“Concerns Over Layoffs, Expenses, Office Policies Loom Over 2023 Outlook” is a recent headline of an article found on Law.com. Related articles fill the media and legal industry periodicals, and general water cooler gossip is feeding the fear and tightening the reins of the legal industry. The response to economic uncertainty is among the top concerns for law firm leaders and their clients. That feeling of uncertainty is permeated throughout the organization and as the individual attorney contemplates his or her career, it impacts what steps to take (or not to take) in order to progress in it. Certainly it is important to remain vigilant during difficult economic times, but it’s not a time where you should stick your head in the sand. Instead, it’s a time to embrace the opportunity to retool and reengage, and to stay laser-focused on your career and open to new opportunities that come your way. Seemingly paradoxical, a recession could actually be the best thing that ever happened to you, your family, and your career. Let me explain…
“As sure as the spring will follow the winter, prosperity and economic growth will follow recession.” – Bo Bennett
The RECESSION Mindset
Fear is often associated with a negative feeling, but when it propels an otherwise stagnant career, it can be a powerful agent of change. But how do you do this? How do you embrace the recession with a mindset that could progress your career? First, turn down the noise. It’s certainly important to stay abreast of current events, stock prices, and industry trends, but that information is just what it is—information. It does not define nor necessarily reflect what is happening in your current company, law firm, or specific practice area. It’s important to be realistic and understand that recessions are usually mild and last less than a year. Having a positive mental attitude and rational approach will result in a productive mindset. This will demonstrate to clients, colleagues, and senior attorneys that you’re a valuable and contributing member of their team, and will be attractive to potential new employers.
During these valuable slow times, you should focus on strengthening your own skills and image. You should start doing professional development to help give you an advantage over your peers. This will both strengthen your current value and increase your attractiveness to future employers. Spend some time writing industry client alerts, reengaging with your professional network through LinkedIn and State Bar Committees, and providing pro bono legal work. In the same vein, attend CLE courses that will further grow your legal expertise and retool your skills. A recession is also a good time to dust off and update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Whether or not you’re actively searching for a new job, having an updated resume ready at all times can be beneficial. Dream opportunities can come along unexpectedly, after all. Consider engaging a legal recruiter, LinkedIn expert, or resume writer to provide feedback on how to position your career in the best light possible.
Over the course of your career, you will experience many mountaintops and valleys. Spending time with a mentor that has been through difficult economic times may also provide you with guidance on how to navigate these times and reposition your career so that you’re ready at the start gates once the economy turns around. Whether you should discuss with your boss the current state of the economy as it relates to your firm, depends to some extent on how transparent your employer generally is. If they’re not one to talk freely about the state of the firm, and you’ve never had similar conversations before, then raising such concerns might be alarming to them. On the other hand, if they’ve discussed such topics in the past, asking questions regarding whether there have been times where layoffs have taken place and how these have been handled, can be useful and reassuring, or can indicate that you might be better off looking at other firms.
Opportunities Exist Even in the Worst Economies
Companies will always need talent. If you’ve carved yourself a valuable niche and provide excellent client service, doors will open. While making a job change is perhaps more difficult in a challenging economy and requires more patience and footwork, successful career moves happen every day. If you’re not in your ideal position or law firm culture, do not allow a bad economy to be an excuse to not make a job change. In the case that you’re pondering whether you should search for a new job, ask yourself this: Is it any better if I stay put in my current job, financially – and career-wise? There’s usually a reason—or a host of reasons—why you’re considering making a move in the first place: you’re not being adequately compensated or you’re not progressing in your career as you’d like to be, for example. It’s smart to search for a job while you’re still at your current position; this way, you’re not leaving without something else lined up, and therefore are not putting yourself in too much of an unknown situation.
When considering making a move and interviewing for new roles, it’s important to be prepared and ask questions about the new organization’s financial health and response to previous economies. Did they conduct layoffs during the 2020 pandemic? What was the real estate bust of 2008 like for the firm? Were they able to rebrand their firm and provide relevant client service? You should seek as much transparency up front as you can, as this will help you gauge the financial state of the firm before you make a decision to transition to working there.
When the economy isn’t as strong as it was, switching jobs can also allow you to learn about the position without the workload pressure. When you’re one of only a few new faces at the office, mentors can have more of their time to devote to you, rather than portioning it out to multiple new hires. This gives you more one-on-one time with colleagues who can help make your transition to the new office easier, given their knowledge of, and connections in, your new workplace.
It’s easy to fret over the current state of the economy, but it’s much more useful to take proactive measures and to make the most of it. Remaining realistic instead of being distressed, updating your skillset and resume and reaching out to your network, seeking advice, and actively asking important questions from employers, are all accessible ways you can prepare for economic turmoil. This, coupled with turning inwards to understand if a job change would be good for you, and knowing how to take advantage of making one at this time can make the future of your career more certain in these times of economic uncertainty, and this recession, a reset for your career.
If you’re looking for a role at a new firm, MB Attorney Search will help find a new office you’ll love. This attorney recruiter serves legal professionals throughout the Midwest, bringing a quarter-century of experience to aid in your job search. Visit their website to learn more about their attorney recruitment services or call (888) 563-5984 for a free consultation today.