On May 1st, I was laid off from a BigLaw firm as a third-year associate. I have been applying to jobs for several months because I knew it was coming. But so far there have been few bites.
I realize that if I was ever going to do some major traveling or live in another county, now is the time. I’m thinking of enrolling at a university in Italy for six to nine months. I’ve always lived cheap and saved about $75,000 (working in NYC, this wasn’t always easy), so I think I can get by on no salary for this time period.
I’m writing you to ask what the long-term implications would be if I fall off the grid for a while. Would a law firm hire me if I haven’t practiced for almost a year? I basically have my heart set on taking this adventure, but I’d like to know your take on any potential damage to my career. Thanks.
The short answer: Travel your ass off, brother. You’re exactly right in that you’ll never have this kind of free time again. So if you’ve got the travel itch, scratch it. Going to school in Italy for six to nine months sounds great.
As for the career implications, I think they’re minimal. On the positive side, when you resurface in the States and begin interviewing, you’ll have something interesting to talk about and will be infinitely more intriguing than the neurotic, sad-sack who stuck around Manhattan for 12 months obsessing over his unemployment.
Another huge positive: You’ll actually have some goddamn fun and learn about Italian culture—not to mention great wine and beautiful women. I know such thoughts are taboo in legal circles, but that’s why your plan makes perfect sense. After three years of BigFirm hell, you deserve a little joy. Trust me, you’ll be the envy of every employed dork, wasting his life away in some tiny office overlooking the Hudson.
As for the negatives, you’ll be less desirable to BigFirms than if you did something law-related, but that’s okay. You’re probably not at the top of their must-hire list anyway since you got laid off. Right or wrong, BigFirms don’t like to hire laterals who got canned by other BigFirms—just like how narcissistic guys don’t like to date chicks who got dumped by other guys. Doesn’t mean she’s not hot, just means she’s a little less desirable.
The only other negative I see is that you’ll be “held back” a year in terms of class. In other words, firms won’t give you a year’s worth of law firm credit for drinking Chianti and chasing raven-haired hotties up and down Via Veneto. Sounds like a hell of a small price to pay if you ask me.