Many of you are aware of LawShucks which has become well known for keeping track of the number of lawyers and staff laid off from BigLaw. Recently someone began to post his/her thoughts under the title of The Laid Off Diary
As I read the articles, I recognized that the diarist, although likely not having the background and experience of a career planner, had distilled in the various articles the essence and fundamentals of the approach I employ in helping lawyers make a transition from dissatisfaction or unemployment to, hopefully, a satisfying position.
I took excerpts from many of the posts in the diary and, with the approval of Law Shucks and its diarist, present them here. I think you will find what follows worth reading.
EXCERPTS FROM THE LAID OFF DIARY
It’s so easy to have taken the path we did. Major in some bullshit liberal arts degree, whack through the LSAT for a few hours, get into a good law school, study two weeks before each final for an OPEN BOOK final, be wined and dined for two summers, wear nice suits and have the little numbers in our bank account go up and up…. but through all of this, did most of us actually stop and think about what we WANT to do? what our GOAL is?
We are all entrepreneurs of life in some sense trying to find the idea that is a home run… Sure, there are some formula one race car drivers that were groomed from the age of 4 or gymnasts whose parents sent them to gymnastics training at the age of 6 but not all of us had our paths laid out in front of us like that. Moreover, even laid out paths might end up like the roll over bar and be a bust even though it seemed like a golden fail proof idea. For some, BigLaw seemed like a pig-in-shit perfect path for them but at the end of the day, it might just be the shit without the pig (er…well, you get the idea). Sure, our endeavor into BigLaw was costly (student loans, time spent and brain cells killed studying for the bar, and self-esteem and dignity lost through working in BigLaw), but let’s try to learn from this lesson, move on, and fall forward
It’s simple logic. If you sacrifice X for Y, make sure Y is more valuable than X. It might be that BigLaw is your dream job, it is what gets you going in the morning, and it is more important to you than family (I’d hate to be you). But if it’s not, make sure you know that. Make sure during the valuation of your life and the things in it, your model correctly reflects the true value of your job. And don’t just use the blue book value or the value that other people tell you it has, be honest with yourself and use the value that correctly reflects whether it is a mint condition Maybach 57 or a beat up rusty piece of shit with rips in the sticky nylon seats that smells oddly of cat piss and cotton candy.
But everything I’m doing now makes me think about these damn bean stalks. I’ve called every partner, senior associate, recruiter, or professional contact that I’ve made since I’ve been laid off. They’ve all tried to help and give me advice but nothing has come to fruition. I’ve been following leads, trying to branch out, making new contacts, etc. Sometimes when I see a job opportunity, I work myself up over it and get the feeling “this is the job! this is it! I’m made!” but I either don’t get the job or it turns out to be b.s.
I will admit that I was able to benefit from my time in the slammer doing hard legal labor, which consisted of 60-70 hours of busy boring and unchallenging work, and that I am much more competent than most people I meet. I won’t claim that I’m more competent than my peers who worked in TinyLaw because they may have an expertise that I do not have because they worked in TinyLaw (e.g. a trial lawyer at a plaintiff’s firm has much more trial experience than most BigLaw trial lawyer) but I do believe that I at least sound pretty damn sophisticated and it comes from 1) being able to talk out of my ass flawlessly, and 2) working on sophisticated deals in BigLaw.
When I first started writing to you, I did it because I was 1) fed up with BigLaw; 2) bored; 3) enjoy bitching and thought you’d like to hear about it; and 4) wanted to tell people about the “real” truth about BigLaw (or at least as I perceived it). But I’ve discovered that this has now become a diary of my journey and transformation as just another “lawyer” into… I’d like to cross over to business and do something creative but I have to admit, it’s difficult not to just fall back into being a “lawyer” because that’s what I know and that’s how the world sees me. But now I have to break through that image and reinvent myself that is both in the legal world and in the business/entrepreneurial world. Will this diary be as moving as the Motorcycle Diaries? I don’t presume to think I can move the world the same way Che has, but I hope I can at least shift my career and hopefully business people will stop thinking of us as boring losers. and besides, all I have is a scooter. The journey begins
Networking, Not Netwhoring
We know why networking is important-only 5-10% of jobs are advertised, it never hurts to have someone higher up pull strings for you, and blah blah blah But, it’s HOW you network.
Let’s Do Lunch
At associate development lunches at the firm, we were told to find a niche practice which most of the time resulted from happening upon an assignment that required us to do about 30 hours of mind numbing research on a boring or obscure part of the law and then being the “go to” person every time that issue came up. We were actually encouraged to seek out mind-numbing work and “fall” into that niche practice instead of CHOOSING a practice area or niche that made us tick. Not very encouraging. Shouldn’t we first find out what makes us tick and then seek out a position or build one around what we are interested in? Are lawyers that afraid to go after what they want that they are willing to hang their hat on any random ass nail they happen to find sticking out of a wall and 30 years later, still hang on that same damn rusty nail?
how am I getting all these CEOs and managing directors and founders to meet with me or invite me to lunch (and more than once) or coffee or to their offices or call me or give me a standing invite to lunch if I’m ever in their city? I can’t teach you. Either you’re social or you’re not. Either your extroverted or you’re not. Either you can sell yourself as someone interesting enough that someone will want to talk to you or you can’t. Either you’re creative on how to reach out to these people and get in front of them or you’re not. But I can say that it gets easier as your Rolodex expands because then people start introducing you to their network.