Well, the holidays are fast approaching and there seems to be no slowing down of the layoffs. Dechert, Wolf and Drinker are the latest firms to join the ranks.

We can debate from now until the markets recover the callousness of law firm layoffs just days before Christmas, but really, what’s a firm to do?

ABA Journal is reporting that some firms are switching idle attorneys to pro bono work.

Several law firms have switched lawyers experiencing idle time to pro bono work, the American Lawyer reports. The magazine says these law firms are among those making a change:
• Dechert, which has moved seven associates to full-time pro bono work because of a slowdown in structured finance.

• Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, which has increased pro bono hours.

• Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, where pro bono hours have risen to 85 hours per lawyer through September, compared to 69 hours per lawyer last year.

• Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, where new associates have more free time than usual to devote to pro bono.

ABA President-elect Carolyn Lamm has endorsed the idea of creating more pro bono work for lawyers who would otherwise be laid off.

I have another wild and crazy idea. It’s called Marketing & Business Development.

  • Educate yourself on new trends and technologies, such as SEO, blogging and social networking, and how you can use these to position yourself and your practice.
  • Start spending quality business time on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, reconnect with former law schools friends and former colleagues. Learn how to uncover and develop new relationships
  • Identify recent court rulings, new laws, pending legislation that your clients would find relevant to their businesses. Use this information to:
  • Identify recent court rulings, new laws, pending legislation that your clients would find relevant to their businesses. Use this information to:

– Create a CLE program that you can deliver to clients in person, or via webinars
– Start your own blog, or provide content for the firm’s blog
– Write an article or newsletter for a trade journal

  • Attend any and all networking events, even if it’s on your own dime
  • Update your bio taking into account SEO
  • Update your practice’s marketing materials, including recent case/matter descriptions
  • Schedule daily lunches with firm attorneys, outside your practice, to expand your internal profile
  • Be available to “volunteer” when anyone needs assistance

If your current practice is dying, or dead, for the near future, you will need to identify what practices will be in demand in 2009 and beyond. If you find that you will have to reinvent yourself, take inventory of your current skills. What can you adapt to meet these future practice needs? What skills or education will you need to develop? Focus on these areas.

On the flip side, there are things that you should not be doing. You should not:

  • Start coming in late and leaving early
  • Socialize in the halls with other associates who are not busy
  • Think of this as free time for the gym, hanging with friends, or going to movies

We have to remember that there are business cycles in every industry. There will always be attrition and layoffs at the end of every calendar year.

However, unless your firm is shutting its doors, the majority of you will have a job come January 1st. What are you going to do, today, to ensure that you are one of those who will be passed over during this round of layoffs? What are you doing today to ensure that when the next round of layoffs come (and they will), that you and/or your practice are perceived as too valuable to the firm’s health and recover to be let go?

What are you doing today to position yourself to be in the right place at the right time? FYI. It has NOTHING to do with luck.