Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

A Day in the Life

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Total Black: $33.16
Total Red: $227,972.40

We’re back.  And we’re live.  Well . . . at least in the internet sense.  Daily posts now show up in google searches.

When I was first laid-off in mid-October, I was in the middle of moving apartments.  That move took me long into November, partly because I inherited a very troubling and irksome problem with the new apartment that had to be dealt with immediately. A bit of background, and further to yesterday’s post, throughout much of 2008, a sense of foreboding slowly started rising within me.  We just were not busy at the firm.  And people started to “go missing” without explanation. One day while at the gym, at Silver Sneakers no less (an aerobics class for older people), my mother just happened to start chatting with another lady all about my job security concerns.  By random (or not?) chance, that lady had a daughter who worked at one of the local DA’s offices in the New York area.  Naturally, I was unbelievably irritated at my mother’s loose lips.  But she insisted that I had to meet this woman lest I make a fool of out of her. So around August 2008, I reached out to that contact.  Turned out, the daughter is an important person at the office and just happens to be the person who coordinates pro bono attorneys.

Back in those light and innocent days of just less than a year ago, I had no knowledge of attorneys working full-time for free.  Attorneys are encouraged to take work on a pro bono basis, but that’s in addition to employed work—and perhaps because of it.  But, since I had never intended on staying at the firm permanently, and since things seemed increasingly unsteady there, I figured I could ride things out until January—when bonuses are typically paid—and gracefully bow-out.  So, after thinking it over, I agreed to work at the DA’s office for about four months once  I wrapped things up at the firm.  Of course, all of that was expedited when the firm started conducting lay-offs.  So, in November 2008, after getting things under control in my new apartment, I contacted the DA’s office about starting earlier than January.  In early December 2008, I began my career as a prosecutor. And that work took me through to June 2009 when I bowed out to study for the Pennsylvania bar exam.

And . . . yes . . . it was my mother who got me the connection to the DA’s office.

In a few different ways that work at the DA’s office saved me.  Like many who are laid-off or unemployed, I started feeling myself slide slowly into despair.   I didn’t leave the apartment much.  I started avoiding social settings because inevitably the second or third question—if not the first—is “So, what do you do?”  Having something to do each day helped pull me back from that brink.  But now I’m starting to wonder if I’m losing ground again.  So today’s entry is a brief attempt to profile my day, a quick glimpse into a day in the life of a laid-off lawyer, and to and chronicle my job hunting efforts since being laid off.

Usually I tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition, and yawn and stretch and try to come to life.  Seriously though, with very few exceptions, my day, like everyone else’s, starts in the morning upon waking.  Typically I’m stumbling to the computer and that slowly brings me to life.  I check and answer emails first, then check a few websites: a quick scan of CNN headlines, a peak at account balances, and a glance at Meetup.com or perhaps MyFamily.com.  Then I either hop in the shower or make breakfast or vice versa.  Before I began working at the DA’s office I often invented tasks for myself here in the apartment.  It’s amazing how creative the mind can get, isn’t it?  The aquarium needed cleaning or the floors needed mopping.  But I’m pretty good at checking myself on those diversions.

More often than not though, at least for the months before and then after the DA’s office, I would spend hours on the computer job hunting.  From then until now, I applied to:

  • the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in New York
  • the United States Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia
  • the United States Department of Justice (numerous positions)
  • Committees of the United States Senate (at least four)
  • New York City General Counsel’s office
  • adjunct positions in the Philosophy, Political Science, English, History, and Law departments at
    • CUNY Baruch
    • CUNY Brooklyn
    • CUNY Kingsborough
    • CUNY John Jay
    • New Jersey City University, and
    • Hudson County Community College.

I’m still applying to adjunct positions because, even if I got a 9-to-5 gig, I’ve got this debt-free goal to reach by 8/9/10.  The number of clerkship applications I sent out—to federal and state court judges—is demoralizing.  One state court judge did call me in for an interview, but she decided to hire another candidate because he had more experience with the areas of law she typically handles.  And, of course, I signed up with legal staffing agencies like Yorkson Legal, Special Counsel, Lateral Link, and the like, for temporary work or possible permanent placement.

Statistics say that the vast majority of jobs come through our connections, so I didn’t only sit at my desk. I attended a Penn State NYC Alumni Chapter event on networking in a troubled economy.  The presenter was very insightful and got many of see how we tended to apologize for being unemployed—as if it were our fault or something to be embarrassed or ashamed of.  I got set-up on LinkedIn.  As part of our severance package, the firm paid for three months of services at Lee Hecht Harrison, a career resource / coaching agency.  Unfortunately, just after I initiated my three months, I decided to sit for the Pennsylvania bar exam, so I didn’t really have time for their services while also winding down at the DA’s office and beginning bar review.  If my time hasn’t already elapsed, it will soon.  And, in trying to think outside the box, I even used my status update on Facebook to announce my interest in clerking. Two law school colleagues reached out to me, but so far nothing’s come of it. I had interned for a federal judge while in law school, so I reached back to the judge’s permanent clerk for advice.  I also talked with a former law professor about my clerkship efforts.  I reached out to my law school’s career services department and got placed on a weekly email blast.  Lastly (of everything that come to mind), I get daily emails from USAJobs.gov and Idealist.org of new law-related job postings. So far…no calls, except from people taking not giving.  Two already this morning: the cell phone company and a credit card company.  Only the cell phone company left a message.

But we must not despair.  It’s always darkest before dawn, right?  And besides, there’s no time for it.  I need to finish my quasi-consulting work I mentioned a few days ago.  Gotta earn me that dough.

Got a job by the way?

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