Just won the lay-off lottery
May 31, 2009 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Just got laid off. Don't HAVE to work for about a year. I could hit the pavement hard and try to get right back into lawyering or I could pretty much do whatever I want. What would you do?

I wouldn't mind getting into something more creative like restoring furniture or becoming a chef of sorts. I can afford to do a long internship right now. So you've got about 12 months of bills paid freedom ahead of you -- how do you use it? Keep in mind that I am not rich -- just got my essentials covered for about a year.
posted by GIRLesq to Work & Money (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best choice I ever made was leaving a top 10 law firm to move to consulting. I had technical and business experience, and am working happily for a (well known) firm consulting for large companies' offices of the general counsel, using my legal talents for perspective and dispute analysis instead of legal advice. No longer defending them against "bet the company" lawsuits and at-all-costs activities. Much happier.

A solid legal background offers so many alternatives to actually practicing. Or, you could refinish furniture :)
posted by VeniceGlass at 3:23 PM on May 31, 2009

my friend got laid off and got nice severance for 6 months. he spend the first 4 slacking and now he's in a bit of a panic that he has nothing yet. just a word of warning, don't laze about too much... if you want to do something vocational/creative/whatever, do it! just don't wait, that year will come faster than you think, and who wants that hanging over ones head.
posted by Mach5 at 3:24 PM on May 31, 2009

I was in your exact situation ten years ago. Instead of getting another job, I looked around, evaluated what I wanted to do in life via "What Color is Your Parachute" and set out on a new path as a freelance consultant. It was one helluva ten year ride!

Give yourself a month off, then do what you feel like for a month or two (restore some furniture, volunteer, whatever) and think about what you want to do.

Right now, you have the incredible gift of freedom. Use it and enjoy it.
posted by RevF^2 at 3:24 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

What would you do?

Figure out what I want and then go do that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:25 PM on May 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

Hi Salvia:

That's EXACTLY what I did last time I changed jobs! And it was fun and it made me pretty happy but I still felt like it was just maximizing my law degree. Do you see what I mean? Last time I asked "what's the best thing I can do with this law degree"? and this time I'm asking: "What's the best thing I can do?"
posted by GIRLesq at 3:54 PM on May 31, 2009

What's the best thing I can do?

Well, what is the best thing you can do? Or baring that, what is it you like to do, even if you're not that best of it? These are questions that only you can answer. If you don't know the answer, you've got a bit of time to figure it out!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:04 PM on May 31, 2009

You could work for an international organization like Amnesty International and live someplace totally new and different. Whether or not you ultimately find that interesting and rewarding, you'll probably gain some unique perspective on the ways of life you're accustomed to by experiencing some you're not. It might even be interesting from a legal perspective.
posted by clockzero at 4:25 PM on May 31, 2009

If I knew my expenses would be paid for a year whatever I did, I'd probably go to law school, so, yeah, what Brandon Blatcher said.
posted by salvia at 4:30 PM on May 31, 2009

What are you interested in besides lawyering, and where are you in the country?

I've gotten interested in agriculture recently and would give my left testicle to be able to take a year completely away from computers and spend it learning to run a large-scale organic farm. Unfortunately, I have too many commitments to do that right now, but I'm working on that. I'd also love to spend a year working with a place that rehabilitates "dangerous" dogs with positive training methods. Food and dogs are *my* passions, though, and you can't have them. ;) I think that anything you're going to be THAT happy doing is going to involve whatever your passions are that way, though.

Brandon, I think she's looking for ideas to help her narrow things down as opposed to having the MeFi community specifically direct her life.
posted by SpecialK at 4:33 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would take the time to hone a new craft that I would really enjoy, and could possibly start making money off of. But I don't know if you intend to keep lawyering after your year off, or switch to a new career/method of providing.

Me, I don't like my current office career, so I'm looking to switch.

I would use the time to learn how to use a camera like a professional (via internship, classes, books, etc.) and practice on friends and families, then try to get some paying gigs. I know it is an area I would enjoy and would like to branch into.

But that's just me. Whatever you choose to do, though, make sure it is something that you enjoy!
posted by firei at 4:40 PM on May 31, 2009

I know that this comes back to maximizing your law degree, but you may suddenly be in a position to do a lot of pro-bono work for organizations or groups that need help but can't afford to pay. Which would look really awesome for you later on, no matter what you went on to do...
posted by hermitosis at 4:43 PM on May 31, 2009

Figure out what I want and then go do that


Do you like the law? If not, do something else!

I think lawyers in particular are victims of the sunk cost fallacy -- you've spent all that time and money getting a fancy degree! surely it's unwise to just throw it out! The previous "what's the best thing I can do with this law degree" question suggests that you may be susceptible to this.

If you want to go to cooking or furniture restoration school... you only live once.

I'm a little biased here, mind, as I'm an ex-lawyer currently working on a phd myself. If you want to talk more, my mefimail is open.
posted by paultopia at 5:43 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

In consideration of what you should specifically do? Its entirely relative to your interests and talents. Toward that end, I'd take a few weeks to really evaluate what is important/meaningful/fulfilling for you. Set a deadline though, time has a tendency to fly by.

