Clearing Conflicts: The Final Stage

Conflicts are often an afterthought in the lateral job search process, which is understandable since it is fairly rare for a conflict to present an insurmountable barrier to switching firms. It is only when a conflict would significantly impact the firm’s relationship with an existing client and/or prevent a lateral attorney from being fully staffed on necessary matters that a conflicts check results in a non-offer or an offer having to be withdrawn. That being said, it happens frequently enough to warrant a brief discussion here about how to handle the issue when it arises.

Running conflicts typically used to be the second-to-last stage in the offer process, the last stage being a references check after an offer was accepted and conflicts had cleared. Many firms, and especially large firms with lots of clients, have begun running a preliminary conflicts check as part of the interview process, and will request that candidates selected for an interview fill out a conflicts form to bring with them for their in-person interviews.

I personally think this is a smart move on the part of firms, and very helpful to candidates, because the worst situation possible is for a candidate to accept an offer and give notice to their current firm only to have a conflicts issue prevent them from joining the new firm. Now they no longer have a new job and have either left their previous job or have at the very least alerted their current employer that they are looking to move elsewhere, which can make personal and professional relationships quite difficult to say the least.