Weathering the Financial Storm

It is very unclear how the failure of major financial institutions and the federal bailout of some of these institutions will effect the legal profession. But like most of you, I’ve been doing my best to make sense of all this uncertainty.

On the one hand, law firms are likely to see a large uptick in litigation, particularly in high stakes litigation. Similarly, if the current mood in Congress creates a host of new regulation for the financial services industry, law firms stand to benefit.

On the other hand, during a period of financial turmoil, businesses are more likely to stay on the sidelines rather than pursue acquisitions, even ones that were already in the pipeline. Tightening credit is likely to mean less investment in general and a general slow down in economic activity. This is turn will probably mean fewer deals for lawyers.

So what is an associate to do? My colleague Debbie Acker has stressed the importance of taking care of yourself during times of stress. I won’t repeat her words of wisdom. But there are also things that you can do for your career in tumultuous times.

For starters, if you are finding that your work is truly slowing down, don’t sit around whining about it. Be positive and proactive. Spend more time on marketing activities. Stay involved in professional organizations, write an article or meet with colleagues. You can also spend more time learning about your clients. Take them to lunch. Invite clients to a sporting event.

Find partners who are busy and ask them how you can be helpful. Pay attention to practice areas that are busy and see if you can pick up some projects in those departments.

A lot of this is easier said than done. Lawyers are professional pessimists. We are paid to help clients identify risk. We are trained to think in worst case scenarios. This kind of thinking can do a lot to help a client manage potential risk. But it can be a source of paralysis for our own careers.

So be aware and take action now. If you do, you will have more control over your destiny as we get through this time of great uncertainty.

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