One thing about the recession: nobody knows if we are in one or going to be in one or what is happening. 

And it doesn’t matter. 

Whether there is a recession or not, the market is shifting. On the one hand, we’ve seen layoffs at some big firms (Kirland, Cooley, and Gunderson, and on the other, we’ve seen bonuses at firms like Cravath set the scale for many other big firms, and the Florida market is as hot as ever.  

Undoubtedly, some markets and practice areas are doing better than others.

Market change is routine, and the recession label is much less important than the impact on your career. No matter where we are in the cycle, if you feel your practice is under threat, it probably is, and you should take action. 

So the question isn’t: “is there a recession?” It’s: “what are you going to do to build your practice regardless of market conditions?”

I have some suggestions. 

Build your personal brand

One candidate I talked to is an M&A specialist at a firm well-known for litigation, but everything slowed down. In a matter of weeks, he went from being overworked to having time on his hands.  

His question was, “what do I do with my time?” 

I suggested using the lulls to prepare for the future.

It is important to use the time you have to make yourself more valuable. The first, best, and easiest way to do that is to build your business. 

The best way to build your business is to get your name out there.  

Go to networking events and meet people. Write articles, blog posts, or books. Connect with people on LinkedIn and take action now to build your reputation and personal brand. Become the expert in your field.  

Think about Retooling

Branding and building your network are musts, but if you are in a practice area that is in decline, you may feel particularly anxious about the future. 

As I write this in late 2022, corporate M&A is on a downswing (wondering what practice areas are stronger and weaker today? Check out our market barometer.) As M&A declines, though, bankruptcy tends to take off.  

The work you do for M&A transactions transfers well to workouts and restructuring. It isn’t hard to retool your practice to focus on bankruptcy. You may need a couple of CLE credits, or perhaps you write an article on bankruptcy – it doesn’t take much. 

Think creatively about retooling opportunities

I worked with a lawyer who was a big name in video games; he had a strong reputation in the video game industry. 

However, he saw an even more lucrative opportunity in the cryptocurrency industry, so he started to direct his attention in that direction. 

At the time, he wasn’t an expert in cryptocurrencies. Still, it turned out that the technical knowledge he’d gained in the video game industry mapped very well to cryptocurrencies. 

Also, many of the clients were the same, and the trust he’d built in the video game industry smoothed his transition to cryptocurrencies. 

Think about emerging trends such as ESG

In the case of the lawyer above, cryptocurrency was an emerging trend, making it easier for him to join in. Wherever there is growth, you’ll find more demand than supply, making it easier for you to establish yourself. 

Another emerging trend worth considering is ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). As I write this demand for lawyers who can operate in the ESG realm are in demand. 

Making the switch or adding the practice doesn’t have to be complicated: is there a case or a deal you worked on lately that had something to do with ESG? Use that to show your experience. Or take some CLE in ESG and write an article or a blog post. In an emerging market, getting your foot in the door isn’t tough, and it can be a great hedge against recession.  

ESG, cryptocurrencies, and bankruptcy are examples. If you are worried about your practice area, look around and consider where those tangential opportunities lie. And don’t be afraid to venture into new areas; you’ll catch up soon enough. 

Don’t give up

Remember, the market is cyclical; there will always be good and bad years. Use the lulls to build your brand or retool and prepare for the next upswing. 

The effort you put into building your book and your brand will always pay off: partners with books of business don’t participate in recessions. Retooling can help you keep busy as the market shifts while broadening your client base and increasing your book.  

The important thing is to take action, whatever action, to stay ahead of and profit from market shifts.  

If you have a book of business but are unhappy at your firm, we can help with that. It is, after all, what we do. Contact me here if you’d like to understand the opportunities available to you.