Grab Your Law Firm Lifeboat

by Vault Law Editors | March 11, 2011

  • My Vault

Reports of Howrey’s upcoming dissolution raise an important question: what should associates at sinking firms do to save themselves? In the Am Law Daily’s recent post on this topic, the consensus seemed to be to “[d]o what's best for yourself.” Of course, doing what’s best isn’t always obvious. At what point should an associate make the call that his or her firm is in trouble and he or she should head for the exit?

It’s a difficult question, and since associates aren’t privy to partners’ discussions on the economic stability of the firm, they can’t receive a guarantee of the firm’s failure until it actually happens. But if partners begin leaving in droves or there is talk of another firm swooping in to "rescue” your firm, you may want to start considering your options. Below are some tips based on the Am Law Daily's interviews with attorneys from now-dissolved law firms.

1.Ditch the loyalty. You may love your firm, but warm-and-fuzzies won’t get you far if the firm dissolves. Scott Andrews, who worked as an associate at Heller Ehrman, "knew Heller was doomed,” but he was “in a little bit of denial.” And while his loyalty didn’t leave him on the streets—Andrews landed a job at another firm about a month before Heller closed its doors—Andrews advises associates to push loyalty aside. "People at Heller trickled out for a long time, and those of us who had a strong belief in the firm stayed," he says. "That caused a lot of people to end up jobless, whereas they might have found something had they gone out earlier. It's hard to find a job when everyone else is looking."

2. Toss Your Nerves and Show Your Interest. Get bold, and speak with departing partners about the possibility of you following them. "Your job is on the line, so now is the time to swallow your nervousness and have that conversation with the partner," says Christopher Lewis, former partner at Thacher Proffit & Wood. It’s an uncomfortable conversation, but one possible upshot is getting a job. And you never know what benefits may come from networking with partners.

3.Network. Dig into your network, and use your resources to plot your next step. Lewis suggests creating “ a list of everyone you've ever worked on a deal with, everyone you went to school with, everyone you know and reach out to them.”

4.Stay positive. According to Adam Bergman, who worked as an associate at Thelen, "[i]t was tough dealing with the constant gossip and hush-hush talking.” Try to steer clear of gossip and negative conversations, and instead focus on your career and your next steps.

5.What do you want to do? While your firm going under wasn’t exactly in your master career plan, it may provide you with a chance to get introspective and decide what you really want to do with your life. Take time to consider your options. When Thelen dissolved, Bergman realized he didn’t want to practice law and went on to create a tax and financial consulting firm. “Who knows? If Thelen didn't go under, I might be sitting in a law firm now, doing tax research and working all night," he says.

The key is to focus on your career success.

The Am Law Daily Source

Read More:
BigLaw Firm Howrey LLP to dissolve

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Filed Under: Law

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