A Blessing in Disguise?


That’s one way to think about being laid off from your large firm job.

For most of the lawyers I’ve worked with over the years, leaving large firm practice was an improvement in their lives. That’s not to say that the transition is easy or without ups and downs. Few things in life are more stressful than being laid off; and in the short run, there may be some very difficult financial decisions to make.

But in my observation, many lawyers are happier in either small firm practice, in-house or government (and some are happier leaving practice altogether). The potential financial rewards may not be as great (although sometimes they are); but having more responsibility at an earlier stage in your career, having the chance to really build your own base of clients and having more autonomy, all lead to increased career satisfaction.

The key to making a successful transition is to achieve some degree of acceptance of your situation so that you can move on. It’s very much like going through the stages of mourning that were identified by the Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (who actually applied her own model to job loss later in her career.)

In other words, in order to move on, you need to allow yourself to feel some anger, etc. Just make sure that you express these feelings in the safety of your personal relationships or with a coach or mental health professional (i.e. not during your next job interview.)

These are very hard times for the legal profession; the silver lining, though, is that sometimes a forced change becomes the catalyst for making change that will ultimately lead to a happier career. Make the best of the situation, leave on good terms, keep in contact with as many partners and associates as you can (i.e. the ones you actually like and who seem willing to help). If history is any indication, you will probably end up in a better place sooner than you think.

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