Thoughts on opportunity for unemployed lawyers and law grads

It’s the last day of March 2020.

Job losses are mounting. Three-million plus reported just last week. And if you’re like me, you probably suspect that reality will be much worse than the current numbers when overloaded state unemployment systems catch up to reality.

Attorney jobs are being eliminated and the compensation of retained employees at some firms is being cut. If you are a lawyer and an employee at a law firm, you may be affected or worried. And if you’re a recent law grad or about to be and seeking work, you may face unprecedented challenges finding employment in the near future.

As I write this, the lawyers with highest levels of job security are solo practitioners and owners of small law firms. These lawyers, who I’ll refer to as small firm owners for the remainder of this post, are in control of their destiny even as they navigate the COVID-19 crisis and a new (if temporary) economic reality.

If you are an associate or a partner at a medium or large size law firm, even if you have a fractional ownership interest in the firm or the firm’s profits, there may be a big difference between you and your small firm owner counterparts.

Small firm owners, despite how grim the world around them might seem at the moment, have an opportunity to proactively build their futures while sheltering at home. Small firm owners have control over their destiny and the flexibility to pivot as needed to position their firms for success. Even if business is slow right now, or non-existent, they have the ability and opportunity to move their firms rapidly forward.

And there are a LOT of them out there, many of them LawLytics customers, who are doing just that using their current windfall of spare time, their computer, the LawLytics platform, and our guidance.

Small firm owners can build their firms into a future powerhouse, right now, in their pajamas. I talk extensively about how to take advantage of the downtime in other posts in this series (see the sidebar or footer if you’re on a mobile device), and I’ll speak about it in a webinar on Thursday April 2, 2020 (register beforehand or watch it on demand after the fact here), so I won’t go into detail about that here.

Thoughts for laid-off lawyers (or lawyers who think they might be)

Are you are a lawyer who recently lost your job? Had your pay cut? Suspect the shoe is about to drop? You’re not alone, and you’re not helpless.

If you recently lost your job as a lawyer, or if you do soon, this might be the best possible time to take control of your career and open your own law practice. If you’re willing to invest the effort now, while others are sitting around waiting and hoping for opportunities to come back, you can turn what at first appears to be career misfortune into the opportunity to:

  1. Build a firm that you own and control, complete with the job security that comes with ownership.
  2. Break free from dependence on others.
  3. Choose the types of matters you want to work, and the clients that you want to work with.
  4. Be your own boss!

The above things sound great, in theory, to almost every attorney. But then there’s that little (or maybe it’s a screaming) voice of doubt and fear. Can I really do this on my own? How will I afford it?

Finances are, of course, at the forefront of most people’s minds. But if you can get that part figured out (looks like there may be several government levers available to pull), then using this time now to rapidly build a solid foundation for your new law practice will likely be something that you look back at as one of the best choices you ever made.

Thoughts for graduating 3Ls and recently admitted lawyers

If you’re just starting your legal career, you are not helpless. Even if the job market is completely dry, you have the opportunity to strike out on your own and start your own practice, even if you decide to continue to look for a job concurrently. That way, if a legal job offer does materialize, you’ll have a choice to make. And if it doesn’t materialize, you’ll have something to show for your time.

As a newly minted yet unemployed attorney, assuming that you want to practice law, the absolute worst thing that you can to right now is stay out of the law. The longer you stay away the less chance you’ll have of ever returning. If you have to take an undesirable day job outside of the law to survive while you build your practice, you should do it. It’s a means to an end, and it’s not a permanent situation as long as you spend your evenings and weekends working on building your law practice.

Guidance and help starting your own practice

I’ve built two successful small firms from the ground up.

The first one was in Seattle during the dot-com bust when I was fresh out of law school, and the second in Phoenix in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks.

Trust me, you can do this. And trust me, it can be a lot of fun.

Later this week I will start a second ongoing blog series (in addition to this current COVID-19 series) where I will share my law firm startup story and talk about the various aspects of starting and growing a new law firm.

At LawLytics, we have helped many lawyers start new firms by helping them understand and take control of their marketing from the start. Using LawLytics, they built solid foundations to their practice while keeping the marketing overhead fixed and low and growing their revenue by leveraging our software, our expertise and experience, and their efforts.

We can do the same with you. So if you’re considering starting your own firm, I highly recommend scheduling a 20 minute online demo of LawLytics to see how it works and how it will help you go from startup law firm idea to stable cashflow in minimal time and with minimal risk and investment.

About The Author

Attorney Dan Jaffe previously built successful small law practices in WA and AZ. He currently serves as the CEO of LawLytics.

Other posts by Dan.