If you are contemplating a lateral move, conventional wisdom dictates that you should keep your intentions confidential until you have accepted an offer at another firm. If your current employer learns that you are interviewing elsewhere, the effect on your career can be very negative. This is true both in the short run and in the long run.
In the short run, partners are less likely to give you choice assignments if they believe you are leaving. In the long run, if you do decide to stick around after conducting a job search, your expression of disloyalty may come back to haunt you (e.g., when partners are deciding whom to elevate to partnership.) Furthermore, if the firm decides to do a layoff down the road, senior management may decide that you are easy to "let go" because you have been looking anyway. And it is even conceivable that a firm will decide to fire you once it discovers you are in the market. (This is not a common occurrence, but we have heard of this happening.)
- See A Comprehensive Guide to Working with a Legal Recruiter for more information.
On the other hand, keeping your cards too close to the vest may prevent you from learning about good opportunities. After all, if no one knows that you are looking and no one knows that you are open to a potential lateral move, then you are less likely to learn about potential jobs.
Clearly, it is important to properly balance the need for privacy in conducting your search against the realities of marketing yourself. The following is a list of common questions and answers that will help you achieve the proper balance. Ultimately, you have to decide what makes you most comfortable. Just keep in mind the old adage "no guts, no glory." But don't forget the other adage "loose lips sink ships."