Ideas for Wall Street's Inside Counsel

Author's note:

I wrote this column with a NYC focus after the demise of Lehman Brothers. Unfortunately, the financial sector's pain has already spread well beyond Manhattan. Wachovia and Washington Mutual are the most obvious examples. The ideas offered in this column apply to anyone who is immediately impacted by the shake out.

As suggested in this column, some of the healthier hedge funds and financial services companies are using the current crisis as an opportunity to expand service offerings. For example, Chicago-based Citadel recently added some high profile traders from Lehman Brothers. This column discusses attorney movement within the financial services industry. Next month, I will offer suggestions for financial services attorneys who wish to "re-brand" themselves and seek opportunities outside of the industry.

In writing this particular column, I'm coming to terms with the limitations of giving advice. I cannot replace the $500,000 and higher Wall Street attorney job that just disappeared. If you recently lost your in-house position on Wall Street, however, I will offer a few suggestions that I hope you will find helpful.

I also offer sympathy, which tough business lawyers may dismiss. Nonetheless, I want Manhattan attorneys to know that while you may work on an island, you don't have to feel like you have just been banished to one. Nor do you have to solve this crisis on your own. One definition of sympathy is, "tendency to favor or support."

Right now, you should contact everyone in your life with a tendency to favor or support you. Alert former employers, clients, law school classmates and friends. A surprisingly large number of newly unemployed attorneys--especially the really smart and stubborn ones--tend to take a bunker mentality. You may feel embarrassed about asking certain people in your network for help. That's just not you. After all, you are the highly paid, well credentialed rock that others seek out for advice and counsel. So, yes, I'm going Dr. Phil on you and advising that you quickly acquire the right mindset for a job search.

Once you do, my second piece of advice should come more naturally to you New Yorkers. Get aggressive and stay energetic. Create the list of companies and law firms that can use your niche expertise, and do what it takes to get management level introductions.

After the Lehman Brothers collapse, I spoke with several colleagues in New York. Your local NYC recruiters are smart and resourceful. Call them. A few of you will land with local clients that have the money and foresight to use this debacle as an opportunity to acquire talent.

However, many of you will have to get out of a New York state of mind. There is no Goldman Sachs in the heartland. But you may appeal to a large financial institution headquartered in North Carolina, California or, dare I suggest, Massachusetts.

Chicago is home to smaller investment houses and some private equity firms. Most of these companies are hurting, too, so you're not going to find your next job posted on their Web sites. Fortunately, though, the world of sophisticated financial services is populated by smart people and opportunists. If you offer a specialized capability or expertise where it does not currently exist, then you can pitch yourself as a present or future opportunity to expand client services and grow new revenue.

For your entire career, you may have hand-picked the employers of your choosing, focusing on what you wanted in a job. Now you must do a 180 degree turn. Think of yourself as an asset. What company, firm or bank can you help, and how can you help them? If your resume has always been your main selling point, now it's time to augment those credentials with something more. Don't just offer your experience. Offer ideas, solutions and potential new revenue streams.


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Mike Evers

Mike Evers recruits attorneys for corporate legal departments throughout the United States. Please visit His...

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