Help! My Law Firm Laid Me Off! What Do I Do?

Position A Failure or A Layoff as A Positive

Getting laid off from any job can be demoralizing and anxiety-inducing. You may feel a sense of vulnerability and hopelessness that you never felt before. How will you break the news to family for whom you provide, to friends and colleagues who respect you? It is not easy to deal with a hit to your pride and livelihood. You may never have imagined it happening to you and when it happens—you are not sure how to move forward. How will you go about finding a new job in an equally rewarding environment? Will any self-respecting law firm even risk taking me on? The process is daunting, but do not fear. Below are several ways that you can turn your recent layoff into a positive, as you move through the job seeking and hiring process.

#1 – Assess your career goals thus far — and try to develop new ones.

Maybe you never thought too hard about “the next step” before, especially if you had been comfortable in your old position for quite some time. In your view, that step was your final steps—an end point, an achievement. But, some self-reflection could help you discover things about yourself and your career goals that you might have never considered before. For instance, what do you consider to be the ideal job, or the one that is most suitable for your skills and experience? Write down five to ten criteria that such a job should meet. Think about your last position critically–and try to be as objective as possible–and run down your list of criteria. How many did your last position fulfill? Exceed? Fall short of to some degree? You can now use these criteria to help guide you through your job search. That is not to say that you should expect perfection; nothing, after all, is truly perfect. It will, however, give you some objective ways to measure what you are looking for and how what you are seeking might fit into your overall career development.

#2 – Spend your free time developing new skills and taking existing ones to the next level.

There is always room for improvement, the old adage goes. And, it is never too late to learn something new. The first step in this article asked you to evaluate your past job, how it helped shape you, what it offered you as far as professional development goes, and what you might have wanted to have gained from it. This step asks you to reflect even more deeply within, this time considering your own skill set. Think back to your previous position. What qualities and skills made you invaluable to your firm? Were you the one to whom people turned when in need of an effective communicator? Perhaps you made a great leader; you were always the one to lead extensive projects. Or maybe you were an exceptional “people person”; clients noted your ability to empathize with them and deal with their cases fairly, ethically, and efficiently. These are all great traits! Now, consider—what made you stand out in one of these particular areas? What do you think makes an effective communicator or leader in general? Again, consider noting five to ten characteristics and rating yourself according to these criteria. Be objective and honest with yourself. In areas in which you come up short, consider challenging yourself to meet the higher standard you have set. For instance, perhaps you produce generally competent and effective reports, but would like to work on clarity. Read up on what makes clear writing. Read a range of works.

Perhaps there is a new skill that you would like to learn—a language, effective speech or presentation delivery, successful interviewing. Be sure to seek out the resources for these as well! Do not be afraid to push yourself, even during times when you feel your most vulnerable.

#3 – Return to your resume. Think about how you are branding yourself and use your experience to your advantage.

If you are actively seeking a new job, chances are you have pulled out your resume, updating it where necessary. Surely you have many strong points worth selling to prospective employers, but perhaps you never thought about how you would do it, especially if you have been in the same position for a while. Think about some of the skills you noted in the previous step. How did these skills help you on the job, and how did they benefit your firm? You can use your experience to give precise examples of your strengths when you go to interview, an advantage that others may not have. Embrace this. Your experience is as important as your credentials and achievements.

#4 – Finally: do not think of your layoff as an end. Think of it as a step toward something new.

Obviously, a layoff will invoke all sorts of conflicting emotions and questions. Why me? What did I do wrong? If I did this or that better, could all of this have been prevented? Allowing yourself to be consumed by such doubts will only prevent you from moving beyond it and achieving even greater things, reaching even higher heights. Instead, ask yourself in what direction you want to move now—not as someone who is lost and weary, but, as a person eager to start a journey and take some uncertain turns along the way.

Need help redefining your layoff as a positive?  Would you like to develop your own professional strategies in retooling or rebranding after a job loss? Learn more about Lexacount Search’s career consulting services here.

Jacqueline Hill, Esq.

This post was written by .

Jacqueline Hill is a partner at Lexacount Search, where she places top senior-level and other legal talent with law firms and corporate legal departments across the United States. She has been writing about careers, lawyers, attorney professional development, and the legal industry for more than a decade. She can be reached at or 215-740-0104, extension 101.

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