Case Study: Adapting To The Tough Economy

I don’t know what it says about somebody whose dream job is handling bankruptcy cases at a Philadelphia law firm. Instinctively, I don’t think it’s very flattering. In any event, dream big, kiddo, and good luck!

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Young lawyer navigates tough economy with grace
By Chris Mondics

On the day she graduated from law school in the spring of 2008, as the great ship of the global economy began to list and take on water, it would have been easy for Lindi von Mutius to throw up her hands in despair.

True, she soon managed to land a job in Philadelphia with a small real estate law firm. But the firm’s finances quickly went south, lawyers began to jump ship, and paychecks started to bounce.

Recruiters, as recruiters often are, were cheery and buoyant and promised the moon, but time after time the jobs and engagements they promised evaporated as the big law firms cut back.

Von Mutius, a 27-year-old graduate of Vermont Law School, with a master’s in environmental management from Harvard, an undergraduate degree from Williams College, and fluency in both Arabic and German, was determined to strike out on her own.

She took on a handful of private probate and foreclosure clients.

And, in a decision that surprised some of her peers, she started working as a waitress in Ardmore two nights a week.

This might seem an unusual course for a lawyer whose father is the chief financial officer for a German multinational energy company and traces his lineage to Prussian nobility, and whose mother, a native of Guyana of black and Indian heritage, is an assistant dean at Harvard. Nor is it the usual course in the at-times snooty, acutely status-conscious world of law.

But von Mutius is not one to put on airs.

“My family was like ‘Oh’,” she said of the reaction when she took the waitressing job. “I said ‘whatever, you guys, I am not asking you for money to pay my bills so you should be happy.’ My family said if you need some money call us. I said no, ‘I will deal with this on my own.’”

In the end, it appears to have worked out smashingly for von Mutius. She landed what she calls her dream job with Flaster Greenberg, a smallish, 75-lawyer firm in Philadelphia and South Jersey that finds itself in what has become a legal market sweet spot.

It is large enough to handle complex, difficult cases for big corporate clients but small enough that its rates remain well below those of bigger law firms, and thus attractive to companies looking to cut costs.

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