Economic downturn: coping with job loss, work loss and career transition

Ross Chilton, MA, RCC

Last summer most economists were suggesting that the longest uninterrupted period of economic growth in the United States was nearing an end. A recession in the U.S. almost certainly meant that Canada would face the same downturn. The events of September 11 sent the already vulnerable economies on both sides of the border into contraction.

Locally, things were not looking promising despite the introduction of substantial personal and corporate tax cuts. The long-standing lumber dispute with the United States reached the boiling point with the application of duties amid claims of unfair trading practices. The British Columbia economy, still very dependent on the forest sector, was at the end of 10 years of less than spectacular growth. With a new provincial government came a new direction, cuts to the budget and civil service and agreements imposed or altered. Even more changes are now on the horizon.

Though it is unlikely to be reported in the morning paper or nightly newscast, the legal profession will experience significant pain. Changes in the private and public sectors will directly translate into less work for lawyers. Some will lose their positions while others will struggle with a decrease in billings. Many lawyers will find themselves working harder to avoid losing ground financially. When personal debt is at historic levels, this is certain to be a difficult period.


Alexander, for example, is a 45-year-old lawyer who works in a small firm. He finds himself working harder and harder to reach the same billable hour targets. It is starting to take its toll and he finds he doesn't have the same energy and enthusiasm for work.


Sandy is a young lawyer in a small firm. During law school she and her husband accumulated significant debt. Though they have been working hard the last few years, they find that the debt worries are placing a strain on the marriage. They frequently argue about money and worry about what would happen if Sandy's firm loses clients.


Ajit has just been told that his position is going to be eliminated in downsizing. He is not sure he wants to continue practising law. He feels anxious most of the time and has started to have occasional panic attacks. He doesn't know what to do.


Financial stress, coupled with job uncertainty, can be overwhelming for even the most resilient individual, couple and family. Interlock can help.

Through Interlock, Alexander was able to develop a plan for work - life balance. He learned to schedule time for himself and for his important relationships with friends and family. He is more productive and experiences greater satisfaction in his work.

Sandy and her husband needed assistance to move from worry to action. They developed a budget and made some financial plans for how they would manage the transition if Sandy lost her position. They started working together to solve the problems and this made them feel closer.

Ajit used counselling to develop a career plan. He found that when he took control over the future he felt less anxiety and more excitement. He was able to work on tasks that would get him ready to take the next step in his career.

Interlock professionals are available to assist lawyers and their families with a wide range of concerns, including:

  • career consultation for those faced with job loss or transition;
  • marital and relationship counselling;
  • lifestyle planning; and
  • professional assistance for those suffering from anxiety or depression. Depression will affect at least one in five adults during their career and early intervention assists in returning to normal functioning.

If you are a lawyer or articling student and you, a spouse or partner or a dependent child would like assistance with personal, family or work-related concerns, please call Interlock for confidential, professional counselling. The Law Society of B.C. funds this service to support lawyers in their professional and personal lives. To arrange an appointment at a convenient location call:

         Lower Mainland / Fraser Valley: (604) 431-8200
         National toll-free: 1-800-663-9099
         Emergency after hours: 1-800-324- 9988