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Facing a job transition?

April 25, 2009

It’s become an increasingly common occurrence for law firms to announce layoffs or a plan to reduce the number of lawyers they will hire in the coming years. Today’s lawyers face an economy unlike anything they’ve experienced before.


By Olivia Clarke

In an effort to help lawyers manage their careers and find that next legal job, the Law Bulletin Publishing Co. and The John Marshall Law School are co-sponsoring ”Attorneys in Transition,” a free panel discussion and networking event from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on May 8 at The John Marshall Law School, 315 S. Plymouth Court.

This free event is a chance for lawyers going through transitions in their careers due to the economy to network with other lawyers facing similar situations and to learn valuable information about finding a new job.

The panel will include Alexis Reed, attorney search director at Special Counsel; Jeffrey C. Simon, vice president-financial consultant at RBC Wealth Management; David S. Glynn, director of research and product development for Law Bulletin Publishing Co.; Leonard F. Amari, senior partner and a founder of Amari & Locallo; and Cliff Scott-Rudnick, a visiting professor at The John Marshall Law School.

After the May 8 event there will be three smaller networking and informational gatherings, with a different speaker at each free event. Each will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at John Marshall, and there will be time for lawyers to make connections with each other and the speaker.

On May 11, Julie Paradise, president of Communication Strategies Co., will offer practical tips for networking and improving face-to-face communication. On May 18, Bob Glaves, executive director of The Chicago Bar Foundation, will talk to lawyers from a pro bono perspective. And on May 26, Billie Watkins, a division director of Robert Half Legal, will discuss the legal job market and present practical advice for landing that next job.

Michael B. Kramer, senior vice president and publisher at the Law Bulletin Publishing Co., said the company has an obligation to help lawyers as they deal with this tough economy. The company has a strong relationship with John Marshall and was happy to partner with the school on a worthwhile event like this, he said.

”It is our duty and responsibility to reach out and help lawyers because they are part of the community we serve,” Kramer said. ”There is a crisis going on. We need to pool our resources. We have to assist them. And when the economy does turn around and come back, the attorneys we have helped will be our friends forever.”

John Corkery, dean and a professor at John Marshall, said the events will provide those who attend with an opportunity to talk about their situation, and possibly to get some new ideas about what their next steps should be.

”I hope they would walk away with perhaps some new thoughts about different avenues that they could try, and a realization that a lot of this is not personal; it is coming from the economy,” he said. ”Very few people are immune from the effect of this economic downturn. Lawyers are pretty smart people. Getting lawyers together and brainstorming and getting them to think about how a problem affects us all is a good thing.”

Reed, from Special Counsel, said she wanted to participate in the May 8 event for professional and personal reasons. From a personal perspective, she is a former practicing attorney who knows that the job market and the profession itself can be tough. At the same time, she said, she’s in a position professionally to help lawyers find a new opportunity.

”I keep hearing that the job market is grim and bleak,” Reed said. ”And I think that is the wrong perspective to take. There are fewer positions available, but there are positions available. It’s a matter of really networking, and making sure they are following up on every lead and resume submission so that attorneys out in the market right now find themselves in line for those open positions.”

For those lawyers who believe they’ve tried every avenue, she said, ”Start thinking outside the box. If you’re only networking through the CBA, try chambers of commerce… Consider opportunities that may not necessarily be ideal — contract or temp-to-hire. Give every opportunity that comes across your plate a full view, and full consideration.”

Simon, a certified financial planner at RBC Wealth Management, said he wants to help lawyers at the May 8 event by providing financial guidance so they make the right decisions. He wants to give them the resources, and show them where to get answers to their questions so they don’t make any wrong, irreversible decisions.

”I believe that right now we’re at a point in time in our history that most people have not seen economically during their work life, especially attorneys,” Simon said. ”I like helping people; it’s part of being a certified financial planner.”

Paradise, from Communication Strategies, said she’s spent more than 20 years as a consultant who provides communication advice and training to attorneys. One of her concerns is how lawyers handle the delivery and content of their face-to-face meetings. In a job interview, delivery trumps content, and lawyers do not always understand that, she said.

At the May 11 event, she plans to provide practical suggestions for networking and interviewing, she said. Networking is about so much more than simply exchanging business cards, she said.

”I will focus on what I know best: how to really maximize the impact that you make in face-to-face meetings,” she said. ”But I will also talk about how to get face-to-face meetings… People have to be more creative today in a job search. Just going on traditional interviews and sending out resumes is just not going to work for even the best and brightest people. I’m also going to give them the chance to talk to each other because people learn from others in the same situation.”

Check-in, a continental breakfast, an exposition and networking are slated for 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on May 8. The panel discussion and additional networking are from 9:15 to 11 a.m. For more information visit

Because space is limited, advance registration is required. To register, send an e-mail message to with the following: Name; address; year of law school graduation; practice areas, and e-mail address (Write “Attorneys in Transition” in the subject line of
the e-mail).

If you are interested in attending any of the follow-up networking events on May 11, 18 and 26, send an e-mail message to and put the date of the event in the subject line.

You may attend more than one of these events.

Olivia Clarke is assistant editor of Chicago Lawyer magazine and co-chair of the “Attorneys in Transition” programs.

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