Author Topic: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice  (Read 1791 times)

Nick_Miller

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Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« on: July 20, 2020, 10:37:07 AM »
Over the last few years, I've fretted about job security at the small BI (bodily injury) where I work. Each year, we've managed to get by, but I'm afraid this year might be different.

Things are getting very lean. New client sign-ups have been almost non-existent since covid-19 hit. People weren't out driving, so there were fewer accidents. Lots of clinics and chiropractors closed, either temporarily or permanently, so those referrals have dried up. As revenue decreased, we had to cut back on advertising, which I think has led our firm into a worsening situation each month.

We got the PPP for payroll but that money is gone. If things keep going this way, my caseload will probably be down to about 20 cases by the end of the year. That's not enough of a caseload to justify my boss having me as an employee.

And it wouldn't really be enough for me to float my own office either. If I'd chose to "hang out my shingle" and asked those clients to come with me, I'd have to figure out how to share fees with my boss, I'd have to figure out if I can pay my current paralegal...I'd basically have to start a legal office from home. And then I'd run into the same issues with not having money to advertise or grow that my current firm is having, only I'd be holding the bag for everything then.

I have a lot to talk with my wife about tonight, but I've typing this out to clarify my thoughts and maybe get some advice on possible options.

1) Start looking for a new lawyer job. I HATE doing this to my boss and to my paralegal, who would almost certainly lose her job if I took most of my cases now to another firm. Plus, I suspect that many area BI firms are having the same problems we are. Also, I'm not super-marketable as a guy in his mid-40s who hasn't had to litigate much in almost 10 years. I'm not even sure I COULD get another lawyer job at this point. I've coasted for a while, I'll admit.

2) Start looking for a new (non-lawyer) job. I've worked for local government before, and I enjoyed it, but the pay sucks. Still, I feel like I have the option to take another gov't job since we have $300K in retirement now, and we've paid off a lot of debt. I feel like my chances of getting hired by local gov't are better than me getting hired by a private law firm. It would definitely extend my working-life by many years, but at least it would be steady.

3) Double or triple down with what I can do here. I still try to network, but honestly with covid, that's more complicated than normal (harder to get into doc and chiro offices, for example), but I don't control our expenses or advertising. I could work my cases even harder, and although that might help with short-term cash flow, it could also lead to me being jobless in 90 days, so I'd be writing my own exit.

4) Just keep grinding away here the best I can and ramp up my book-writing side business. Sure, this is the one I WANT to do, but I fear it's at least 2 years too soon. I've been averaging about $8,000 yearly book-writing income for the past few years. Yes, I think I could pump up my revenue if I had 40+ more hours a week to write, but even if I tripled it, I'm still looking at (at best) about $25,000 a year. That's a LOT less than even government work. But it could lead to future growth, and I am most passionate about this. It would also let me be around more for our kiddos and take some stuff off my wife'e plate. IF we had more in investments, I'd be tempted to consider this, but I just don't feel we have enough to take this much of a risk. Plus, writing is fun right now; the money is an extra. Will it still be fun if writing becomes PRIMARILY about the money?

5) Other options - I've thought about maybe proposing to my boss that I go down to part-time if the current situation continues - this could give me more time to write, and it would decrease his payroll, but it would also probably worsen the revenue problem (unless he hired a brand-new lawyer and worked him/her full-time just for my half-salary).

I know one thing's for sure. I can't keep my head in the sand. I went to him today and basically pressed him into giving me info about the firm's finances. Things aren't good.

Basic Snapshot:(rough estimates)

Current gross income: $140K/year
Yearly Expenses: $75K/year*
Yearly investments: $30K/year

Investments: $300K
Cash: $70K
Student Loans: $23K (only non-mortgage debt)*
Home: Worth $210K, owe $155K

*these are paid ahead by like 5 years, so if emergency strikes, we could just not pay on these for a while, or we could just pay them interest-only (about $125/month) to keep the balances where they are

« Last Edit: July 20, 2020, 10:46:16 AM by Nick_Miller »

Fishindude

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2020, 11:02:29 AM »
Ever thought about hanging out your shingle and working on your own?
You've already spent the big bucks on the education.

