15 Reasons Law Firm Attorneys Should Not Look for New Jobs | BCGSearch.com

15 Reasons Law Firm Attorneys Should Not Look for New Jobs

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Summary: Are you thinking about leaving your law firm? Make sure you don’t leave your firm for the wrong reason and harm your career.
 
Make sure you don’t leave your law firm for the wrong reasons.

Many law firm attorneys at some point in their careers—six months or thirty years out—decide that they need to find new jobs. There are concrete reasons that many should find new jobs; however, in over half of cases it is generally inadvisable for attorneys to look for new positions.
 
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

For attorneys who are unhappy, the problem is generally not where they are currently working; the problem is generally the attorney and how the attorney is thinking about his or her position.

 

1. You Are Compensated Well but Feel Unappreciated


Just about all attorneys inside of law firms feel unappreciated.
 
Law firms are not “warm and fuzzy” places at all. I sit in law firm lobbies all the time, and now that I am getting older I also go to my fair share of funerals and sit around funeral homes. People are nicer at funerals, say hello more often, hug one another, and the atmosphere of a funeral home is more welcoming than a law firm. You do not hear a lot of laughter in law firms and people are not very nice to one another. People smile when they see each other in funeral homes, but people typically do not smile too often in law firms. In law firms, people who have known each other for years pass in the halls without smiling or acknowledging one another.



In a law firm, it is rare to hear a “thank you” and people are notoriously competitive with each other: This is the nature of the beast and it is not going to change by going to another firm. You are not going to get hugs or be appreciated.
 
In the few decades I have been in recruiting, one of the most interesting things I have seen is the phenomenon of talented attorneys with top credentials being upset because they are not treated as special people by law firms just because of their great credentials. Law firms want you to be smart, motivated, and look good to their clients. They like it when you have good credentials, of course, but they are paying you to be there to learn and to work. Regardless of your level, the law firm is your employer, and the people you are working for experience all sorts of stresses of their own. They do not have the time to appreciate you. The appreciation you receive comes in the form of your paycheck, bonus, and the right to work there.


The solution to not feeling appreciated is not to look for a new job.

Do you feel appreciated? Why or why not? How does this affect you?
 
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2. There Is Too Much Work


Too much work is a very common complaint. The law firm world runs by having associates bill as many hours as possible in exchange for a fixed salary and bonus. Law firms of all sizes (boutique to large firms) function and are successful to the degree that there is a lot of work to be done, and you are paid as little as possible for doing this work.

It takes about five years for most attorneys to learn what they are doing and become competent in any practice area. If you are at a large, well-known law firm, during that five-year period you are being trained and paid at the same time, so it is a pretty good deal. Starting over at a new firm is not going to change the fact that you are still “in training” and have a lot to learn. You will still need to endure and figure out a way to handle the stresses that come from transitioning from a pupil to a trained attorney. The more work you do, the more competent you can become during that time. If you leave the law firm world during this period and go in-house, into the government, or do something else entirely, you are never going to learn how to practice law. That is nonsensical and like getting a medical degree and never doing a residency and learning what it takes to be a doctor. Your experience will largely go to waste. The medical profession functions like this as well—people in their residencies work 60-hour shifts because they are making the hospital and more senior doctors as much money as possible.

Work is something that law firms need to survive. There is no reason that you should leave a firm simply because the firm has a lot of work and gives it to you to do—especially when you are young. The presence of a lot of work means that there is an opportunity for advancement and the firm is doing something right. Lots of work means you have job security, you are building political capital, and you are getting good experience. You should never be unhappy that there is a lot of work.

The solution to having too much work is not to leave.

Do you feel like you have too much work? How can you feel better about this?
 
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3. Morale Is Low


Morale is low in most law firms. Morale is low when people leave, when there are irrational and mean partners, when people get fired, when clients are lost, when cases are lost, when people do not make partner, when there are layoffs, when there is too much work, when there is bad news in the press about the firm, when there is not enough work, when bonuses are not paid, and when bonuses are not as high as people were hoping for or expected. Morale is low when the economy is hot and when it is cold. There are few times when morale is high in a law firm. There are some law firms that are very well run and where the firm does an excellent job of keeping morale high, but this is the exception and not the norm.

