Should you make a lateral move to another law firm?

Preparing for the In-House Interview

When a less seasoned colleague who’d been trained by Damian S. Jackson was named partner at the Philadelphia firm where they both worked, Jackson knew it was time to dust off his resume. “At that point, I was really perturbed,” he said. “He didn’t have half the experience I did.”

Jackson, a senior associate with a decade of litigation skills, was committed to be on the partner fast track at his next job. He also wanted his next employer to actively market its legal team and be receptive to his ideas. During interviews, he reiterated his commitment to bringing in new clients, growing his practice and helping to train young associates.

His candor and focus paid off. Jackson made a lateral move to Reilly, Janiczek, McDevitt, Henrich & Cholden of Philadelphia. Less than two years later, he was named a partner. “I was honest upfront and told them exactly what I wanted,” said Jackson, a toxic-tort litigator. “Everyone came to the table with their eyes wide open.”

Look Beyond Today’s Frustrations

If you have reached a point in your legal career where you’re weighing whether to make a lateral move, consider your long-term goals, not just your immediate feelings of frustration, boredom or disappointment, said Eleanor Southers, who practiced law for 30 years before becoming a lawyer coach.

A young associate at a large firm may dislike the dull work that can characterize the early years of a legal career. But if she can view it as a temporary situation with a long-term payoff, her tenure might be more palatable, said Southers, of Professional Legal Coaching of Santa Cruz, Ca. But a colleague with the same complaint might instead opt for a lateral move to a smaller firm, content to take a pay cut in exchange for more hands-on work and contact with clients.

When mulling a lateral move, consider the work environment where you’re most likely to thrive as well as the personalities you’d like to interact with and the legal work you want to do. With some clarity about the critical aspects of your career path, you’ll have an easier time determining whether a move will reignite your passion for your legal work. Pinpoint what you dislike in your current role, and you’ll know what to look out for when you’re interviewing, Southers said.

Collaboration and cooperation

Mark Mansour wanted to make his next job his last. A partner in an AmLaw Top 10 law firm, he was seeking a collaborative practice where everyone, including support staff and associates, enjoyed coming to work. The Washington, D.C.-based lawyer knew he flourished in open, cooperative work environments, and he was looking for a firm that would commit to helping him rebuild his book of business.

He told himself he’d consider only those firms that were as enthusiastic about him as he was about them, and he didn’t feel rushed to make a move. “If you let the process play out and suspend your judgment,” Mansour said, “you’ll start to come to some decisions, some cerebral and some practical.”

Mayer Brown fit the bill for Mansour, a partner in the litigation and dispute resolution practice group. Before he accepted the offer, he asked himself, “Which opportunities would I regret the most if I passed them up?” He knew he’d regret turning this job down, and now, having spent 18 months at Mayer Brown, he’s confident he made the right decision.

Ready for a career move? For more information about opportunities in the legal field, contact Special Counsel today.

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