Malcat

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2020, 11:03:34 AM »
Well, as someone who bailed on a hurting industry right as COVID hit, I can say that my cheesy morning gratitude exercise pretty much daily consists of entries about being really happy about not having to go back during this mess.

It doesn't sound like your industry is going to pull itself up any time soon, so why not take this time to start thinking outside the box a little?
If you have a clear idea of another type of work that you could do that could actually lead to a profitable business, then working part time is a great idea. This could either be within your industry or outside of it.

In my industry, there's a huge demand for part time professionals who can cover other professionals, especially when times are tough and offices have to downsize, but may need additional staff for just a few weeks/months. Maybe look at your own industry and see if there's some kind creative way to work like that, to fill the holes that downsizing leaves behind in firms, or something like that.

Downturns always, always create incredible windows of opportunity for those who have the flexibility and financial capability to capitalize upon them. If there's anything you really enjoy about being a lawyer, start brainstorming ways to do that in the current climate, ways that other people are unable to do because they're slaves to cash flow in the short term.

On the other side is exploring completely new career avenues, if you don't want to focus on capitalizing on skill and network you already have. I'm currently retraining in a completely new field. It's a perfect time to hunker down and change directions if that's what interests you.

Overall, if you aren't super happy with your current career, your current industry is taking a nose dive, and you have a lot of financial security to back up a professional change, I would say this is an excellent kick in the ass that you need, and not a bad thing at all. Life is too short to be a talented, educated, and capable 40 something just waiting for time to pass so that they can look at their bank balance and say "okay, that's enough to start living".

Nick_Miller

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2020, 11:22:37 AM »
@Fishindude , I mean everyone "thinks" about it, but I've never come close to pulling the trigger. Tons of small firms fail, and BI is hyper-competitive, I mean you're competing against firms with 7-figure advertising budgets. I think my wife would veto this idea no matter what, just because the idea of spending thousands of dollars into essentially a start-up with the hope of breaking even in a couple of years would scare her to death.

@Malcat ,thanks, a lot of what you said spoke to me. I've thought about going into financial coaching and I've looked at the certification tests needed. Start-up costs would be much smaller than starting up a law-firm, and I think it's a more realistic option. I'm more passionate about helping/teaching others re: finance than I am pursuing BI cases against dickish insurance companies. Maybe I could combine financial coaching with writing? I'd still need a plan to bring in at least enough money to keep our family from going backward net worth-wise.

Laura33

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2020, 11:27:03 AM »
What other BI-type opportunities may there be longer-term, if you can survive that long.  For ex:  I've read that traffic is way down, but accidents rates are increasing (presumably people going faster); it may be that the chiro and PT referrals are down because people are avoiding non-critical medical care, and you'll see a resurgence when people feel comfortable that they can go back.  Or:  what about Covid-exposure claims?  From what I've been reading, there are likely to be a ton of job-related exposure claims; are those going to be blocked by workers' comp in your state, or is there an avenue for a tort claim if the company has failed to take appropriate protective measures? 

I would be inclined to hunker down and see how things go over the next few months to see if the firm will survive and if there really is a sea change vs. momentary blip.*  Perhaps don't assume what will help or hurt your boss, but talk to him about whether it would help him for you to drop to part-time now, or stay the same, or ramp up your efforts to bring in more $$ in the short-term.  In the meantime, tighten the belt and double down on building your emergency 'stache to put yourself in the best position to weather whatever happens. 

At the same time, I 100% agree with Malcat that if you're not happy enough with what you're currently doing, then you should use this as an opportunity to soul-search and find something more satisfying long-term. 

*Hint:  people are stupid.  People do stupid things.  You can't fix stupidity.  Ergo, until full tort reform, there will always, always be a market for PI lawyers.

