Lynne Zagami Riquelme, Boston

Associate, Gesmer Updegrove

Laid off from Brown Rudnick in November 2008

I think that coming out of law school in 2006, we were the last class that thought being a lawyer is a job that offers you job security and good pay and good benefits. I started out at Proskauer in Boston and moved over to Brown Rudnick in February 2008 [doing general corporate work]. They rounded all of us up that November and said, look, we’re super-slow and the market is crashing and we’re going to have to lay people off. It was about 10 percent of the workforce.

I was very fortunate in that I had a generous severance package. I had outplacement counseling, and my outplacement counselor was really good. There were about six months when I was truly out of work. Then there were about four months where I was still looking but covered someone’s maternity leave at Boston Properties. I eventually found a position at a startup called Brightleaf Corporation that was building technology for lawyers. They wanted someone who had been at a big firm and knew how corporate lawyers worked, someone who could talk to those people and who wasn’t afraid to get out there. My eventual role was director of client services, and that was amazing. I really got into the ins and outs of how law firms run, what their finances look like, what their financial struggles look like—which of course was colored by the fact that I’d been laid off. It got to late 2011 and my role was really evolving into a sales role, and that didn’t feel quite right. So I looked at a few firms that were smaller that would appreciate the work that I was doing. Because it wasn’t true legal work. I interviewed with Gesmer and it was so on the money for me. I wanted a place that would allow me to build a book of business and not discontinue some of the things I really enjoyed about being at Brightleaf, like being out talking to people.

I think I was a little naive coming out of law school in that I didn’t realize what big-firm life looked like and what I would and wouldn’t like about it. At that time I assumed I would get on the train and go, not thinking much about whether I was happy to be on the train in the first place. My outplacement consultant identified that I do better when I have a public role to my work. Which made perfect sense to her, because I had grown up singing. I had originally moved to New York so I could try my hand at being on Broadway. She was like, how in the world did you think you were going to sit in a big firm doing other people’s work for the rest of your life? And I was like, I really don’t know, because I really wasn’t that happy. I’m incredibly grateful that in the long run I was forced to do that analysis and that it got me to a place like this.—as told to Sara Randazzo