Archive for the ‘Career Change’ Category

Lawyers Find Job Networking to be Hard Work

Friday, February 20th, 2009

 As lawyer lay-offs mount,  lawyers are beginning to network like crazy in hopes of finding jobs. The laid-off lawyers who call me speak with frustration about how long it is taking them to find something new.  This is because: (1) so many lawyers are flooding the market at once, (2) there are few jobs to be had, (3) the more senior a lawyer (or any professional) is, the longer it takes to get a job, and (4) generally speaking, lawyers don’t realize how hard job networking can be.

Why don’t lawyers expect job networking to be so much work?  Perhaps because finding a job–and a high paying one–has come easily in recent years. Many of these lawyers have never had to look for a job: jobs always came to them.

And so, job networking understandably brings frustration, confusion and disappointment. Having a realistic understanding about what’s involved in successful job networking–and then doing it–can really improve a lawyer’s attitude, and odds of finding something. 

Although speaking to finance professionals (as opposed to lawyers),’s recent article by Jon Jacobs titled Our Take: Networking is Hard  sets out some of the requirements of effective networking.  For example, it advises professionals to “go outside the box” in their job search, which requires departing from one’s comfort zone.  Too often lawyers rely on close contacts and family members–and headhunters (who have few jobs to offer nowadays)–when looking for a new job.  Rather, lawyers should cast their nets widely, tracking back to old classmates, and distant family friends and professional acquaintances.

As the article articulates, networking with strangers is particularly hard because it usually results in “cycling through multiple levels of contacts (one refers you to another, who then refers you to another, and so on)”. However, persistence usually pays off, so network now!

How International Lawyers Can Get Happy

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Are you happy? If not, get social.

So reports National Public Radio today in Happiness: It Really Is Contagious.  Happy people tend to have bigger social networks; when one member of the network feels happy, that feeling can spread among other network members. Those at the center of the network have a better chance of catching the wave of happiness.

And happily, as the radio version of this story reports, unhappiness does not spread in the same manner; positive emotions seem to bond and integrate groups of people in a way that unhappiness doesn’t.

So, how can international lawyers get happy, despite the gloomy market conditions? Here are six ways to ramp up happiness with social interaction:

1. Interact not only with friends, but also friends of friends. If you are in the middle of a job search, career change networking gives you the opportunity to socialize with a lot of people.

2. Get involved with legal groups like the Section of International Law of the ABA , the International Bar Association or another bar association. Actively participate in their committees.

3. ‘Tis the season to have a party, and invite lots of colleagues, clients and co-workers. Also accept as many party invitations as possible, and then actually attend the events.

4. Actively market yourself through in-person encounters. Many lawyers are introverts, and gravitate towards solitary marketing practices like writing articles or book chapters. Instead, network more; as you interact with people,  look for ways to help them, rather than trying to get something (business) from them.

5. Do some volunteer work, perhaps at a pro bono clinic or through another group volunteer activity. For more on the benefits of pro bono work, see my article called the Pro Bono Plus.

6. Spend time with HAPPY people.

Happy holidays!

Need an International Legal Job? Think Beyond Borders–Literally and Figuratively

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Here are some tips for international lawyers who want a new job:

1. Jobs Abroad:  If your resume is stellar, look abroad for law firm opportunities, reports the ABA Journal. If you transfer to a foreign office, however, think this through; as the economic crisis deepens globally, you may find yourself jobless AND across the globe from home. See my recent article So You Want to Work Abroad? for The Complete Lawyer.

2. In-house: If you have done excellent work for a particular client, now may be the right time to move in-house with that client. However, doing so isn’t easy during a tight market. Good in-house jobs are coveted right now, and hiring freezes may be in place. Be prepared to use your best contacts and to demonstrate how hiring you will actually save the client money. If you have been at a well paying firm, know that moving in-house may require a pay cut.

3.  Government Jobs: Working for the new Administration appeals to many lawyers; the WSJ’s career website tells you how to make Obama your boss. There are also good international law positions with the government that don’t require a political appointment, such as many with the CIA and the State Department. Think about other government agencies that touch on international topics, like the US Commerce Department and its International Trade Administration.

4. Part-time or Contract Jobs: Sometimes you have to take a “placeholder position” in order to make money.  Regardless, you will learn from the experience, and it may benefit you down the line. See Zigzag to Get Your International Dream Job, Even if it Means Grueling Work.

5. Non-legal Jobs: This requires thinking outside the box. Although lawyers are taught to solve legal problems with creative solutions, they are not taught to think about their careers creatively. Brainstorm with legal recruiters, executive headhunters, lawyer coaches, family members and friends about what else you might do. Career testing, which can be purchased through most major university career offices, can also be helpful. Read the WSJ’s online career site’s discussion of how to reposition youself for a new industry.

You might also enjoy my January 2007 presentation on Career Change for Lawyers in a Global Economy.


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

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

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.

Revive Your Resume(s): Lawyer Layoff Survival 101

Friday, November 14th, 2008

The worst has happened: you are laid off, or you see a layoff coming. Here are some quick tips on resume revival.

1. Revive your Resume(s): Resumes become stale over time. Make sure that yours contains up to date information, and appears fresh and energetic. I always tell my clients to use action verbs (avoiding the verb “to be” whenever possible.) Choose positive, powerful verbs that communicate your expertise and authority, such as “negotiated”, “argued”, “won”, and “settled” rather than “assisted with” or “helped draft”.

2. Always be Honest: The legal world is small. Thanks to the internet, any potential employer can check your background. Be sure that you state the truth.

3. Sell Yourself: In this crowded market, you must distinguish yourself from other candidates. What special and unique things have you done? How can you compellingly describe–using persuasive language–your expertise? Do you have letters of recommendation from co-counsel or clients that you can share?  If not, ask for some.

4. Create Multiple Resumes: Different jobs call for different skill sets. Redraft your resume, creating several versions to highlight different skills. For example, I have helped one international business lawyer with a fair amount of bankruptcy experience early in her career. Her traditional resume never mentioned this experience because bankruptcy wasn’t her primary area of practice. Given the current market, she is creating another version of her resume to highlight and describe this experience in detail.

5. Get Feedback. Legal recruiters, lawyer coaches and lawyer friends can help with feedback. It’s a good idea to have several pairs of eyes read a resume for content, tone and typos. If you are applying for a non-legal position, be sure and have some non-lawyers look at your resume beforehand, and remove any “legalese”.