Malcat

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2020, 11:54:30 AM »
@Fishindude , I mean everyone "thinks" about it, but I've never come close to pulling the trigger. Tons of small firms fail, and BI is hyper-competitive, I mean you're competing against firms with 7-figure advertising budgets. I think my wife would veto this idea no matter what, just because the idea of spending thousands of dollars into essentially a start-up with the hope of breaking even in a couple of years would scare her to death.

@Malcat ,thanks, a lot of what you said spoke to me. I've thought about going into financial coaching and I've looked at the certification tests needed. Start-up costs would be much smaller than starting up a law-firm, and I think it's a more realistic option. I'm more passionate about helping/teaching others re: finance than I am pursuing BI cases against dickish insurance companies. Maybe I could combine financial coaching with writing? I'd still need a plan to bring in at least enough money to keep our family from going backward net worth-wise.

I looked into financial coaching and instead ended up working as head of business development for a high end financial firm that specializes in medical professionals. Through that, I've built up a network in multiple industries and been offered work in several other industries. If making money was my main priority, that's where I would have focused my energy.

That also works synergistically with writing and coaching, as anything that builds your reputation, credibility, network/reach will increase your value to the various industries that work with lawyers...which is literally every industry in the world.

LWYRUP

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2020, 12:05:04 PM »

Going to post briefly b/c working hours then may be able to post more later.

I would not fire yourself until you've been fired.  Maybe work will pick up.  Maybe you'll get severance.  I do think you could offer to go part time temporarily if you thought that would be helpful and would actually have less responsibilities as a result.  You could also work to expand the business while employed in the ways Laura suggests.  In any case, sticking with your job buys you more time to think things through, save money, and hopefully get us closer to stabilizing this health / economic / political mess we are in right now.  I'd rather be unemployed towards the end of the crisis than in the beginning or middle. 

If I was facing unemployment during the pandemic, I would do freelance work.  You are a barred, experienced attorney and that is a valuable skill set.  I would assume it would be hard at first but then you could build it into more over time.  Once you develop a consistent business, you can then ramp up writing as cash flow needs dictate -- need more cash, do more legal work, need less cash, do more writing.  Tons of lawyers also branch out into non-legal areas, you can do that organically as part of your freelancing.  It doesn't need to be all or nothing.  If you got 10 hours per week at $75 an hour (personally, I think I'm massively lowballing after you set yourself up), that's more than your writing income right there.  Add your writing income and your situation is at least stable (depending on expenses) with way less than full time effort. 

Local government depends on the pay.  If you are talking about taking a $50k job that's going to take up 40-50 hours of your life, I don't think the juice is worth the squeeze, unless you really needed the job security to make rent or had medical needs that made you wary of using ACA plans.  If you get a local government job paying six figures, that's a different story.  It might be a paycut but it may be worth it if it's more fun. 

utaca

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2020, 12:17:26 PM »
Depending on where you are, you could look at working in-house for an insurer. Where I am, insurers are constantly hiring in-house counsel to defend BI claims. The pay is okay and I've heard from someone who took an in-house job with an insurer after coming back from a few years of parenting that the work is slack. Might be a good fit for you.

Nick_Miller

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2020, 07:08:05 AM »
Thanks for all the replies!

What do I hate about doing BI law? The constant fighting. I'm just worn down. I would like to work in a more collaborative environment.

What do I like about doing BI law? I like working with people, in-person sometimes. I also like solving problems.

So I'm still thinking about looking into financial coaching, at least as a PT deal. It would combine my preferences for working with people to look for 'win/win' outcomes in a collaborative effort to solve their problems.

My heart is with writing stories. It's really humbling for people for adore (and pay $ for!) adventures you plucked from your mind and put out in the universe.

