Job security is on the radar screens of most lawyers. Many lawyers, however, perceive that their jobs are very secure, when in reality they are not. Due to a false sense of security, these lawyers often neglect the networking they should be doing.

Three scenarios demonstrate this concept of a false sense of job security.

The Lawyer In Denial

The lawyer with no clients of his or her own is very vulnerable. It does not matter if you work for a behemoth on Wall Street or a three-person firm in the boonies. If you do not have your own clients, you will never have genuine job security.

I have met many minders and grinders who delude themselves regarding job security since a paycheck keeps coming. Of course, the paycheck keeps coming only because of one or two “finders” at your firm have been feeding you with a steady stream of work. In other words, your job security is inextricably tied to the fortunes of those finders. Do you really want to be completely dependent upon one or two people?

Stop the excuses and start finding your own clients. I’ve heard all the excuses, from “I didn’t go to law school to become a ‘salesperson’” to “I don’t have the time for business development.” You need to bite the bullet. Get out of the office and start networking. If you do not, you will receive little sympathy from me when you suddenly become extraneous at your law firm.

The Lawyer Who is Too Comfortable

One or two clients is better than no clients, but it is still risky. Here again, the issue is dependency. It does not matter if the client is an individual, a closely held corporation, or a huge conglomerate. Many scenarios can go wrong with the client, and before you know it, your very respectable book of business has disappeared — along with your value to the firm.

Anecdotally, this most commonly occurs when a business client is sold and the key relationship person is either gone or no longer in a position of authority. Plus, the new decision-maker could have a trusted and long-term relationship with a different attorney. In this situation, the client is probably lost forever.

The advice here is simple. Diversify your client base. Do not keep too many eggs in one basket. Find more clients.

The Lawyer Who Feels Too Safe at Home

Many attorneys prefer to work in-house because those jobs are thought to be more secure than those in private practice. Nothing could be further from the truth. The in-house counsel scenario is just a slight variation of the lawyer with very few clients. In this case, however, there is only one client.

Company ABC could be sold tomorrow, or experience tough economic times. Agency XYZ could have its budget slashed. Can they afford a full complement of lawyers? In either situation, how secure is your job?

Regardless of the scenario, many lawyers believe that there is little they can do to enhance job security because they do not control the circumstances that could dictate their destinies. While that is true, there are still things that all lawyers can and should do, starting with keeping your network active.

Keep Networking

Networking is not just for attorneys trying to build a book of business. It is also a way to learn about new opportunities in your field that you might want to consider even when employed. Most importantly, it is a way to develop relationships with people who can help you should you ever become unemployed. If you lose your job, you want to be able to hit the ground running. You can do that by maintaining and expanding your network.

Your job may not be as secure as you think. If you’re in private practice, only lawyers with who diversify their clients are truly secure. If you are in-house, do not be lulled into thinking your networking days are in the past. No matter where you work, networking is the best way to achieve more job security.

Originally published 2014-06-24. Last updated 2015-08-06.

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