Biglaw, In-House Counsel, Layoffs, pls hndle thx

Pls Hndle Thx: So That’s What Happened to the Stealth-Layoff Lawyers

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Dear ATL,

I’m an in-house attorney at a large company. I used to be an associate at a big law firm, but was a stealth layoff victim and had little contact with the firm after that (and I’ll admit, I’m still somewhat bitter about the layoff). My current employer still works with my former firm sometimes, though the firm didn’t do anything to help me get my current position.

Recently, the firm realized that (1) I once worked there, and (2) I now work at a client. However, they failed to remember why or how I left, and thus have been contacting me as a firm “alumnus” to invite me to client and industry-type things, as well as firm events.

How should I respond to this attention, especially since I’m in a relatively small legal community, and my bosses do have some relationship with the firm?

— Memento

Dear Memento,

People seem to have online amnesia these days. You can be sworn enemies with someone in real life, but somehow it’s perfectly natural to want to add them on Facebook. Just had a soul-crushing breakup with an asshat? Start monitoring your inbox for his LinkedIn request. It’s really unbelievable. Some people just don’t understand that grudges are for life, and they’re held offline and online…

But unlike social media connection requests from people you despise, the law firms that contact alumni know not what they do. Your firm doesn’t have some advanced Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler filing system whereby they labeled your layoff “poor performance” as a pretext and then wrote in invisible ink “stealth layoff – follow-up if individual secures lucrative job elsewhere.” They threw your file and the files of all the other attorneys who have left since dinosaurs roamed the earth into a single spreadsheet labeled “Potential New Business.” The executive committee doesn’t tag each individual entry with helpful labels like “Passed Over For Partner,” “Sent Passive Aggressive Departure Email,” or “Violent Exit Interview,” so poor marketing is left with a fistful of firm anniversary invitations and party horns and a spreadsheet filled with lawyers wielding pitchforks and blowtorches.

So, crap data is how you got these invitations, but now that you have them, RUN WITH THEM. The tables have turned, my friend, and you’re living the laid-off lawyer’s ultimate revenge fantasy. As such, it is your duty to attend each and every firm event and stay until you’ve made everyone extremely uncomfortable. Then you should go home, pour yourself a glass of wine, and send an email from your work account asking them to turn a draft by morning.

I hope this helps.

Your friend,


You’re dealing with one of the most insensitive realities of working in major corporate America. When you needed your firm to treat you like a person instead of an easily replaceable cog, they downsized you without even remembering your name.

Now that there’s even a small chance that you can help them, they’re all over your jock. What’s bothersome isn’t that they don’t care that they laid you off once… it’s that they don’t remember that they laid you off once.

How should you handle it? Well, following Marin’s advice is certainly the wise and adult course of action. It’s not personal, it’s business. Go to the events, hobnob, glad hand with those who fired you.

It’s okay to forgive, but you never have to forget. Do you know who screwed you? Do you know their names? This what you can do with your new found fortune: start on a course of action that will lead you to screwing that guy over once and for all.

Because revenge is fun. Much more fun than they say in self-help books. Do you know how you’re going to feel when the partner responsible for your layoff loses business because of you? You’ll feel like Inigo Montoya after he kills the six-fingered man, only better because it won’t be a fairy tale.

Don’t let Richard Nixon ruin the fun of having an enemies list for the rest of us. If you can identify the people who have caused you harm in a directed, non-paranoid fashion, and then have vengeance upon them, life is good. Life is great.

Trust me. Smile and smile but be a villain. When the time is right, you’ll know what to do.


Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to

Earlier: Prior editions of Pls Hndle Thx

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