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Don’t Be Your Own Roadblock


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As attorneys, we are trained to look for problems. Being lawyers means that we look at the world differently than everyone else, and this worldview permeates every aspect of our lives.
As attorneys, we are trained to look for problems. Being lawyers means that we look at the world differently than everyone else, and this worldview permeates every aspect of our lives. We constantly think about everything that could go wrong, in any situation. Sometimes, however, we have to make sure not to stand in the way of our own success.  One of the areas in which lawyers can be too skeptical is in making a successful career transition.

While you are hunting for a new job, keep in mind your own skeptical lawyerly nature.  The attorneys I speak with often walk in thinking that they have an idea what each and every potential firm or group is like, by reputation.  On a similar note, many attorneys are dead set on leaving law firm life altogether and going in house, because they think they know what that life is all about.  The goal of this article is singular: to encourage you to keep an open mind, and not to dismiss any opportunities out of hand, and not to hear negatives at every turn.
  1. Do your own homework.

When I was practicing law, I knew an associate who absolutely hated her job.  She had been a law school classmate of mine at Georgetown, and, while very bright, was (in my opinion) something of a rigid thinker.   She joined a large law firm where, at least in her practice group, the partners resented having to tell associates which direction to take.  Creative solutions were rewarded in this group, and associates were encouraged to offer ideas and strategy as soon as they walked in the door.  Needless to say, not all junior associates function well this way, and my former classmate was miserable.  She was exhausted from the high volume of work, and did not appreciate passing non-billable time examining every avenue.  “Why won’t they just tell me what they want from me?” She would complain.

Of course, she eventually left the firm with a bitter taste in her mouth, and had many nasty tales to tell about the partners and the group.  Shortly after, another attorney I knew filled her slot, and she loved it there.  She had come from a firm where she had been stuck on low-level projects where she billed tons of hours and did not feel she was learning anything. She couldn’t have been happier to take my classmate’s slot, and, I believe, she remains at the firm to this day.

Another attorney I know went in-house after four years at a large firm.  He couldn’t wait to put his feet up on the desk and live a comfortable in-house life.  He “knew,” from other attorneys who had made the change that in-house lawyers have a better lifestyle, and he was done with firms.  Well, the economy tanked, several of the attorneys at his company were let go, and he worked harder and longer than he ever had at the firm.  Eventually the company failed altogether, he wound it down, and went back to his former firm.

The moral of the story is this: don’t believe what you hear, from anyone.  Find out for yourself.  Apply for the opportunity, and go in and talk to the people there.  Ask questions and really listen to what they are telling you about what it is like to work there.  You might decide, post-interview, that it isn’t right for you.  But don’t throw up a roadblock sight unseen, without finding out for yourself.
  1. Go the extra mile in the interview process.

Another way in which I’ve seen associates limit their own chances of landing a great job is by refusing to go the extra mile in the interview process.  If a firm calls your recruiter and asks you to come in for an interview this afternoon, you should move heaven and earth to do it.  Why? Because the firm is excited about you, and you want to let them know you are equally excited about them too.  They have asked you for interview.  Jump on the chance.

What if a firm wants you to come in from out of town on your own dime?  I have seen associates react with disdain at requests from firms to let them know when they will be in town.  Don’t!  The firm is asking you for an interview!  I have seen huge firms arrange interviews this way, and I have placed attorneys with those firms after these interviews.  It doesn’t mean the firm is not all that interested in you.  Many firms, even the biggest, are fiscally conservative, and many have rules about how far away someone needs to live before they will fly them in.  I have seen it become more and more prevalent.  Don’t become skeptical because the firm won’t pay to fly you in.  Instead, do your best to say yes.  Make yourself available. Stay with friends. Get in the car and drive.  Do what it takes to get them to meet you.
  1. Don’t shut down the process because you hear something you don’t like.

A few months back, an associate came to me after an initial interview and said, “I want to withdraw my candidacy.”  When I asked why, she said that one of the associates in the interview process told her that she would have to start out in an area of law that she didn’t like and “do her time” in order to progress to “better” work down the road.  Because she mentioned this to me, and I have a relationship with the firm, I was able to negotiate a work arrangement for her that avoided the undesirable stepping-stone work.  If you hear something you don’t like, that is when you begin a conversation, not when you end it.

In sum, I have seen attorneys, almost without realizing it, try to shut down their own interview process because of their skepticism.  Doing this forecloses potentially excellent opportunities.   Keep an open mind, and don’t be the reason you don’t end up in what could be a great job for you.

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,, and, 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

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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