Factors to Consider When Timing Your Job Search | BCGSearch.com

Factors to Consider When Timing Your Job Search


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Summary: Before you decide to move to another law firm consider these factors.
Here are the attorney lateral moves and placements for the week of July 18th, 2016.

There are many reasons attorneys come to me seeking to make a lateral move (or find a job, if they are currently unemployed). Sometimes these reasons are out of necessity, such as being laid off, or moving to a different city for family reasons. Most of the time the reasons are more strategic or preferential in nature – the attorney does not see opportunity for long-term advancement at their current firm, and wants to move to a firm that will be more conducive to building a book of business, or the culture at their current firm is toxic and they want to work with a better/nicer group of attorneys. There are also always plenty of attorneys seeking to make a step-up in terms of prestige and compensation.

These are all perfectly good reasons to make a lateral move, but I find that way too frequently attorneys do not think strategically about their career and the timing of a move. If you are making a move out of necessity, you are reacting to something that happened to you, which is a position of relative weakness. Because of this necessity, you may need to compromise, sometimes greatly, on a number of otherwise important factors in a job search, such as compensation, a fit with the firm culture, the quality of work available at the firm, etc.
Sometimes there is nothing you can do but react, especially if a partner or client departure, or a large case settlement, leads to a sudden lack of work and a pending layoff. Good attorneys will generally have their ear to the ground about issues within a firm, and will always be seeking their next work assignment, but it does sometimes happen that no matter how much effort an attorney makes to seek and generate new work, it simply does not work out.
However, most attorneys who wind up in this position are “stuck” because they failed to think strategically and make a career move well in advance of any potential issues that would put their current job and long-term career prospects in jeopardy.
As an attorney who presumably wants a stable, long-term career in your chosen profession, you need to always be aware of whether you are in the right position to ensure success in this goal. That may very well be staying at your current firm, if you have a strong partner mentor who will be your advocate when you are up for partnership, or a great connection with a legacy client of the firm that will ensure you are not lacking for work. However, for the majority of attorneys, they will need to make at least one or more moves in their career to ensure success in the long term.
I won’t list all of the potential factors you should consider when evaluating your career and whether you should stay put or look to move, but I will provide a brief list of some commonly overlooked factors, and why they are important strategically.
See the following articles for more information about when the right time is to make a move:
Probably the most major factor is the market cycle. Certain practice areas tend to follow market cycles of around 6-10 years, usually falling within the 8 year range, and this tracks with cycles in the overall economy. Specifically, transactional practice areas tend to be white hot when money is flowing, the economy is humming, deals are being made and construction on new real estate and infrastructure is booming. But then when there is a crash or a slowdown, attorneys who once found themselves fielding 15 calls a day from eager recruiters will begin worrying about a lack of work, and find that when they reach out to those same recruiters once the market has gone down, it is now the recruiters who will ignore their calls, because firms aren’t hiring in that practice area.
This is extremely important to be aware of as a practicing attorney, because if you see yourself needing to make a move within the next 3-5 years, for any current or anticipated reason, you should time your move to the market rather than when it is “perfect” timing for you personally, because those two things may not match up. You can find a new position in a hot market, even though you don’t necessarily need to move right away, but you won’t find a new position very easily, if at all, if you need to during a down cycle in the market for your practice area. Moving when you don’t need to, but when you have the best opportunity to move, and when you may not have that opportunity a few months or years down the road is the very definition of strategic thinking.
A related factor is what level you are at in your career, and your honest prospects for advancement within the next 3-5 years at your current firm. If you are a mid-level associate at a firm that is not known for supporting business development, and you don’t have a very strong relationship with a partner mentor who will go to bat for you, or a legacy firm client who likes you and will provide you with enough work to justify keeping you on as you get more senior, you may want to make a move to a firm where you have more long-term security, even if it means a pay cut or a smaller market. You may be fine and busy at your current position, but as you get senior you will become much less marketable to a lateral firm if you have no portable business. This means if you are a 6th or 7th year real estate attorney, and the market is hot for your background, you should move before you get “stuck” at your current firm when the market takes a downturn and you are being forced out of your current firm with no lateral prospects. You could have been at a smaller or more sustainable firm if you had made the move when the market timing was right.
A similar factor if you are trying to build a book of business is your firm’s billing rates. You might be getting paid well right now, and being fed plenty of work from the rainmaker partners, but the real stability and real money in the long term is having your own book of business. If your firm’s billing rates are prohibitively high for prospective business contacts you may have from undergraduate or law school, you will not bring that business in until you move to a firm with more reasonable rates. If you are at the point where you have good potential client contacts, and could start bringing in your own work, but the rates are prohibitive at your current firm, you should very likely take the pay cut to move to a smaller firms and lower rates in order to generate your own client base.
These are only some of the factors you should consider in evaluating your current and future career prospects, and whether you should consider a strategic job search or lateral move. Obviously you may find yourself needing to make a move, but as I stated above, that is not a strong position. Moving when you have the best odds of landing a better long-term position, even if it means a relocation or temporary pay cut, is the way the most strategic and serious attorneys treat their careers, and they will be the attorneys that enjoy true long-term success, driving their own careers instead of simply reacting to external circumstances.
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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