It's so tough out there right now! One day, we are not supposed to wear masks; the next, we should have been wearing them all along. One week, we are sure about a remedy based on the trials. The next week, it didn't work. A few weeks ago, younger people were safe. That theory was based upon data from Europe. It turns out that in the U.S., younger people are just as vulnerable as anyone to the virus. Why? Because of the obesity epidemic. In Europe, they are much more food conscious, thinner and consequently, have fewer health problems.
Lately, 22 million people are unemployed including thousands of legal professionals. Some are going to have a difficult time finding a job in a downturn job market. Yet, sometimes, in our belief that things will change quickly, we tend to beat a dead horse. We look for jobs that aren't there, we send out tons of resumes for jobs that do exist and we never hear back.
So, my wonderful readers, it's time to formulate Plan B. We don't know how long this pandemic will last. Even if we do go back to the office pretty soon, lots of things will have changed. Are you ready? What if your firm furloughed you but doesn't ask you back? What if you are working now but may be laid off? It could be scary. Unless, of course you have a Plan B.
What does Plan B look like?
Plan B is often confused with an alternate or a completely different approach. However, that is not necessarily true. Plan B is a contingency plan. It is a confidence that will eventually drive Plan A. It does not have to be a replacement or an alternative but an addition or an expansion of your career. It is the extension of current process and opinions.
There’s nothing like the confidence you get from being prepared. When you have a Plan B, you’re more likely to aggressively go after your Plan A because you know, if it goes wrong, it’s not such a big deal. You’ll just set Plan B in motion and keep moving forward! That kind of confidence can offer you the opportunity to take risks along the way because they aren’t as risky as they would be if you had no backup plan.
"The best Plan B's are different but related to what you are doing now."
There is some controversy to having a Plan B. That is, it causes you to lose motivation to pursue Plan A. Sure. In a good job market. However, in this Kafka like environment, we stand to lose more than motivation if we don't have a Plan B. Jobs may simply not be there. What are you going to do?
According to Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, the best Plan B’s are different but related to what you are doing now; this way you can apply the lessons you’ve learned to date to the new plan.
Bear in mind that you don't necessarily need to write down a specific Plan B, but you should always be aware of your parameters. You should be thinking about the “adjacent possible" such as your transferable skills or other opportunities on the horizon.
First, identify how to measure when you’re tracking towards a worst-case scenario. Are there lots of "secret" meetings at the firm? The firm tells you they are fine, yet are scouring for big loans? Second, it’s the plan that tells you what to do should that happen. Maybe if you are in mergers & acquisitions and that practice specialty has taken a nose dive, you may end up getting a job at Amazon, WalMart or your local grocery store. It may be that right now, there are few, if any, jobs in corporate transactions. On the other hand, standing in line at the food bank and desperately trying to get unemployment to pay the rent may not be the option of your choice. You might start to think about switching specialties. Now is the time to take plenty of online continuing legal education. Let me put in a plug for The Organization of Legal Professionals offering online CLE in legal technology, eDiscovery and more.
What if you do take a job outside of the legal field? In our stress management webinar, an attendee voiced concerns that law firms may not take you back if you step out of the field. That may have been true in a good market. However, if we look back to the great recession, you will see that once hiring began again, employers were much more forgiving of the lapse of employment in the legal field. If you do take a job outside of legal, make it a transition job and try for no more than 6 months, if you can help it. A transition job is just that - taking the job for now and transitioning back to what you want when the market improves.
It is incumbent upon you to be flexible. I have had candidates whose jobs are in peril and insist on making a lateral move or improve upon their salaries. One candidate told me he would definitely not move for "less than $100,000, work remotely several days a month and match his vacation of six weeks." Right. Clearly, the message was not filtering up to the penthouse. That was just when the pandemic was beginning. He is still looking and chances of his getting laid off are getting closer. The top of his range dropped to $90,000. I have firms that have asked staff earning more than $75,000 per year to take a 10-15% pay cut. They are bringing in new hires at 10-15% below their salary target so that new employees are not earning more than those with the salary cut. Plan B for this fellow would have been to loosen up, take a transition job and not stand in the food line.