Regardless of the law firm, morale is always going to be low in most law firms because law firms are not warm and fuzzy places. Law firms hire young people, overwork them, and then replace them when they leave or get fired. Attorneys make partner and do not get business and are let go. Partners with business are not paid what they believe they deserve and leave. Law firms are constantly going through cycles that ensure that morale is always going to be low.

The solution to low morale is not to look for a new job.

How is morale at your law firm?
 
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4. Others Are Leaving, and You Decide to Look as Well


A man I know is very wealthy and has been married a few times. He controls his “trophy” wife very closely and dictates whom she can associate with. After a few failed marriages, he realized that if his wife started associating with women who were unhappy in their marriages and complaining all the time, then his wife would start doing the same—because unhappiness is contagious and people want to be around others like them. He had witnessed this with previous wives and with friends of his and their wives as well. He has been happily married for fifteen years and credits this to making sure that he and his wife spend their time with people who are happy in their marriages.

Unhappiness, stress, and all sorts of negative emotions like this are contagious. If others in your firm start looking for jobs, they will look on it with approval if you start doing the same as well. People become like those around them. The law firm model is built on constant destruction and renewal—this is how the organism works—and because of this, there will be people leaving and looking for jobs all the time because they are unhappy. You should spend your time with people who are succeeding and doing well, because what they are doing will rub off on you. The best response is not to get “psyched out” by people leaving your law firm, but instead to just realize this is a part of the cycle and stay around positive people.

People by nature are “tribal” animals who want to follow what others are doing. You should not care what others are doing. You should put your head down and work. Even associating closely with people on the way out can hurt you if you are seen as taking their side. Be friends with and close to the people who are doing well and not those who are not.

Who are your friends in your law firm? How has associating with them affected your career?
 
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5. You Received a Poor Review or Have Gotten Poor Reviews


Did you receive a poor review? Think about it.

When I was a summer associate at a major law firm in New York, I billed maybe 35 hours a week. There was a major legal recession at the time (it was the mid-1990s), and things were not going well at most law firms in New York. When I received my first review, halfway through the summer program, I could not believe how harsh it was. It was in a dark-paneled room, the lights were dim, and I felt like I was on a movie set about a sinister law firm, because I could barely see the faces of the people attacking me. I asked all the other summer associates how their reviews were and—with one exception—they were all bad as well. The one exception was a woman in my law school whose sister was an attorney in a big firm. Her sister had counseled her to bill as many hours as she could. She received a stellar review. Taking her advice, I started billing 70+ hours a week and working weekends. The quality of my work did not change measurably, just the quantity. At the end of the summer, the woman from my law school and I were the only ones to receive offers. The only thing the firm cared about was how many hours we were working. That was what the “review” was about. People with lots of hours typically do not get poor reviews.

Most junior associates are reviewed somewhat critically until their third or fourth years, when they start being most productive for their law firms. From years four through eight, law firms typically give associates decent reviews. But then the reviews start to become more cryptic (“you’re on the right track”) or the attorney will be told to leave, or not told anything either way. Regardless, unless the firm is coming out and telling you to look for a job—or being overtly hostile to you (“you’re not a good fit here”), then there is no reason to leave because of a poor review. You are learning a profession and should take feedback as a way to improve and build on it. As I said earlier, your poor reviews will almost certainly disappear if you are billing enough hours.

Have you received a poor review at your law firm? How did this affect you?
 
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6. You Think You Would Be Happier in a Boutique


A constant fantasy of attorneys from large law firms is transferring to boutique law firms and being happy. They believe that the pressures of a large law firm will suddenly disappear and they will be happier if they join a boutique law firm. The fantasy is that there will be fewer hours, a nicer atmosphere, and that life will be much better. Here is the problem with this logic.
 
