior so you have plenty of time to develop. Try to work on what you perceive are your weaknesses and develop your stenghts. And if you don't get on with your immediate boss, perhaps try to find a mentor.

CaptainBrickbeard Wed 02-Nov-16 10:32:52

I convinced myself that I was rubbish at my job and fundamentally unsuited to it on my return from maternity leave, both times. I had difficul pregnancies and disengaged from the job mentally. My confidence took a nosedive when I came back and junior colleagues had superseded me, I was sleep deprived, I got ill more frequently and/or had to take time off to look after a poorly baby, I have had some ongoing health issues as well from pregnancy so I have felt so useless and very much an imposter in the job. It has taken time but I now know that I am good at my job and I am valued - my perception was completely distorted and I didn't believe any positive feedback I had from management. I now feel so much happier and suddenly enjoy my job as well as feeling suited to it and competent at it. It may be the same for you flowers

CurlyFry Wed 02-Nov-16 10:42:28

Lawyer here too - at my place, a personal injury lawyer returned from mat leave last year and just couldn't get back into the swing of things. She attended lots of training but her heart wasn't in it. She wanted to go into the wills & probate department but there was no space so she slowly picked up extra cases (in her own time) just to help the team out until eventually she had replaced most of her PI work with PC and it was clear she should move into that department so the firm made space for her.

She was a competent PI lawyer but she's an excellent PC lawyer now, mainly because she enjoys it and puts a lot into it.

Being a lawyer is the kind of job where you should only work in an area you're interested in - not what works best for the firm. I understand they're being flexible but if I were you I'd use that flexibility to start retraining in a different area.

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