career existential angst

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Forensic Psychologist
10+ Year Member
Mar 1, 2014
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Hey all,

I have a bit of a career/existential question that I was hoping I could float past you all, knowing that many of you on here have been practicing in various sectors for quite some time. For the last two years I have been working on a contract basis part time for one of my former supervisors/mentors, who owns multiple private practices. Over the course of that two years, I have come to find that my time (from my own perspective) is not being valued commensurate to my work product. When I joined the practice, I did so for multiple reasons: instant access to a plethora of referrals/getting my name out into the community of attorneys/judges/po’s/ and instant access to multiple board certified people that I could turn to for support and guidance. As a result, in that two years time, it’s gotten to the point now that I am getting cold calls from both private criminal/civil attorneys, as well as the public defender’s office to complete evaluations. However, what I have come to find in my two years, is that businessmen…are businessmen, and at the end of the day, I’m not feeling fully compensated for my work (what really kills me with this is when I look at how much we bill for, and then know how much I am getting an hour). I also feel at times overwhelmed/burdened by some of the expectations. At the end of the day… I want out. I have multiple other areas where I can do the evaluation work that I love, and overall, feel that this position is causing me more stress in my life, and that it is bleeding over into other areas as well (relationship, family, fun).

Here’s where I’m stuck. My boss has been a significant mentor for me. He is a huge reason why I was able to learn the requisite skills needed to do what I do, and consequently, secure solid internship, fellowship, and multiple employment opportunities. He is also very well known/respected in my community. I do not want to burn any bridges, but I do know that if I leave this practice, they will be hurting for a short period. At the end of the day…I’m at a loss for what to do. So, any thoughts from you all would be MOST appreciated. (ohh…and in my naiveté, I signed a 6 month non-compete when I started).

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Loyalty goes both ways. Your mentor helped you out, and you have, presumably, made them a nice profit in the past few years. I would see if I could get a hold of the numbers to come up with a look at what you're bringing in, compared to what you're taking out (getting paid). From there I would see what a good split would look like and re-negotiate that. I would also have a backup plan in case they do not wish to play ball. If you're coming up with a sort of ultimatum, "I'm being underpaid and would like pay commensurate with my production" you need to be able to back that up. Are you willing to leave if they will not give you a higher cut?

That's if you want to stay. If you want to leave secondary to stress, do you have a plan for what you'll do instead? Especially for that 6 months? I imagine it depends on financial situations. If finances are a concern, I would planning on what to do next while still making a paycheck, so you can jump right into it if you leave.
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In business, the correct answer to this is to increase your fees. If you get a percentage, then tell your boss you are increasing your hourly. You’ll get some drop in volume but get at least the same income if you price it right.

If your boss is a jerk, consult a mediocre attorney to see if noncompetes are enforceable in your state. Many are not. I did something along these lines. Dude hates me, but he could have made millions off of me if he was willing to be fair.
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Been there, done that. I guess it comes with the territory when you are doing well in your vocation. I was in a similar position to you (though full-time) and it got to a point where I appreciated the mentorship early on, but had learned most aspects of the business and could independently set up a contract for work/ get clients or refer the work to those that I supervised without any help from hire-ups. I was also doing more mentoring than learning. At that point, I really wasn't gaining anything from the experience and it was time to go. A couple of thoughts:

1. Do you want to run a business? This a personal decision about whether you want to deal with business stuff or grind and see more cases. Personally, I didn't know how to reduce my work quality to the mean/ median and make it worthwhile for me to take only my cut. My quality is known to be above average I like it that way. I also like being able to make my own cost/quality decision rather than having this dictated to me. So, my own business seems worthwhile.

2. What do you really want to do? I needed some time to focus on family and reduce my work commitments, so a move to the VA was right for me at the moment. It gives me time to regroup, burn out my non-compete (that is not enforceable in my state, but who wants to go to court or burn bridges when I am not ready to do that anyway), and think about how I want to start my own business/practice. Figure out your what you really need in your life. No need to burn a bridge, just give adequate notice and abide by the non-compete if you are not hurt by it. If it will impact your next move or finances, then do what you have to in order to earn a living (including seeing a mediocre attorney and burning bridges). Do you want to compete with this guy or move into a less stressful area of practice that does not compete with him? I was not clear on what you had in mind.

For what it is worth, my former practice is moving on despite some initial begging to keep me and will keep humming along. Don't be surprised with the mentorship ends with you not making him a buck. I still don't regret my decision and am getting calls from former colleagues I supervised that are starting to feel the same way. The cycle of mentorship/ learning always seems to tilt in a certain direction after you have learned a certain amount.
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