The Thankful (Former) Laid-Off Lawyer

Bitter Contributor Columns, Lawyer 16 Comments

Greetings from the future.

After being laid off last year 13 days before Christmas, I couldn’t help but resent the managing partner at my law firm who, in an effort to protect his personal bottom line, blindsided me with a pink slip in the late afternoon of Friday, December 12, 2008.  So last year, I left you on a low note during the holiday season with my bitter Christmas list for Santa.

I was the first in a wave of layoffs that no one saw coming.  And after a drunken weekend with a few still-employed firm friends, I returned to the office on Monday to face the feigned dismay, awkward condolences and complete disregard—because I was associate-kryptonite, lest they be next.  But I held my head high and endured the obligatory apologies.  Why?  Because I was asked to continue reporting to the office until January 31, while I searched for a new job.

On February 1, I still hadn’t drummed up a single a lead.  But I woke up a new man.  The stress had lifted.  The bitterness had eased.  I knew myself again.

Looking back almost a year later, I still believe every word I wrote.  The firm does employ stupid people.  (In fact, I realize now, every firm does.) And many of them remain the shot-callers.  But now, instead of cursing them for dropping me dead into the middle of the worst legal job market in generations, nearly forcing me into foreclosure during the worst real estate market in as many generations, I am thankful.  Grateful for their decision to vote their own pocketbooks.  In hindsight, being laid off (eventually) gave me a life better than any BigLaw associate I know.

At the risk sounding like an overly bouyant guy who’s been re-awakened and christened by the Kool-Aid of the law, I feel it’s important for everyone to know that recovery is possible.  Being an out-of-work lawyer cliché isn’t permanent, and you actually may end up in a better place.  It’s not a guarantee, but it’s possible.

So what’s on my bitter list this Thanksgiving?  I’m thankful that…

1.  After months of searching, I only became hungrier and more aware.

2.  After months of searching, I realized I was smaller-law material.

3.  After months of searching, I learned the difference between a friend, a professional acquaintance and a total dick.

4.  Only one firm offered me a job worth considering.  And since it was in a totally new market, I had to relocate at my own expense.  Which has been amazing.  I love my new city.  Not a single thing reminds me of my former Big Firm life—and I never run into any of the prestige-whoring fops I used to work for.

5.  I no longer have a billable-hour requirement, and the release of that pressure makes me twice as productive.

6.  I learned that some firms play fair with their associates, and for the first time in my career, I will receive a year-end bonus that’s directly related to my profitability.

7.  After crunching the numbers, I will still end up earning about the same amount as guys in my start class at the old firm who’ve been clawing at each other all year for limited work from partners in love with the fact they can now play God when assigning projects.

8.  My best friend’s wife no longer refers to me as sullen, gaunt, ashen or bleak.

9.  I’ve met partners who aren’t asshats and actually work for their clients, which, in turn, makes me actually want to do good work for them.

10.  The synergy of good management and my newfound desire to perform affords me bigger assignments and greater responsibility than ever.

11.  My months of misery can conceivably provide a thread of hope for those in similar situations.

If you’re going through hell, keep going.  Stay confident.  Be honest with yourself.  And while nothing cures bitterness altogether, hopefully your list next year will be as thankful as mine today.  Happy holidays.

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  • KateLaw

    Great list.  So not bitter and good for people like BL1Y to read!

  • Anonymous

    Is that supposed to make me feel better?  Thanks.  For nothing.

  • Cheryl

    Bitter IS better

  • Anonymous


  • BL1Y

    I’m thankful that the few people from work I still keep in touch with regularly don’t pester me with their work related problems, like how they don’t know if salaries will be frozen or cut, or how hard it is to schedule a vacation.  …Or rather, I would be thankful for that if so many of my former coworkers weren’t obtuse, self-centered, monkey wankers.

  • Shirlee

    You are right there nothing cures bitterness altogether. Not sure if my list will be as thankful as yours, but you have inspired me a bit.

  • Guano Dubango

    I am thankful to be able to live in this country where:

    1) I can work in the legal industry; 2) I can have the political freedom to be able to voice my opinions with limited interference; 3) I can pursue beautiful Caucasian women who find me pleasing, attentive and attractive; 4) I can build equity in my law firm’s 401(k) plan so that I can return eventually with my bride to my homeland and live in opulence in my Aunt Ooona’s villa; 5) I am often mistaken for 2 famous movie stars, which gets me very nice entrees to good places and nice restaurants.  To all on this website who have inspired me to even greater legal heights, I thank you, too.  Sincerely, Guano B. Dubango

  • Big Jim

    I’m thankful that I hate being a lawyer… It makes me appreciate my girlfriend much more than i used to… and will help me appreciate my next job much more than this one, if and when i find a “next job.”

  • Alma Federer

    I would be very thankful, and not bitter, if I could find a guy as loyal and as devoted as my father is to my mother.  I ultimately think I will never find a guy like my dad, so I may well remain alone, but I will be happy.  I do not want any beer guzzling slob snorting he loves me while he watches football all day and eats Cheetoz.  That is gross.  I want a guy who will adore me, not some 300 pound gorilla on TV who can make tackles or run a touchdown.  Who cares about them anyway?

  • BL1Y
  • BL1Y

    Alma, you find a 300 pound football player who can make tackles and run touchdowns, and you can retire on 10% of his first NFL contract.

  • Carl

    BL1Y may be right, if Alma is interested in money, but I think she is looking for Mr. Right in the fairy tail sense.  Personally, I would not be able to put up with a perfectionist like Alma–she’s the kind of woman that will scold you for not taking your shoes immediately when you come into her apartment, and in all likelihood is very whiny before you sleep with her, and the act of sex must also be a chore–“stop doing that” and “rub me here” and “don’t lay on my arm” and “let me go on top” and “rinse your mouth out–your breath isn’t fresh enough –even though you’ve been doing what she wants? and “don’t fart in my bed anymore” —she just isn’t worth it!  There are plenty of women who are happy to get my sexing without being a whiny beeotch!

  • BL1Y

    Carl, I didn’t mean Alma should marry the 300lb football superstar, but that she should become his manager, collect a share of a contract, and then just retire on her cut.  A player who is 300+ pounds AND can tackle or run for a touchdown would be an incredible asset.

  • Anonymous

    If a 300 pound football player banged Alma, she’d have a big smile on her face.  That would be a refreshing change for the rest of us.


    Yes, amazing how wonderful the world becomes once you forgive yourself for not being in Love with BigLaw.

  • Hank

    Good stuff. The comments are funnier. I wonder whatever happened to Alma? Did she ever find a guy? I am guessing some dude is banging her as we speak!