Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fungible

There's getting to be a lot of talk about layoffs and a lot of talk about what a slow year it's been in M&A... and I'm worried.*  I'm worried because I think my class year, practice area and profile as an associate who is working away from her home office puts me at risk.

I'm not sure what else I can do at this point.  I've said yes to every assignment (including a trans-Pacific move), completed a secondment, brought in a client and am well-liked socially; but I don't think my work product would be considered exceptional, i.e., I'm not drafting on a regular basis, I don't have deep knowledge of any area except diligence and disclosure schedules, and my hours aren't stellar when measured against expectations (although they are in line with what my peers' have been billing).  Perhaps more troubling, nobody has my back.  (I attribute this mostly to the way the firm has moved me around, but (i) I work mostly for senior associates and rarely directly with partners and (ii) I have to admit that self-promotion is not my strong suit.)  Despite that I don't have negative feedback on my record, I know that that can change in an instant, or not matter at all, when it's time to let folks go.


It's best to be prepared.  If I were to be laid off, I project it would happen some time in October, when I'm slated to return to my home office and year-end reviews will take place.  Between now and then, I estimate I will accumulate a $18k cash surplus after ordinary bills, retirement contributions,  emergency savings, and minimum student loan payments.  It's been my practice while abroad to send all of my cash surplus to the Department of Education.  This has resulted in a $60k reduction of my student loan principle.  I think, between now and October, the cash surplus should be sent to my emergency fund instead.  I will also need to (i) think carefully about housing arrangements when I return to the US; (ii) complete my remaining CLE hours while I have access to the firm's free CLE training; (iii) update my resume and deal sheet; (iv) keep up to date with job openings, legal or otherwise; and (v) give some thought to developing a side gig.

Just in case.

Someone has suggested to me that being laid off would be a blessing in disguise.  The past few years have been mostly unhappy ones and, with my MBA and experience working in Asia, other possibilities are open to me.  There is truth in that.  But, at the moment, given my remaining loan balance and my interest in validating my JD, I think it would be best to put in some more time.  (By validating my JD, I mean getting enough practical experience and accruing enough skill to be perceived as an attorney and not someone who went to law school just for fun.)

Will the day ever come when I feel more stable in my job?  When will I get to worry about planning a wedding or buying a house, instead of obsessing over the firm?  I need to think about ways to move beyond this junior, very fungible stage of my career.

*To be clear, this isn't a revelation of how my firm is doing.  This is a reflection of what I'm reading about law firm layoffs generally and some E&Y analysis I just read about the M&A market.

6 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Kudos to you for paying down so much of your loans. I felt a lot calmer after I was left with just 3-4% loans, which I'll pay off monthly according to their 30 year schedule.

I've had similar concerns and I felt a lot better once I built up a robust emergency fund. I also keep telling myself that people with advanced degrees have a much lower unemployment rate than the general population.

Metal said...

As someone who has gone through a layoff and having seen 25K of my comrades fall with me, I'll still say they are good in the long run and obviously painful in the initial few months. It helps one come out of our comfort zones and break out of our tunnel visions...I found my change to be quite refreshing!
As a side note, love the choice of your video :)

CM said...

It's smart to plan ahead. But take deep breaths and try not to worry about something you have no control over. You've said yourself that you've done everything you can at work. That means there's nothing more you can do. Worst case scenario (or is it?) is you lose your terrible, soul-sucking job and are forced to re-evaluate. Another likely possibility is status quo. Either way, you're going to be okay.

Legally Fabulous said...

Totally agree with what CM said... in fact I could really just copy and paste it.
Deep breaths. Control what you can control. You are doing everything right, and you will land on your feet.

Paragon2Pieces said...

Thanks, all. I've calmed down since I wrote this post and your comments helped!

Brittany Jean said...

I look at job postings all the time for these reasons. It's not just your firm or your area of law. It's the legal profession right now and it sucks. I think putting that money into an emergency fund is a great idea. If it turns out that you don't need it, you can toss it toward your loans.

It is truly inspiring to me that you've been able to pay off so much of your debt! I also have a feeling that you're not giving yourself enough credit for the amazing experiences you have had. You're the only person I "know" who has worked on M&A internationally. It's totally amazing to me. Like everyone else said, try to control what you can control and focus on enjoying the time you do have left in Japan.

(PS. When the time is right, Microsoft and Amazon in the Seattle Area almost always have positions open requiring experience in M&A with any bar membership. I bet this isn't limited to the Seattle area and you may be able to find larger corporations in CA looking for the same.)