  • All law firms are businesses and are trying to make money. As businesses, firms big and small want to bill a lot of hours and have people working as hard as possible. Regardless of the practice area, work can get very busy inside of law firms, and when it does, you will be expected to work hard.
  • Most boutiques have less support. If you are trading a big firm for a smaller one, you are most likely going to have to do a lot of things on your own that you did not have to do at the larger law firm. This means more administrative work you may not even understand how to do.
  • A smaller firm means that if things go bad, they go really bad. If someone does not like you, if a group of partners with a lot of business leave, or if the firm loses a big and important client—things can go really bad. Smaller law firms are dangerous places and they implode or get absorbed by larger law firms all the time. If someone in power does not like you in a smaller law firm, then watch out. In a larger law firm, you could simply avoid the person; however, in a smaller law firm, this is something that will be incredibly difficult. Your career can end much more quickly in a smaller law firm than a large one.
  • A smaller firm has less financial leverage (clients) to protect it in good and bad times. Large law firms typically are “somewhat stable” because they are built on multiple pillars and have multiple practice areas that protect them during different economic conditions. Many boutiques have one or just a few practice areas and this makes them prone to going out of business and being less resilient and competitive. With fewer practice areas, these firms cannot do different types of work for their clients, and this ends up limiting the revenue they can bring in.
  • Boutiques are not as respected by employers as are large law firms. This means that if you join a boutique, it will be difficult to move back to a large law firm and it will be more difficult to get a job in-house. In-house jobs are extremely difficult to get and most companies prefer to hire their in-house counsel from a name brand, AmLaw 100-type law firm than from a smaller boutique that they may not be familiar with.
  • You will have a more difficult time bringing in significant clients. Large law firms typically carry “cachet” associated with their names and companies like this. It looks and sounds better to use a name brand firm than it does a no-name firm. Large companies (with lots of business) will typically go with large, full-service firms instead of boutiques for their most important matters. The sort of large clients that can make your career will be much more difficult to attract in a small law firm than in a large law firm. Please note: Because of the lower billing rates, you will often be able to bring in smaller clients. This is an advantage that can help you in your career.
  • You will make less money. While not always the case, you will often make far less money in a boutique than you will in a larger law firm. Boutiques often do not have the market pricing power, leverage, or large clients to make them as profitable for their attorneys.

What is your opinion of boutiques?

There are a lot of myths surrounding boutiques that attorneys should be aware of before making such a major career decision. Boutique law firms are not always everything attorneys hope them to be.
 
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7. You Are Not Being Given Enough Authority (Running Deals, Doing Depositions, and So Forth)


A common complaint that attorneys have is that they do not have enough authority or responsibility. In one way, being upset about not having enough authority can be interpreted as a good sign because it shows you are ambitious, hungry, and want to improve. Notwithstanding, this is not a good reason to look for a new position. I have worked with partners who are 25 years out of law school and practicing with major American law firms who have never done a trial. I have seen associates in law firms make partner without ever having taken a deposition. Many corporate attorneys experience the same sort of lack of responsibility in their careers as well. In the largest law firms, the lack of responsibility and authority is a sign that the work is being done in a very careful, plodding way. Just because you are not getting responsibility does not mean you should look for a new job. You are being drilled in the fundamentals. If you go to a firm and they are willing to give you this sort of responsibility early in your career, the firm may be being reckless and may not have clients that are very important (as shown by the clients letting the firm take such risks).

Are you happy with the amount of responsibility your law firm gives to junior associates?
 
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8. You Are Getting Senior and Will Not Make Partner


It is very common for attorneys who have 8+ years of experience to look for jobs because they are not going to be partners at their current firms—yet they are not being asked to leave. If the attorney is at a large law firm, the attorney may be making over $500,000 a year to sit around and bill 2,000 to 2,200 hours a year. I speak with attorneys like this all the time, and they are unhappy because they are not going to become partners in their current firms, yet they are not being asked to leave and the firm is quite happy with them. In a situation like this, there is certainly no reason not to look around at other law firms and see what is out there, but I always recommend that the attorney be as careful as possible about leaving, because the amount of money that he or she makes as a senior associate or counsel in a major law firm is much more than he or she is likely to make in-house or with a smaller law firm.

If a law firm is keeping you around as a senior attorney, you should do the cost-benefit analysis on whether or not you should leave—and the cost is often greater than the benefit. In all likelihood, it will take you significant time to build the political capital and garner the support you have now in a new legal environment. While I do not have the exact statistics, I would guess that about half of the attorneys who leave positions in large law firms at a senior level tend not to last very long at their next jobs and not have as good of situations as the ones they left.

