There has been a steady stream of reporting recently about layoffs at big firms. While we are not yet in 2009 territory yet, clearly there is some good talent now looking for their next opportunity.
If you are one of the “unlucky” ones, consider this—getting laid off from your biglaw job may be a blessing.
I’ve spoken to many biglaw attorneys in the last 30 years (through boom and bust). While there are surely many who find great career satisfaction working at AmLaw firms, for most of the lawyers I’ve worked with, leaving large firm practice was an improvement.
That’s not to say that the transition is without ups and downs. Few things in life are more stressful than losing your job; and in the short run, there may be some very difficult financial decisions to make.
But in my observation, many lawyers end up happier in small firm practice, in-house or government (some are happier leaving the law).
The potential financial rewards may not be as great in the short run (although sometimes they are even greater in the long run); but having more responsibility or the chance to really build your own practice, having more autonomy, or getting more involved on the business side can all increase career satisfaction.
If you are finding yourself in this situation right now, here are some tips for surviving your layoff:
1. Achieve some degree of acceptance of your situation. It’s very much like going through the stages of mourning that were identified by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
In other words, in order to move on, it is okay to allow yourself to feel some anger. (Look how I was rewarded for billing 2000+hours.) Just make sure that you express these feelings in the safety of your personal relationships or with a professional (i.e. not during your next job interview—no one wants to hear you complain about your ex).
2. Try not to personalize the decision. In all likelihood, the layoff was a business decision.
3. Take stock in what you would like to change in your next position. An involuntary layoff is a great opportunity to reassess what you want from your career. Coaching can also help.
4. Assess any course corrections you would like to make. A layoff is a good time to think about what you might like to do differently in your next job.
5. Take the time to hone some new skills (sign up for some CLEs or look for the many free resources available on-line.)
6. Consider doing work on a project basis for other lawyers.
7. Start actively networking to get advice (check out my website for lots of resources on that).
8. Don’t neglect your mental and physical health. Exercise regularly, eat well, and get enough sleep. Take the time for personal interests. Talk to a therapist.
And be like Gloria Gaynor. Sing “I Will Survive” (with the music turned way up!) #lawyers #attorneycoaching