Downturn proves a boom time for career coaches

One of the curiosities of any downturn is that there is always someone, somewhere making a buck. And no, it is not just the short sellers. ­Laying off associates? Looking to ‘redeploy’? Enter the career counsellor.

The raft of redundancies in the US market is creating a boom in the demand for the services of career coaches and outplacement specialists. The consensus among those in the business who are most active in the US legal market is that their own particular work levels are only likely to increase.

“No question,” says Carol Kanarek of Kanarek & Brady, which offers career transition and coaching services to lawyers. “We’ve seen a significant growth in work from New York law firms – and I think there’s only going to be more for quite a while to come.”

Kanarek, a former lawyer at Thacher Proffitt & Wood, is one of the few outplacement specialists who works only with law firms. Another is Greiner Consulting.

When late last year Clifford Chance was forced to lay off six associates who had been working on transactions for Standard & Poor’s, it turned
to principal Jennifer Greiner for help.

In the past 12 months Greiner has performed similar services for a growing list of firms, including Dechert and McKee Nelson.

“There’s certainly been a significant uptick in outplacement work,” confirms Greiner. “There’s also more work in the area of career coaching and soft skills training, where we work with firms on retaining talent.”

Kanarek says most of the leading firms are more than happy to provide assistance in looking for new roles to their lawyers – especially when the cuts are made as a result of the economic situation.

It is a stance echoed by the chairman of Thacher Proffitt, Paul Tvetenstrand, whose firm offered outplacement services to 24 of its associates laid off in December 2007, finding every one of them jobs.

“I’m hugely proud of that fact,” says Tvetenstrand.

But as Tvetenstrand points out, although the assistance was welcomed by his firm’s lawyers, the offer of help may not be entirely altruistic.

“The practice of law is all about personal relationships,” he says. “Many of our lawyers will go on to investment groups, hedge funds and so on. If you sweat and are willing to work and adapt to the challenging climate, you’ll survive.”
And, with luck, instruct Thacher Proffitt.