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What to Do When the Legal Job Market Slows Down (and it Always Does)
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What to Do When the Legal Job Market Slows Down

Summary: This article goes over what you should do when the legal job market slows down, as it inevitably will.

What should you do when the legal job market slows down? Keep the job you have.


Barring that, figure out how to find a new position in this increasingly competitive legal market.


Although firms have not yet used widespread layoffs to trim their staffs, you don’t want to find yourself at the beginning of a trend. So try to hedge all bets in your favor. This is not rocket science, just common sense.

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  • Become indispensable to your department by doing great work: Be thorough, organized, get feedback on your work product, generally take a proactive role. (See: If You Want More You Need to Be Worth More)
  • You need to be a team player, positive, never be too busy to take something on. At the same time, though, be clear with your partners about deadlines and what’s already on your plate. It’s better to have them choose to reassign work than for you to appear lazy or disorganized. (See: The Importance of Fitting In)
  • If work is slow in your department, offer to take on other assignments in areas which either interest you or where you know they are hurting for people. (See: To Succeed in Any Job You Need to Make Work)

Busy fields right now include bankruptcy (which is booming) and litigation. While it is good to specialize later on in your career, as a junior associate who hasn’t yet been pigeonholed in one field, being exposed to various practice areas may increase your marketability down the road.

Attain a high profile at your firm. You want people to know you. Volunteer for various projects, become involved with the hiring committee, be friendly and polite to everyone at the firm, including support staff. Of course no one’s a saint, but true, spirited camaraderie goes a long way.

Definitely get as much client contact as possible, both for your professional development and also because you may be afforded the opportunity to move in-house with a client; it happens all the time.


Worst-case scenario: you’re laid off. What now?

  • Retool: Repackage yourself. If you are a corporate lawyer for whom business has definitely slowed down, try to reinvent yourself in different practice areas. Fields which are hot right now and will continue to be should we enter a full-blown recession include bankruptcy and litigation. If you are a real estate lawyer, think about segueing into land use and zoning work.

    Changing Your Practice Area

  • Consider temp work: You are lucky in one sense: temporary/contract work was not an option 10 years ago. Now it is, and it has gained greater acceptance over the years. This can be a great way to keep up your skills and have something tangible on your resume while you search for a full-time position. Sometimes temporary positions can become permanent.

    Click Here to Find Contract Attorney Jobs on LawCrossing

  • Be prepared to go where the jobs are: You may have to move, either from an urban firm to a suburban firm, or possibly to another city or state. If you are mobile at this time in your life, take advantage of that to keep your options open.

    Moving Your Career to Another City

  • Keep a close eye on the legal job market: You should keep both eyes focused on the legal job market so that you don’t miss any opportunities. The best way to do this is to sign up for LawCrossing, which finds open legal jobs as soon as they become available.
  • Line up your references: As soon as you are let go, contact your colleagues and clients, with whom you hopefully had good relationships, to ensure that they will vouch for you both professionally and personally.

    Handling References: A Basic Guideline

  • Network, network, network: Continue to network with friends, family and even acquaintances. Become and stay involved in the community, whether it be through volunteer groups, team sports or arts organizations. Try to get involved with your bar association, which is terrific for the leadership, networking and socializing opportunities it provides.

    Why Networking is Essential to Your Success as an Attorney

You never can predict where that next job lead will come from. The larger your overall network (both in and out of the legal community), the wider net you have cast and the faster you will land on both feet.

Since the best time to look for a job is when you already have a good one, always keep your ear to the ground for serendipitous opportunities when you are gainfully employed. Lay the right foundation, and you will be neither a layoff statistic nor a dissatisfied worker-bee, but rather that rarest of creatures: a happy lawyer.



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