It may be a long time before the legal field recovers from the massive layoffs from this past year. Some folks could be out of work longer than imagined, and it appears that some may need a bit of help on what to do. As you can see from this utterly miserable description of life as a cast-off lawyer coding documents in the basement of BigLaw firms for $28/hr. (via ATL), there are some people with big time degrees that are trapped into thinking that BigLaw is all the law that exists.
So, without further ado, here are 10 tips for lawyers without a job, from a guy who started from scratch:
1. Make business cards. You are not unemployed. You are self-employed. Big difference.
2. Don’t tell people you don’t have an office. You do. It’s your home office. All you need is an address and a computer to do research and writing.
3. You never know where business might come from, except you know it won’t come from sitting at home watching Oprah. So get out of the house and talk to people. The waitress, the cabbie, the dog-walkers, the people in the supermarket. The doorman of your friend’s building. Maybe you’ll meet someone who needs legal assistance, or knows someone who needs legal assistance. Or you’ll get a date. Who knows? You might find that extricating someone from a bad marriage, representing an abused child, saving someone from an overly aggressive district attorney, or helping an immigrant get a green card, to be one of the most satisfying things you’ve ever done with your law degree. But you won’t know if you don’t try.
4. Tell people you’re an attorney. That doesn’t mean you scream it from the top of your lungs, but it comes naturally when meeting new people (see #3) when they say, “So what do you do?” You’ll have your card in your pocket. Because they might know someone, who knows someone, who needs you. In a big, bad way.
5. Start a blog. Or offer to guest blog for an existing one. Or write an article for a legal publication. Or an op-ed for the local paper. Most lawyers love to write. A few even do it well. Now is your chance to write like a human. You must have an interest in something legal or you wouldn’t have picked law for a career. You can write about anything. Except how wonderful you are an as attorney. That would suck. Because that’s an advertisement. And people hate self-promotional clap-trap. Everything else is fair game. Get your name out there. And claim your Google reputation while you’re at it.
6. Dress nicely when going to the grocery store. That doesn’t mean a suit and tie, it just means looking neat and clean. Because you don’t know who you will meet. You can’t open doors if you push them closed by looking like a slob. And you will, of course, have your card in your pocket. Just in case.
7. Join listservs. These are not only great places to swap ideas on the law, but other lawyers often run into temporary overflows. They need someone to handle a court conference. Or draft a memo of law. Or help with an appeal. And when that happens they will turn to their listmates for help. And you will be there. Of course, your new friends will also be there when you start to wrestle with questions of where to file something and other picayune procedural stuff that BigLaw never taught you.
8. Don’t be proud. My first job out of school was high end medical malpractice cases at a prominent personal injury firm in New York (Fuchsberg & Fuchsberg). Then I went out on my own. My first stationery was a business card taped to a piece of white paper and xeroxed onto good paper. I had a Mailboxes, Etc. address for my office. My first regular client argued parking tickets for commercial businesses. I started making appearances and doing depositions for $75-$100 a pop. With overhead near zero I turned a profit. I got by till the better stuff came in.
9. Keep your ears open for other business opportunities. These opportunities might be outside the law, or closely related to it. After all, if there are too many lawyers, well, I’m sure you understand that old supply and demand thing.
10. Don’t stop looking at the traditional avenues of employment. The above tips were not designed for you to start a new practice. It just might lead that way. Or not. No one has a crystal ball. All you are doing is creating opportunities. And with that comes the potential that some firm, some where, gets some big business and needs to staff up. Your resume is ready. And when they Google you they will find a few things you’ve written while you were self-employed. And you might have a really interesting story of how you changed someone’s life.
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true solos have true grit, but law school rewards the ephemeral
got grit? you do if you’re making a go of it as a solo. as much as many of the law practice gurus tell you that earning gobs of money as a solo is easy as pie (particularly if you’re using their thousand dollar “recipes”), …posted by firstname.lastname@example.org (Carolyn Elefant) @ August 21, 2009 8:45 AM