As we return from the holidays complete with polar vortexes and stranded passengers across the country, we begin our inevitable return to work with a fresh, shiny new year. Unfortunately, some Biglaw associates were greeted with layoff notices, joining many of their peers laid off in the fourth quarter of 2022. 

If you were laid off, I feel you. My husband (in the tech sector) was laid off a week before Christmas along with a good chunk of his colleagues, leaving our family shocked and reeling as we rolled into the holidays and New Year. This recent personal event and as an experienced legal recruiter who had the privilege of working with attorneys through 2008/2009 massive layoffs and the recessions that have followed, I have some thoughts to share. 

  • There are plenty of associate roles available.  Again, I repeat, there are currently plenty of roles available across the country. This is not 2008/2009, when massive industry-wide layoffs hit the AMLAW200, resulting in thousands of long-term displaced attorneys who had to struggle to find their footing. Many left the profession or completely switched gears. This appears to be different thus far, thankfully. The layoffs in the AMLAW200 are not consistent across all firms and are generally focused on firms with client bases in sectors (like tech) that are also experiencing profound difficulties and reductions. 
  • And on that note, in your search for a new role, do not overlook regional, midsized, and boutique opportunities. Many of the associates we have placed in recent months have been at midsized firms, outside of the AMLAW100. Many of these firms offer sophisticated work, more client contact, substantive experience, and often less intense working hours than their counterparts.  Additionally, there may be more tangible paths to partnership. The associate compensation may not be as much as the top of the market, but often is still within 20 percent or so of their AMLAW100 counterparts. 
  • Don’t neglect your mental health.  It is distressing to be laid off, to put it mildly. It is a major, life-changing event. This is true even if you are privileged enough to be financially stable while you search for your next position. It is especially true if you have extra financial pressures such as a family to support, massive student loan payments, or no other access to group health insurance.

    There is also another component to being laid off outside of the immediate financial concerns: It stings. It can feel very personal (particularly if you got caught in a stealth layoff) and can lead to deep feelings of shame, embarrassment, and failure. I mention this because I’ve worked with several attorneys as they were processing their layoffs, and even though we all intelligently understand it is not one’s fault to be laid off, in our high-achieving and competitive legal world, it can still hit as a failure and cause extreme distress in high-performing people.

    Please take care of your health, whether that comes in the form of therapy, mindfulness, or medical care. 

  • Interested in in-house roles? Spend some time on your LinkedIn Profile. Most agency recruiters that focus on in-house placements and corporate recruiters within these organizations use LinkedIn almost exclusively to find candidates for in-house legal roles. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is detailed, up-to-date, and clear about your specific skill sets and experience. Essentially, make sure you can be found.

Lay-offs are incredibly difficult, but I hope some of this resonates and is useful for those going through it or concerned for their future. Whether you feel secure in your role or not, now is the time to evaluate your position and think about whether your current firm is well-situated, financially sound, and diversified to ride out the rapid changes in our economy. 

Either way, Aspire Legal Search is here for you. Good luck out there! 

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