Today Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft announced that it is laying off another 96 lawyers, not all of them associates. Last January it laid off 35 associates. Most of the cuts are, no newsflash, in the real estate and securitization practices.
What should be make of this? Well, first of all the large number - 131 in just about two quarters - gives license to other firms to do a reduction in forces. If they chop less, they will call less attention to themselves than Cadwalader is getting today from legal and business media.
Since this round includes partners, even more partners can expect to be let go. This is nothing new, of course. There have been stealth layoffs of partner-level attorneys for a while now, at least my intelligence network of ghostwriters who did books for them tell me. We don't hear about much about those reductions because attorneys at that level still tend to embrace the civility ethos of going quietly into the night.
The second issue is other jobs or a career change for the unemployed associates and partners. Some will land on their feet in another law firm if they have experience in a marketable area. As you recall, gay associate Aaron Charney sued his former employer Sullivan & Cromwell for discrimination. Well, he recently got hired in the M&A department of British Clifford Chance's New York office. Law-employment watchers had written Charney off as forever unemployable in law. Now they're saying he had the right skills at just the time Clifford Chance wanted to enhance its Manhattan presence.
For those who don't find a lateral position in BigLaw, there's the option of joining together and creating a new model of law firm such as Valorum and Bates & Tyde. General Counsels are putting the screws to BigLaw about billing. Some corporations even make the GC go through Central Purchasing. So, if those lawyers can figure out how to offer excellent service at a lower rate than their competitors, they might live happily ever after.
There is also the option of searching for an in-house position. GCs are taking in more work that they used to farm out. The compensation was excellent last year because of big bonuses as well as stock options. Basic salary has remained stagnant.
However, some will have to consider leveraging their legal background and contacts into another line of work. Among those that pay well are public affairs, lobbying, legal marketing, legal executive search, and corporate anything. Regarding the latter, so many functions in corporate now use compliance and actual legal help. The best bet is to try process-oriented and/or highly regulated industries such as insurance.
No question, it takes time to find anything, never mind something appropriate. The laid-off at Cadwalader have severance until the end of the year. That doesn't mean to take it easy. The best first tactic is to get some type of employment, perhaps in the evening, that serves to widen perspectives and to keep you alert. The day is free for interviews. Looking for a whatever all day, all evening, all weekend is a loser's positioning. Employers can smell the unemployment on you.
If you're in the Connecticut area, the best investment might be to swing by and check your coping skills out with cognitive behavioral therapist [CBT] Amy Karnilowicz, West Hartford [860-216-5116, firstname.lastname@example.org]. When my communications boutiques tanked more than five years, Karnilowicz got me up and running in five months.
Her CBT approach is taking action, not exploring feelings. She had me get a job, any job. That was the best advice I ever received. Working at a job, any job moved me from the problem towards a solution. I was happily employed as a contract loss prevention guard at Home Depot. I received two awards for crimestopping. The contract employer wanted me to join management. That restored my confidence. Within several months I was putting together a number of new businesses. Two panned out.