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Thread: Laid-off lawyer in predicament she never imagined

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default Laid-off lawyer in predicament she never imagined

    Laid-off lawyer in predicament she never imagined - Los Angeles Times

    "I can't get a job anywhere."

    I've been getting a lot of e-mails that start like that. This one was from Ellie Trope of Mid-City in Los Angeles, near La Brea, who lost her job more than a year ago. She wrote me after reading my column two weeks ago about the endless mob scene at the employment office in Van Nuys.

    Trope, 43, is an attorney with 15 years of experience, and she said lawyers are losing their jobs in droves.

    When people in banking and the mortgage industry were getting the heave-ho, it came as no surprise. In fact, on Friday I spoke to a banking executive with 20,000 employees under him who got fired in December after 21 years on the job. But I would have thought anyone with a law degree would be able to talk their way out of a layoff, file for an injunction, whatever.

    Not so. Trope told me it's gotten much worse of late, and when I made some phone calls and checked on the Internet, I found that law firms in California and throughout the nation have been handing out pink slips by the dozens and the hundreds.

    "Job cuts in U.S. legal sector hit 1,300 for January," said a headline at Legalweek.com.

    "Today isn't over, but it already has a name: Black Thursday," said a Los Angeles County Bar Assn. blog this week, making reference to hundreds of layoffs in the legal biz that were announced around the world the other day.

    Trope sounded weary when I spoke to her by phone. The financial pressure of losing her job took a huge toll on her marriage, she told me, and she and her husband are now living separately. They share custody of their two children, and despite the financial strain, Trope hasn't wanted to put the nanny on the bricks too, so she's shuttling back and forth between households with the kids.

    "I'm definitely not desperate," said Trope, who worried about coming off like a whiner when so many people are in far worse shape.

    But she didn't sound whiny to me. Instead, she was very forthcoming about what it's like to fall from your perch and realize, to your surprise, that being humbled isn't entirely a bad thing.

    "Attorneys used to be recession-proof," said Trope, and she assumed she was too.

    From Fairfax High, she went to UC Riverside and then Whittier Law School. She had several jobs after graduating 15 years ago, mostly as an in-house counsel specializing in consumer products.

    Last February, after 15 months with an international toy company handling licensing, copyrights, advertising and labor relations, she heard layoffs were coming because the 2007 Christmas season had been slow. Then she was whacked.

    "I loved the people I worked with," said Trope. "It was almost like losing a boyfriend or a relationship. I was devastated."

    But her disappointment didn't shake her confidence.

    "I figured I'd find another job."

    When it didn't happen right away, she did something she never expected to do in her life.

    "I applied for unemployment insurance."

    How did it feel?

    "I figured I paid into it, and this is what other people do."

    To stay on the dole, you've got to show that you're actively looking for work. So Trope checked various search sites and diligently applied for one job after another, and another, and another. But it was like fishing in an empty lake with a dead worm.

    By then, she'd heard stories of other laid-off lawyers growing more desperate. She landed a maternity fill-in job in April, but it lasted only until August, and by then hundreds of lawyers were swarming the few available jobs, slapping their resumes on a mountain of others.

    "I have great skills and great experience, but so do the other 500 people who are after the same job, and they might have gone to Harvard."

    Her husband is a lawyer too, and he was having his own problems holding on to clients and finding new ones. Suddenly, said Trope, they were behind on the mortgage.

    With help from a family member, she moved to her own place to try to figure out her marriage and her career. As for the latter, she reluctantly decided to lower her expectations and began applying for jobs as a contract administrator, an office administrator and a paralegal. But she struck out there too, in part because other lawyers were trying the same thing.

    "After a while with the paralegal jobs, the listings said, 'No attorneys.' I think it's because they figured attorneys would leave as soon as they found work as lawyers."

    In mid-January she got a temporary lawyer job for hourly pay, and this week she's switching to another temporary arrangement, hoping this one turns into a long-term job.

    "In my life, things were always way too easy to get," Trope said. "I put my head in the sand and never thought about the worst that might happen. It was way too easy to not have a backup plan, and I didn't worry. I did a great job at work and I thought that was enough, and it's not anymore."

    She never lived lavishly, she said, but she and her husband were overextended on the mortgage and private school for the kids.

    Trope thinks back on how her grandmother, who lived through the Depression, always slipped sugar packets into her purse when she left a restaurant. Now Trope understands, and though she knows she'll never be hungry, she wonders how she'll continue to pay for health insurance and whether the house she and her estranged husband own can be saved from foreclosure.

    "I've found strength in myself I never thought I had, and the things that were important to me before are now less so. Seeing my kids happy matters more to me than anything, and whatever happens, I think this will be one of the defining experiences of my life."

