As an Associate, Should I Worry about Getting Laid Off during a Merger? | BCGSearch.com

As an Associate, Should I Worry about Getting Laid Off during a Merger?

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Question: I'm an associate at a mid-sized firm. Rumor has it we are about to merge with a BIG national firm. Should the associates be worried? Don't associates normally get cut in these mergers? Is it realistic to think that the firms will display some degree of loyalty? Chances are, if I applied to the big firm directly, I wouldn't get hired. How much does that matter?
As an Associate, Should I Worry about Getting Laid Off during a Merger?

Answer: Before you and the other associates start to panic, keep in mind that most attempts at mergers ultimately fail. Therefore, what you are calling a rumor is just that right now. Until you have more definitive information, I really wouldn't be too terribly concerned.

But I do agree with you that if the merger happens, some of the associates might very well be in jeopardy of losing their jobs. Let's take a look at some scenarios:


You have indicated that you would not necessarily be a viable candidate for the big firm if you were to apply to that firm directly. I am going to assume that you do not have the "right" school and/or grades that are normally required by this firm. Unless you are a star associate or work in a very unique and understaffed practice group, you might very well be one of the associates who are not included in the merged firm.

Here's another scenario: You are working for a partner who does not have any of his or her own business. The larger firm has a number of partners in this same department and they have less than significant books of business themselves. More than likely the new firm will "cherry pick." This means that they will select only certain partners or departments to be a part of the deal. If your partner is not included in the deal, you can count on the fact that you will be left out in the cold as well.

A third scenario: There are always a handful of partners who do not want to be a part of a merger. They will quietly go out on the market and look for a new opportunity before the merger is finalized. Even if the partner you report to thinks that you are the greatest associate on earth, it will be up to his or her new firm to decide whether or not they want to bring you on board with the partner. This goes to the question you asked about loyalty. Your partner may want to take you along, but if the new firm says no, he or she is not going to pass up on a great opportunity just to protect you.

Is there a partner with whom you are particularly close? If so, it might be time for a heart-to-heart conversation with him or her. This partner is unlikely to disclose confidential information to you regarding the potential merger; that would violate a partner's fiduciary responsibility to the firm. However, you might be able to figure out whether or not you are going to be a part of a potential merger and if this partner is willing to fight for your inclusion. If you don't feel that you are going to be a part of this partner's merged group, you really need to pay attention to your instincts and dust off your resume!

The best suggestion I can make is that you need to decide if you want to be an associate at the merged firm, should the union occur. If so, I think you should take the chance that you will be asked to be a part of the merger. If the potential new firm is not where you want to practice, then you should be out there looking for a new place to work. Even if this merger does not go through, your firm will become known as one that is open to exploring merger opportunities and, no doubt, other law firms will make efforts to merge your firm into theirs.

If you are well-liked and respected by your current firm, have been receiving good reviews, and are happy, then I would advise you to stay put until you know for certain that things are about to change. I hope this advice helps.

See the Top 32 Reasons Attorneys Lose Their Jobs Inside of Law Firms to learn some of the most common reasons attorneys are fired or let go from law firms.

Summary: I'm an associate at a mid-sized firm. Rumor has it we are about to merge with a BIG national firm. Should the associates be worried?

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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.

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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.


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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.

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