Your every move is a calculated step. These words may very well be those of a rapper and not an attorney but, as a legal recruiter, I can tell you they ring true (and loud!) in the legal field. Every day I speak with attorneys - many of whom are well-credentialed and with impressive academic and professional backgrounds - who, for any number of reasons, left one law firm for another. Indeed, if you visit the careers section of any law firm website, you will find a whole section dedicated to lateral hiring. Move more than once in the first three to five years of practice, however, and you might be signaling a problem to potential employers. As such, I counsel attorneys to think long and hard about how each move could be perceived by a hiring committee in the future. Once you've made a move, it is irreversible and will forever remain a critical part of your record. Thus, your every move should be a calculated step.
In addition to the number of lateral moves you make, you should also consider how your reasons for moving will be perceived by a target employer. As a legal recruiter, often the first question I answer on behalf of my candidates is why they want to move, and I need to be able to provide an acceptable reason to the firm. So if you're considering making a lateral move, I urge you to consider the real driving force behind your desire, and how you will explain these reasons to future employers. Here, I name two reasons that are more palatable to firms than others, and the accompanying issues of which to be aware.