A year ago, if someone had told me that the vast majority of associate-level candidates I would see during 2009 were going to be unemployed, I would have laughed (or cried). But it's true. Unemployment is a reality for associates in all areas of law and at all levels. Lately, I have seen these associates fall into two categories: those who believe that staying busy in their substantive area of law will benefit their marketability to firms, and those who think now is the time to become one with the couch and rekindle their love affair with soap operas.
To most of you, I hope this is an obvious statement: the attorneys in the first category are going to get jobs long before those in the latter category. It feels almost ridiculous to have to say something that obvious. But I have my reasons. For example, I recently spoke to a candidate who called me about a new job posting on the BCG Attorney Search website. He has absolutely fantastic academic credentials and law firm experience, but in 2006 he left his last firm to obtain an additional graduate degree, and while doing so the market crashed. Consequently, he has been out of the law firm world for almost three years (two while in school and a year since graduation). Naturally, one of the first questions I asked him was to explain what he had been doing since earning his graduate degree a year ago. Imagine my surprise when he replied "not much." I followed that up with "Have you been keeping up with the ever-changing rules and regulations of your practice area?" "Ah, not really," he mumbled. "What about attending CLE classes?" I asked. "Um, that's a good idea. Hadn't thought about that." (Really? Is that possible?) "Volunteering or doing contract work?" His reply: "nope." You get my point. The guy had been doing nothing to help explain the growing gap on his resume (other than search the web for a permanent job).
As a recruiter, this makes my job infinitely more difficult. The first question a firm is going to ask me when I submit this candidate's resume is to explain what he has been doing for the last year. Make no mistake, the majority of firms I work with are not turned off by a candidate who has been laid off from his firm, but they do want to know that the candidate is motivated to keep up with his legal knowledge and skills. Think about it. If you were the hiring partner at a firm, wouldn't you prefer to interview the candidate who has been taking CLE classes, volunteering at a legal aid clinic, seeking out contract work where available and networking with former colleagues and friends all while contemporaneously looking for a permanent job over the candidate that has just been looking for work for the last year? Firms are not stupid. They know that while a job search is very time consuming, it does leave time for other activities. And in this economy, no matter your credentials, if you are not out there doing extracurricular activities, the guy sitting next to you (who has equally impressive credentials) is-- and he is going to get the job over you.
So, get out there. I guarantee that it will help you land a solid job.
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.