Imagine having $100,000 to start a law firm. That’s the consolation prize for the 190 associates laid off today by Latham and Watkins: six months of severance pay, capped at $100,000, reports AmLaw Daily. I realize that when you’re saddled with student loans and the accoutrements of a biglaw lifestyle, $100,000 doesn’t seem all that rich. But for those of us, myself included, who lauched our firms with student loans and car and mortgage payments hanging over our heads, even $10,000 would have made a huge difference.
Still, I also know that getting laid off is no fun and no matter how much money a firm shells out to soften the blow. After all, it’s the ego, not the budget, that takes the real bruising in a layoff and no amount of reassurances by colleagues or bravado on your own part can eliminate those niggling doubts that maybe you just weren’t good enough. So go ahead and sulk for a few days – you’re entitled.
But once that’s out of your system, consider this. You have a chance to reinvent yourself, to create something new that’s never existed and be the lawyer you always wanted to be. And what’s more, some of you actually have the resources to see it through. After all, who ever heard of an independent contract drafting commentator and consultant, before Ken Adams designed that position for himself? Or a high-powered litigator-turned successful mediator like Victoria Pynchon? Or a solo who practiced Supreme Court litigation exclusively like Tom Goldstein at (now) Howe & Russell? Or an energy regulatory attorney who runs a trade association and handles occasional 1983 civil rights actions and writes books and blogs (that would be me!)
What do you want to do – argue Supreme Court cases? Rescue victims of the housing crisis from foreclosure? Handle class actions? Try cases? Negotiate big deals. Make precedent? Run a small, neighborhood law practice? All of these options are possibilities, they truly are. But you have to break from those who lack the vision or imagination to see that these possibilities.
So when the head hunters tell you there’s a tight job market, shut your ears. Because there’s no competition for a job which hasn’t yet been announced at a firm that doesn’t yet exist. That position is yours for the taking, provided of course, that you create it.