When the going gets tough

Bill Wilson spent over 20 years in legal departments at corporations large and small, from high tech to brick and mortar, and is writing about various topics while trying to find that next great career opportunity.

As many bright attorneys have found out over the last three years,  job searches aren’t always short.  Unemployment lasting a year or longer has not been unusual, unfortunately.  The mortgage company however may lose patience before you get a job.  And you’re not independently wealthy, so what are the options?

I have seen a lot of debate on different websites about which jobs to avoid (e.g., document reviews) and which you should pursue.  I am going to give you one man’s opinion.

Think seriously about your priorities.  As some people say, there is no tomorrow without today.  You need to pay the rent/mortgage.  You need to buy food and maybe medicine.  If you have kids, multiply this problem by twice the number of kids you have.  Whether some stuffed shirt at BigLaw or Notourkind Recruiters thinks you’re indelibly tainted by having done a, yeeeeeccccchhhhh, document review, that is probably far less important than whether your kids go to school in clean clothes or have a house to live in.  And in the long term, ask yourself, if that’s what they really think, do you really want to work there?  If I was hiring someone, I would be more impressed by a conversation where a candidate tells me he took a job carting plastic bottles to a recycler rather than watch his kids go to school without something they need.  That person has initiative, not an unhealthy distaste for the struggles of ordinary people, and the former is a far more desirable quality in an employee than the latter.

And just a word in favor of document reviews: In this day of e-discovery, finding documents, good or bad, in a document review is becoming a lost art.  There was a great article in the May 2010 issue of the ACC Docket, “Why My Human Document Reviewer Is Better than Your Algorithm” that I think every lawyer should read.

One of the things that annoyed me as a GC were outside counsel who were insanely smart (or so they said) and immensely impractical.  Spending more time reviewing documents will reintroduce them to the real world of clients struggling with the right thing to say.  Look at the exercise from this perspective, as you ponder the smoking gun message on the screen in front of you: what if they had come to me and asked me how to write this email before it was sent?  There is a wealth of counseling experience that can be gained from such introspection.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t pay attention to your professional development.  Stay current.  It’s easier than ever, with all of the law related blogs and law firm bulletins and other publications online.  Go one step further: Write an article for one of them on a subject near and dear to your intellectual curiosity.  You might be surprised at who will pay you for it.  Read the new Supreme Court decisions (you always complained you never had time to do it!).  Devote a day each week to pro-bono.  Attend those ABA or ACC meetings you always missed because of the crisis du jour at work. Aside from the networking benefits, you may be able to wangle an invitation to speak and raise your professional profile.  Or give you that bon mot to drop at the next interview.  Not to mention getting you out of your significant other’s hair for a while.

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One response to “When the going gets tough

  1. Think outside the box. Create a job!

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