Advice for attorneys looking for work during an economic downturn
You may have heard that the legal industry (or at least some major sectors of it) are recession-proof, however that doesn’t mean that legal jobs are protected from the same macroeconomic factors that are causing layoffs in tech and other industries. While the outlook for attorneys may be better than the average, layoffs can happen to anyone at any time. And even though the tech sector has received the most press in 2023, law firms have not been immune to the recent layoffs trend. And some are predicting that this unfortunate trend will only continue throughout this year.
Being laid off is incredibly disruptive and frustrating. No matter what position you’re in, there are things you can do to make the situation easier to manage and come out the other end in an even better position.
TIPS TO SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
While you may be tempted understandably to explore every potential role you see and take the first thing that seems like it will work, there is value in taking time to think about how you like to work and in what kind of environments you work best.
In Harvard Business Review, career coach Marlo Lyons explains that if you’re looking for any lawyer jobs and all you want is a paycheck you may want to take that first opportunity that pops up, but by doing that you risk ending up in “a job that doesn’t fulfill your values, but that will leave you unengaged and frustrated.” Not only does that put you in a negative position, but it also hampers your future success. It’s worth it to take the time to really think through what you see your next job looking like.
If you’re looking for a new opportunity, whether it’s because you’ve been laid off or just because you have other career goals, you’ll want to think about your next steps. As you think about what comes next for you, here are a few tips for making a successful attorney career transition:
Highlight your relevant experience. For example, you may have been a litigator but are truly interested in becoming a transactional lawyer, explains Matt Wheatley, Vice President of Client Development at Priori. In this situation, you should examine all of the transactional-adjacent experience you have and make that the centerpiece of your resume. This can apply to any pivot you would like to make.
Tap into and expand your network. While you can find success submitting cold applications or through a recruiter, building relationships with people who want to take a chance can make a big difference in finding you the legal jobs you’re looking for—especially if it is in a field you’re not as experienced in. Wheatley recommends LinkedIn as a good place to start and you can also check out industry associations, such as CLOC, ACC and the ABA, among many others.
Look to emerging or underserved industries. If you’re passionate about a new and trending area of the law, for example the cannabis or legalized gambling industries, you won’t necessarily be behind the curve if you don’t have significant (or any) experience with the specific topic—because few do. Wheatley adds that this can also be true of industries that continually need more service, such as data privacy, which is growing larger every year.
Show, don’t tell, when it comes to your story. Providing advice to laid off in-house attorneys in Legal Dive, Jessica Nguyen, Chief Legal Officer at Lexion, suggests pulling together some concrete examples of how your skills made a difference, including data and statistics if you can.
CONSIDER NONTRADITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
With uncertain times ahead of us, you may be looking to expand your horizons when it comes to the types of legal jobs that work with your lifestyle. Wheatley points to the numerous nontraditional ways of practicing that attorneys across the globe are using to build successful careers. These include options such as legal marketplaces, alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) and more. They provide support and a structure for many previously overlooked avenues that are now more widely available and can provide lawyers with a way to build a new career.
One of these options that can offer a new, more flexible way to work as well as to build and enhance an existing practice is a legal marketplace like Priori. Potential engagements you can find run the gamut and include:
Part-time engagements that allow you to continuing using your skills and keeping them sharp or get new experiences with matters or industries you may not have easy access to
Full-time placements that can create connections that lead to a new or permanent role
The ability to build a solo practice entirely on the marketplace or provide ancillary income to your current solo practice
Whether you want to bridge the gap between your previous role and your next move, or you want a more flexible way to practice while still receiving compensation comparable to traditional law firms, a legal marketplace can provide what you need.