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.

Making one move too many can color your otherwise stellar standing so much that your resume is passed upon simply for evidencing this kind of a history. Law firms might question your acceptance of and ability to thrive in a law firm, or even your long-term commitment to the practice of law itself. Additionally, numerous moves can prompt firms to question your work and whether it was your own weaknesses that forced you to change firms.

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.