Why You Should NEVER Quit a Law Firm Job Without Another Lined Up: Once You Start Working in a Law Firm, If You Leave You Will Almost Certainly Not Be Able to Return
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

I speak with attorneys each week who left law firms for a variety of reasons and now want to return to them. Many are brimming with confidence and mistakenly believe that they are entitled to a lateral position in a prestigious law firm even though they are not currently working in one or have taken an extended absence.
  • Some left their firms and want to return to those same firms after an extended absence of some sort.
  • Others left their firms and now want to go to other firms after taking an extended maternity leave or another type of long hiatus.
  • Still others left to work in a different practice setting (in-house, government, small firm practice and so forth) and now want to go back to the kind of law firms they left.

While I hate to be the bearer of bad news, law firms do not look kindly on those not currently working, or not working in law firms: With limited exceptions, once you leave a law firm it is difficult (but not impossible) to go back. Even if you leave your law firm for an extended period due to a personal illness or to take care of an ill family member, for example, it becomes incredibly difficult to transition back into the firm. Even if the firm allows you to return, your days are often numbered.

Why do I say these things? Am I cruel? No, I have been working with attorneys trying to transition back into law firms after leaving them for about two decades now. I have watched over and over again how law firms treat attorneys trying to lateral who have left firms in their pasts.