Lawyer Layoffs Looming? Get a Plan!

Part 1 of a series.

So Thacher Proffitt has finally admitted that it will lay off associates early in 2008. I was in practice in the early 1990s, when the economy was sucking and firms were taking the then-unheard of step of laying off associates. At first (a small history lesson) many firms did not want to admit they were doing badly, and so blamed associate performance. Nice touch. Eventually, associate layoffs became de rigueur.

One lesson I learned then: When one firm publicly starts laying off associates, many more firms are getting ready to do the same. So now is the time for action, so you, rather than the vagaries of law firm politics, can be sailing your ship when the seas get rough.

What action, you ask? Accept that you’re going to get laid off, and plan accordingly.

I can hear the howls. But hear me out.

In an uncertain economy, even BigLaw jobs are at risk. Even if you do great work. If you’re in the wrong practice area, i.e., a lagging one such as mortgage credit or even litigation (companies sue less during economic downturns), or if your billables aren’t outrageously beyond 2100, or if some powerful partner just doesn’t like you, or whatever else, you could easily be toast.

Don’t forget, partners lie all the time about how a firm or practice area is doing. Some don’t really know, others do but think that by delaying the bad news, they can somehow turn the situation around. They’re all engaging in some form of delusion, but by the time they have to stop, it’s too late for you. So quit wasting time worrying about whether you might survive a wave of layoffs. You’ve got things to do, and you don’t have the luxury of fretting.

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you want to get out of your current situation. Use the layoff scare to your advantage. Look at your finances and plan to be laid off in February 2008. What would you differently now if you knew it was coming? Then do it.

For example, if you got a raise or big bonus, bully for you. Don’t spend more than 20% of it, if that. Use it instead to pay off debt, or if you’re lucky enough not to have any, sock it away.

You need to plan now for a lower standard of living. If you’re renting, find a cheaper place while your credit is good. Particularly if you are single, you don’t have to live in the best place, just one that is fairly safe and not horribly inconvenient. If you have a mortgage, this probably isn’t a great time to sell, but maybe you could move to a cheaper rental and rent your house. It’s all about creativity, folks.

Next time, we’ll take a look at some more tasks to get yourself layoff-ready.

One thought on “Lawyer Layoffs Looming? Get a Plan!

  1. Pingback: Lawyer Layoffs and the Prospect of Temping « Leaving the Law

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