Published: Dec 12, 2017
Making a lateral move can be an incredibly powerful and important decision, but it must be well thought-out and carefully executed. Whether moving law firms is something you thought you’d never do or it was always your plan, it is something that you should consider to ensure that you are properly developing your legal skills and career.
Why would I want to make a lateral move?
You need to start thinking about looking at other law firms if any of these ring true:
Okay, so maybe I should consider looking at other firms. How do I find the right one?
If you decide you want to start looking at new firms, you should be doing two things simultaneously: (1) networking, and (2) finding a skilled legal recruiter who you trust to be your advocate and advisor. Let’s break these two very important tools down:
Networking. I know, I know. You hate networking. It’s awkward, it’s weird, it’s boring, it’s time consuming, and did I mention awkward? So, for purposes of this article, let’s change the name from “networking” to “information gathering,” because that’s what you will be doing. Learn from the experiences of others. Go out and meet attorneys who have interesting jobs to see how they got there. The goal here is not to get a job, but just to hear how people developed their own careers. I can promise you that many of these conversations will turn into career-long, mutually beneficial relationships—and may result in a job offer down the line.
And how does one connect with these people, you may ask? Use your friends, alumni networks, LinkedIn, and events to target people you want to gather information from. The rest is relatively simple. Introduce yourself, either through a mutual connection or on your own, and ask to take that person to coffee so you can learn about them. You’ll be amazed at how helpful people can be if they are just asked.
When you reframe networking from a transaction into a learning experience, all the pressure is off and it may even become an enjoyable and productive activity.
Legal Recruiters. While legal recruiters may all seem to blur into one long, oft-deleted voicemail, not all legal recruiters are alike. If you are applying to firms that use legal recruiters, it is best to find one recruiter who you trust and stick with them through the entire lateral process, rather than working with multiple recruiters.
But, with so many recruiters out there, how do you know if you’re working with the right one? Here are five things to consider.
Remember, looking at other firms doesn’t mean you have to actually leave your current firm. During the information-gathering process you may find out that you’re best suited at your current firm—or, you may discover you’re a better fit elsewhere. Regardless of the outcome, you’ve made a positive step in your career by assessing your current situation and looking towards your future.
Erica Gartenberg is the President of Rocky Mountain Legal Search LLC. She places attorneys in roles ranging from law firm associates to general counsels, and works with law firms in all sizes and scales, corporations and start ups. She also is a career consultant, helping attorneys maximize their career goals. Erica can be reached at email@example.com.
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