The talk with my wife went well last night. She didn't panic, but she really appreciated me coming to her with my concerns. I think the pile of cash we have really made her feel like we had time to figure out where things go. She does not want me to spend money on a small business (she's very risk adverse); she'd rather me find another job even if the salary is much lower. (and yeah there is NO way I'd be able to snag a $100K-local gov't job around here; that would be a director-level spot...you don't just waltz into those).

So for the short-term (next 60 days), my wife and I are tightening the budget to try to add more to our savings, and I'm just going to try to crush it at work with the cases I have. My boss and I have a meeting in an hour with a potential referral source. He promised me he wouldn't blindside me with termination/layoff, and I believe him. But I also understand that if we don't get new cases soon, he won't be able to afford me in a few months.

Nick_Miller

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2020, 07:19:48 AM »
@utaca , I did insurance defense work for many, many years.  Never again.  :)

@LWYRUP , we're a tiny firm, there'd be no severance or anything. As far as freelancing as an attorney, I mean that's always a possibility, but around here that's generally used when attorneys need help covering depos or motions/hearings in different areas. There is virtually nothing going on like that in our state. It's all on Zoom.  Regarding health insurance, thankfully that's something my wife's work provides, so we're good there.

I have a new book coming out hopefully before year's end. I think I can get into five figures (net profit) in 2021 just with that addition alone, so that's something.

ctuser1

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2020, 07:46:05 AM »
Basic Snapshot:(rough estimates)

Current gross income: $140K/year
Yearly Expenses: $75K/year*
Yearly investments: $30K/year

Investments: $300K
Cash: $70K
Student Loans: $23K (only non-mortgage debt)*
Home: Worth $210K, owe $155K

*these are paid ahead by like 5 years, so if emergency strikes, we could just not pay on these for a while, or we could just pay them interest-only (about $125/month) to keep the balances where they are

I remember you are in a LCOL area (at least you mentioned before that you live in a "low density" area).

Given that, isn't $75k expenses/year too high? Perhaps you can look to cutting that so that your FI goal is much closer?

I'm not a lawyer, so I don't have any useful inputs on the "earning"/"career" end of it.

BabyShark

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2020, 08:03:36 AM »
Have y'all thought about adding any new practice areas to your firm?  Bankruptcy is (unfortunately) likely to spike.

Nick_Miller

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2020, 10:42:33 AM »
Basic Snapshot:(rough estimates)

Current gross income: $140K/year
Yearly Expenses: $75K/year*
Yearly investments: $30K/year

Investments: $300K
Cash: $70K
Student Loans: $23K (only non-mortgage debt)*
Home: Worth $210K, owe $155K

*these are paid ahead by like 5 years, so if emergency strikes, we could just not pay on these for a while, or we could just pay them interest-only (about $125/month) to keep the balances where they are

I remember you are in a LCOL area (at least you mentioned before that you live in a "low density" area).

Given that, isn't $75k expenses/year too high? Perhaps you can look to cutting that so that your FI goal is much closer?

I'm not a lawyer, so I don't have any useful inputs on the "earning"/"career" end of it.

Yes, we can cut some spending. I used our typical spending over the past few years, which included between $5K-$10K in yearly travel, which AIN'T happening in the Miller household this year. We're also cutting WAY down on eating out and have been eating healthy this summer. Also, I went ahead and lowered my automatic student loan payment amounts, effective Aug, just to help us save up more cash over the next few months (we were paying a LOT extra each month)



LWYRUP

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2020, 03:21:15 PM »
  @LWYRUP , we're a tiny firm, there'd be no severance or anything. As far as freelancing as an attorney, I mean that's always a possibility, but around here that's generally used when attorneys need help covering depos or motions/hearings in different areas. There is virtually nothing going on like that in our state. It's all on Zoom.  Regarding health insurance, thankfully that's something my wife's work provides, so we're good there. 

