As we all know, there is a lot of uncertainty for top law students and grads right now. I previously spoke to some of the reasons it might make sense to evaluate a Plan B at this time. It is better to have a Plan B in place and not need it, rather than being caught flat-footed if this recession runs deeper than expected. Now, it’s time to evaluate various considerations when defining what that Plan B will be.
Based on my experience as an attorney who practiced in public interest, BigLaw, a small law firm, in-house and as a legal recruiter with almost a decade of experience, here are my tips to help you build and evaluate your Plan B and keep your career on track during this challenging time.
Hot Practice Areas During a Recession
Consider the practice areas that are booming in the current market. Your Plan B may lead you to focus on a different area than you have previously targeted or worked. There are firms and companies of all shapes and sizes that are busy and need extra hands right now. Some of these may have been on your radar already and may have been on your short list anyway, while others may not have piqued your interest. You may note that most of the traditional transactional practices are not listed, but it generally will not derail your path to practice in corporate, finance, etc. by exploring one of these areas during this recession. Many people find that they enjoy a different practice area than they initially expected, so I encourage you to keep an open mind. In no particular order, some of the busiest practices now are in:
Civil Litigation – COVID related lawsuits have already begun (think college students, insurance companies) and more are anticipated.
Labor & Employment – Employment litigation was already expected to increase in-light-of the CCPA, but we know that unemployed workers historically file suits when they are unable to find new jobs or jobs at the level where they were employed.
Intellectual Property Law – IP law is pretty recession-proof, but we are seeing a shift from EE/CS to Life Sciences.
Data Privacy/Protection – As employees work from home, their data is more endangered than ever.
Bankruptcy & Restructuring – This one is self-explanatory, but it’s a great field that provides good business law exposure, particularly if you join a debtor practice.
Foreclosure – It may not be sexy, but it will be busy and can help get exposure to real estate, bankruptcy and litigation.
Ideas for Building Experience and Skills
Knowing about busy legal practice areas is only a small part of the discussion of how you can optimize your time this summer and fall. The cornerstone of your Plan B is what you can do with this knowledge. Are you developing a plan to find a job in another practice area? Or simply evaluating ways you can productively pass the time while waiting for your previously offered job to start or the permanent job market for entry level and lateral attorneys opens back up? What does your plan for the next few
months look like on a larger scale? Here is a short list of ideas, and I encourage you to trust your creativity and instincts as you brainstorm productive ideas to pass the time.
Many firms and companies are hiring remote employees so you may still be able to start work sooner than you would think. Apply widely & keep an open mind.
Temporary work through agencies (including Lucas Group) may be available. Send in your resume as you see postings and don’t be afraid to network. In fact, this is a great opportunity to flex your networking muscle as everyone knows times are tough and most people want to help in any way they can.
Reach out to contacts, former employers and future employers.
Writing, Publishing, Sharing, Learning
One of the benefits of time is that you can increase your substantive knowledge of topics that are of interest to you. Online CLE’s abound.
With LinkedIn, other social media platforms and blog opportunities, it’s easier than ever to get content out there.
Find ways to affiliate with publications or draft pieces and market them to publications, including magazines, law reviews, etc.
Volunteer/Pro Bono work
There are many opportunities to volunteer that can give you access to providing needed legal services.
Many non-profits offer online or video counseling. An example is Illinois Legal Aid Online – you can go to their website and sign up for a training.
There are a number of non-profit roles that will accept a 711 license.
Be Creative – Start Something Amazing
Many people go to law school and then decide to explore other ventures – you can do it backwards and try to get involved in a start-up or start your own blog, app, company, business.
If you have a passion that you have put on hold to pursue your legal career, now might be a great time to pursue it.
Additional Tips to Keep in Mind
If you have accepted an offer with a future start date, make sure that you understand the expectations and limitations of that offer. You may be limited or prohibited in what you can do while waiting to start your permanent job. Make sure to communicate and be honest with your future employer.
Networking is key; now is not the time to prioritize doing it on your own. If you have family or personal connections that could help with your search, leverage them. Make sure again to be open and honest.
If you are taking this opportunity to write, post and publish, it’s more important than ever to be accurate, non-partisan and focus on grammar, punctuation, etc. The goal is for people to see and appreciate your content. Don’t let your hard work create challenges when securing your next position by having a shoddy work product be what pops up when a future employer “Google’s” your name.
References can make a huge difference. If you have a close relationship or have made a strong impression with professors, or former employers you have remained in contact with, it is a great time to reach out and see if they have any leads and ask if they will be a reference.
Now is the time to focus on how you will finish up this year. Whether that is changing your focus area for your first law job out of school, considering contract or volunteer work, or considering opportunities that weren’t previously on your radar, now is the time to start working towards Plan B. You won’t regret it.