Where Will Your Job Be in Five Years? Two? Six Months?

Layoffs, downsizing, rightsizing, firings: Protect yourself no matter what, or who, your law firm cuts.
Layoffs, downsizing, rightsizing, firings: Protect yourself no matter what, or who, your law firm cuts.

Welcome to your layoff: The news that K&L Gates has dumped possibly hundreds of support staffers (as reported by Above the Law), or, in law firm parlance, made “adjustments for the good of the firm and its clients,” is a timely reminder not to get too confident in your own indispensability. Take steps now so that when cuts have to be made, you ‘ll be the cutter, not the cuttee.

Can any firm be blamed for cutting back on use of legal support staff? Not really. Lawyers, even the older ones, are far more fully functional than they once were. If some of them seem incapable of licking an envelope, I’m sure it’s a task they’re capable of learning. If they can’t, well, they can always email.

Learn from law firm layoffs, whether of others or your own.

Learn from law firm layoffs, whether of others or your own.

Yet, still, aim not to be one of those laid off from your own office. If I were at K&L Gates in any role, I’d take a look around at who was going and who was staying. What were the differences between the two groups? For whom did they work? How different were their personalities? Their skill sets? Their work habits? Their ages? Their ambition levels? Their kindnesses?

It’s not enough to do your job well. You should probably know (and be doing) portions of others’ jobs, too. Not in my position description doesn’t really cut it in these times of economic strife and, as the good folks who remain after these things tend to put it, “increased operational efficiencies.” Keep yourself current. Pay attention to firm politics. Try to work with someone whose staff is always on the right side of any cost cutting. Know where else in the legal market you could possibly turn, and develop the skills you’ll need to be competitive there. Find an opportunity in a layoff, even if you are safe in this go-round.

—Lori Tripoli

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