Many attorneys who are senior and making $500,000+ a year often talk about the fact that they would like to start businesses. If you own a business and it is doing $5,000,000 a year, and you are making a 10% profit margin that would be considered very good. Attorneys making a good living inside of a law firm do own a business—the business is them and the income they are generating. It is important to think about the alternatives to what you are doing before you make a move.

Many attorneys who are senior also want to move to firms that will give them the “title” of partner—which is a possibility and something that I achieve for senior attorneys on a consistent basis. It is entirely possible to be a counsel-level attorney at a major New York law firm and move to another one as a partner, for example, if you want to and are motivated to do so. The issue, though, is that if you do make this transition—unless you are a full-on service partner—you are going to have a series of new responsibilities (getting business, for example) that you did not have in your prior role and may be under time pressure (two years is common) to develop that business.

How close are you to making partner? Do you think it will happen at your current firm?
 
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9. You Are Unhappy and Think It Is Because of Your Law Firm


Many attorneys are unhappy. But stress, disappointment, anger, depression, substance abuse, health problems, and other issues are par for the course for attorneys. Many attorneys are unhappy people to begin with. To get into one of the best law schools, an attorney typically needs to study and work harder than most others. The majority of the attorneys I work with from large law firms were Phi Beta Kappa in college and have histories of remarkable achievement. There is nothing wrong with any of this, of course, but the intense drive that attorneys have is often there because attorneys are trying to compensate for something else and want to feel important, significant, and prove something. The problem with all of this is that the law firm environment does not necessarily reward that and, instead, channels what is motivating you into hours and profit for the law firm. The most successful attorneys I have spoken with in-depth are often trying to prove something to a parent, people who did not believe in them growing up, or they are trying to rise from one socio-economic class to another through their careers.

I always ask attorneys who are unhappy whether the problem is the firm, or whether the unhappiness is coming from something to do with the attorneys themselves. This is a difficult topic, because many attorneys have a psychological makeup that is such that they would be unhappy in most jobs, and the law firm is not the problem. I have many conversations with attorneys like this regularly. Uncovering this character aspect of the attorney unseats deep issues that can be extremely upsetting for many attorneys. The attorney who bounces around from job to job is often running from him or herself more than anything. The attorney feels that a change of scenery will bring happiness—but it never does.

I was speaking with a woman several years ago and she told me that her father would constantly move the family from city to city when she was growing up. This was fairly traumatic for her because she constantly had to make new friends. When she got older, she realized that her father was an alcoholic. She started attending meetings for children of alcoholics (ALANON) and someone in the meeting told her that many alcoholics move all the time because they think that if they go to a new place they will stop drinking and get better. The behavior of moving law firms is similar because there are often issues that have to do with you that are not going to be solved by going to a new place.

There are reasons to be unhappy at work, but the first thing you should always do is examine whether the real problem is the law firm or you. If people around you seem much happier and less tormented, there is a good chance that the issues you are experiencing are things that you should work on and not believe they are caused by the law firm.

Are you unhappy practicing law? Is this caused by your firm or something inside yourself?
 
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10. You Think You Would Be Happier Doing another Practice Area

It is very common for attorneys to want to switch firms, or find new jobs, because they believe they would be happier in other practice areas. Every week, I speak with attorneys interested in switching practice areas and who are unhappy in their existing practice areas.

There are some significant differences between practice areas—but not a lot. Early on in your academic career, as every student does, you undoubtedly developed a preference and better aptitude for subjects having to do with numbers and science, or for those related to reading and writing. You then majored in something related to that aptitude in college. At the most simplistic level, you are either a numbers-type person or a verbal-person. Everyone has a preference for one or the other.
 
  • People who are number, science-type people naturally gravitate towards transactional-type practice areas (like real estate, corporate, tax, patent law, project finance, ERISA, or trusts and estates).
  • People who are verbal-types gravitate towards verbal areas (like litigation, employment, antitrust, or criminal law).

Should you switch practice areas? The only reason to switch practice areas is if you are a numbers person stuck in a verbal practice area, or a verbal person stuck in a numbers practice area. Other than that, you are not going to find most practice areas all that different. If your mind naturally works a certain way and you are stuck in the wrong bin (verbal versus numbers), then you will be happier switching practice areas and may have a better career in your new practice area.

