The Great Resignation: What It Means for Attorneys

Nov 19, 2021 10:00:00 AM


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Millions of Americans have walked away from their jobs this year. This mass employment exodus is noticeable, as is evidenced every day by conversations with people and signs outside retail stores and restaurants begging potential employees to work for them.

These deliberate participants in the Great Resignation have reevaluated their lives in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Often, they have come to two conclusions: first, their employer did not value them enough, and second, now is the time to start their dream business.

Attorneys can take advantage of this new wave of entrepreneurship by expanding their practices to offer business law services. These potential new clients will need legal help to realize their business dreams. Read on to learn how the Great Resignation can have a lasting effect on your law practice. 

Reasons for the Great Resignation

A whopping 3 percent of the US workforce quit their jobs in August 2021. That is over 4 million workers, following millions more who left their jobs in each of the previous three months. Workplace expert Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University identified four reasons why this happened:

  • a backlog of resignations from workers who put their plans to quit in 2020 on hold
  • burnout from the pandemic, ranging from front-line workers to executives
  • personal epiphany, as the pandemic made people realize what was truly important in life
  • newly remote workers decided they would rather quit than return to the office

Klotz, who coined the phrase “Great Resignation” in May, also said some workers have left their jobs because their employers did or did not impose a vaccine mandate.

“What is driving the Great Resignation is fairly straightforward: The pandemic has made many realize their job does not contribute enough (or at all) to their pursuit of happiness and meaning, and they have decided to invest their energy elsewhere—in new jobs, new careers, or in other aspects of their lives,” Klotz told NBC News.

Workers have dropped out of the retail and food-service industries, as well as positions in the tech and finance sectors. The forced time-out from the daily office commute opened some workers’ eyes to new opportunities. Attorney Molly Anderson started her own law practice as a result of her “pandemic epiphany.” 

“All I needed was a computer and a few software solutions and some insurance,” Anderson said in an interview with the Washington Post.

Which Employees Are Resigning?

Some older employees have been reluctant to walk away because they have invested more time in their company and have fewer options in the job market. However, other older workers have realized they are in a much better financial position than they thought. 

The soaring values of their stocks and real estate have allowed them to retire and even delay collecting Social Security until they reach the full retirement age. Stimulus and unemployment checks helped their bottom lines. They realized that by reducing expenses, they could get by; some even saved money by not taking vacations during the pandemic.

In addition to having more resources, staying home from the office gave workers a lot more free time. Hours not spent commuting could be used toward the formation of a new business.

While this employment walkout is a nationwide trend, states where it is most prevalent include Kentucky, Idaho, and Georgia, where more than 4 percent of the workforce has quit. Employees in the thirty to forty-five age group have been the most likely to resign. Working mothers are another significant subcategory, as 1.6 million of them have exited the workplace during the pandemic.

The Great Resignation does not look like it will fizzle out anytime soon. In fact, those who are still working are getting burned out because they are now performing the work of those who left in addition to their own job responsibilities. As a result, those remaining employees are tempted to follow their former co-workers out the door. 

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., the CEO of the Society of Human Resource Management, said the Great Resignation could continue for two or three years. “The employees who remain now say, ‘I’m working too hard, I don’t have balance in my life, etc.’ And so then they want to leave and thus a vicious cycle continues,” he told CNBC. 

The ranks of disgruntled employees also include striking workers in the food, manufacturing, and healthcare industries. Georgetown University history professor Joseph McCartin said this labor strife is similar to what happened after the Great Depression and both world wars.

 “A lot of people sacrificed a lot in the past year—the essential workers, for example—and yet they're looking at a labor market that they feel still doesn't reward them as they feel they ought to be rewarded,” said McCartin to NPR.

Starting a New Business

Ecommerce represents the largest category of business growth since the pandemic began. Attorneys should advise their business law clients to be realistic about the high cost of starting a new enterprise.

“Businesses always take twice as long to cash flow [as] people think it will,” said Ted Jenkin, CEO of Oxygen Financial.

While some CEOs like Microsoft’s Satya Nadella think this trend is more of aGreat Reshuffle,” many workers will resist the urge to return to the workplace as boomerang employees and move forward with their plans to start a new business.

“They don’t want employers to be driving all the choices. They want to make choices for themselves,” said human resources consultant Carol Semrad.

Your Next Step to Serving New Business Law Clients

It is hard to miss the “Help Wanted” signs that adorn storefronts. Industries such as retail, healthcare, and hospitality, and nearly every industry in between, are facing challenges in attracting and retaining staff. Business owners’ and budding entrepreneurs’ legal needs include business formation and operational compliance, as well as an understanding of the evolving federal, state, and local COVID-related mandates and relief measures. 

WealthCounsel’s Business Law Summit on December 9 and 10 can help prepare you to serve these potential new clients. On day one, you will learn about practical topics like cyber-age ethics for transactional attorneys and recent trends in limited liability companies and partnerships. You can then put your knowledge into action on day two in a practical application lab. Reserve your spot at the Business Law Summit today.

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