What a Professional Legal Recruiter Really Thinks of the Job Market During COVID-19
Take it from someone who manages a team of legal recruiters, to put it bluntly, this sucks. This sucks to varying degrees for everyone, but all of us are affected in some way or another. And while the current economic environment for lawyers is reminiscent of the 2008 financial meltdown, today’s situation is different, and, at least for right now, not nearly as dire. Yes, many firms are hurting and a growing bunch are controlling the bleeding by taking some drastic measures and laying people off, slashing compensation, or doing a combination of both. But there is good news out there. There are firms and companies that are still hiring. Many attorneys are super busy. Skadden, a huge and successful heavily corporate firm, just announced its new class of partners and several of them are in corporate (and a couple even in M&A).
So what does that mean for you in terms of your job? If you’re like everyone I’ve talked to, you’re concerned about job security. How could you not be? No one really knows what lies ahead. But you need to take comfort in the fact that business is still going on and we will come out of this. People want to get back to work and do deals and spend money suing other people or companies. So if you were hoping to switch gears, today’s situation might not be as tragic as you envisioned. You still do have options.
And if you’re like most of the people I’ve talked to and are hunkering down and clinging to your job to make sure you don’t lose it, that’s totally understandable. If you’re not ready to think about next steps because next steps for you right now involve dealing with homeschooling, treacherous trips to the grocery store, or worrying about your parents, then spend your time on that. The good news is that most recruiters generally expect you to be in that mindset, and they may be in similar situations themselves. So while their calls at this time may still at first blush seem disruptive or annoying, use them as a free resource to tell you about what’s going on in the world or just as a human contact. Recruiters, for the most part, got into this business because they enjoy talking to people. Now is the time to appreciate that you have humans calling you just to check in to see how you’re doing. Let them provide you advice or use them as a shoulder to cry on or vent to. They get it. And they’re probably hearing the same thing from dozens of people.
Lastly, even if you were one of the unlucky ones to be laid off, the fact that there are firms still hiring is a good sign. You’ll be able find a new job. You’re right, it’s certainly tougher at this particular moment, but hiring hasn’t hit a hard stop. The consensus appears to be that firms are in a better position to weather this type of storm than they were in 2008/2009. That’s likely because many firms learned their lesson, both from their own experiences and from seeing other major firms struggle and fail (i.e., Heller Ehrman, Dewey, among others). The proactive measures that firms are taking now, like layoffs or paycheck reductions, are largely precautionary, so they will not be forced later to lay off a large(r) number of people if collections don’t come back as quickly as they hope. And some firms have publicly committed to not reducing salaries or laying people off at all. That’s great. I don’t remember hearing that from firms in 2008/2009. Perhaps this time will force you to think about your future and what you want your career to look like. So when the market opens up, you’ll be in a good position to go after what you want. You can spend this time thinking about your story and strategically planning. You will land. (In fact, many of my friends who were let go in 2008/2009 ended up in some pretty cool gigs, with some going the legal route, both in firms and in-house, and others landed pure corporate roles). Of course, you can do this planning even if you weren’t laid off, and it’s probably always a good idea.
So while the news seems pretty scary right now, it’s important to realize it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ll come out of this, and I really believe stronger and better prepared. In the meantime, stay healthy!
- From Carly and your friends at De Novo