A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

I remember, during my second year of practice as an attorney, standing in my office when two fellow attorneys in my law firm walked in. These attorneys were both in my class at the firm and were both nice guys. Incredibly, when these two guys walked into my office, I had just gotten off the telephone with a legal recruiter who had informed me that I had just received an offer from a competing firm where my salary would nearly double. This was before the days of the "salary wars," and at the time, major and important firms in the same city often offered vastly different salaries. In this case, I had received an offer from a firm that was the highest-paying firm by far in Los Angeles.
G-d works in strange ways, and in this instance, the two guys almost immediately started talking about our current firm and how the attorneys in our class would all make partner if they remained there. Both of these guys then said that their objective was to remain at this law firm and make partner. Out of the 15 or so people who were in my starting class at this law firm, these were the only two who stayed at the firm, and both are partners there to this day. I remember thinking to myself when I found out that each one had made partner, "Of course they did." I am also confident that each of these guys will have a solid career at this firm, and if I had to bet, I would say that each of these guys will remain at this firm throughout his career.

I believe I am attracted to legal recruiting in large part because I love observing what makes certain people succeed. The people I have worked with, I believe, have benefited enormously from my studies of success and failure. The difference between attorneys who find profound success in the law and attorneys who stagnate is the difference between being strategic and being tactical regarding one's career.

See related articles:
The Tactical Attorney

When I sit in my office and interview attorneys, I often feel like I am in an alternate universe. It is common for an attorney to go to a Top 10 law school and have a succession of four to five jobs with major law firms in less than seven to eight years. In each instance when an attorney leaves one firm and goes to another, you have to wonder, "Did this person think something was going to be different at the next firm?" You really have to wonder why he or she is moving around so much.
Consider the attorney who is moving from firm to firm like this. Chances are this attorney sits down at the new firm and does the same (or similar) work he or she did at the previous law firm. The attorney will likely have the same sorts of relationships at the second firm with his or her colleagues that he or she had at the first firm. The attorney will also likely encounter issues with the people giving him or her work that are similar to those encountered at the previous firm. The attorney will probably dislike the same things about the fourth firm that he or she disliked about the third firm.

Even if attorneys are not switching firms, they may constantly be "on the defensive" with regard to their careers at their current firms—never feeling they are doing well enough, hoping others give them work, hoping others leave to make opportunities for them, and so on.