Why Lawyers Should Love Layoffs: The Three “Rs” of Layoff Survival

Okay, “love” may be too strong of a word. Perhaps “benefit from” or “learn from” would be more accurate.

Getting laid off hurts, but the more prepared you are to handle it, the better. Being laid off also forces you to examine your career path–and steer in another direction if you have been on the wrong track.

The reality is that layoffs are happening fast and deep. Sometimes employers are using “stealth layoffs” to mask their economic situation, as the ABA Journal reports, but increasingly, layoffs are overt.

In recent weeks I have spoken to more and more lawyers facing–or potentially facing–a layoff. If you are in this position, or fear that you might be, read the three “Rs” of Layoff Survival:

1. REVISE: First of all, rethink and revise your lifestyle. Many lawyers that I have coached over the years cannot quantify their living expenses. To survive a layoff, you must know exactly how much money you NEED to live on (trimming ALL unnecessary expenses). Lawyers who are laid off (or fearing a lay off) should pare down–immediately. This can be hard for lawyers who have enjoyed the pleasures made possible by a high salary (club memberships, expensive car leases etc.). If your golden handcuffs have been broken, rethink your lifestyle and cut your expenditures asap.

2. REPOSITION: Take a hard, critical look at your resume and your experience. Do you need to reposition yourself to get a new job? You may need several versions of your resume during the coming months, as discussed in Revive Your Resume(s):  Layoff Survival 101. In the long run, getting laid off may benefit you by forcing you into much needed career change–within or outside the law.

3. REACH OUT:  Immediately. Many laid off lawyers feel ashamed and want to retreat from the world.  This is a deadly mistake. Instead, begin networking at once, connecting with everyone from old classmates to former employers to family friends. Reach out beyond your close circle of friends to a broader sphere of contacts. Tell them honestly about your situation; the economic downturn easily explains your job loss without negatively implicating your skills.  Ask your contacts whether: (1) they know of any job openings, (2) have an open position themselves, and/or (3) whether they could introduce you to someone (be specific) who might help you. (Sometimes people have a hard time answering a broad question like “Do you know of any jobs?”, but can more easily answer a specific one like “Do you know anyone at ExxonMobile or Shell that I could contact?”) Walk a tightrope between describing your skills and experience accurately, but not so narrowly as to foreclose opportunities.

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