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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    It is scary. I have always had confidence that I would make a way, somehow, but I don't have that anymore. Even the fallback jobs at the mall and whatnot are not plentiful. Granted, I am a SAHM mom right now, but if something happened to DH's job and I needed to go back to work, in this economy I'm not even sure I could find a low-wage job.

    I was actually thinking about going back to work but I decided not to, partially because my kids begged me to stay at home, but also because I don't want to take a job away from someone who might really need it to feed their kids or themselves. Right now we're OK and I don't have to work for us to pay the bills, so I can wait until jobs are more plentiful.

    But the "what if" scenario of DH being unemployed is pretty scary, because I'm not sure either of us would be able to find any kind of job with all the job seekers out there.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    This is the reality of the economy. That's why I always shake my head when people claim that they work in a 'safe' industry. There is no 'safe' industry these days.

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    "In my life, things were always way too easy to get," Trope said. "I put my head in the sand and never thought about the worst that might happen. It was way too easy to not have a backup plan, and I didn't worry. I did a great job at work and I thought that was enough, and it's not anymore."

    She never lived lavishly, she said, but she and her husband were overextended on the mortgage and private school for the kids".
    Voila!
    If all the women in this place were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be surprised - Dorothy Parker

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    Elite Member Cali's Avatar
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    Interesting. Perhaps I should re-think going to law school soon.

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingcap72 View Post
    This is the reality of the economy. That's why I always shake my head when people claim that they work in a 'safe' industry. There is no 'safe' industry these days.
    Very true. Every industry depend on several others to keep it going-no matter what. I hope things settle down very soon. Here is the really bad part,for people leaving and people who stay:
    I loved the people I worked with," said Trope. "It was almost like losing a boyfriend or a relationship. I was devastated."
    Just hard on everyone.
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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    Super Moderator Tati's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingcap72 View Post
    This is the reality of the economy. That's why I always shake my head when people claim that they work in a 'safe' industry. There is no 'safe' industry these days.
    Very true. One good thing for a lawyer or similar professional though, is they could always hang a shingle and run their own practice if they wanted to. Not saying it would necessarily be successful of course, but it could be something.
    If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.

    - Kahlil Gibran

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    DH is in the IT field, and while (we think) he's in no danger of losing his job unless it's for performance issues, he wants a change but now is just not a good time. He's in management and HATES it. He loves IT but hates being a manager. But since he's in a small company there's no one else to do it, really.

    We have discussed him going into training. When he was first starting out he was teaching certification courses (in addition to his regular job). He was one of their top teachers. The place he used to teach doesn't exist anymore, this was like 15 years ago. But he's got a talent for teaching and it would give him less stress. IMO, it might be a good job to have during a recession too, because when people get laid off they go back to school for retraining.

    But, we have no idea of the salary range for teachers at the training centers. More than likely, he would not be making what he is now. We do not live extravagantly at all, but at this point we couldn't afford a large salary cut.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tati View Post
    Very true. One good thing for a lawyer or similar professional though, is they could always hang a shingle and run their own practice if they wanted to. Not saying it would necessarily be successful of course, but it could be something.
    We have a friend who is a real estate attorney. He worked for himself for a while, but the income was unsteady and he was definitely not getting rich. He closed up shop and went to work for a law firm and things were good for a while with a steady good salary. After about a year he has been laid off. There just isn't enough work doing real estate closings to justify all the attorneys who do them. Hopefully they'll muddle through.
    Last edited by Tati; February 15th, 2009 at 09:13 PM.

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    Gold Member Glitter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingcap72 View Post
    This is the reality of the economy. That's why I always shake my head when people claim that they work in a 'safe' industry. There is no 'safe' industry these days.
    Around here we have a ton of little casino's and I tell you business is booming. LOTS of job loss in this area it is really suffering but people are dumping money into those machines like they have an endless supply.
    Life is what happens to you
    While you're busy making other plans ~ John Lennon

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    A bunch of people I know are in law. Attorney isn't that steady of a job anymore not just because of the economy but because they are just too many of them. About 10 years ago a friend of mine was surprised when she got her first job as an attorney that it was only $60-90k a year when it was $100+k to start when she was in school. There were just too many new attorneys in the last 20 years to be so in demand.
    "Just because I walked into a turd supermarket doesn't mean I have to buy anything." - John Oliver

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    A*O
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    Yup. In times of recession people drink and gamble. Our casino has never been busier, especially after the Govt started handing out cash payments to "boost the economy". The idea was for people to buy Aussie-made goods and services but of course they shove it all in the pokies instead. So the Govt gets the money back in gaming taxes anyway! They are actually hiring more casino staff to cope with the rush of recently unemployed customers which is pretty ironic.
    If all the women in this place were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be surprised - Dorothy Parker

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    Elite Member qwerty's Avatar
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    ^At least someone is hiring.

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    Leave corporate law and get into divorce/family law. That area is rocking right now.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Bankruptcy law is hopping too.

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