Job security is on the radar screens of most lawyers. Many lawyers, however, perceive that their jobs are very secure, when in reality they are not. Due to a false sense of security, these lawyers often neglect the networking they should be doing.
Three scenarios demonstrate this concept of a false sense of job security.
“My law firm keeps me busy. I have no clients of my own, and I don’t need to be networking.”
The lawyer with no clients of his or her own is VERY vulnerable. It doesn’t matter if you work for a behemoth on Wall Street or a three-person firm in the boonies. Simply put, if you don’t have your own clients, you will never have genuine job security.
I’ve met many minders and grinders who delude themselves regarding job security since a paycheck keeps coming. Of course, the paycheck keeps coming only because of one or two “finders” at your firm have been feeding you with a steady stream of work. In other words, your job security is inextricably tied to the fortunes of those finders. Do you really want to be completely dependent upon one or two people?
Lawyers are notorious for thinking of all of the ways that things can go wrong. I’ll leave it up to you to imagine how a seemingly secure job in this scenario can head south. Let us count the ways. And don’t be so sure that another finder at your firm will come to your rescue should your “go-to” finder disappear. That person may not need help or you may not have the skill set to work in that other person’s practice area.
What to do? You already know the answer. Stop the excuses and start finding your own clients. I’ve heard all the excuses, from “I didn’t go to law school to become a ‘salesperson’” to “I don’t have the time for business development.” You need to bite the bullet. Get out of the office and start networking. If you don’t, you’ll get little sympathy from me when you suddenly become extraneous at your law firm.
“I have one or two clients. They keep me busy, and I don’t need to be networking.”
One or two clients is surely better than no clients, but still risky. Here again, the issue is dependency. It doesn’t matter if the client is an individual, a closely held corporation or a huge conglomerate. Lots can go wrong with the client and, before you know it, your very respectable book of business has disappeared – along with your value to the firm.
Anecdotally, this most commonly occurs when a business client is sold and the key relationship person is either gone or no longer in a position of authority. Plus, the new decision-maker could have a trusted and long-term relationship with a different attorney. In this situation, the client is probably lost forever.
The advice here is simple. Diversify your client base. Don’t keep too many eggs in one basket. Find more clients.
“I have a secure in-house job. I don’t need to be networking.”
Many attorneys prefer to work in-house because such jobs are thought to be more secure than those in private practice. Nothing could be further from the truth. The in-house counsel scenario is just a slight variation of the lawyer with very few clients. In this case, however, there is only one client.
Company ABC could be sold tomorrow, or experience tough economic times. Agency XYZ could have its budget slashed. Can they afford a full complement of lawyers? In either situation, how secure is your job?
Regardless of the scenario, many lawyers believe that there is little they can do to enhance job security, because they do not control the circumstances that could dictate their destinies. While that is true, there are still things that all lawyers can and should do – starting with keeping your network active.
Networking is not just for attorneys trying to build a book of business. It is also a way to learn about new opportunities in your field that you might want to consider even when employed. Most importantly, it is a way to develop relationships with people who can help you should you ever become unemployed. If you lose your job, you want to be able to hit the ground running. You can do that by maintaining and expanding your network.
Your job may not be as secure as you think. If you’re in private practice, only lawyers with many clients are truly secure. If you’re in-house, don’t be lulled into thinking that your networking days are past. No matter where you work, networking is the best way to achieve more job security.