June's Jurisdiction: How to Handle Time Off from the Law
I left a large law firm eight months ago for personal reasons. Since that time I have done some travelling, worked at some temp jobs and even done freelance writing. But nothing I've done in the last eight months has anything to do with the law. Is it too late for me to get back into a firm?
Dear Comeback Kid,
I wish you had spoken with me before you quit your day job (so to speak). It is so much better to hang in there and line up a new job before you simply quit. Your new firm can then defer the start date. Being unemployed for 8 months looks terrible on a resume because the reader assumes that you have a problem and are unreliable. And a series of temp jobs looks even worse. To close that gaping hole in your resume, if nothing else, your best bet is to rejoin your old firm, even if you have to back up a class year. You could refer to your time off as an unpaid sabbatical and people would be impressed that the firm offered you this option. In attempting to get back on track, the way in which you present the hiatus in your practice is critical. If you have exceptionally strong academics, you practiced in an area in demand, and you have a compelling story to tell, you may be able to get back on track with a new firm. Your second best bet is to speak with those other firms that made you offers while you were in law school. Since you were good enough for them once, you may be again.
What you want to avoid at all costs is the downward spiraling of your career from one that held promise to one that is marginalized. If you decide that you are simply not suited to a law firm, why not look into some of the new legal services on the Internet. This could be an opportunity for you to get creative in your thinking and not just try to fit in to a model that doesn't suit you. Sometimes the boldest and most successful moves are made when no options readily present themselves.
June Eichbaum is a partner at Heidrich & Struggles, New York. June earned her B.A. in 1972 from the University of Pennsylvania, J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and LL.M. from New York University Law School.