Helping Unemployed/Underemployed Lawyers

by Stephen W. Owens
I have been talking to and meeting with a number of unemployed/underemployed lawyers who are definitely feeling the contracted economy. The sun will come out tomorrow, but until it does, here are some ideas:

Declare yourself an active lawyer in private practice rather than tell people you are unemployed. Do this even if you currently have no paying clients. Get a laptop, a cell phone, and business cards.
Take lawyers you know out to lunch. Brainstorm with them and ask them for overflow work at a contract rate.
Meet potential clients. Figure out two or three areas of the law that interest you and go meet face-to-face with potential clients to ask them for work.
Gather mentors. These are people who will be on the lookout for work for you. Send them weekly e-mails to let them know what you are doing. If you are a new lawyer, talk to your Bar-appointed mentor for ideas.
Meet lawyers who have the jobs you want. Even if you don’t know these people, call them and ask to meet them to discuss what they do and how they see the industry developing.
Join and be active in Bar Sections of interest and your local Bar. Call the chair or president (available at and ask for an assignment. Go to the sponsored events. Network with these individuals.
Seek clients online. Marketing yourself online can be inexpensive or free. Sign up for the Bar’s Lawyer Referral Directory for free. I understand some lawyers are obtaining work on Craig’s List, Facebook, Linked In, Youtube, Twitter, blogs, social networking sites, and sites such as
Leverage your undergraduate degree. Become a legal expert in your undergraduate field. Track down potential clients who will be interested in a lawyer who shares their interests.
Do pro bono. This will keep you active in the law and “out there” for others to see. You can volunteer through the And Justice for All organizations, the Litigation Section’s Attorney Volunteers in Court Program, Wills for Heroes, or Tuesday Night Bar.
Focus on the value you can provide to clients. Rather than trying to get a job for your own purposes, focus on how to become invaluable to your clients in helping them make more money or reducing their headaches.
Use your undergraduate university’s and law school’s alumni career services.
Participate in the Bar’s new series of free CLEs for unemployed or underemployed lawyers, beginning Friday, April 9, 1:00 p.m., at the State Bar offices.
Do excellent work. Whatever you do, do timely and quality work to build your reputation.
Write an article or speak on unique legal topics to lawyers or non-lawyers who can provide you referrals or work. Send copies of your product to those who may be interested in the information.
Learn a quick pitch. Be able to concisely sell your abilities and how you can add value to your clients.
Stay in touch with your former classmates from high school to law school. Chances are some of your old friends have extra work.
Get involved in the community. Coach a team, serve on a non-profit board, or run for your community council or PTA.
If you get discouraged, seek free, confidential, statewide help from Lawyers Helping Lawyers (peer) or Blomquist Hale Consulting (professional).
The future is bright. We have all been there. Keep hustling and you will find your career path.

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