It’s not exactly the same thing, of course, but the coronavirus crisis and this surreal market volatility has me reflecting on the financial crisis of 2008. Back then, I was a vulnerable junior associate in a Biglaw firm who nevertheless kept my job, and I hope all of us do the same during this crisis too.
To that end, here are some tips from the trenches of the 2008-2009 law firm meltdown that I think are just as salient today as they were when Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and others were collapsing over a decade ago. You may recognize a few from our article on the same topic from a while back. But I’ve updated this list to reflect what I think will be a new normal for in-house and law firm attorneys going forward once the crisis ebbs:
Focus on your family: First off, absolutely nothing is worth sacrificing the health and well-being of your family (or yourself, for that matter). If they’re not under a government shutdown order already, most companies and law firms seem to be allowing remote work – so take advantage. There is no reason to be a martyr and you’re not earning any brownie points by schlepping into the office in the middle of a public health crisis. Be smart and stay safe out there!
Don’t sell your stocks! There has been plenty written about this point already in numerous financial news outlets. And if you’re reading this site, you probably have 20+ years to go before you can even think about retiring. The long-term trend in the stock market is up and to the right. Don’t log into your 401k and IRA accounts. Don’t log into your online taxable accounts. Ignore them for now, and just stay the course. And keep in mind that if you hold dividend-paying stocks, you are getting a great deal when those dividends are reinvested each quarter.
Keep your head down and work hard. Acknowledge that much of what’s happening right now is outside of your control. So, instead, try to control what you can. That’s taking care of yourself and your family and then working hard for your clients – whether they be external or internal at an in-house gig. Don’t give anyone any reason to cut you in the coming months as the reality of this new business cycle manifests. Stay positive, be a team player, and try to make the best of what’s a very difficult situation for everyone.
Don’t touch any liquid savings that you have; treat it as emergency living expenses. Much easier said than done, but if you having savings stashed somewhere, don’t go spending it right now. Things could get ugly quickly as companies chop overhead or law firms try and keep up profits per partner.
Always have a Plan B. As I’ve mentioned here before, I keep a list of five people that I would immediately call or email if I lost my job to see if they could help me out. I update this list periodically and make sure that these people always know what I’m working on, professionally, and where my long-term goals stand. If you don’t have a similar list, start one now. If you do, update it and keep touching base with those folks. Being quarantined is a great time to Facetime, IM, or otherwise reach out. It’s also a great time to whip your CV into shape – check out our Dollar Barrister Shop for resources that can help you do just that!
Never burn bridges. I’ve said this so many times here at Dollar Barrister but two out of the three in-house roles I’ve had came through warm connections with prior coworkers or colleagues. There is simply no reason to ever burn bridges in this profession – it’s a small world, especially within practice areas, and you just never know how things will unfold or who will be on your team in the future. There’s a difference between being an aggressive advocate for your client and being a jerk – when in doubt, err on the side of the former.
Stay healthy, and good luck! As always, if there’s anything we can do to help with your job search, career advice, or anything else related, please email us at dollarbarrister at gmail.com!