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Redundancy – coming out on top

There is no longer the stigma that once attached to redundancy. However, lawyers who have been made redundant need to plan how they are going to find their next role, writes Amy Bullock.

Over the last 12 months, ‘redundancy’ is a word that we have heard all too regularly in the workplace, amongst friends and in the media. Across the country, lawyers of all experience levels have been hit by the slowdown in work and budget cuts.

And with the unpredictable economic climate still grasping the country and the potential challenges of a general election taking place in the New Year – it is anticipated that we could see this trend continue.

So what does this mean for lawyers that have been hit by redundancy?

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The perceptions of redundancy have changed compared to previous years, and as it has become more commonplace employers are increasingly empathetic to those that have found themselves in this position. Redundancy is no longer associated with individuals that are underperforming in their jobs, or a reflection of your skills and capabilities. It purely means that your job or role is no longer required by a business or organisation for whatever reason, whether that is an office closure or outsourcing of work.

From a recruitment perspective, we have not seen any stigma linked with redundancy, and there is no evidence that it hindered lawyers from securing a new opportunity, tarred their reputation or their ability to progress in their career.

But rather than contemplating the ‘whys and wherefores’  - let’s look to the future and how to best deal with the situation that you have unfortunately found yourself in.

Before cutting all ties with your ex-employer, depending on the circumstances, it is advised that you take the initiative to secure a letter or acknowledgement from them outlining the situation and background behind your redundancy e.g. office closure. This will provide you with a bit more confidence when taking that next step to securing a new opportunity – and support your CV when applying for roles.

The first steps

From the outset it is important that you are honest and upfront about your redundancy when embarking on your job search whether it be on your CV or in an interview. You should not be afraid at any point of disclosing your current situation to a prospective employer.

Following redundancy, few lawyers have been lucky enough to secure a new position straight away – so it is important to consider how you are going to make yourself more employable, continually up to date with legal developments, and enhance your CV in the process. If you have been in the same job for a number of years, it is unlikely that your CV is current – so now is the perfect time to reassess your career plan and review your experience.

The job market is very unpredictable – so you need to be flexible in your job search. For example, very specialist legal professionals have struggled to secure a new role, due to the fact that their experience and knowledge is so niche – this may be more relevant to those private practice lawyers that are keen to move into the public sector. However, regardless of your specialism, it is recommended that you develop your transferable skills – enabling you to enhance your CV.

There are a number of ways in which you can do this. There are, for example, a number of not-for-profit organisations across the country that are crying out for legal skills – which would provide you with a great opportunity to keep you busy, give something back and gain experience in other areas. One initiative includes LawWorks Choices, a new project for unemployed lawyers. It gives you the chance to give pro bono advice to individuals and not-for-profit groups, to carry on practising and massively improve your employment prospects.

The legal sector moves at a very fast and fluid pace, so staying on top of developments is vital. It could really make a difference to you when looking for a new job; an employer will want to know that you are proactive, focused and ‘on the ball’.

Attending courses and seminars provides you with a strong platform to maintain and upgrade and develop your skills. Plus they don’t necessarily have to cost you money – a number of recruitment agencies hold them for free throughout the year as part of their commitment to you and your career. It is definitely worth keeping in touch with your consultant to keep abreast of their events calendar for the year.

The plan

Looking for a new job can be a time consuming process, so it is advisable that you plan how you are going to go about it, ensuring that you encompass all of the different channels available including online, social media, traditional networking, recruitment consultants, trade and national press. It is likely that your discipline or specialism will impact the channel that is most applicable to you – but it is a good idea to widen your goal posts so not to limit your options.

With the market continuously changing, the opportunities and requirements of employers is also changing – for example, the number of locum roles has increased as they provide the employer with increased flexibility, and access to lawyers with specific skill sets. It may be worth considering the locum route for the short term, as it enables you to keep your CV up to date, enhance your skill base and experience different working environments – as well as providing you with flexibility. A specialist legal recruiter would be able to provide you with further information about the opportunities available and factors to consider.

Networking should play a key role in your job search, whether it is via social media such as LinkedIn or through professional networking bodies. It is a really effective channel to facilitate the opening up of new opportunities. It is surprising how many positions are secured through referrals and word of mouth – so use your contacts to get your name out there.

The fact that you have been made redundant should not impact any stage in this process. Prospective employers will appreciate and acknowledge your honesty. And the more proactive that you are, the more attractive you will be to an employer.

Lastly, when you are successful and secure your next role it may be advisable to be astute when negotiating a new contract of employment, as it is the best time to put measures in place for the future.

Amy Bullock is manager of the legal division at Sellick Partnership Yorkshire



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