By Vicki Voisin, ACP
If you’re reading the headlines these days, the news isn’t good. When you see ‘White & Case lays off 70 associates and counsel, will also cut support staff’ or ‘Orrick announces layoff of 40 lawyers, 35 staff,’ I know you begin to worry. Much as you try to ignore the media frenzy of doom and gloom, it does seep into your psyche and it does affect your outlook. It makes you wonder about your own job and your future.
While this economy will certainly turn around, you should to be proactive about your future.Here are a few tips for maintaining your focus on your job and the road ahead:
Keep the turmoil in perspective and don’t panic. Many of the headlines you read are about really large firms. The numbers they’re laying off sound enormous. In reality, because of their size, the layoffs are a small percentage of their total workforce. While this statement doesn’t help that small percentage, it should alleviate some of the panic you may be feeling. Your firm will probably weather the economic challenges. If you’re doing a good job, meeting your billable hour quotas, and operating as a team player, your job is generally secure.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re still working. In spite of adverse economic conditions and swirling rumors, you still have a job to do. Be at your desk every day, be on time, and get your work done. Don’t do less than you’ve been doing. In fact, you should do more. Be disciplined.
Stay positive. Maintaining a positive attitude is crucial. You have to get past the distressed economic climate and focus all the good things in your work and in your life. This hopeful outlook is so important.
Keep a high profile. Be sure the people you work with know who you are and understand the good work you are capable of doing. Be sure they know that you have valuable skills and that you are an asset to the firm.
Keep a low profile. Does that seem inconsistent with the previous tip? It’s not! By keeping a low profile, you keep your head down and get your work down. If there are issues at your company or firm, don’t become part of the drama. Don’t be drawn into conversations around the coffee pot where everyone’s complaining about the partners or the economy. This simply isn’t productive and it labels you as negative.
Keep your skills current and be sure those skills are broader than your practice area. If your skills are too narrow, you limit future opportunities. You may have nowhere to go if you’re looking for different position in the firm or even a new job. Despite economic pressures some practice areas, such as intellectual property, are growing. Do you have the skills to slide into those areas?
Continuing education should be at the top of your list. You simply have to take advantage of continuing education opportunities, both formal and informal. Even if it’s something as simple as in-house training for PowerPoint or Excel, you should be there. Is there a lunch ‘n learn offered this week? Be there. Anything and everything you can learn will be essential to your future.
Maintain your contacts outside the firm. The networking you do today may determine the job you have tomorrow. Never underestimate the people you meet at professional association meetings, as well as other community functions. Also, don’t forget that your client contacts are important. Be sure your firm’s clients like working with you.
Don’t burn your bridges! No matter how upset you may be, maintain your composure and don’t say anything to anyone that you might regret. You never know where you’ll be in a few years and you don’t want something you’ve said or done to limit your opportunities.
Your challenge: Remember that there are law firms that are hiring. Remember, too, that if attorneys leave your firm, they will land somewhere else and they will need paralegals at their new place of employment. Your goal is to be the paralegal they think of for that new job. Review the foregoing tips and strive to be that memorable paralegal that gets the job done and does the job well.
© 2008 Vicki Voisin, Inc.
Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, e-zine or website? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, also known as The Paralegal Mentor, publishes the bi-weekly ezine ‘Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence’ where she offers tips for paralegals and others who want to create lasting success in their personal and professional lives. Get tips and information at no cost at www.paralegalmentor.com.