Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lawpsided Reason #3 to Love Layoffs: Living the Dream

If the promise of weight loss and closer family relationships isn't enough to allow you to accept (if not outright, enjoy) being laid off, then perhaps you'll embrace the concept of being able to pursue your dreams.  After all, where you really that happy in your past job?  If you're anything like me (and heaven help you, if you are), then your former employer may have done you the biggest favor of your life.  And, unlike in my CLE seminars, I actually know what I'm talking about in this case.

I was never quite cut out for being a large law firm associate.  Sure, I was able to fake my way through it with good looks, wit and my renown sense of humility, but I wasn't happy.  In fact, I remember sitting through a seminar and listening to the speaker ask the audience, "If you won $40 million in the California lottery tomorrow, would you show up to work on Monday?"  I thought, "I'm not showing up Monday or Tuesday or the following July!  Heck, I wouldn't even go back to the office to pick up my stuff, including the pictures of my wife and kids.  In fact, if I left my actual wife and kids in the office, I'm still not going back!  I'll send a limo for them; or maybe not."

It's safe to say that I was jaded.  Fortunately, shortly thereafter, my law firm "freed up my future for other opportunities" (their words not mine).  And after ten years of reflection (and hundreds of sessions of therapy), I've come to realize that they did this black man the greatest favor since CBS cancelled Good Times.  I now have a job that I love more than J.J. loved Big Macs.  All I can say is, "Dynomite!"

If you've ever contemplated a career change, or even a life change, what better time than now?  What do you have to lose -- your economic security?  At this point, it should be clear to everyone that economic security is a utopian fantasy, much like say, world peace, happily ever after or an Obama cabinet member's tax return.  So don't let the fact that your bank account is more overdrawn than Jessica Rabbit stop you from pursuing your dream job.  Even if you fall hopelessly in debt with no chance of ever being able to repay it, what's the worse they can do to you -- make you CEO of Citibank?  In other words, as my broker started saying last fall, "It's money, right?  Oh God!  Please shoot me!"

Of course, if you're happy practicing law, then by all means, return to the practice when things turn around. However, in the meantime, you should at least seize the opportunity to pursue your other interests (or better yet, to get some).  And for once, take the limits off of your dreams.  The sky is the limit ... literally!

For example, in the past, you may have always wanted to sky dive.  However, you talked yourself out of it because it wasn't the smart thing to do.  You had a family depending upon your income for their economic survival.  If you were hurt or injured in some way, you would be putting everyone at risk.  Well, not anymore!  You're probably worth more dead now than you are worth alive (a fact you might want to hide from your spouse).  In essence, you're playing with the house's money.  Let it ride!

If you want to skydive, do it.  If you want to bungee jump, do it.  If you want to date on the Internet ... don't be silly!  There are limits to what is prudent, even for the unemployed.  However, with that one exception, nothing should be off the table.

Take, for instance, one of my biggest fantasies -- being a contestant on the reality TV show, Survivor.  Each year, they choose a lawyer to be on the show.  He or she never wins, but I can't help but to think, "That could be me who the entire tribe hates and can't wait to vote out!"  If you've ever felt the same way, this is your opportunity to finally live your dream.

When you were employed at the big firm, it was out of the question.  Could you imagine asking the managing partner for six weeks off so you could participate in a "game show"?  You would have had a better chance of getting through airport security wearing an "I Love Osama bin Laden" t-shirt.  However, now you can go with the firm's complete blessing.  In fact, they might actually pay for one-way airfare if you agree to stop posting hateful comments about the firm on your blog,

Best of all, your recent experience of being unemployed should make you the odds-on favorite to win the prize of Sole Survivor and $1 million.  While the other contestants are whining about being deprived of luxuries like soap, pillows and food, you'll be whistling Dixie thinking, "No food?  What are they talking about?  I found a tasty earthworm just two days ago.  How often do these wimps expect to eat -- weekly?"

And even if you don't win, you'll have the pride of knowing that you did what most people can only imagine -- you pursued a dream.  Or, you can sit around updating your blog every hour about the most recent law firm round of lay-offs.  Take your pick!

Lawpsided Reason #2 to Love Layoffs: Bringing Your Family Together

Continuing on our theme of the upside of the downsize, let's take a look at how your layoff is going to bring your family together in ways you hadn't thought imaginable.

Let's face it.  If you were the typical big firm lawyer, you weren't able to spend as much time with your children as you would have liked.  In fact, you might not even be able to name them all on sight (this might be true even if you have just one child).  You probably just call for them by using generic nicknames like "Pumpkin", "Handsome", "Whatyoumacallit", "WhoseYourFace" or "Hey you, the short one!"  

Well, that's going to change.  You're going to become very close to your children, both literally and figuratively.  For one, you will no longer have to search your 6,000 sq. ft. home for them, wondering which of the seven bedrooms they might be playing in.  It's going to be a snap finding them in your new studio apartment.  They'll be the little obstacles that you trip over in the middle of the night on your way to shared bathroom down the hall. 

