Silver Linings in Recessionary Times


Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

The current economic downturn has affected BigLaw to an unprecedented extent, resulting in lawyer layoffs. Many smaller firms, however, have not actually seen a drop in business. This scary economic climate may actually create opportunities for smaller law firms.

Small Firm Opportunities

1. Big companies with shrinking budgets may take a chance on smaller law firms with good reputations and less expensive fee structures. Make sure you keep your corporate relationships current.
2. Your firm may attract higher quality, experienced attorneys or staff at reasonable salaries, as the result of layoffs from corporations or large firms. Some lawyers may be glad to work on an Of Counsel basis or office sharing basis, just to have a respectable place to land with the possibility of referral business.
3. More graduating law students will have difficulty finding jobs, and they may seek positions as law clerks or even unpaid interns, just to get experience. Get some help or delegate tasks you don’t like to do, without over-extending your budget.

Take Advantage of Slower Business

If your business has slowed down, this too shall pass. Take advantage of the additional time you now have available. Do what you kept wishing you had time for, when you were too busy. Here are a few suggestions to consider.

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8 Tips for Keeping Your Job in a Law Firm


Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the legal industry lost 22,300 jobs in the last 12 months, and 2,700 in March 2009. Although more than half of those lost jobs were held by non-lawyers, both partners and associates are getting laid off in unprecedented numbers. What can an associate do to stave off the pink slip?

The only guaranteed strategy is to use a WABAC (or Wayback) machine to erase any of your mistakes or entitled attitude exhibited over the last two years, plus bring in $1 million of business. If those aren’t options for you, try these eight tips. “Results may vary” depending on the culture and financial condition of your law firm, but at least these tips will improve your chances.

1. Be efficient and responsive. Don’t let any projects linger on your desk. Some attorneys are so uncomfortable with having insufficient work to do, that they procrastinate on completing the work they have. Be aware that partners will expect you to get projects done faster than in the past, because they don’t think you have competing demands for your time. Although you will feel pressure to bill more hours, don’t milk your projects or pad your time. Partners feel pressure from clients to keep legal fees down. If there is any fluff, they are more likely to cut your time than their own, so don’t give them an excuse. Write downs don’t look good on your report card.

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