I'm providing several lists of opportunities for attorneys who no longer have their 2008 platforms. Scroll down if you are in a hurry. This installment is for the big-law types that want to stay there (or return). Options for other categories follow in upcoming posts. The below is largely from the associate perspective, with some info for partners as well.
Introductory remarks: Decide. Now!
Since I have last posted, roughly 10% of 'big-law' attorneys lost their positions. Probably more than that. Most of those individuals have already begun in earnest their job search. Most have been told by recruiters that there is nothing that can be done (by them).
Thus, there is a high degree of networking going on, many, many calls being made to contract agencies, many favors being called in, many 'just wanted to re-establish our friendship' coffees. These are all good, of course. A few have hung out their shingles. Some are collaborating in loose associations that they don't call firms. Some have fled the industry. Truly our profession has had more than its fair share of pogroms.
Now what? I don't need to tell you that it is 'gut-check' time. Either you are committed to this industry or you are not. If you aren't in it for the long haul, take a contract position (if you can find one) and look for the exit strategy. Write that novel (I've heard it can be done in two months, by the way), start that business, take a non-legal management positions, etc. If you are committed, it is time to look at alternate strategies.
I've outlined below strategies based on a few broad-brush goals. For purposes of this post, I'm focusing on big-law candidates. I'll focus on other tracks in posts to follow (shortly). Here goes:
Don't kid yourself, you have fewer options. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. No exceptions.
a) Network like mad: Call every friend you know; review the website for all of the AmLaw 200 for all openings; apply for them. If you are not on LinkedIn, are not reading "Above-the-Law", etc., etc., you need a brain transplant (sorry). Get with it. To use the vulgar language of "The Little Red Book of Sales"--if you do not have at least 200 LinkedIn partners, 'you suck.' Fix that straight-away.
b) You may not take a contract position. There MIGHT, POSSIBLY be some loosening of this rule (which before this year (2009) has always been IRON CLAD (contrary to popular belief). However, if I were a betting man, I'd wager rather not. It had better not be document review--it had better be through Axiom or something (fie on them, by the way) or an ad hoc temporary relationship doing what you were doing at the law firm. If you DO take such a position, make sure it is ONLY ONE, and not a serial thing. You may be able to call this hanging out your own shingle, but that's problematic too (see below).
c) You MAY take a non-legal management position (as long as it is high up enough or with a high-tech-sounding company, especially if in the industry that your future firm wants to court--even if that company might not be a potential client). For instance, you may take a position with your cousin's software company (especially if in Silicon Valley or Atlanta, for example)--better if the company makes money, made headlines, etc. In such a case, your particular position is not AS important (although better if you were GC as well as whatever other hat you might wear). But working as even a high-level non-legal manager at, let's say, WalMart is a non-starter.
d) You MAY take a sabbatical. Doing nothing is actually better than taking a non-big-law position or a non-legal position. Really. Write a book or something. Of course, if you can afford to do that, you might not have read down this far in this article.
e) You MAY take a (paying or non-paying) non-profit position. Permissible. Could be interesting. Try to ensure you are doing what you want to be doing subject-matter wise.
f) Please do not change subject-matter expertise. Makes for a very messy resume.
g) You may, of course, change markets (LA to NY to Dubai, etc.).
h) You may, possibly, get away with hanging out your own shingle, but I don't advise it. Law firm prejudice against this practice is exceedingly high--UNLESS your client list includes names like APPLE, WALMART, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY; you know, that sort of client. Further, if you have very WEALTHY and SUCCESSFUL high-tech clients; also fine, of course. You'll be expected to bring them with you.
i) If you are a partner: you can go anywhere you like as long as your billing rates don't dip (too much) and you keep your clients. Watch those rates; you'll be in a fix if you've jumped your law-firm ship to save your clients and reduced your rates too much. How much is too much? That's for another article. And, really, too ad hoc to comment upon fairly (go ask www.AdamSmithEsq.com!!!).
You WILL NOT be able to simply "sanitize" your resume when this all 'blows over': so the best rule of thumb is to think "would I hire myself with this resume?" AND "everything I've ever done since going to law school MUST be on my resume."
If you have questions or comments, by all means let me know. I've been wrong. Once or twice.
Happy hunting. And believe me: this is war, make no mistake. That gives me an idea for another post . . . .
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