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.


If you are a lawyer who is dissatisfied, underemployed or unemployed, or a law students looking to the future, you may want to consider your options in a wide range of areas in which lawyers practice and then explore some of them in more depth.

My suggestion is that you circle the practice areas that APPEAL to you. Note that I did NOT say in which ones you have experience or took classes in in law school or CLE courses. I just want you to indicate your interest in representing clients with issues or claims in specific areas of the law.

Journalists of the legal media could be a force in correcting decades of law school misplacement.

I just read the most recent of the plethora of articles focusing on placement offices and what they are doing for law students during this unique “challenging” “chill” inducing situation where more and more large law firms are withdrawing from on-campus interviewing and not hiring students for summer and permanent positions.

I quickly recognized thirteen issues NOT considered in this article (to a great extent applicable to another such article.)

For information on the genesis of these posts and on who “Debra” is, click here and read the intro to “Debra and Ron Post 1.

Ron: Would you counsel women law students toward or away from BigLaw?

Debra: In my opinion, as I said in Post 1, training, opportunity, career development and networking are far better in BigLaw, even with all its shortcomings. Women, like men, need it; it needs us.  Like every other business institution, law firms need and benefit from women among their leaders.

 For information on the genesis of these posts and on who “Debra” is, click here and read the intro to “Debra and Ron Post 1.

Ron: When I began to work as the public interest adviser at Harvard Law School in 1983, I knew that there were thousands of capable lawyers who represented those truly needing legal services, what we referred to as the underrepresented in society. Students had no way of knowing that this was the case. What I did was to create a new public interest category “private public interest law firms”, contacted hundreds of such lawyers across the country, and list them in the Public Interest Directory I edited in 1986.Quite soon, Harvard law School students were choosing summer positions with them and eventually taking permanent positions.

The reason so many law students at selective law schools take positions with BigLaw is not that it is a more satisfying option for them. It is simply that BigLaw has convinced the law schools to take your position that it is just too difficult to find better placements for their students (of course it helps that the recruiters for BigLaw wine and dine and provide great resorts for lovely social events for law school career planning staff at the annual NALP conferences).

For information on the genesis of these posts and on who “Debra” is, click here and read the intro to “Debra and Ron Post 1.

 Ron: As I have mentioned often, 95% of the women (and the men) who have graduated from “selective” law schools (not the best, just the ones difficult to get into) start out overrepresenting the 1% wealthiest of society while most of society has no access to lawyers.

Debra:  I’d like to see the data supporting that statement, which seems unlikely to me.  Even if you’re correct about that, however, there are plenty of lawyers in the US and plenty of law students in US law schools.  Different societal incentives – like decent paychecks, prestige, availability of training, etc. – would benefit public interest law positions just as they would benefit teachers, social workers, day care workers, nurses and every other underappreciated career in our overly money-focused society.  But the choice of where to devote one’s career efforts remains, thankfully, a personal one.  Requiring anyone to pursue a career path he does not want to pursue is as wrong and short-sighted as barring him from going after one he does want to pursue.

 I met Debra Snider on Twitter in a conversation about women & large law firms.  That conversation led to a spirited email discussion, which we’ve broken down into four blog posts.

After a distinguished 21-year legal and business career, Debra became an author and speaker.  As a lawyer, she handled corporate and securities transactions for two large law firms and a real estate syndication company, then was Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Chief Administrative Officer at a $20 billion publicly held commercial finance company.  Thus, she has the perspective of someone who has been an associate at a large firm, an in-house staff lawyer with management responsibilities, a partner at a large law firm, and a client of many law firms, large and small.

Debra is the author of the well-received novel A Merger of Equals, which is set in the business world.  She has also published two business books: The Productive Culture Blueprint (an American Bar Association Career Resource Center publication that offers a blueprint, complete with case study, checklists and other practical tools and tips, for building sustainable strategic productivity into the in-house law department and enduring, effective relationships with outside law firms); and Working Easier, an organizational design toolkit.  Debra’s website is loaded with free career and other resources in addition to more information about her books, her background and her popular speaking topics.

This is for discouraged lawyers (be they unemployed, underemployed or simply dissatisfied) and law students(1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls).  

Today I read this post by The Unemployed Lawyer who is in the Seattle area. Here is the comment I added to her blog.

“I called the Washington State Bar Association and was told that there are 13,000 members from King County. Based on standard US demographics, that would likely mean that about 75%, or 9,750 are in private practice. Julie Salmon at the WSBA said that about 65% (or about 6500) are in firms of 10 or less. Again based on standard US demographics, 50% of the 6500 are sole practitioners, 35% are in firms 2-5 and 15% in firms of 6-10.  THAT MEANS THAT THERE ARE ABOUT 4000 SMALL FIRMS IN KING COUNTY AND MANY OF THEM NEED YOU.

It is critically important at this time when there has been a decline in recruiting by the large law firms who have dominated campus interviewing to deemphasize employer outreach.

A school unable to attract sufficient employer responses adds to the students’ frustration. Their self-esteem is diminished since they are not being considered by the firms courted by the school, apparently the ones who have the school’s stamp of approval. Some career planners believe they are not using their talents and time to their own best advantage and that of their students. One said that 85% of her resources are devoted to employer outreach from which only 15% of her students found positions.

The goal of employer outreach by career staff is the scheduling of on-campus interviewers to supply students with the knowledge of where the jobs are.  Where there are a substantial number of firms recruiting on campus, many accept jobs they are not suited for because their decision making process is flawed. They are unaware of the breadth of their options and the importance of balancing priorities such as work satisfaction and high income.