Lawyer layoffs can be tragic

What do you do when you reach 60 years of age, are a partner in a major law firm, and suddenly get laid off? More than 4,000 lawyers and 6,000 staff persons are facing this dilemma.

One such lawyer went to the extreme.  As I’ve said previously, we are in a depression, not just a recession. And with that, as in the 1930s, people take drastic steps, even life-ending steps, when the one involved sees no way out of the depression. Heather Milligan puts a gentle spin on this; she suggests that we are more than economics … we are people with hopes, fears and aspirations. How does the organization meld all of this during hard economic times? A tough challenge for all.

Lawyers, type triple A personalities, are our own harshest critics during adversity. After all, we were and should still be the "top of the heap." How could economic adversity impact us? That thinking leads many of us, far too many to count, to tragic paths … drug and alcohol abuse and even suicide.

What to do? How to do it? … But, do it now! Save more lives, both of the individuals involved and, equally important, their loved ones whose lives they ignore during such tragedies.

I had two separate conversations this week-end with people who are avowed "pure capitalists." They believe that there should be no government "interference" with the free market place, no regulations and no bail-out. That GM and Chrysler should both take care of themselves, including bankruptcy if needed. And that AIG should never have been helped. While I’m not a great supporter of some of the current administration’s economic "olive branches," one thing is clear to me:  We need to find a way to help people who have had little or no impact on the economic crises, yet are feeling the full brunt of the economic downturn. To borrow a phrase from a previous political campaign, there needs to be "compassionate conservatism." That, I think is what is missing from the conversation of those who cliam to be pure "market capitalists." The real issue is where do you draw the line, where is the balance between taking personal responsibility and receiving help to soften the blow from forces outside your control.

Talk to some of the more than 10,000 law firm folks who’ve been laid off recently and the hundreds whose job offers have been delayed or rescinded (and who still have student loans to repay). They may have some ideas worthy of consideration.

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