A New Morning – Time For A Change?

Many readers have emailed me or talked with me personally about the need to make a change.  Change is a big “concept” word being kicked around in the media in this presidential campaign year.  But given the current Heller situation and your status as a passenger on the S.S. Heller Ehrman, what is change for you?

Here are some things to think about:

– many of us are seriously thinking about leaving the legal services industry.  Period.  Especially those of us who’ve endured Brobeck’s implosion and now find ourselves practically stranded at Heller.

– some of us simply can’t afford to make a change to a different field since we have niche skills such as litigation paralegal or secretary.  In an ideal situation, with the proper means and support we would make the transition but with families to support, the need for health care and other benefits, the timing just isn’t right.

– a few of us have decided to take time off.  Mentally and physically remove ourselves from the work environment.  Re-evaluate what is really important and what type of work we really want to do. 

– some of us are holding on to anger, resentment and rage.  And that’s okay.  Some of us will be able to channel that anger into more than cleaning out closets, throwing out unwanted items.  Some of us will bundle all those emotions and convert them to pure energy – energy to improve ourselves physically as well as mentally.  

– some of us want to not only shake up what we do but shake up how large law firms operate.  Support staff as well as associates.  Many of us have 10 plus years experience and feel we can make a difference not only so that law firm employees avoid the fate of the S.S. Heller Ehrman, but so we can force the re-examinaton of large law firms as failed business models.

Whatever it is, if I know my fellow Hellerites, those changes will be dynamic, creative and bold.  Heller has always been known as a law firm with that type of energy – the energy that could make changes in the way people are treated, in the way law is practised, in the way employees are treated.  At some point that focus was lost and a firm once in the forefront of creative ideas and concepts is now left to watch others in that role.

Remember people: this is an important moment not only in the future of Heller Ehrman but in your future.  Take time to plot out your strategy, think about what you really want to do and what is important to you.  Talk to others, network, and listen too.  Make no small plans.  The founders of Heller Ehrman never did and despite its obscene demise, the firm has a 119-year history of which it can be proud.


3 Responses to “A New Morning – Time For A Change?”

  1. 1 Carolyn Elefant 25 September 2008 at 5:34 am

    I can’t say that I completely understand the turmoil that you and your firm are going through, but I can empathize with how it feels to be laid off after having been reasonably successful. Fifteen years ago, my law firm told me that I wasn’t partnership material, and gave me 6 months to find another job. Like many of you, I felt worried, betrayed and also despondent – I felt like leaving the law entirely.I felt worthless, as if I had wasted my life and hard work on a career that had taken me to a dead end. But then I got mad, and wondered why I should let a poor experience cheat me out of being a lawyer. Over the six month period, I looked for other jobs, but finding none, I opened the doors to my own law practice two days after leaving my firm. At the time, I thought that my practice would be temporary — a way to avoid a gap on my resume and pay down loans until the economy improved and I could find other work. I took on fairly decent paying high end contract work for energy regulatory matters (working directly for other firms, I was making around $75/hr, roughly the equivalent of $125-$150 today). But I also took on court appointed work to get court room experience (which I did with several bench and 2 pretty juicy jury trials) as well as civil litigation. Other interesting projects kept coming along and before I knew it, three years had passed and I was actually making good money and for the first time, feeling proud that I had created something of my own out of thin air, with nothing but my brain and my own two hands (and a computer of course!) (I wrote of my experiences here – http://www.his.com/~israel/loce/firm/firmart1.htm)
    Now, I’ve been writing a blog on solo practice – MyShingle.com – for nearly six years and just released a book, Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be on why today’s lawyers might want to consider the solo option.
    Let me be clear – I’m not suggesting that everyone at Heller go out and start a law firm. But please, do not let this one bad experience spoil you on the practice of law. I know that Heller is a great law firm and the talent that it must have attracted is immense. Perhaps I am greedy, but I don’t want to see our profession lose this potential. My point is that if you are thinking of leaving the law either because you truly never liked it or are upset that you can’t find a position, please, at least give some thought to the option of starting a firm. Read some of the solo blogs, talk the solos from big law firms (I can refer you to many) who have started firms and reinvigorated their interest in law and see if it’s an option – either a temporary one to ride out the recession or perhaps longer term.
    As an energy regulatory attorney, I’ve had a chance to work on so-called “major” cases, like utility mergers and bankruptcies and restructuring of the industry. But at the end of the day, what I remember most are the small moments – the two times that I kept a client out of jail, the time I saved a family from eviction (with a hail Mary maneuver that should not have worked, but did) and most of all, my ability to meet my daughters at the bus every day after school until they were old enough to come home alone – these are the things that have made my career matter to me.
    If anyone at Heller would like to discuss the solo option or get in touch with someone or find more resources, I would be happy to make myself available via email at elefant@myshingle.com, or download a copy of my ebook here – http://www.myshingle.com/promo/services/ (the contest is no longer open, but the link will fetch the ebook) which will hopefully inspire you during these dark days to remember why you came to law and why you should not give up on becoming the lawyer you always wanted to be.

    Carolyn Elefant

  2. 2 hellerdrone 25 September 2008 at 5:55 am


    I love you. Thanks for the time to make this comment! I was hoping that while this blog had a very “support staff” focus that we could get some attorney perspective here and you’ve helped do that.

    Heller Drone
    Cruise Director

  3. 3 Helmintholith 25 September 2008 at 7:49 am

    If you’re corporate or IP, the market will be kinder to you. I’ve practiced complex bus. litig. as a paralegal (many years at Heller) for almost 20 years, and I’ve been out of work for 18 mos. The market is terrible. Best of luck.

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