When is the best time to switch firms if you are a practicing attorney considering a move? Although there is no hard and fast rule, the window of opportunity for associates to move typically falls in the range of 3-6 years of practice. The window for partners is usually need-driven for those without business, but virtually limitless for those who have their own business.
Most employers would like someone to have a few years of experience under their belt before considering a lateral move. When an associate gets past six years of experience they are often being considered for partnership and, assuming they are on track, will wait to see what happens with their current firm. Of course, this expectation goes both ways because other firms might question why someone with more than six years of experience would leave their firm so close to partnership. Although it may have nothing to do with the associate (especially over the difficult financial times we faced the past few years), a prospective firm might think the associate did not satisfy the partnership objectives and were deliberately passed over. The key for associates is to take a realistic assessment by years 4-5 of whether they want to be a partner at their current firm and, even if they do, whether they think partnership will be offered to them.
Of course partnership is not always the answer. We hear from partners all of the time who are unsatisfied in their current firm for one reason or another. At this level for those without business, the opportunities to lateral tend to be limited to need-based positions at another firm. An example is a firm that just lost a senior securities attorney and the work stayed with the firm. The firm might find the only way their clients will stay is if someone equally skilled fills the void. The situation can also apply to experienced litigators with trial experience, etc. Those that have managed to build a client base obviously have many more options. Sure the amount of business will dictate the possibilities to some extent, as will the work, bill rate, etc., but the bottom line is these people will have options.
Times have definitely changed from the days when an attorney could comfortably work at one firm their entire career. Changes in the economy, local legal landscape, and the practice of law in general have or should force attorneys to regularly contemplate the long-term viability of their current job and consider what other opportunities exist.
Here on the Sand Search blog, we’ve given you a lot of tips on how to market yourself. We always suggest marketing yourself in a professional manner. That said, you can’t be serious all of the time. Here is a link to some pretty hilarious attorney ads.
While these links should make you laugh, (“due process?!….do wheelies!” as told by the Texas Law Hawk on a motorbike) they may also remind you that being “known” may not help you when you need to move your practice.
At the very least, watching these videos should make you smile. Have a great 2017!
Okay, so you have decided to test the market to see if there is a better job option for you. Maybe you can’t tolerate your boss or coworkers; or perhaps you have reached your professional limit at your current job and need a new platform to grow. Whatever your reason, since you have committed to exploring other jobs, why not make the most of it by considering multiple opportunities.
Having options is important because you are more likely to find the right fit and get the most from an offer.For some people, their only basis of comparison is the job they are departing when considering another employer. Yes, even having a limited comparison is helpful, but think how much more effective that becomes when you add a few more opportunities to consider. The one place you are considering may be an improvement, but you should make sure that it is truly the best option for you – not just better than your current job.
The other reason it can be beneficial to consider multiple job opportunities is leverage. While the threat of staying at your current job can be used, there is obviously a reason you are looking and most people (including potential employers) know that accepting a counteroffer is often a recipe for disaster. Whereas employers are more likely to put forth their best possible offer when they know there is competition for your services. In fact, some employers are so competitive (can’t stand the thought of losing to a rival firm, etc.) that they might even pay above market if necessary.
So if you are truly ready to take the plunge in the job market, do yourself a favor by considering multiple job opportunities to make the most of situation.
2017 is just around the corner. Here are a couple of tips on how to effectively use a recruiter for your next job search in the new year.
- Recruiters can’t help everyone. Recruiters have niches and specific clients. Learn what those are and you can better understand if this recruiter is right for you. If your recruiter doesn’t do temporary or contract placements, it’s futile to ask for those positions. If your recruiter doesn’t work with personal injury or insurance defense firms, no amount of following up with him/her will help.
- Understand that recruiters using an executive search model are looking for the best candidates for any given position. Recruiters in a law registry are looking for anyone. Executive search-based recruiters get paid to find an exact match to the job description. They also get paid to make judgment calls. It’s okay to question a recruiter and point out where your experience lies on the experience spectrum, but even great recruiters can’t force a square peg in a round hole.
- Recruiters work best when exposed to the “real” you. Be honest and forthright with your recruiter about your skills and what you like and don’t like about a firm/job. Think of recruiters as a financial advisor or doctor – the more you keep them in the dark about who you are and what you really need, the less effective they will be. Exaggerating credentials or accomplishments wont’ get better results; it just skews the data used to find a good fit for you.
- Be responsive. When you have engaged a recruiter and a recruiter calls or emails because they need information, they usually need it RIGHT NOW. Make a point to call them back. Your delay might reflect poorly on your candidacy.
- Think about what you need to accept a position BEFORE you see the offer letter. Waiting to decide if you are willing to take a job until they offer it is a bad strategy. Most recruiters will push you to know what you would need to accept a job long before you ever receive a job offer. Do the mental gymnastics to determine what would make you accept a new job BEFORE you interview and use the interview process to see if the job meets your needs. Keeping the recruiter informed as to your needs removes the need for unnecessary interviews.
- Recruiters are not resume-writing services. Nor are they spellcheckers. Do this work on your own.
- Guard your resume and who represents you. Don’t work with a recruiter who asks for any sort of exclusivity in representing you (two caveats to this: first, tell your recruiter about other opportunities that you are pursuing; next, know that once you have given a recruiter permission to submit your resume for a position, that specific company/firm should be the recruiter’s exclusive opportunity). Importantly, be sure that a recruiter seeks your permission each and every time personal information is released.
While not exhaustive, we hope that this list is a starting point for how to use a recruiter most effectively. We try to help as many people as we can, but the truth is that we can’t help everyone. We do hope that everyone feels that they were treated fairly and with respect – ever recruiter should strive for that. Regardless, when used properly and for the right candidates, recruiters are a great way to find your new position and advance your career.
Happy new year from Sand Search!
We are hearing from a lot recent law school graduates lately and although the market has improved, jobs are still scarce for the majority of these folks. Creating a compelling resume can be a challenge when you do not have practical legal experience. While a law firm clerkship or interning for a judge can help, the truth is many hiring attorneys or recruiting directors do not give this much weight. So what can you do when your experience is not a big selling point? Try to make your resume stand out in other ways.
While hopefully the old school, heavy stock, colored resume paper is not coming back; you can still use some tasteful graphics to make your resume stand out. Perhaps some color headings, shading a separate column for achievements, or simply adding links to work-related social media sites would help.
A creative resume may not get you the job per se, but it may draw enough attention to move it to the top of others with similar experience so why not spend an extra few minutes and make it stand out.