Financial austerity will bring your family closer in other ways.  When you were employed, you drove the kids to school each morning while conducting business on the phone.  You'd then slow to a roll and fling them out of the vehicle as you burned rubber out of the parking lot and raced to work.  You likely repeated the same process in the evening, occasionally picking up the wrong child (no big deal, their parents probably didn't even realize that they were gone).

Well, all of that is going to change.  You will actually be able to talk to your children on the ride to and from school.  And there won't be any need to rush.  You'll be able to drive at a leisurely pace; at least, until the bank takes back the car.  And even then, you'll have plenty of time to walk the kids to school.  The walk will not only build up their little bodies, but allow them to complain to their children that, when they were kids, they had to walk to school ... six miles ... uphill ... both ways.  Up until now, you've deprived them of this kind of tale of childhood woe.  Bad parent!  Bad parent!

Your parenting is also going to go to the next level when you began volunteering as the middle school soccer coach, drama club stage manager, afternoon school crossing guard or lunch lady.  Before long, your kids will feel that they can't get enough of you.  "Mom, you are, like, soooo embarrassing me.  When you pick me up from school tomorrow, can you pretend that you are kidnapping me or at least, take off the hair net?"  However, despite their current protests, you should continue your volunteer efforts knowing that (1) you are going to be building memories that they will cherish in the years to come; and (2) if you work hard, you might get hired full-time as the lunch lady.

Finally, you will be able to spend time with your children at the end of the day.  No longer will you tuck them into bed by phone.  "Daddy loves you, Julie!  Your name isn't Julie?  Is this 456-3227?  It's 3277?  Uggh!  Well, good night, whoever you are!"  Instead, you'll help them with their homework.  "Okay, Toby.  Today, we're going to work on a creative writing assignment -- Daddy's resume."  And after a light dinner (very light), you'll get them ready for bed.  As you lean beside their bed at the end of a long day, you'll look your child in the eye and say, "Always remember that Daddy loves you.  And also remember that, if Mommy asks, Daddy only had two beers since you got home from school."

All kidding aside, this could be a time to really bond with your kids like you've always dreamed of doing.  In a few months, you might find yourself asking, "Why did I spend so many years slaving away as a law firm associate?"  Or you may think, "Why didn't I go to business school instead of law school?"  I guess it all depends on how well the lunch lady gig turns out.

Lawpsided Reason #1 to Love Layoffs: The Recession Diet

If you've recently been laid off or fear that you will be next (i.e., you are a young lawyer in a large law firm), then take heart.  There are some plusses to being "downsized," if you will only look at it the right way.  After all, as author Aldous Huxley once said, “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.” Of course, unlike the rest of us, Huxley actually had a real talent to fall back on, but I digress ....

In times like these, it's important to remember that you choose our attitude.  You can either look at your bank account as being almost completely empty or almost completely not full.  The choice is yours.  Likewise, you choose whether to endure lean times or to become lean and mean as a result of them.  This is true both figuratively and literally.

Let's face it.  If you're like most of us, you spent the last few years being fat and happy; once again, both figuratively and literally.  As a result, you probably no longer fit into, say, your wedding dress, tuxedo or maybe even, your first apartment.  The good news is that your weight is about to drop just as fast as your credit score.  The even better news is that it isn't going to take willpower or discipline to whip you into shape.

For example, you've probably been out to dinner with friends and thought, "I really should just have the salad."  However, the fried calamari looked so good.  And you'd heard such good things about the pork tenderloin and garlic mashed potatoes.  And, of course, you had to wash down your meal with a bottle of wine.  Finally, you topped off the outing with the tiramisu (just to balance out the saltiness of the calamari).  And then 7,000 calories later, you could just kick yourself for not ordering the salad; well, assuming that you could lift one of your elephant-like legs off the floor.

Well, this kind of guilt and recrimination is a thing of the past.  From now on, you will be able to stick to your diet.  You won't have any other choice.  The only item on the menu in your price range will be the salad -- the house salad.  And needless to say, wine and dessert will be out the question.  Just think how much your friends will envy your resolve to have just a salad and a glass of tap water.

Of course, a healthy diet is only half of the weight loss picture.  The other half is exercise and here is where being unemployed is worth your weight in gold.  While in the past you might have achieved limited results with pilates or yoga, you're about to be enrolled in the ultimate workout program -- poverty.  After all, with those other plans, you go to the gym what -- two or three times a week?  That's for wimps!  The poverty plan is an everyday all-day workout and trust me, you will feel the burn.

You'll feel it as you run for the bus each morning.  You'll feel it as you lug your clothes to and from the laundry mat.  And you'll feel it in a hundred other ways as you are now forced to do the things that you used to pay people to do for you.  Before long, you will be transformed from a soft and gelatinous mass of humanity into a lean and mean fighting machine (which will come in handy during your morning bus ride).

Just think, you will once again have the body of a 17-year old.  Of course, you will also have the net worth of one, but you can really put a price on youth?  My attorney says that you can't.  However, what does he know?  He got laid off yesterday too.