Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why Ben picked over Ellen

Some of you may be witnessing the layoffs/carnage at firms and wondering why one attorney may "survive" a layoff when another doesn't.  Firms consider various factors.  Usually, firm management, upon deciding that layoffs need to happen, will ask dept. heads to consider which attorneys may not be needed in the long term.  In turn, practice or dept. heads will look at seniority (e.g., is this someone who has been with us a while but unlikely to make partner/sustain a practice), hours (of course!), someone who shows poor hours the last couple of quarters (or even quarter) is a target, overall contributions to the firm, etc.  If someone has a protector in a humongous rainmaker, that can also make a difference.  Few people can consider themselves protected in this environment, but a few lucky stars with rainmaker protectors can.

So, what to do. Well, at this point, if you don't have a huge mentor/protector, it will be hard to quickly establish one before the layoff hammer comes down.  My advice -- which I realize differs a bit from my past advice on participating in firm administrative functions -- is to keep your head down and bill, bill, bill.  Hopefully you are in a group that still has work. Take on projects.  If people have been let go, step up to the plate in covering their work (assuming they had some).  I once had a former colleague who was a junior attorney when some lawyers were let go in her office.  She was told to take over a file from one of the terminated attorneys.  She got the file and managed that project for the next several years.  It enabled her to work with a different client, a different partner, and expand her knowledge into a new area of law.  The partner who oversaw her respected that she jumped right into the project with a positive attitude and did a diligent job.

So, as opportunities close for others, they open for you, the survivor.  I realize this is somewhat Darwinistic but if you want to hold on - whether to ride out the storm and have a long term law firm career, or hold on for a little bit until you can get the hell out of dodge and move into something else, you are going to hard to work out, take work where you can get it, and be a team player.  The age of entitlement is over my friends.  It is time to work, work, work and bill like there is no tomorrow.  

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