A friend I had years ago never got over being laid off. He’d worked for a very large advertising firm. Whenever he spoke of it, which was often, there was a bitterly wistful albeit whiskey-induced gleam in his eyes when he recalled the time and money he made “in the decadent Reagan years.”
Fast-forward to the pre-burst Internet-bubble Clinton days of the 90’s, which was just before I lost track of him. He told me he was day-trading by then. I think he did pretty well for awhile until that boom went bust, too.
Back then, there was a lot of ‘funny money’ to be made trading high tech stocks. It seemed almost everyone I spoke to dabbled in day trading. Even more did it full time in what my friend would have called the “decadent Clinton era.” It was rah-rah boom economic times. In those halcyon days of overvalued high-tech IPOs and fictitious profitability, even an orangutan could pick tech stocks and make a fast overnight bundle.
I’m not unemployed. I’m a consultant.
But then the party was over. And in the inevitable post-tech bubble hangover that followed, the employees downsized, reengineered, and pink-slipped out of jobs were left pounding the pavement for work. The ones that didn’t buy carpet-cleaning or sandwich franchises became consultants rather than remain serially unemployed. “You can’t fire me, I quit,” led to its stepchild salute, “I’m not unemployed. I’m a consultant.”
Recoining the now tritely counterfeit phrase: “History repeats itself.” We’re in the detritus of another phony boom-gone-bust. This time, real estate melted down. And joining the ranks of the unemployed bankers, financial mavens, mortgage lenders, appraisers, flippers, construction workers, contractors and real estate sellers, are the lawyers. Like pilot fish, lawyers followed the real estate whale until it beached itself to rot on the shore.
3 deceptive decades.
The last 3 decades are redolent with the malodorous stink of deception. First, the 80’s brought us Wall Street’s junk bond traders and their mantra, “greed is good.” This was followed by the 90’s non-existent profits in the overheated high tech IPOs.
And today, we have another Wall Street “house of cards” but this time, the financial fracas was built on over-cooked real estate and hyper-leveraged securitized junk mortgages.
Consistent throughout is the lasting prevalence of “The Greater Fool” theory. Whether stocks or real estate, the ignorant investor too easily falls prey to the notion that there’s always someone else dumb enough to pay even more than they did.
Laid-off lawyers going solo.
Laid-off lawyers cut loose from financial, construction and real estate oriented law firms hang out shingles and go solo. “I’m not unemployed. I’m a solo.” Suddenly that’s news?
It’s tough sledding going from a biweekly paycheck to no paycheck. Yeah, there’s nothing like being your own boss. It’s empowering to pick your own clients and your own cases. It’s fun to set your own course and your own strategies. But then, there’s nothing like sweating your own expenses, chasing your own collections, worrying your own screw-ups, and taking out your own garbage.
And then there’s the Web, which is replete with an ever-growing number of hortatory bloggers, self-help marketers and self-styled experts. There are even lawyers-turned-coaches to help the newly-fired find fulminating fulfillment. Caveat emptor. Those that can, do. And those that can’t, expect you pay them to teach what they themselves were unable to do.
Going solo isn’t for the faint-hearted. It requires stick-to-itive-ness, resilience, imagination, pluck and a sense of humor.
Reality show for laid-off lawyers?
Fame is traded on the cheap today. For example, I fully expect White House party-crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi to next star in their own reality t.v. show. So why not a reality show for out-of-work lawyers going solo?
With reality shows for everything from pampered housewives to incorrigible dogs and from fashion models to bounty-hunters, I’m surprised there isn’t yet a reality show on television featuring laid-off lawyers going solo. Perhaps, if lawyers were more revered than reviled, it might have already happened.
Still, if skanky wanna-be celebrities can garner 15 minutes of reality television fame, why can’t lawyers get at least 7.5 minutes? But then, a pink-slipped securities lawyer going solo may not be sexy enough for reality t.v.
Kidding aside, whether or not unemployed lawyers miss out on their little piece of misbegotten fame, the true reality is that laid-off lawyers going out on their own is not newsworthy stuff. Instead, it’s something born out of necessity and usually not by their choice. But like the franchisee steam cleaning carpets out of his van or the bedroom-office consultant dispensing advice in bunny slippers, its nothing more than the latest consequence of our most recent decade of deception.