Ok, I suppose severance is out, but you will still get unemployment if you are laid off vs. not if you quit.  You will also get more paychecks between now and when you get the axe.  It's also possible you have a terrible year but your boss just decides to stomach the losses and then things explode next year when courts are open and you are asked to work a LOT and you can remember your boss did you a solid and not feel too badly about it when the other shoe drops. 

In terms of freelancing, because I don't litigate I was thinking more like signing up for something like UpCounsel (https://www.upcounsel.com/) and branching out into a new practice area.  I mean I am guessing you know a lot of about insurance and indemnity clauses, and so right there you can pitch that specialty.  I think lawyers are unduly pessimistic sometimes about their own profession.  BLS tells me median salaries for lawyers in the US (median, not mean) is $123k and the profession is growing about as fast as average, and notes that there are more graduates than jobs so competition to enter the profession is tough (true, but you have passed that hurdle so it's moot given your experience).  Given your success as a writer and your thoughtful comments on this forum, I see no reason why you should expect to be below that median (and you aren't now).  Yes, at first you might be but not if you built something up over a few years.  So I think you'd be selling yourself short by going for a low paying non-attorney position unless you just loved it and didn't care about the money.  But that's like a FIRE job and so maybe more appropriate for a few years from now.

Litigation sounds really difficult and so I also don't think you should just be trapped your whole life in a position that doesn't suit you.  So I'm not at all saying just suck it up in perpetuity.  But I am suggesting that you probably have the skill set and intellectual chops to figure out a way to make six figures while using your current skill set but applying it in a new way, and if push comes to shove to do it by creating your own job instead of relying on a local government to supply you one.  This doesn't even need to be strictly legal, it could be legal adjacent like insurance or financial planning, etc. but if you keep the legal side too and provide blended services that include legal review and other services that could be a powerful combination. 

I also realize I am totally hypocritical about all of this because I literally work for a local government (but apples to oranges because I have a niche I reasonably enjoy and that is big $ in the private sector so that gave me leverage).  But if you did get laid off, I would urge you to at least consider taking a shot at doing something that builds on your current skills and has the potential to be profitable.  You may find you like the change of pace and that gives you some of your enthusiasm back, and if it doesn't then as long as you were able to keep the lights on for a while then there's probably not a lot of harm.

You can do this without a big capital outlay if you are willing to re-imagine the type of services you provide or the areas you work on.  Have you see https://myshingle.com/?  She basically runs a $100k+ practice out of her home office with no expenses and profiles others doing the same. 




Nick_Miller

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2020, 07:36:04 AM »
  @LWYRUP , we're a tiny firm, there'd be no severance or anything. As far as freelancing as an attorney, I mean that's always a possibility, but around here that's generally used when attorneys need help covering depos or motions/hearings in different areas. There is virtually nothing going on like that in our state. It's all on Zoom.  Regarding health insurance, thankfully that's something my wife's work provides, so we're good there. 

Ok, I suppose severance is out, but you will still get unemployment if you are laid off vs. not if you quit.  You will also get more paychecks between now and when you get the axe.  It's also possible you have a terrible year but your boss just decides to stomach the losses and then things explode next year when courts are open and you are asked to work a LOT and you can remember your boss did you a solid and not feel too badly about it when the other shoe drops. 

In terms of freelancing, because I don't litigate I was thinking more like signing up for something like UpCounsel (https://www.upcounsel.com/) and branching out into a new practice area.  I mean I am guessing you know a lot of about insurance and indemnity clauses, and so right there you can pitch that specialty.  I think lawyers are unduly pessimistic sometimes about their own profession.  BLS tells me median salaries for lawyers in the US (median, not mean) is $123k and the profession is growing about as fast as average, and notes that there are more graduates than jobs so competition to enter the profession is tough (true, but you have passed that hurdle so it's moot given your experience).  Given your success as a writer and your thoughtful comments on this forum, I see no reason why you should expect to be below that median (and you aren't now).  Yes, at first you might be but not if you built something up over a few years.  So I think you'd be selling yourself short by going for a low paying non-attorney position unless you just loved it and didn't care about the money.  But that's like a FIRE job and so maybe more appropriate for a few years from now.

