Weighing Options for a Legal Career: Moving from Boutique Law Firm to Large Firm or In-House Department in New York | BCGSearch.com

Weighing Options for a Legal Career: Moving from Boutique Law Firm to Large Firm or In-House Department in New York


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Question: I am a second-year associate at a New York-based boutique law firm. I am considering moving either to a large New York law firm, a large, regionally known Connecticut firm or the in-house legal department of a New York-based, Fortune 500 company.

What do you perceive to be the relative advantages or disadvantages of each of these types of opportunities for a junior attorney?
I am a second-year associate at a New York-based boutique law firm. I am considering moving either to a large New York law firm, a large, regionally known Connecticut firm or the in-house legal department of a New York-based, Fortune 500 company.

Answer: Those of you who have read this column in the past probably already know what my answer will be!

But first, let's answer the question regarding my perception of the relative advantages or disadvantages of the three different opportunities.

I can't think of any great advantages for you to go in-house at this stage in your career. More than likely you would be hired at a very junior level. If a company is talking about bringing you in at a senior or managerial level then you need to think twice about the company. After all, you have only been in practice for about a year and four months.

Although I am sure that you work very hard, you still could not have had the exposure and experience that can only come with time. If you do go in-house at this point in your career, you can be fairly confident that you will not be a viable candidate for a law firm job in the foreseeable future. You will have effectively blocked yourself from being in the competition for law firm opportunities. And at a very junior level in corporate America, you will be taking a major step back in salary and status. Do you really want to face all of this?

Let me just add that if you do go in-house and over the years continue to be promoted or move to new employers at higher levels and eventually end up as General Counsel of one of the major corporations, you might very well find yourself being recruited to come in as a partner at a law firm. This is assuming that you would be able to bring your corporation into the law firm as a client. However, this is no reason to take an in-house job this early in your career. Quite frankly, if your goal is to eventually be a law firm partner, I see no advantage in taking an in-house job at this time.

On the other hand, there are some advantages to going over to a regionally well-known Connecticut firm.

More than likely you will have a much more favorable work schedule than you would have at a New York firm. The partner to associate ratio will be more favorable and you will have a much better shot at making partner. However, you will definitely make considerably less money and there is always the chance that you will not be working on the same types of cutting-edge, high profile matters as you might find in a large New York firm. And, unless you are working on some of those cutting-edge, high profile matters or are in a particularly desirable practice area, you will not be able to compete with people from the large New York practices who will be applying for those same big firm jobs.

So, unless you want to tone down your lifestyle and have a smaller, more controllable practice, the disadvantages of going to the regional firm outweigh the advantages.

Here's the problem. It is difficult to know what you will want in three or four years. You may be ready for a career on the in-house side or for a calmer lifestyle in a regional New England firm. But what if you don't want either of those types of practice? What if you want to be earning the big bucks in a major New York law firm? Maybe you will and maybe you won't, but it is far easier to leave that type of practice than try to get back into it.

I recommend that in these earlier years of your career, and given the choice, you will end up far better off by being a part of the large, well-known New York law firm. You are young and much more energetic than you will be in 5, 10 or 15 years from now. This is the time to take on the grueling hours and the larger than life matters while at the same time earning top dollars. Should you decide down the road that you do not have the stamina for this type of practice or simply that this is not the life for you, you will be an extremely viable candidate for both in-house jobs and regional law firm opportunities.

If you have the opportunity and inclination to work in a large New York law firm, I would urge you to go in that direction at this point in your career. Give your practice a few years to develop before you decide what you want it to be. Please let us know what you decide to do.

Summary: What do you perceive to be the relative advantages or disadvantages of moving to different types of opportunities for a junior attorney?

See the following articles for more information:

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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