What does a law firm do when it has to let an associate go? Downsizing requires significant planning and know-how. Law firms must consider the financial, morale, and public relations effects of any human relations move they make. Fortunately, with the right guidance, law firms can provide their former employees with the resources to transition to another position, and simultaneously preserve the firm culture and reputation. Today, more and more law firms are turning to experienced outplacement professionals for this very reason.
A law firm's reputation doesn't have to be adversely effected by restructuring. "Downsizing can be an unfortunate reality at times," says Hindi Greenberg, an outplacement professional and founder of Lawyers in Transition. "But if employees are treated with courtesy and given the right resources to find a new position law firms can maintain their positive image in the aftermath of staff reductions."
How the Outplacement Process Works
Outplacement professionals begin by working with associates to determine career goals and objectives. Then, the associate is provided with contacts and information that will help them achieve these objectives. At the same time, the outplacement expert can advise the law firm on how to address important internal and external issues that might affect the firm and assist with communications about staffing changes. Thus, the best interests of both the former employee and the law firm can be balanced to achieve a fair result for all parties.
Assisting an associate looking for a new position has benefits for both that associate and the law firm. "When associates are treated fairly, it is possible that the associate may maintain a relationship with the firm after he or she leaves," says Greenberg. "Down the road, this may result in business or a reference for the law firm from that individual."
A courteous downsizing can also reduce costs for the business. A reduction in unemployment claims and avoiding costly lawsuits can help keep your expenses down and your staff focused on restructuring your business for future success instead of dealing with arguments arising from hurt feelings or frustrated expectations. Preserving the company's reputation within the communities of potential future employees can also reduce recruitment costs when your company recovers and seeks to expand.
Helping Remaining Employees
Another factor law firms should consider is how remaining employees will react to downsizing. Will they be next? How have the departing employees been treated? Will the workload increase? Outplacement professionals have addressed these questions and dozens of similar ones hundreds of times before, and can advise law firms on the best responses to give to concerned employees. "The last thing a law firm wants is for their employees to be distracted from their work as a result of restructuring," says Greenberg. "If done correctly, existing associates will understand the management decision as necessary and important for the firm."
The Bottom Line
Downsizing isn't easy for employees or law firms, and a seasoned outplacement professional can ensure that restructuring goes as smoothly as possible. Sure, a law firm can represent itself pro se when downsizing, but experienced outplacement professionals -- not unlike experienced legal representation -- can be worth their weight in gold.