Litigation sounds really difficult and so I also don't think you should just be trapped your whole life in a position that doesn't suit you.  So I'm not at all saying just suck it up in perpetuity.  But I am suggesting that you probably have the skill set and intellectual chops to figure out a way to make six figures while using your current skill set but applying it in a new way, and if push comes to shove to do it by creating your own job instead of relying on a local government to supply you one.  This doesn't even need to be strictly legal, it could be legal adjacent like insurance or financial planning, etc. but if you keep the legal side too and provide blended services that include legal review and other services that could be a powerful combination. 

I also realize I am totally hypocritical about all of this because I literally work for a local government (but apples to oranges because I have a niche I reasonably enjoy and that is big $ in the private sector so that gave me leverage).  But if you did get laid off, I would urge you to at least consider taking a shot at doing something that builds on your current skills and has the potential to be profitable.  You may find you like the change of pace and that gives you some of your enthusiasm back, and if it doesn't then as long as you were able to keep the lights on for a while then there's probably not a lot of harm.

You can do this without a big capital outlay if you are willing to re-imagine the type of services you provide or the areas you work on.  Have you see https://myshingle.com/?  She basically runs a $100k+ practice out of her home office with no expenses and profiles others doing the same.

@LWYRUP I really appreciate your kind and supportive words, and all the ideas you're tossing out! And you're right, I need to consider possibilities I haven't even considered before, and I need to make sure I don't sell myself short (which I'm guessing I'm not the only one to do that). One issue is my wife's low risk tolerance. She's never been crazy about me starting a business, and it would take a lot for me to convince her to give her blessings to me going that route as opposed to finding another job as an employee.

I'll check out that blog at lunch today. And yeah I wouldn't preemptively quit my job here UNLESS I had lined up a suitable job already, and even then I'd bend over backwards to help with the transition. I figure worse case scenario is that I get laid off in a few months and file for UE, which is scary, but survivable. Still, I'd feel a LOT better if/when a vaccine is developed.

Fuzz

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #15 on: July 22, 2020, 02:26:14 PM »
Just curious how you're compensated: if you're paid a percentage of bills collected, I am not sure why your boss would fire you. If you make money, he's money. If you're paid a higher fixed salary and the amount you bring to the firm isn't covering that, then yeah, I would expect to be let go. But you could always negotiate a percentage of revenues, and then I don't see why you would be let go.

I am familiar with personal injury firms and am a bit confused. Even in a down market, a lot of the firms in my state are holding steady or only slightly declining. Also, I am not convinced you can't succeed just because other operations spend more on marketing. If you have money, spend money. If you have time, spend time. There is a ton you can do there.

If you don't want to hang your shingle, I get it. But reading your post, you're acting a bit more helpless than you really are. #facepunch

meghan88

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2020, 02:30:49 PM »
Perhaps your wife could get a job if you lose yours?  Just asking, since no one else has.

CNM

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2020, 03:20:25 PM »
I'm an attorney in private practice doing insurance defense. (So, not in-house at an insurance company.)

A few things- you say you don't like the defense side of the practice.  I am curious why.  They seem like two sides of the same coin to me.  Defense firms tend to be more steady and, at least where I live and in my practice, there is PLENTY of work.  I have not seen any sort of downward trend in case loads since COVID hit.  Yes, there has been some decrease in the amount of hours everyone is billing as we are dealing with childcare hurdles, but nothing too alarming. 

About government work- this does not sound like a terrible option depending on how the compensation package looks.  My sibling worked as a government attorney and she had a lot of very nice benefits, including very set and reasonable working hours, overtime payments, and accruing, paid vacation leave. However, at least where I live, government agencies (state, county, and municipal) are not hiring due to decreased tax revenue.  So, I would say that there's no harm in exploring what's out there, how much you'd be compensated, and so on to do a full comparison.

