It’s a Jungle Out There – More Layoffs for Paralegals

Gloomy news!  Brown Rudnick,Mayer Brown, Squire Sanders today all announced layoffs of staff including paralegals in San Francisco, Chicago and cities other than financially devastated New York. On the "good" side of things, Bryan Cave says no layoffs expected but no raises or bonuses either.

Yikes! Mayer Brown lays off 55 staff, 33 attorneys; Squire Sanders asks 20 attorneys and paralegals to "explore options elsewhere" (like?) and Boston-based Brown Rudnick lays off 20 attorneys and 20 staff. On the other hand, we do realize that areas such as bankruptcy positions are up; we are hearing rumors from litigation support professionals that technology or e-discovery positions are still going strong and that there will probably be an uptake in mortgage class action suits.  There are always employment law suits as more and more companies lay-off employees.  So while there is an downturn in financially exasperated specialties, other areas rise in demand.

Putting on my career counselor hat:  Here are 5 tips to help keep your job during these volatile times:

1.  Stay current:  Take seminars, webinars and read, read, read.  Even if you have to pay for the continuing legal education yourself, make staying current a priority.  Invest in yourself and your future. Don't get caught in a vicious circle – firm doesn't pay for CLE and you refuse to invest in yourself, your knowledge is outdated and you are axed because you are not the "MVP" – most valuable paralegal.

2.  Learn to play office politics.  Yes.  I'm not talking about dirty play.  I'm talking about aligning yourself with the folks who are in the know, who are vital to the organization, who can speak for you and who have the ear of the other MVP's – Most Valuable Partners.

3.   Get cross-trained.  If you only know one area of specialty, it may be the area that is not generating enough revenue to the firm right now.  Get cross-trained in other areas so that you become twice as valuable to the firm.

4.    Make sure your skills match your years of experience.  Be honest.  If you are a paralegal with 10 years of experience and are performing at the 1-2 year level, your firm is not going to want to pay a high salary for someone who can do the job much less expensively.  In other words, if you are a senior level paralegal billing at top rates and getting top salary while you are Bates stamping, indexing documents and other first year duties, watch out.  You are probably digging your own grave.

5.    Always have your resume ready, your network current and your head above the sand.  Many paralegals do not have a handle on the financial steadiness of their firm or corporation.  Keep your eyes and ears open. When partners start to bail, it's a good indication all is not right in paradise.

PS: These and many other topics are addressed in our upcoming issue of KNOW, The Magazine for Paralegals.  For all of our blog readers:  Subscribe today and get an additional subscription free for a friend or colleague.  Just drop us a line at chere@knowparalegal.com. (www.knowparalegal.com)

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