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TEN HELPFUL TIPS FOR LAID OFF LAWYERS

So you’re one of the thousands of attorneys that have been laid off by your firm during the current recession.  Or you know someone who has.  Or you’re concerned that we haven’t seen the end of this trend and you are apprehensive about your own job. 

What can you do to find another position?  How do you keep your legal skills sharp when you aren’t working or are not working enough?  How do you keep yourself marketable when the market is flooded with other previously-employed attorneys? 

Here are ten suggestions to prevent your professional skills from atrophying and finding another job while weathering the current storm. 

1. Check out the Internet for jobs. 

Many law firms are trying to stretch their recruiting budget and are relying on the internet to post job openings.  Some firms are even advertising on Craigs List.  Others use employment posting sites.  Some firms are now posting their job openings strictly on their website.  Make sure that you scour the Internet for possible positions.

2. Spread the word that you are actively seeking employment. 

Don’t be shy.  Many people have been laid off and there is no stigma associated with the loss of a job during the current recession.  Most people want to be helpful, so even if they don’t know of a current opportunity or lead, they may know someone who does. 

3. Keep networking. 

There is a great sense of camaraderie during these tough times and an empathetic understanding that “we’re all in this together.”  Try mingling with other lawyers at chamber of commerce mixers, as well as local and state bar events.  Also consider branching out beyond legal networking groups and visiting different chapters of business networking organizations in your city. 

4. A targeted mail campaign. 

You should also embark on a direct mail campaign.  It should include a brief introductory letter, a copy of your resume and your law school transcript.  Focus on smaller firms (perhaps 30 lawyers or less) and consider geographic areas that are perhaps less desirable or off the beaten path.  In-house positions may be harder to find, but companies, particularly those that have tight recruiting budgets, may look favorably on unsolicited resumes if they have a need.

5. Follow up. 

A key element in networking and direct mail campaigns is to be organized.  You should develop a system that reflects the people with whom you have spoken, the dates of the communication and the upshot, if any.  You then need to follow up, follow up and then follow up.  It is often a thin line between being diligent and annoying, so tread carefully.  If possible, try not to leave multiple voice-mail messages, but continue to call until you reach a live person.  You can follow up by email as well.  It’s probably best to alternate between these methods and be sure to follow-up no less than two or three times over the course of several weeks.

6. Be grateful for advice you receive. 

Be appreciative of any time or energy that someone offers you, and always be willing to give back in any way you can.  The people you meet now may be well-positioned to help you in the future.

7. Consider volunteer work. 

There are many non-profit organizations that can use the help.  Keep your legal skills sharp and help others at the same time. Working for one of these entities while riding out the recession could keep your skills sharp.

8. Attend conferences. 

While the recession may have reduced the level of work at certain firms, the number of legal conferences being offered remains strong.  If you have a special skill, continue attending these conferences because they offer good networking opportunities.  Some conferences may offer reduced rates for attorneys that are out of work. 

9. Hang out your own shingle. 

It may seem daunting, but you may have the necessary skills to start your own shop.  To get clients, you will need to continue networking and following up.  But the money you earn may be enough to support you until the market turns around.  At that point, you will be even more marketable because you will hopefully have an established client base. 

10. Keep writing. 

Keep your name visible and start a blog about something that would be of interest to potential firms or clients.  Comment on new cases or trends, or recent developments in the law.  Interview key people and write articles for publication in legal newspapers or magazines.  There are also many internet-based publication opportunities, all of which could create great resume value when the market recovers.  

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