Finally, I'd recommend looking at your network for possible lateral moves.  You have been very concerned about this firm for a while, even pre-COVID.  Maybe see if you can get a BI job elsewhere?  Perhaps at a larger firm so there is more opportunity for growth and varied sources of income.  In my experience, a good attorney with years of practice and little to no training needed (I recall you have something like 15 years?) can be hard to come by.



« Last Edit: July 22, 2020, 03:22:04 PM by CNM »

Nick_Miller

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #18 on: July 23, 2020, 07:21:41 AM »
Just curious how you're compensated: if you're paid a percentage of bills collected, I am not sure why your boss would fire you. If you make money, he's money. If you're paid a higher fixed salary and the amount you bring to the firm isn't covering that, then yeah, I would expect to be let go. But you could always negotiate a percentage of revenues, and then I don't see why you would be let go.

I am familiar with personal injury firms and am a bit confused. Even in a down market, a lot of the firms in my state are holding steady or only slightly declining. Also, I am not convinced you can't succeed just because other operations spend more on marketing. If you have money, spend money. If you have time, spend time. There is a ton you can do there.

If you don't want to hang your shingle, I get it. But reading your post, you're acting a bit more helpless than you really are. #facepunch

No, I don't want to hang out a shingle.

I'm paid a salary that anticipates I bring in x amount of money. Any fees over that amount result in a bonus. Sometimes I hit x, sometimes I don't. I get my salary no matter what, and it's been like this since I started. I should clarify that things have been trending down even before covid-19. I've been settling more cases than we've been getting in for over a year now. My boss is well aware of all of the numbers. But the sign-ups have dried up even more since March; I'm talking maybe two a month.

Am I helpless? No. Am I fumbling around in the dark? Yes.

1) I never see our firm's checkbook or have any idea about the expense side. After heavy questioning, my boss told me that we're behind on rent. That's not good! He says he's "working something out" with our landlord and that it's happened before (I had no idea). I know other businesses are probably struggling to pay rent too, but this really worries me.

2) He also mentioned when he worked at a former firm, they had a "$100K line of credit they could use during lean times." He looked at me and said, "We don't have that." Honestly, I don't know that we have much of a cash cushion at all.

3) The office manger told me this morning that "she's struggling" to find money to make payroll.

So yeah this looks to be an emergency either now, or in 30-60 days. I'm starting to look for jobs tonight. Thankfully, my wife works and she just earned a bonus today that helps. And we have a cash cushion, but I'm still in scramble mode. I'm talking to my publisher about an advance for an upcoming project.

And again to clarify, the $140K gross was an estimate for this year. We earned just short of $200K in 2018 and 2019. But this year, I won't make any bonuses unless something really unforeseen happens, so I figure just my $80K salary.  My wife makes about $52.5K gross (not counting bonuses) and the other $7500 or so would be writing income for the year. Obviously her bonus today (not anticipated) helps.

Nick_Miller

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #19 on: July 23, 2020, 07:41:17 AM »
I'm an attorney in private practice doing insurance defense. (So, not in-house at an insurance company.)

A few things- you say you don't like the defense side of the practice.  I am curious why.  They seem like two sides of the same coin to me.  Defense firms tend to be more steady and, at least where I live and in my practice, there is PLENTY of work.  I have not seen any sort of downward trend in case loads since COVID hit.  Yes, there has been some decrease in the amount of hours everyone is billing as we are dealing with childcare hurdles, but nothing too alarming. 

About government work- this does not sound like a terrible option depending on how the compensation package looks.  My sibling worked as a government attorney and she had a lot of very nice benefits, including very set and reasonable working hours, overtime payments, and accruing, paid vacation leave. However, at least where I live, government agencies (state, county, and municipal) are not hiring due to decreased tax revenue.  So, I would say that there's no harm in exploring what's out there, how much you'd be compensated, and so on to do a full comparison.

