Most attorneys from large firms move at least once or twice during their first three to five years of practice. However, if you are looking at your third or fourth firm in your second year of practice, something is wrong. Several times a day, we see resumes of attorneys attempting to do this, and for the most part, we cannot help them. "Firm hopping" is taken into account by firms assessing your qualifications. Moving several times in a short time span can, in fact, hurt your ability to get a job because it leads law firms to question your loyalty and long-term commitment to the practice of law. In addition, moving several times in a short time span gives firms the impression that you may have moved because your work was not valued at your former firm. None of this is to say that any of the above factors may be relevant to your reasons for moving in the past. Yet, it is important to realize what firms are thinking and that their preconceived notions of an attorney that moves firms too often may negatively influence their ultimate decisions to interview you.

Why an Attorney Should Never Switch Law Firm Jobs Too Often: Law Firms Will Not Trust You to Stay After too Many Moves and Will Not Hire You
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

Your reasons for moving need to make sense. Part of a legal recruiter's job is to explain your actual reasons for moving in a way that firms accept. The reasons that typically make the most sense to law firms are (1) quality or type of work, (2) structural firm changes, or (3) location. While these are the best reasons for making a move, it is important to note that most attorneys who have moved several times have done so because (1) their work was not well received, (2) they were asked to leave, or (3) they were unable to get along well with others in their firms. If you mention any of these reasons to an employer, you are unlikely to get hired. It is important in any job search that you emphasize reasons for moving that are likely to not prejudice firms against you over reasons that are likely to make firms not want to hire you.


1. Quality or Type of Work

It is generally considered acceptable for attorneys to move due to the quality or type of work they are doing. For example, an attorney might move to bring about a transition from litigation to transactional work (or vice versa). If that is the case, such a move makes perfect sense, and employers will not be prejudiced against the attorney for moving for this reason in the present or in the past. In addition, if you want to do more sophisticated work in a certain practice area, that will also make sense. During the boom in corporate work in the late 1990s and the first part of 2000, many corporate attorneys from smaller law firms moved to larger law firms. At that time, a suitable explanation for moving was almost always something along the lines of wanting to get more "public company work" or to be staffed on larger deals. Explanations such as these were almost always considered permissible.