Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to email@example.com.
Dear ATL –
I’ve been unemployed for almost a year. I have good academic credentials, but lost my job as a junior-associate in Biglaw before I could develop a highly valuable set of skills. At first, finding interviews for available positions was easy; I just wasn’t able to close. But about five months ago, interviews stopped altogether. I haven’t even been able to find contract work.
The economic recession is obviously a big part of my problem. But I also feel that part of the problem now is my extended term of unemployment. So my question is: How long is too long? When do I have to accept that I simply will not be a lawyer?
He Who Longs to Measure Time in 6 Minute Increments
Dear He Who Longs to Measure Time in 6 Minute Increments,
The fairy tale that you’ve concocted for yourself — that you will never again be a lawyer after T-minus one year of unemployment — is an homage to the Beast, who despairs of turning back into a prince. From the Beauty and the Beast prologue:
Ashamed of his monstrous form, the Beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his 21st year. If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return, by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a Beast for all time.
As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a Beast?
You have one year to receive True Love’s Kiss and clinch that “awesome” associate job before the enchanted rose’s last petal fell and seals your fate. After one year, you are to remain a Beast forever, hideous to law firms and vile to any employers other than traveling circuses and minstrel side shows. The End.
If really believe that you’ve been out of the law firm game for “too long,” what are your other options? Living as a hermit by the sea? If you have another dream career, by all means pursue it, but if you really want to be a lawyer, you can be one again, even if you’ve been out for a year. This economy is like the Mayer Brown swine flu outbreak — if you make it out alive, you’re expected back at the office. Law firms will have a hard time rejecting applicants based on gaps in their resume alone, when talented and bright laid-off attorneys will comprise a huge chunk of the applicant pool. Patience, Iago. The last petal has not fallen and Elizabeth Halverson has not sung.
Some advice from Le Fou, after the jump.
A year-long gap in the resume is not the problem. The problem is an “unexplained” gap in your resume. Right now, you want “recession” to be your prophylactic answer to all “what the hell have you been doing” questions.
At some point, that is not going to work. If you really want to be a lawyer you should be able to find something lawyerly to do in a year’s time. Because that is what your laid-off competition is doing. Other people are out there, honing their skills, doing free legal work, doing whatever they can to make sure their resumes reek of the desperation of getting back into Biglaw.
You need to go to the mattresses. It’s freakin’ Gangland out there, not a Disney movie. It is a business, nobody cares about your personal situation, and right now you are not an earner. It’s time to start dropping bodies.
“If it’s a lie, then we fight on that lie, but we gotta fight.”
I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that you have been doing something during your extended vacation other than watching Jon and Kate Plus Eight and tweaking your Match.com profile (both of which are admittedly important activities). But if your idea of keeping your lawyer skills fresh is Googling “changes in corporate law 2009,” may I suggest revamping your dating profile to ISO enchantresses for friendship and possibly more. I’d offer to kiss you myself, but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t help.