Today the discourse focuses on the latest layoffs. Instead of reading about lawyers who achieve great paper wealth before the age of 30, we hear about law firms cutting back on bonuses and perks, lowering or freezing salaries, and even letting associates go.
In reality, the majority of lawyers in law-firm practice never had a chance to seek their fortunes at fast-growing companies during the roaring '90s (though many wanted to).
Similarly, the vast majority of lawyers employed today are likely to have the same jobs in six months and those who are unemployed are likely to be fully employed in the same time frame.
There is a simple message in all of this. While current employment statistics can be sobering and may make for good cocktail chat, it is important to keep a positive attitude and not to let your personal aspirations be ruled by these general trends. After all, if you are in the job market (due to a layoff or because you need a change), you are not looking for 100,000 jobs. You are only looking for one.
Have The Right Attitude In Public
Companies hire individuals who demonstrate a high level of interest in the employer and show a positive attitude about contributing towards the success of the firm.
Consequently, the last thing you want to do when you are job hunting is to focus too much on the shrinking size of the classifieds and the grim news on the business pages. To paraphrase my son's first grade teacher, "If you think you can [find a job], you might; if you think you can't, you're right."
You may not always feel optimistic about your prospects; but it is counterproductive to articulate your negative emotions in public. If you feel the need to vent, look to friends, family and other unemployed colleagues for support.
When you are unemployed, it is critical to get exercise and take the time to do some things that you enjoy. Find constructive ways to structure and fill your free time so that you feel valuable.
Take on pro bono or non-legal volunteer activities and look for activities that may expose you to potential employers. Attend Massachusetts Bar Association or Boston Bar Association lunches on topics that interest you and make a point of talking to at least one person you do not know.
Write an article on a topic that you want employers to associate with you and get it published. Spend more time with your children or partner, train for a bike-a-thon, brush up on the piano or get caught up on world affairs.
Though you can expect ups and downs, you will find that if you make constructive use of your free time, it will be easier to project a positive image of yourself when you do meet with prospective employers.
Don't eschew all jobs with start-up companies. Do the proper risk analysis. Too many lawyers jumped to dot-coms, never considering the potential downside. With all of the negative publicity surrounding the demise of many tech companies, it is easy to go too far in the other direction (i.e., avoid the risk entirely). But younger companies can often offer some of the most interesting opportunities for growth.
Look For The Best Package And Stay Focused
Every job is a series of tradeoffs. Figure out what is most important in your career now (chance to manage others, opportunity to try a new practice area, ability to work in a supportive environment).
Weigh opportunities against these factors. But don't expect to find a job that meets 100 percent of your needs. Any office will have some people you do not like working with and some work you would rather not do.
Furthermore, staying focused on a particular practice area or industry will set you apart from the pack. Looking for "anything" smells of desperation. Telling people in your network that you are looking for "anything" will also make it much more difficult for people to help you.
Tell them the one or two things you are looking for (e.g., "I am looking for a position as a corporate generalist with a mid-sized company in the financial services business; I would also consider a position as a corporate associate in a mid-sized firm that represents this industry.")
Because of the way our memories work, it is easier to remember someone if you can make a specific association with that person.
You may need to compromise more in a recessionary environment and you may come across opportunities that do not precisely meet your search criteria. You should consider these opportunities as they present themselves. But do not succumb to the temptation to broaden your search generally.
Look For Temp Assignments And Don't Give Up
Look for temp assignments that have future prospects. While a temp agency may be part of your strategy, you are probably better off making your own contacts. Temp agencies tend to have lower level work (e.g., a firm or company that needs an army of lawyers to help review discovery documents or perform due diligence in a large merger).
Ask the lawyers in your network whether they know anyone who might be busy enough to need temp help.
Don't lose perspective but be realistic. High-paying jobs take time to find in a good economy. It is therefore especially important to keep up your level of contacts in a down economy.
For most of us, job hunting is a very unpleasant experience. No one likes rejection and anyone looking for a job as a professional is likely to experience a lot of rejection — even in a strong economy.
If you keep the proper perspective and continue to remind yourself that unemployment is only a temporary state, you are likely to feel better about yourself and more likely to make a good impression when you are speaking with a potential employer.
You will also be more motivated to keep your level of contacts high, which in turn will expose you to more opportunity.
About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.
With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.
Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.
Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.
One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.
One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.
Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.
In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.
Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.
In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.
About BCG Attorney Search
BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.
Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays
You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts
You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives
Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.