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5 Steps Lawyers Should Take When a Layoff is Imminent
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Learn how to prepare yourself for a law firm layoff in this article.

Summary: Do you fear that a lay-off from your law firm is imminent? Learn what you should do to prepare in this article.

Nearly every month or two, we hear that yet another law firm laying off attorneys due to a decline in revenue or because they’re merging with another firm. With this much instability in the job market, many attorneys aren’t sure how to cope when they first learn that their employer will soon be letting them go.


Fortunately, there are experienced professionals ready to help displaced attorneys discover their most promising paths toward finding new jobs. Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., is a Chicago-based global outplacement & career transitioning firm that’s helped many lawyers land on their feet following an unexpected lay-off.

CEO John Challenger spoke by phone with JD Journal, sharing his thoughts about five of the most important first steps that lawyers should take at this critical time in their lives.

5 Steps/Suggestions for Lawyers Learning about an Impending Lay-Off

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  1. Obtain the best benefits package you can. You’ll need a generous package to help tide you over until your next paycheck starts. John Challenger (CEO of Challenger, Gray) says, “While larger layoffs don’t always provide attorneys with the same chance to negotiate for better benefits, you should still do what you can to remind the firm of all the hard work you’ve done during recent years;”
  2. Immediately start extricating yourself emotionally and technically from the experience. Yes, you’ve been rejected but at least you weren’t fired. However, now is the time to let go of all anger or bitterness about the experience and concentrate on moving forward. It’s much too easy to ruin a new job opportunity by sounding vengeful or immature about what’s just happened. Mr. Challenger said, “If you’ve ever pursued counseling in the past and found it helpful, give serious thought to obtaining a bit more at this crucial time in your life.” He said a trained therapist can help you properly reframe the experience so you can then concentrate on all the unique skills and talents you’re prepared to offer your next employer. Mr. Challenger also said he’s seen far too many highly capable attorneys let layoffs so seriously damage their self-esteem that their job searches were greatly lengthened. “Take some time to fully reflect on your track record, noting all you’ve accomplished during your career;”
  3. Try not to narrow your job search too dramatically. “While everyone often has some constraints they must work around, including limited funds, give serious thought to interviewing for jobs elsewhere in the country.” For example, don’t just interview with corporations pulling in a set minimum amount of annual revenue. After all, you can always say “No” if an offer is made that you just can’t accommodate. Perhaps you’re just not currently free to move your entire family across the country – or leave behind special resources available in your present location;
  4. Target the type of job you know you can do.Don’t go looking for a new type of position that your job record simply doesn’t support,” said Mr. Gray. If you do this, you’ll usually be wasting your time since others who do have the specific background and experience being sought will normally be hired before you. In other words, “stay grounded in the same field you’ve been working in during the last five or ten years;”
  5. While revising your resume and brushing up on your interviewing skills, be sure to make a list of all of your “core competencies.” Ask yourself what you tend to do better than the other attorneys you’ve worked with in the past.
    • Are you usually the most successful rainmaker, frequently bringing in new clients? If so, be prepared to explain how you’ve done this in the past and are prepared to do it again – while also producing exemplary legal work;
    • Perhaps you have experienced great success handling labor law cases or explaining complicated aspects of contract law to many clients?
    • If you can clearly demonstrate from your record that you have superior litigation skills, by all means, tell each prospective employer how this has benefitted those who’ve recently employed you;
    • Should you be capable of doing advanced research or getting learned articles published that reflect favorably on your employers, be sure to mention this talent;
    • Have you ever taught any kind of legal training or continuing legal education (CLE) course to other attorneys in your state? If so, not this prominently in your resume. Law firms greatly value this type of implicit marketing advantage.

Whatever you do best – be ready to enthusiastically explain that you’re eager to use your skills to help each potential employer meet its stated needs. Obviously, everyone wants to hire a winner – especially one who’s open to the new employer’s stated objectives and directions.

Finally, be reasonable about your pay demands and other fringe benefits when trying to land your next big job. Sometimes compromising a bit in one area of “perks” can wind up paying off far more in other areas in the long run. If you’ll concentrate on what you have to offer when interviewing and say very little about the lay-off – chances are you’ll land another great job sooner than you think.

See the following articles for more information:


Elizabeth Smith, J.D., M.A. is a freelance writer who has authored/co-authored two annually updated legal texts in the past and continues to address many challenging news topics in her work.



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