When The Going Gets Tough For Law Firms...
by Ed Poll
Published on 5/11/09
"Stop the world - I want to get off."
The title of the popular 1960s Broadway show seems to say it all, voicing a wish to put a braking effect on our world before it spins out of control. That, for sure, is how folks who have been laid off from law firms must feel. More than 10,000 people have been terminated from large firms. Who's keeping track in smaller law firms? But, then, who is counting anymore?
What started me on this thought path was an e-mail exchange I had recently with a friend. In the years he and I worked together, I had worked with a woman in his company when he was absent. During a recent call, I learned she was no longer with the company. I asked my friend what happened to her. "RIF" was the reply.
In his biweekly column, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Publisher David L. Yas recently quoted a young laid-off lawyer: "If you were ever going to be laid off, this seems like a good time. ... In the past, there was a stigma. Well, now, it seems like every third person you meet has been laid off. So there is an empathy, a sympathy, like we're all in this together."
On a hopeful note...
The definition of recession is when someone else is laid off; the definition of a depression is when you are laid off. In other words, when the problem comes close to home, we just might go into panic mode. Until then, we tend to be sanguine.
I was talking with a lawyer last week and asked him how his small firm practice was going, whether he suffered any loss of revenue. ... His response? Clients are either not paying or paying more slowly than before. His revenue decreased by 15 percent, and he considered himself lucky.
What to do? Here are several suggestions that I believe will benefit every firm:
Let me end with the beginning. There is hope. Thousands of people are reaching out for help and receiving it. We will get and retain new clients by showing them the value of what we provide. And we will walk proudly with those who have weathered this storm and come out the stronger for it.
© Copyright 2011. Edward Poll. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Edward Poll.
Ed Poll, principal of LawBiz Management Company, is a nationally recognized coach, law firm management consultant, and author who has coached and consulted with lawyers and law firms in strategic planning, profitability analysis, and practice development. Mr. Poll has practiced law on all sides of the table for 25 years-- as a corporate general counsel, government prosecutor, sole practitioner, partner, and law firm chief operating officer and been a consultant to small and large law firms for 20 years.
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