Here's a tried and true approach for this: Brainstorm a variety of professions that you think would fit the bill for this. You'll end up with a mind-map that will show you a spectrum of possibility; it is essential that you do not stop here. The next task is to identify what aspects of each profession generate an interest or passion for you. For example, perhaps the idea of being a doctor is meaningful for you because of the professions capacity to help others? Maybe its because the profession has an appeal because it has a high-rate of compensation? Both? The point is to find out what underlying aspect of each option generates your passion, and then to determine which of your present options contain them. Sure, maybe there is no need for another underwater basket-weaver, but you can still find endeavors that have the same creative capacity.
I went back and re-read your post, and its unclear: are you looking to establish an entirely new career, or are you looking for something to do in the meantime while you enjoy some much needed time off? The fact that you mention considering making furniture because of it's creative capacity might be an indication that the former option should be taken into consideration. Worst-case scenario, you go back to your old line of work; you do have a very specialized skill-set, and will be able to get a similar job again fairly easy.

Either way, best of luck to you. Hit the gym, spend time with friends and Family, catch up on some of the things you've had to put off because of work.

Enjoy your time off!
posted by platosadvocate at 6:08 PM on May 31, 2009

Another vote for self-employment, especially of the portable variety. You could spend the time off figuring out how to become self-employed so you couldn't get laid off again and you could work anywhere that has an internet connection. That's what I've done, and I highly recommend it. You have to like risk and all that, however.
posted by PatoPata at 6:27 PM on May 31, 2009

Take two months off, with the express purpose of

a) enjoying yourself as fully as possible, preferably somewhere far from where you live ordinarily;
b) putting aside the "What color is my parachute" question completely.

After those two months, you'll probably find yourself generating much better answers than the ones that would naturally come to mind now.
posted by darth_tedious at 6:28 PM on May 31, 2009

If I had a year off, all expenses paid, I would try to launch an art and music career. As it is, I keep a list of my ideas and work on them when I can and wish for a time when I might actually be able to devote myself to them.
posted by limeonaire at 7:25 PM on May 31, 2009

I would move to a foreign country where my money would go pretty far and I could still live nicely. Otherwise, I would just pound the pavement and look for work. I understand from resumes I see coming in (I'm in a field that isn't related to law at all) that your fellow lawyers who have been laid off are really suffering and trying to turn this into a "Let me find a new career" experience since there don't appear to be a lot of lawyer jobs open. That's what we were guessing at the office anyway, since we've never seen this level of inquiries from people with law degrees before (usually one or two a month during good times...now it's thirty times that amount).
posted by anniecat at 8:20 PM on May 31, 2009

Do something on a whim. Something that you normally wouldn't consider either because it's not your "type", or it's too daring (or conservative!!) for you, or because you don't think you have the skills, or whatever. Don't worry about people judging you - heck, go for something that would get you a lot of sneering.

If you like it, great! If not, move on. And keep doing this.

This is how I found my new passion for burlesque. I had just finished uni, thought I only had a month or so left in Australia, and while I'd heard about burlesque I was never really game enough to try. The time limit, and my upcoming role in the Vagina Monologues, gave me the motivation to try. 6 months later, I'm applying for permanent residency, I've got a business and a burlesque name, and I'm flying back to Brisbane tonight to participate in my first burlesque competition.
posted by divabat at 9:36 PM on May 31, 2009

Look, you said you were possibly interested in being a chef or work with furniture. So go try those things out. Find work in a kitchen and see how you like it. Hit up some furniture repair place and offer to be the low paid gopher in return for them teaching you something. Do each for a month or two, see how you like it.

Oh, and remember that 12 months go by quickly. I'd have a shorter time frame, even if I knew that savings would last for 12 months. No sense waiting till the last minute to try and find a paying job.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:43 PM on May 31, 2009

I'd road-trip it. I'd visit national parks and monuments, museums, mountains, shakespeare festivals, and best of all, friends. I'd hop on the train or in the car and explore for three months. And if I could convince an out-of-work pal or two to join me for a week at a time, so much the better. Of course, road-tripping isn't free, so this might cut my total survival time from 12 months to 9, but I think it would be worth it.

After the road trip I'd take classes in anything I ever wanted to learn: pottery, woodworking, painting, singing, cake-decorating. And among those things that I'm passionate about I'd find something I wanted to do every day that could also pay most of the bills. And then I'd start looking for a job in a bakery or workshop, or start selling my hand-crafted wares on etsy.

Your skills as a lawyer will never go to waste - what Mom&Pop bakery wouldn't want a pastry chef who can also rattle off accurate legal advice? - but you could have wasted your skills as a jeweler or fashion designer if you'd spent your entire life as GIRLesq. (A change in username may soon be in order, hmm?) So congratulations on your new path, whatever it may be, and best of luck!
posted by philotes at 12:15 PM on June 1, 2009

Brace yourselves, Kids. I am kind of thinking of becoming a sommelier. Maybe I could ghost write briefs or something like that to bring in extra cash. You guys have been really helpful as always! Thanks so much!
posted by GIRLesq at 9:29 AM on June 2, 2009

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