Dear Amicus Agony,
I was recently laid off as my firm is scaling down and I am not sure what to do. I am also embarrassed and have not really shared the news with my friends. I have been looking around for a new job, but it seems that many law firms are not hiring at this point in time. Even if they are hiring, the offer seems low compared to what I was previously receiving. I am really questioning if I should still stay in practice or leave practice and pursue other areas outside of law. I am worried especially since I have my new apartment to pay for which will TOP soon. This could not have happened at a worse time. I am currently serving my garden leave. I need help!
Dear Feeling-Small Lawyer,
It seems that having everything crash on you all at once is taking a toll on you both physically and mentally. But you must rein in all your energy and reserve them to strive onwards! I do suggest that you take a deep breath and pen down your thoughts/plans so that you can approach the issues/concerns you have and give it a structured format. This will help to declutter your thoughts and breakdown the issues/concerns so that you can better deal with them.
Let us deal with your concerns below and think through it together.
New job seach/remuneration:
You may wish to keep a lookout for new job updates via https://www.lawsocietycareers.com.sg/ and other platforms. You should start by systematically applying for the available positions (if you are interested). Do not give up halfway and keep looking.
I do feel that you should let your friends know that you have been laid off. Do not be shy and do not worry that your friends will label you negatively. Everyone knows that COVID has affected all industries and our legal industry is not an exception. It may surprise you that opportunit(ies) are sometimes closer to us than we expect. Your friends may be able to share new position(s) that are available (if any) at their firms which may not have been advertised yet. This would give you the opportunity to apply for them earlier.
There is also no harm sending your resume to law firms which may not have advertised on any job portals. Prepare a cover letter and be persuasive. You might be able to impress them to consider your application or keep you in mind if a new position becomes available.
On the issue of remuneration, politely discuss with your interviewers when the next salary review will be held and how much of an increment it will be. This will allow you to plan your financial commitments and make the necessary arrangements.
To stay in practice or leave:
If you are unable to find a suitable firm or one whose remuneration commensurates with what you expect, you should first ask yourself why you started practising law? Is it all about the passion? Or is the money? Or both.
If it is passion that is keeping you in practice, you must realistically lower your expectations on remuneration considering these trying times. I understand that passion alone does not put food on the table. So if you find a firm which offers a reasonable remuneration, perhaps you should grab the chance and wait until the firm tides over these challenging times before discussing a salary increment. By that time, if the industry improves in general, you may be able to find another firm that matches your expectations.
If staying in practice is just about the money, then you may wish to consider looking for opportunities elsewhere. The good news is our skills as lawyers are transferable to other sectors so you may wish to explore other areas which interest you and which offer the remuneration that you are expecting. I suggest that you find something that interests you so that it will not be “just another job” for you.
Whether you choose to stay in practice or leave practice, you should also take the time now to upgrade yourself if you have not already done so. There are many courses available to help you upskill and provide you with new skill(s). This will help you avail yourself to new opportunities be it in the legal sector or otherwise. Employers are always happy to note that we keep ourselves relevant and have a unique skillset which will give you that edge to secure a job or explore a new position. Login to “MySkillsFuture” and see if there is anything that catches your attention. The government has provided an additional $500.00 credit top-up so be sure to make full use of the credits available. The link is provided here for your easy reference: https://www.myskillsfuture.sg/.
I hope you will be able to tide over this trying time and I wish you the very best moving forward.