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How Attorneys Should Handle Sudden Job Loss
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Summary: These tips can help attorneys that find themselves fired, laid off, or abruptly without a job to gain direction towards a new job.

There is a good chance that many attorneys will find themselves suddenly without a job at some point in their career. Law firms close down all the time, sometimes without warning. The article by Harrison Barnes, “What to Do If You Lose Your Job as an Attorney,” provides valuable advice for attorneys that find themselves unemployed.

  
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Don’t Get Mad or Cause Drama

Bad stuff happens and there is little you can do about it. The one big thing you can control is how you react to the bad news. More often than not, attorneys can see the warning signs. The work may be slowing down at the law firm or you may be getting bad reviews on your work. When the time comes that the law firm does let you go, being mad at the law firm won’t get you anywhere. Instead, focus all your energy on moving on and finding a new position. You want to keep your relationship with the firm good so they can help you in your search for a new firm.

The gut reaction after being fired is to seek legal action, but unless there is a very, very good reason with documented discrimination, trying to sue the law firm over your lost job will not get you anywhere. Doing this will almost guarantee that you will never get a job in a major law firm again. The law firm will contend that you were fired for poor performance, giving you a reputation that will be hard to shake.

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When you get fired or let go, keep it to yourself. Don’t go raving to your coworkers that you are leaving. Keep this news as quiet as you can by only telling those that absolutely need to know. The reason for this is that you need to start looking for a new job immediately and you don’t want word getting around to other law firms that you were fired. You want to take whatever steps necessary to keep a good reputation.

Don’t Sign Until You Understand Everything

When law firms let attorneys go, they often ask them to sign a nondisparagement agreement and other related documents. They tell the attorneys they can get severance or other pay for signing them. As an attorney, you need to be careful, reading everything so you can understand what is negotiable and what isn’t. If they are trying to make you sign right then and not let you take the documents home, read them right then. Sometimes signing the documents quickly is fine but the law firm may try to slip something else into the agreement.

Ask for Time

The most important thing you need for your current law firm is time to find a new job. If you ask them for anything, ask for at least 30 days for you to find other employment. Three months is preferable, so at least ask to remain on the firm’s website and voicemail for that amount of time to make it appear as if you are still employed. An unemployed attorney will have a very hard time finding a new job. Larger law firms are more likely to give an attorney extra time to find a new job, even up to six months in some instances. If the attorney takes the job loss gracefully and not with anger, the law firm will be more likely to give them the time.

Don’t Waste Time

Start applying for new jobs immediately. Every day matters, so don’t go around sulking for several days for being fired or laid off before finally doing something. You want to apply for as many positions as you can as quickly as you can. Don’t even worry about whether the law firm has open positions because you never know who may be interested in your qualifications and experience.

Have a Good Explanation

Law firms will want to know why you are looking for a new position. If the law firm is in a different market, such as your home market, you can use that as the reason. If you end up unemployed, you will need a better explanation. The best explanations will involve forces beyond your control and not because you did something wrong. Whatever the reason is that you decide to use, make sure it does not paint a bad picture of you or your abilities.

What excuse would you give? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about how to find a new job, read these articles:



 

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