Learn some of the most common reasons attorneys lose their jobs in law firms in this article.

Over the past few decades as a legal recruiter, I have encountered numerous attorneys who have lost their jobs. In some of these cases, the attorney was at fault (intentional or otherwise). But in other cases, there was no fault on the part of the attorney. The law firm can be a minefield when it comes to hidden dangers that can cause an attorney to lose his or her job.
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

As a preliminary matter, it is important to note that most attorneys who choose to go the law firm route will lose their positions inside of law firms at some point in time. If you are inside of a law firm and have never lost your job, you are no different. Most attorneys will lose at least one job as either an associate or as a partner. Losing a position inside of a law firm is an almost inevitable result of choosing to work inside a law firm. It is important to do everything you can to make sure that you do not lose your job when you are working inside a law firm.

The purpose of this article is to make you aware of conditions that make it possible to lose your position and to help you understand what you must avoid in your performance to maximize the chances you will keep your job. Because most attorneys will lose their positions in law firms at some point in their careers, it is my feeling that this article should be required reading for any attorney looking to keep his or her job.
Make no mistake about it: Losing your job inside of a law firm is a very serious thing. If you lose your job inside of a law firm, then your odds of finding a new one—with an equally prestigious law firm—are severely diminished. There is no sugarcoating the facts:
  • It is extremely difficult to get a new position inside of a law firm if you have lost your position.
  • Most attorneys who lose their jobs inside of law firms will have a next-to-impossible time finding a position inside of an equally prestigious law firm.
  • A gap in your resume suggests that you lost a job—and law firms do not like this either and may ask about it for years.
  • Often times when attorneys lose their jobs, they end up going in-house, being contract attorneys, working for the government, working as solo practitioners, and working in other roles. Most of these roles pay far less and have less “prestige” than law firm positions.
  • It is extremely common for attorneys who lose their law firm positions to strike out on their own. Most earn nowhere near the salary they did when they were in a law firm—and many flounder.