I'm a litigator living in Boston and work at a large firm. I'm unhappy with my current firm environment, and I want to relocate to San Francisco since the market is picking up a bit and I wanted to practice in S.F. as soon as the market got a bit better. I have strong credentials, but have not passed the California Bar. I do have ties to the area since I was born there, have family there, and my girlfriend is working there as well. What are my chances to successfully make the lateral move to San Francisco?
Thanks for taking the time to write to me: the short answer to your question is "it depends." Obviously the answer to this question answer is a case-by-case basis, and you really haven't provided enough data to allow me to provide clear guidance, so I would encourage you to talk to me or one of my colleagues in our San Francisco office so that we can advise you more fully.
First, let me correct a misperception about the litigation market in San Francisco—it is one of the few areas of the law that has been throttling along nicely. There have been fewer jobs in this practice area though because firms have made use of their less-busy corporate associates to handle excess work.
As your letter implies, making a successful lateral move depends on a number of things, some of them easily quantifiable, while others are not. The primary factors used by a firm will be the trifecta of (a) quality of your work experience at your current firm, (b) your academic credentials, and (c) whether a firm considers you to be a good cultural fit. The fact that you have ties to the Bay Area will assist your search, as you will be able to demonstrate your long-term commitment to the Bay Area, a factor which firms do consider. And, in our experience, it is rarely a factor that will queer a deal. In our experience, firms frequently overlook a lack of California bar experience, provided that the candidate has excellent other credentials and is barred in another state. I hope this helps, and we look forward to talking with you soon.
[Answered by Eamonn Markham]
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