Coming to Japan was by no means a hail mary attempt at a 2012 bonus. That ship had sailed. I was far more concerned with making sure no one could label me developmentally off-track. My great fear, as I've moved from one slow office to the next, has been that I wouldn't have enough experience to land another job if I was laid off.
Some would point out that the firm never sat me down to hint at the possibility of a layoff. That's true. But I don't think I've been wrong to worry and strategize. By my willingness to volunteer or agree to "take one for the team" and the firm's willingness to move me around, we have avoided that conversation.
It has been enough to get me through my junior associate years, but I was convinced it wouldn't be enough to propel me to midlevel status here or at another firm. So I came to Japan, to protect my investment in my law degree by catching-up on experience and booking a strong 2013. And it's working.
The last few months of 2012 were busy enough that I met my hours obligation (by the skin of my teeth). I still didn't expect a bonus--assuming the firm would back out my travel time to and from the client's office, which would be enough to disqualify me. But the firm surprised me. Today, I got a pay stub indicating that the standard firm bonus for an associate of my class year would be deposited into my account on Friday.
I am surprised and grateful (in a refresh the pay stub screen multiple times because I just can't believe it kind of way). All of the bonus money will go to the Department of Education. I am still paying off my loans, which is one of the big reasons that staying on track and staying employed at a big firm are important to me. With each loan paid in full, I feel a little less stressed and a little bit closer to the day when I can choose to lead a more balanced life.