Unsure as to how I should proceed.
May 21, 2009 2:14 PM   Subscribe

The place I work may be going under. What should I do?

I work as an attorney and the managing partner had all of us attorneys in a meeting yesterday. He told us that the firm is basically out of money and that he's worried about making payroll next week. We have 10 attorneys and 2 partners here, so it's a small firm.

I like the work environment here, and the partners are generous (to a fault, it seems). The main partner is a bit oafish and I think he may be putting his head in the sand as to how bad things really are. The other partner is bad about collecting his accounts receivable, which is probably the main reason the firm is in this mess.

I'm already looking for another job, but what do I do if this place does actually go under? There is work to be done and clients whose problems won't go away.

Do I stay on in the hopes I may get paid down the line, or do I just jump ship and leave all the work for others to do?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't leave unless you have a firm offer in hand from another firm. You should be able to collect unemployment if the company dissolves, but you don't get that advantage if you up and quit.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:21 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, definitely ride things out until you have a stable offering somewhere else--even if you may not get paid for it, there's a decent chance you might be able to.

As to the clients and work to be done, that's just simply not your responsibility, and, in fact, you may legally not be able to do anything for them anyway. You're definitely not in a position to broadcast to the clients the financial state of the firm, so keep quiet on that front.

If you're in a position where you can assist, or at least push them to do better at collections, assert yourself that way.

Meanwhile, start saving, and preparing for having to go on unemployment. But stick around, ask what you can do, and ask what they're doing to make things work.
posted by disillusioned at 2:27 PM on May 21, 2009

What would you do if you jumped ship? Are you thinking of walking away without having any other plan?

If you have no other plan - you should ride it out, and start making a plan. But I wouldnt jump just to jump.
posted by Flood at 2:29 PM on May 21, 2009

Not enough information -- are they planning to close the doors, put payroll on a credit card, have people work and get paid when the invoices come in? Do you have another job offer? Have these clients been told, and if so, are they now offering to hire people as consultants to finish the work? (I'm assuming not, and I wouldn't bring that idea up.) (And I'm assuming you'd need, like, malpractice insurance or something to do that.)

I'd ask your supervisor and your coworkers what you should do. Let your supervisor know that you're very unclear on what's going on and would appreciate their professional advice, and even any unofficial personal advice they could offer, about how you might want to proceed. You might add that you do feel quite dedicated to the cases and would like to continue working to help solve these clients' problems.
posted by salvia at 2:34 PM on May 21, 2009

If you do stay, it might be worth seeing if the firm can sell some or all of its accounts receivable debt to a third party. It wouldn't be for the full amount obviously, but would get cash in the door quickly.

With the cash, they may be able to meet a (reduced?) payroll and sign a contract for a collections expert.
posted by Pants! at 2:40 PM on May 21, 2009

I'd call your local bar association, give them the situiation as you gave it to us (without specifics) and ask what your duties and responsibilities are with regards to any current cases you may have open.
Perhaps taking them on independently would be an option if the firm does indeed go under.
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:55 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Here's what I would do:

- Cut expenses as much as you can, to build a cash cushion.
- Use any insurance perks you might be losing (ie, get a dental checkup)
- File any outstanding expenses.
- If you have a 401k, I'd cease payments and roll it over into a brokerage rollover account, so you know it's under your control.
- Start actively looking for another job
- If they miss one paycheck, and you don't have anything lined up, keep "working", but don't kill yourself. Focus on finding something new.
- If they miss two paychecks, don't come back to work. Don't burn bridges -- be polite and say you'd be happy to come back once they have the resources -- but don't waste any more time on them.

I've had friends strung out for _months_ with promises of being paid "any day now". And friends of those friends lost houses waiting.

You stay too long, and you'll be emotionally committed to staying, as they owe you more and more.
posted by bitterpants at 2:58 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

The advice about calling the bar association (or doing something similar, like contacting a malpractice attorney of your own) is good: you may have an ethical obligation to continue working on client matters that is NOT discharged just because you are not getting paid. It depends on what kind of work you are doing and what stage it is at.

Don't just stop working. Your firm or you may face sanctions- it's not worth it.

This is not legal advice, etc. etc.
posted by ohio at 3:46 PM on May 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ok -- I realize my advice is from tech-sector experience and the law world may be different, in which case ignore me completely.
posted by bitterpants at 3:49 PM on May 21, 2009

Also, since it is a small company, and you like it there, you would be helping yourself out if you helped them. Simply as a support, a motivating factor in getting them to collect on their accounts, suggestions and leads to help them, digging the guys head out of the sand, taking the lead in a brainstorming session, etc.

People who run businesses don't know it all, so helping them in that regard could help yourself. When a business is ending, I feel we should all pitch in with knowledge and our own education to help it survive. The employer/employee structure, and being 'proper' thins out pretty fast there.
posted by Vaike at 3:56 PM on May 21, 2009

As to the clients and work to be done, that's just simply not your responsibility

This is 100% incorrect in the legal field, and in fact you could be disciplined by the state bar (possibly including disbarment) if you abandon your clients. This goes to show you really need to ask knowledgeable people on these issues, such as the local bar association.
posted by rkent at 4:08 PM on May 21, 2009

ask...the local bar association

posted by davejay at 9:21 PM on May 21, 2009

« Older help me figure out what this system process is...   |   Do I *have* to put my son on my car insurance? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.