How to Handle Being Laid Off

For months, it's been happening -- both publicly and quietly -- at big firms and companies all over the country: lawyers are getting laid off. If you've been let go -- or you think you soon might be -- we've got suggestions not for just getting through it, but for thriving afterwards.

First, when you get that proverbial pink slip, feel free to vent to friends and family. Even if the lay off isn't a surprise to you, it could be emotionally difficult. You may feel anxiety and perhaps even some relief. Rest assured, all your feelings are normal. If you don't want to discuss it with friends or family, consider seeing a professional counselor.

Another great resource is other laid-off lawyers. Trust us, they're out there and feeling just like you do. Bonding with other smart, dynamic attorneys in a similar boat will help you feel less alone. Consider a weekly get-together with these colleagues to talk about job leads and networking tactics.

Importantly, look at your lay off as an opportunity to redefine goals and your overall career path. Use the time off to analyze what you're good at and what you like and start working to find a new position that maximizes both. In the back of your mind, had you secretly been longing to switch practice areas anyway? Or work part-time? Or take three months to do pro bono work to enhance your legal skills and do some public good? Well, now's the time to make those career changes.

From a practical standpoint, vow to spend a set number of hours a day (maybe four?) working on your job hunt. Once you've met each daily goal, you can spend the rest of your day in leisure -- guilt free. Take advantage of your hard-earned down time by doing things you enjoy, whether it's working out, cooking or watching movies. Once you get back into the 9-5 grind, you'll be glad you did.

During the hours that you are job hunting, craft a marketing plan for yourself. Work on a "pitch" about your legal skills and background and what you're looking for in your next position. Give the pitch to everyone you talk to. Also, revamp your resume and update your writing sample collection.

Once your pitch and accompanying materials are in order, start making calls to as many contacts as you can think of. Spare no one -- call family friends, law professors, colleagues at other firms and, of course, a legal recruiter. With the exception of the latter, don't outright ask for jobs, but instead solicit leads and additional contacts. Be persistent, but also be brief and be appreciative. Keep a log of every interaction -- be sure to follow up with thank-you's.

Our last piece of advice is to stay positive during your job hunt. The good news is that in this nutty economy, being laid off isn't something to take personally or be embarrassed about. Just acknowledge it as a fact and move on. We predict you'll wind up in something bigger and better in the long run.


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