Dear Amicus Agony,
I’m a junior corporate associate and have been in the same boutique firm since I was called to the Bar in 2017. I get on well with my colleagues and bosses and generally enjoy practice. I have noticed however in the past few months that the firm’s workflow is declining – there just aren’t as many clients and matters and we’ve worryingly gone for days at a time during a week without the phones ringing. To add to that, the start of this year with the pandemic has thrown the economy into an unforeseen slump. The inevitable happened the other day – my bosses sat me down and told me that to reduce operational costs, they can’t afford to keep me on. Just like that. I feel like a complete failure. I haven’t told my family and friends as I’m embarrassed at being dispensable enough to let go. I’m also afraid of starting over during a time like this where I know other firms have implemented hiring freeze policies. I don’t know where to start. Help!
Dear Disconsolate Associate,
Let me start by saying that we’re really sorry for the troubling news. The legal industry has most certainly not been spared with the current situation.
I cannot stress enough that this is merely a setback in your career. It’s important to remind yourself that it is by no measure, a reflection of your abilities as a practitioner. Running a law practice is no different than operating any other business and in times like these, it’s understandable that certain things will need to give to sustain increased running costs. Before you take the next step though, I think its worth to take time to reframe your approach. In every situation, there is often a silver lining. With 2+ years of experience under your belt, this is an opportune time to reflect on where you see your career headed. Do you see yourself moving ahead with practice for the time being or going in-house for instance?
When you find clarity on that, you can start to formulate a game plan to get back on your feet. Update your resume with any latest case accomplishments or highlights in your practice or skill-set. There are plenty of online resources available with tips on how to make your resume stand out. Platforms like LinkedIn are very useful in looking for job vacancies or reaching out to a head-hunter to enquire on openings. Don’t hesitate to call or email them to ask – you’ll never know what’s out there without trying! Don’t neglect to your update your LinkedIn profile as well; this is the often the first place prospective employers or hiring managers will refer to when looking at your application. The Law Society has also launched a new Careers Portal on their website with job listings. Keep looking and applying!
At the same time, don’t forget to brush up on your interview skills – you’ll need to prepare yourself for the dreaded one-on-one. Say you’ve landed an interview. That’s wonderful! Half the battle’s down. Research and prepare for this in advance. Nothing spells disinterest than not knowing what the law firm or organisation specialises in. Be confident in your abilities and sincere in your responses during the interview. Don’t give up on your search, you may find greener pastures in your next venture.
Dear Amicus Agony,
As any other junior associate, I am used to long working hours in the office to finish work. In light of the recent government advisories, we have been asked to work from home. I admit that there are many perks to this like saving time and money on the daily commute and being able to customise my workspace for maximum productivity. However, I find myself being increasingly busier working from home than in the office. I was able to “switch-off” and recharge once I got home previously, no matter the hour. With the new arrangements, the boundaries between work and play are blurred. The firm expects us to continuously be contactable and on standby, even on weekends, and I find myself not being able to mentally disconnect to relax and spend time with my family at home. What can I do?
I’m glad that you’re at home staying safe!
It’s undoubtedly an adjustment for many to settle into life working from home – you’re not alone. I would say that implementing structure may help to re-establish the important boundaries of work and play. The key I would say is routine and segregation. The mental approach to staying at home should be no different than being in the office. Consider setting clear boundaries between your working hours and what you would consider your protected time.
On the firm’s expectations, it may be worth having a talk with your bosses to clarify what is required of you. It’s an adjustment for them too after all, having to manage their employees remotely and they may not necessarily be aware of the impact it is generating. Having said that – certain projects in this line of work will always be time sensitive. Consider discussing with your bosses the various matters that you are handling to align your understanding on priority. Often, perspectives differ between associates and the bosses in terms of intangible timelines, i.e. if urgent responses are expected because it is one of the firm’s important clients. Effectiveness of the remote nature of work depends heavily on communication, more so than ever now. Reach out to your bosses to let them know what’s going on.