THIS POST IS PRIMARILY FOR LAID OFF ATTORNEYS WITH LEGAL SKILLS OR A PRACTICE AREA.
So, I've been out of work for a good long while. I can't say that my job search has been intensifying. It's been dwindling. Partially from my own doing, but also because of the type of job search that I decided to do. I only apply to jobs that I'm qualified for. I'm not in the business of wasting my time or an employer's time. I pride myself in honestly saying, "I am the best candidate for this position." Consequently, I am running out of jobs to apply to... after applying to nearly 400 or so. At this point, I'll spend a solid 20 minutes on an on-line application to find out that I have already submitted a resume for that same position. I'm also tired from hours and hours of document review. I'm at a point now, where I need to move on mentally from the idea of finding "full-time employment."
Timing is certainly my forte, so no surprise that I ran into this article which speaks to my point. As the economy tanks, more and more people will find themselves "freelancing" or "consulting"--or in legal terms going "solo."
I know... going solo is the LAST thing that many lawyers want or can do. But this article has some good advice for those that are going to stop putting their lives on hold, waiting for the great job that lurks around the corner, and start to live life from this point forward:
"Too many freelancers see their condition as only temporary—one that will go away as soon as economic conditions improve. It's just a stage between jobs, they figure."
"Some of them may be right. But the odds are that most are wrong. They're going to be on their own for a long time. So freelancers need to think in terms of the long haul, preparing for a marathon, not a sprint."
When I read this, I think about all of the attorneys I know that are doing document review all over the country, waiting for the next best thing when they can be out there establishing a business. You have to stop thinking of this as a temporary condition, so you can free yourself to do what's best for your future. Just think? What if this is your forever? I don't think document review is a horrid existence. It's better than nothing, but do you always want to be subject to the ebbs and flows of the market???
Btw, I know I'm referring to the document review as being synonomous with freelancing. Unfortunately, there are some bright line distinctions; the main one is that you are considered an employee of the temp agency when you do doc review, whereas you are an idependent contractor when you freelance. W-2 verses a 1099. But, like in freelancing, you are moving from one project to another and you have no stability and no benefits. You're not paid for sick days. It's a tumultuous existence. I would argue that doc reviewers would benefit from becoming independent contractors, but alas... the pimp daddy agencies won't have that. In any case, I think that this is the closest to being a consultant that any lawyer gets. And for the purposes of this discussion, they are similar enough.
What if this is all there is???
Why are you doing document review for $28/hour when you can be coupling that with per diem depositions for $50/hour? Or writing motions for $65/hour? This is how you start your business and get good experience at the same time. Don't think that this is something you're doing for the short term. Let's assume that you'll never ever find a full-time job. Throw yourself into per diem work and you will get more and more business--and one day a client will be entirely yours. I know per diem work is elusive, but not so much as a full-time job. I have my finger on the pulse of the legal industry... and I will tell you that small firms are not lacking work. But they are having commitment issues. They need someone to do the work, but they don't want to pay for benefits. So, drop in on some small law offices and tell them that you're willing to help for an hourly rate. You will get the appropriate experience that way, and it may serve as a segue to getting your own clients.
Or, even better, don't do document review and think that you're just one interview away from the ultimate job. If you always dreamt of having a cafe or a child care business, why are you holding yourself up in that dream. Take steps to pursue something else. There are people who have bene unemployed since May 2008 and this time could have been used to do a start-up company. I know it sounds crazy and unattainable. But thinking that you're going to land in BigLaw when this storm dies down sounds just as crazy to me.
But, back to doc review attorneys... the article says:
"Most successful consultants are in a network or community of consultants. These networks are important sources of new clients; most consultants, in fact, say they get as many clients from these networks as they do from client referrals. What's more, an increasing number of consultants share work, taking on bigger projects that require more hands. In this way, teams of consultants can function like a small boutique firm."
Just last week, in my room of doc reviewers... we were discussing our practice areas before the bottom fell out :
Isn't it apparent the we essentially have the resources of a full service law firm at our fingers? I'm not saying that I'm signing partnership agreements with anyone. But if anyone were to come with me, in search of a will and a trust... why wouldn't I draft the will and send the trust to the estates lawyer to do??? I hate lawyers just as much as the next guy, but this is a case of brotherhood and comradery. I think that we can accomplish much more together than we can apart.
Time to take this bull by the horns and control your own fate. Yah, it sucks to be 100% in charge of what you're paid and when you're paid it. But it's not worse than being subject to the whim and will of inconsiderate partners. They screwed you before. Do you really want to be caught with your pants down if they do it again?
Look. I know we're not going to make a ton of money doing this stuff. I've kissed the American Dream good-bye. I don't look at solos with envy. I think that it's a hard life and very few make it. But, times are desparate, and I'm just looking to pay my bills and make it. It's foolhardy to sit by and watch the legal industry take a new shape... and hope and wish that it has a place for you in it.
That American Dream is looking more and more like an illusion than ever before and I'm trying to hustle to make a buck.
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