Personally, I initiated a Plan B. The staffing industry is the third largest industry to be hit hard after hospitality and retail. With unemployment expected to go as high as 30%, finding clients who are hiring is extremely hard. Having been a victim of the great recession, I had a Plan B.
I took a hard look at the market. What is going to be hot during the crisis? This is the legal field. Surely, areas are going to heat up. People are just waiting to get through this. However, once things settle down (and they will settle down), people are going to get very, very angry and lawsuits will be rampant. Who are they going to sue? Healthcare, hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, employers who did not properly protect them, insurance companies, products liability for devices such as faulty ventilators, and so on and so on. I thought, what does that mean? It means there is going to be a heck of a lot of medical records that are going to need to be summarized. Tons of them.
So I opened up a division of Estrin Legal Staffing called MediSums. I located a team of licensed doctors and legal nurses who can do the summaries, chronologies and even better than most medical records summarizing companies, can render medical opinions and create deposition questions. The division aligns with my business. In effect, it is the temporary staffing industry all over again. I did get a nasty email from a paralegal who claimed I was trying to take her job away and doctors and legal nurses know nothing about summarizing. No, that's not it. Paralegals are invaluable if trained properly. This is just a great service with added value. I can understand how she feels threatened. Perhaps she can delegate the summarizing, take on more sophisticated responsibilities, move up the ladder, thereby ensuring her job.
What I am doing is "adjacent possible". It definitely aligns with my business, offers an important service and is not a total disruption i.e., creating a brand new business and starting all over again. I am not going to beat a dead horse. Another Plan B was to beef up our attorney placement business. The areas of estate planning, healthcare, insurance defense, divorce law, employment law and bankruptcy are already seeing a surge. As attorneys slowly get hired, need for legal staff will increase. Again, using "adjacent possible". Interestingly enough, I received a job search from a very prestigious firm in Bahrain for a corporate attorney. If you know one, let me know.
As Benjamin Franklin said, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." In fact, the only other thing you can truly count on is that sooner or later, life is going to throw you a curve ball. And folks, here it is. Welcome to Covidville. It is for these moments that we should, even when things were calm and hopeful, consider one of life’s most vital skills: that of developing a Plan B. Besides, if you stick to “Plan A” at all costs, you may miss some amazing opportunities.
" Welcome to Covidville."
Creating the Plan - It's actually simple.
- Ask yourself if Plan A fails, what is the next best thing that I could be potentially excited about?
- Did you feel a little bit of excitement? OK, so working at Amazon is not your dream job. However, did you feel a little bit relieved? If so, write it down. If not, try again.
- Create a list of actions.
- Don't be too proud to ask for help.
As long as you are at it, start planning for Plan C and D. We can't trust this virus on any given day and it may not end when we think it should.
Today's world can feel desperate – until we rediscover our latent Plan B muscle. In reality, Plan B's are there for a reason: to assist us when things go south. Despite all our planning, there was no one script for us written at our birth, nor does there need to be only one going forward.
It helps to acquaint ourselves with the lives of many others who had to throw away Plan A and begin anew: the person who thought they’d be married forever, then suddenly wasn't– and coped; the person who was renowned for doing what they did, then had to start over in a dramatically different field – and made it.
Amidst these stories, we’re liable to find a few people who will tell us, very sincerely, that in the end, their Plan B ended up superior to their Plan A. They worked harder for it, they had to dig deeper to find it and it carried less vanity and fear within it.
Expecting and preparing for changes can help you be successful. It's not what happened to you, it's how you handle it. We are a very resilient species. Bouncing back may be hard, it may not turn out they way we hoped, and there may be some roadblocks along the way. Let's ride that horse in the direction it's going Have a little faith. Believe in yourself. It's the great unknown out there now. However, we all have the wherewith all to survive. Trust me on that one.
Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top national and international staffing organization and MediSums,medical records summarizing. She is the President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: email@example.com.