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How to Spot a Layoff: 5 Warning Signs

By Edward Tan, JD on May 14, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

With Dewey & LeBoeuf's seemingly imminent demise creeping ever closer, associates nationwide are understandably worried about their own job security. But fear not, you can ease your anxiety by figuring out how to spot layoff warning signs.

You're all smart people. After all, you made it through law school and the bar. So you already know shrinking profits and industry decline are good indicators of an impending layoff.

But these signals can often come too late, leaving you little time to protect yourself against the dreaded "resume employment gap." Here are five early warning signs that usually accompany layoffs.

1) Partners Jumping Ship

You saw it happen before Thelen Reid collapsed, so be sure to keep an eye out for any major partners leaving your firm. Partners are usually the first ones to learn of a firm's financial problems. And though they may seem loyal, the instinct for survival often wins out at the end.

2) Lots of Meetings and Lots of Exclusion

Rampant meetings that you either used to be a part of or are being excluding from can be a sign that you're getting canned. But in terms of layoffs, it can also mean a whole crop of associates could be walking the plank with you.

3) Budget Cuts and Disappearing Property

Law firms cut back for the same reasons that you do: money. And when cash is tight, property assets can also start disappearing, too. Has your firm's catered lunches transformed into instant noodles? Has its expensive art collection slowly gone missing? If so, you may want to start job hunting.

4) Layoff Announcements from Competitors

While internal layoff announcements are bad news, competitor layoffs can be just as bad. Especially if the rival is a particularly large firm. This type of news can be an indicator of trouble in the industry as a whole and, in turn, subject you to a jobless fate.

5) Management or Law Firm Reorganization

Whether it's already happening or an announcement, reorganization is never good. They usually don't end without someone getting fired.

Knowing how to spot layoff warning signs is the best way to keep you off the bread line. So stay vigilant.

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