Search using our robust engine. Get the recommendations you need to get ahead.
Browse through our expansive list of legal practice areas.
Work where you are or where you’d like to be. Find where you’ll work with LawCrossing.
Use our marketplace to feature your opportunity
Start your search today
Set up your account and manage your company profile on LawCrossing
Look through and compare company profiles
Learn from legal expert, Harrison Barnes
Discovery salaries and scope your next job
Don’t just take it from us
How to Attract Success
Why You Should Never Miss a Company Holiday Party or Invitation to Your Boss’s Home
published May 06, 2022
It is not a complete surprise for most attorneys who lose their law firm job. Usually, the law firm gives certain cues to the attorney that their performance is not as expected or that there is not enough work for them. However, it can still be devastating for them.
Getting fired often makes attorneys feel extremely shameful and like their life or career have ended. It is not that serious; however, it can be very hard to get a new position in law firms of the same rank, and many attorneys feel like a failure afterward. Losing a job also comes with inevitable financial pressures that further stress. And even if the attorney has enough savings to get them by, the hurt of being fired from a firm in which they have invested years of their life can be overwhelming.
All of these feelings of shame and failure are valid, and if you feel like they are getting over your head, there are many professionals, like psychologists or financial advisors, who can help you deal with them. However, there are many things you can (and should do) to put yourself in a better position for your job search to get a job as quickly as possible after this negative event. As a legal recruiter and the founder of BCG Attorney Search, this is something I can help you with. The following are my top tips on what to do immediately after getting fired to protect your future in the legal industry and get employed in other law firms.
Most of the time, the termination is not wrongful, and the attorney will lose. Firms are full of lawyers, so they know they have to have a valid reason with proof when they fire someone. They will have documents proving that the termination is valid, and the court will have no other choice than to rule in their favor. And even if you were in the minority and the termination was wrongful, no law firm will want to hire you in the future because they will be afraid you will sue them. Lawsuits also create gossip among your peers, so suing is never good.
Generally, attorneys in law firms do not talk negatively about their previous colleagues because it does not make them look good. However, if you give them a reason to by making a scene or complain about being let go, they might want to warn others before you.
Larger law firms will generally be able to keep you on for longer than small firms because they have more funds to keep on more lawyers. The time firms give their lawyers to find new jobs can be anything from a month to six months; however, it can also happen that the firm will want you to leave that day.
Regardless of what is customary in your law firm for the length of time an attorney can stay, you want to (and usually can) negotiate to last as long as possible. It takes several months to find a decent position in a large law firm, so you want to prolong the time at your current firm as much as possible. Some things in your background make it easier or harder for you to find a new position, and you have to take these into account when considering your situation.
If you have too little experience or have been in the law firm for more than six years, you will need more time to find a new position. The same applies if the economy is not doing that well (unless you are in litigation), your legal market is currently in a lull, you have changed firms several times in the few previous years, or your practice area is so narrow that there are usually no new opportunities often. On the other hand, it will be much easier to get a job even with some less desirable things in your past if you have enough transferrable business.
Apart from negotiating how long you can stay with the firm before they finally let you go, you also have to negotiate how long you will stay on the law firm's website and how long you can use its voicemail after your last day. Because even if you do not work for the firm anymore, being on their website or using their voicemail can make it seem like you are still there, and it can help you avoid a few unpleasant questions. This period can be prolonged if you approach the law firm's management and explain your situation, so you should take advantage of that.
Firstly, it is vital to apply to as many law firms and employers in the legal community as possible. When you need to find a position quickly, there is no time to pick and choose law firms that fit your specific expectations or only apply to places with job openings. Most law firms will hire anyone who will be able to earn them money, and it does not matter whether they have an open position or not. It is not enough to rely on job boards because those only publish open positions. The easiest thing to do is to build a list of all legal employers who might be interested in an attorney in your practice area and contact them directly with your resume.
Another important thing is to not focus your job searches only on your current legal market but to apply in as many legal markets as possible. Your chances of getting hired grow exponentially with every additional legal market you apply to. It can be easier to get a position in a market different from your current one because relocating is a valid and understandable reason for switching firms. Changing firms within your market can raise many questions.
Of course, it is not logical to apply to just any legal market. Having a personal connection to the market helps a lot. You should apply to the market where you have grown up or where your parents reside, the market where your significant other is from, where you went to law school, or where you have other personal connections.
These steps need to be taken immediately after finding out about the lost job because only that will ensure that you can practice law without too big of a gap on your resume. And job search is much more difficult when you are already out of your job because human resources departments get immediately suspicious about unemployed attorneys. Do not hesitate to also ask around your professional networks. You might know multiple attorneys whose firms are looking for someone.
When you are looking for a new position after losing your previous job, you will inevitably be asked why you have lost it unless you can get a job offer while still working or are at least public on the previous law firm's website. You want to paint yourself in the best light possible, so the best reason you can provide is one where you are not in the wrong.
If anything like this has happened in your firm, you can use it to excuse why you were let go. However, be prepared to be asked why the partner did not take you with them or why you were not among the attorneys the firm has kept.
You might also want to say that there was not enough work you were interested in; however, that only tells the potential employer that you will leave if you do not get what you want.
It could have been a small mistake, missing too much work, or not billing enough work; however, the mistake can also be getting sued or being accused of sexual harassment. The key is always to disclose publicly known things but be careful about saying too much about things the potential employer has no chance of understanding.
Losing a job is something most attorneys go through at some point in their careers. There is no shame in that. The important thing is how you accept it and what you do afterward. The key is to try to leave on good terms with your previous employer and secure a new job as soon as possible to avoid having a gap on your resume.
Must You be a ''Type-A'' Personality to Succeed in a Law Firm?
2015 LawCrossing Salary Survey of Lawyer Salaries in Best Law Firms
Reasons Why Practicing Law Is Extremely Stressful
Characteristics of the Best Associates That Make Them Partner Material