I’m Laid Off and Want to Travel

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.

Bona Fortuna! 

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Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

13 Comments

  1. Alex Hump

    May 7, 2009 at 5:44 am

    Ex Bitter is spot on.  What’s a year of travel to Europe vs. a year of unemployment in NYC?  With European travel, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is picking up a serious case of the CRABS..  Remember that most European babes don’t know about shaving their underarms –or ‘downtown’ for that matter. The term “Brazilian Bikini Wax” simply does NOT compute to those beeotches, no matter how cute they may be.  So enjoy the Mediterannean, bring an ample supply of condoms –birth control in Italy is verboten other than the “withdrawal method”—and and wear yourself out.  There will be plenty of opportunities for you to use some new Latin phrases other than “res ipsa loquitor” when you return.

  2. Anonymous

    May 7, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Hump = Hopeless

  3. CC

    May 7, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Great advice.  Go to Italy!

  4. Jonnie

    May 7, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Primo advice!

  5. Hannah Palindrome

    May 7, 2009 at 11:42 am

    I PASSED THE NY BAR!!!

    I’m unemployed & HAPPY!!!

    I’m just so happy I never have to study for that “Mother F” test again.

  6. Hannah Palindrome

    May 7, 2009 at 11:43 am

    You have one life to live. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow. ENJOY your freedom!!! TRAVEL your ass off!!!

    Eat, DRINK, and get laid!

  7. Anonymous

    May 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Congrats, Hannah!!!

  8. BL1Y

    May 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Bro, you have no idea how much tail you are going to grab in Europe, they love American lawyers.  One spring break during law school I went to Barcelona with a bunch of law school buddies.  Needless to say when we’d tell the ladies we were lawyers in New York, getting them to bed was like shooting fish in a barrel.  Have fun big guy. 

  9. Quentin Compson

    May 7, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    I travelled for a year and recommend it, but the career implications are considerable.
    Some stiff-shirt hiring partners will think you showed a lack of commitment to the law. Some will worry that you have become rusty. Some will be convinced you were fired for performance reasons, which will be “proven” by the fact that you are not returning to your old firm on at least an hourly basis. A few will HATE you for having gone on the trip they dreamed of—before marriage, mortgage, kids, partership.
    That being said, some lawyers will love your bio.
    So be prepared for extreme responses. Lawyers will either love you or hate you, and it’s a real problem when the two types are on the same hiring committee.

  10. Anon

    May 7, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Quentin:  Agree.  But I think things are a little different now.  So many layoffs, so few jobs….

  11. BL2Y

    May 7, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Hannah, if you want to “celebrate” your bar passage, leave your telephone number here.  I have a few doobies as well as a box of condoms to keep us busy through the weekend.

  12. BL1Y

    May 8, 2009 at 4:25 am

    Not fake BL1Y again…

  13. Hannah Palindrome

    May 11, 2009 at 11:46 am

    BL2Y-

    I prefer the Vibrator.

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