and Chere Estrin
A couple of months ago, I was talking with a paralegal in Florida. I asked her how the recession was affecting her firm and inquired whether she felt there might be lay-offs coming down the pike. She was unaware that thousands of paralegals were being laid-off across the country. Last week, she e-mailed me that she had been given a pink slip.
I was on the phone with a very good friend in Atlanta last week who was telling me about the terrific position she had landed a few months back at a major firm. We were discussing how she might leverage her position. Two hours later, she e-mailed me to tell me that she had just been laid-off.
A paralegal at an in-house legal department in the mid-west e-mailed me with the question, "Why are all these vendors giving me the same excuse over and over. I don't believe the reasons why they are late with their payments. They just are lazy and no good."
Today, O'Melveny & Myers laid off 90 attorneys and 110 staff; Dewey LeBoeuf and Shearman & Sterling together laid off 160 staffers and a few days ago Orrick Herrington laid off 200 support staffers, the second round of layoffs in 4 months. Last week, Latham & Watkins laid off 440 combined lawyers and paralegals. Lowenstein Sandler dismissed 53 attorneys and staff and delayed bringing on 3Ls. And the list continues.
The Law Shucks layoff tracker lists more than 25 law firms in the US and UK announcing layoffs last month, tallying the total number of jobs lost at nearly 2,200 for February. I don't believe this includes small or mid-size firms. The buzz from legal blogs and law.com indicates that Orrick's decision to lay off may point to second and even third rounds of job losses coming soon. Layoff rumors continue with fervor. As a recent Fox News Channel Analyst commented, the unemployed should start focusing on the positive benefits of the situation, hard as that may be to imagine. Albeit hard for some, try to see this time as an opportunity to do something professionally that you've always wanted to do. Finding a job in today's economy is tough, but the right attitude and approach can help you outshine the compeition.
One critical step: develop a plan for how you will go about finding employment – utilizing staffing and temp agencies for these jobs can often lead to valuable contacts and long-term positions, and research all of the law firms and companies you've always wanted to work at. Inquire about potential opportunities. Most importantly, network at every opportunity, exploring every job source available and be persistent. Use social networking – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. Looking for a job is an 8 hour a day job. Go to your paralegal association meetings. No one runs down to HR to say, "You know, I'm thinking about leaving. What do you think?" Instead, they seek advice from their colleagues on the job. The first people to know about a potential opening are other paralegals.
Maybe now is the time to join the Peace Corps; Teach America; or Habitat for Humanity. Maybe you want to go to law school. Become a Virtual Assistant; look to healthcare in their legal departments; teach in a paralegal school; go to work for a smaller litigation support vendor (who are rumored to be doing well in this down economy). As a paralegal, one of your best skills is supposed to be fact finding and investigation. Start investigating what areas are doing well. There are positions out there. Not as many, to be sure which is why you must be better prepared than anyone else and have a more positive attitude than the next guy.
Re-invent yourself. Personally, both Loni and I are going through re-inventions. I can tell you that the support of the community has been awesome. People are willing to help each other. But, folks, you've got to reach out and you have to have an action plan. Above all, don't live in a Pollyanna world. Wake up. Be prepared for the great unknown and embrace it.
I am starting a networking bank. Send me your tips for the jobs that you didn't get, don't qualify for or hear about. We'll post those jobs on our KNOW website (www.knowparalegal.com) as a service to the community. If you interviewed there or worked there previously, give us some tips on what another candidate might need to know. It's kind of a pay it forward. Let's help each other out. There's no stronger and lasting career bond than the one made in helping your colleagues. Chere@knowparalega.com.