Finally, I'd recommend looking at your network for possible lateral moves.  You have been very concerned about this firm for a while, even pre-COVID.  Maybe see if you can get a BI job elsewhere?  Perhaps at a larger firm so there is more opportunity for growth and varied sources of income.  In my experience, a good attorney with years of practice and little to no training needed (I recall you have something like 15 years?) can be hard to come by.

I spent the first almost-decade of my career doing insurance defense. That was a good experience to get trial work, but it really taught me how bad insurance companies are. I really hate them, like with the intensity of supernova or whatever the right term is. I couldn't represent insurance companies again (yes, you technically are repping the insured person in most cases, but still). That's not to attack you in any way, you probably think BI plaintiffs are shady!  (some are)

And yes I've been worried about the firm even pre-covid (you have a good memory). I'm convinced that I'll need to move on before the end of the year in some way, either getting laid off or finding a new spot. At this point, it seems inevitable. The stuff in my last post details that a bit more.

Kl285528

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #20 on: July 23, 2020, 08:23:27 AM »
With your firm's cash flow issues, it is time to save yourself. This is likely to get worse not better. Again, not sure how big your market is, but lateral moves of some type could be a possibility. Time to start getting coffee and lunch with people in other firms, discretely discuss where they see opportunities, and who they know is hiring. What about other in-house counsel opportunities, not just government and insurance, but in other businesses where a lawyer brain would be appreciated and compensated! When you mention financial planning or similar, consider trust department work at a bank, maybe. And I would think it is not too much of a stretch to move toward some other part of law that has a litigation component - maybe creditor work, bankruptcy, etc. Just spit-balling here. But it seems the writing is on the wall - your firm and thus your paycheck is in jeopardy. Critical you start reaching out to other lawyers and firms about a lateral move.

Fuzz

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #21 on: July 24, 2020, 04:48:32 PM »
Glad to hear that you're looking now. From what you say, it's over and your boss is holding the bag. Not being able to make rent is bad. Telling folks you're struggling to find payroll is a huge, flaming bright red flag.

Can you engineer your own layoff and collect unemployment? If you get a payroll that bounces, and you file for unemployment, what happens?

PI is a tough biz, but $100K line of credit is not hard to get. This is not a well run firm on the financial side (and plenty of great, great lawyers run terrible businesses, but usually being a great lawyer is profitable enough to make up for the poor business skills).

Are there a few good cases you could take with you (assuming a fee split with the former boss and client approval)? A potential associate that brings a few trucking cases along is a very different proposition in the job market.

As an aside, do you think it's normal or weird not to know the books in a small law firm? Given your experience, I don't know why your boss wouldn't share more. Some attorneys play everything close to the vest, but for a 2 person shop, I don't see the point. I've seen a lot of associates vastly underestimate how profitable they are to the firm. I've also seen a lot of firms underpay associates.

Fuzz

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #22 on: July 24, 2020, 04:54:29 PM »
  @LWYRUP ,
You can do this without a big capital outlay if you are willing to re-imagine the type of services you provide or the areas you work on.  Have you see https://myshingle.com/?  She basically runs a $100k+ practice out of her home office with no expenses and profiles others doing the same.

No special knowledge on MyShingle, but I think you're underselling what's she built. I would guess it's several or many multiples of $100K+ revenue

LWYRUP

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Re: Attorney facing potential job loss by year's end - advice
« Reply #23 on: July 24, 2020, 05:11:43 PM »
  @LWYRUP ,
You can do this without a big capital outlay if you are willing to re-imagine the type of services you provide or the areas you work on.  Have you see https://myshingle.com/?  She basically runs a $100k+ practice out of her home office with no expenses and profiles others doing the same.

No special knowledge on MyShingle, but I think you're underselling what's she built. I would guess it's several or many multiples of $100K+ revenue

Yeah, I think that's probably right.  I figured I'd just say $100k because that seems like "enough."  Anything extra just icing.