The majority of attorneys who switch practice areas do so for the wrong reasons. They are unhappy practicing law and believe that switching practice areas is something that will make them happier. The desire to switch practice areas is also something that occurs early in an attorney’s career when the new attorney is acclimating to the stress of being a new attorney (long hours, harsh reviews, and so forth). The problem is more often than not the experience of being a new attorney as opposed to the attorney’s practice area.

Are you happy in your current practice area?
 
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11. You Are Bored


There are attorneys who like the thrill of looking for a new position—meeting new people, selling themselves, and the thrill of getting interviews and offers. I have seen attorneys move yearly for a decade or more. Most often attorneys move around between firms like this because they get bored and restless. Many attorneys are interested in going to new places (Asia, Hawaii, Alaska) and willingly apply to firms all over the world for the thrill of seeing what it would be like to work in Dubai, Alaska, North Dakota, or other exotic locations. Other attorneys move around within their existing markets like this as long as they can.

The problem with this sort of job search is that you never develop roots. Attorneys are expected to settle down, build alliances in their firms, become involved in their communities, and establish themselves. You will not be trusted after several moves because your next employer knows you will be looking for a new job just as soon as you start the current one. Boredom is no reason to move. You should put your adventurous spirit to work in other ways and find excitement outside of work to assuage that spirit instead.

Are you bored at your law firm?
 
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12. You Think You Want to Work In-House


This is extremely common, and it is incredibly common for attorneys inside of big law firms to dream of going in-house. The fantasy is that if you go in-house that all of the stresses of your current position will go away and you will be happy, have more free time, and be able to be on the business side of things advising your clients. (I have written extensively about this elsewhere and encourage you to read this article that discusses the dangers of going in-house: Why Going In-house Is Often the Worst Decision a Good Attorney Can Ever Make.) For the sake of brevity, I will summarize some of the reasons that in-house is not all it seems cracked up to be:
 
  • If you go in-house, you will become a cost center and not a profit center. In-house attorneys do not generate income for the companies they work for. They are likely to be let go when the company merges, slows down, moves—or whatever. Inside of a law firm, you have a certain amount of employment stability because you are generating revenue that pays your salary—not so in-house.
  • Most people who go in-house do not stay long. Most attorneys do not last long in their first in-house positions or others. They become very unhappy. The risk-averse skills that are valued inside a law firm are often not popular when attorneys get inside of companies and suddenly see people breaking the rules and taking great offense to the “real world” actions going on inside of companies. Young, first-time in-house attorneys inside of companies call me regularly and express shock and a desire to get out of the company immediately because the company is bending the rules and they cannot go along with it. The world of business is far different than working in a law firm, and attorneys realize this very quickly once they go in-house. The resumes of attorneys who make moves in-house from large law firms are typically littered with a series of companies and various periods of unemployment. This is a rough road to take.
  • It is more difficult to get another job once you go in-house. Once you go in-house, you will have a difficult time getting another position. Companies, law firms, and most employers want to hire younger people—and companies prefer to hire people out of law firms who are younger and have fresher skills. Once you go in-house, it will be difficult to find subsequent jobs.
  • Your legal skills will deteriorate. The legal skills of in-house attorneys typically deteriorate because they send the most important work to outside law firms, and in-house attorneys tend to become generalists and not specialists. Not surrounded by other attorneys, the work quality of the in-house attorney tends to slip further and further down, and the attorney becomes an expert in passing work off to outside counsel.
  • You will not be able to go back to a law firm. Law firms typically will not hire in-house attorneys because the very act of going in-house shows the law firm you will leave that environment again, likely are not interested in working hard, and so forth.
  • Most companies do not like their in-house attorneys. The job of an in-house attorney is to tell the people running the company what they cannot do. Management pays them to do this, but this does not mean they like hearing your negative opinions—and it certainly does not make them want you as part of their inner circles. In-house attorneys often feel quite isolated in companies.
  • You will lose control over your career because you will not have clients. Without clients (which you are expected to have inside of most law firms as you get more senior), you will lose complete control over your compensation and ability to control your destiny.

Going in-house is not something that is always wise to aspire to. There are major dangers with this career choice, and the reality of it is often different than what it appears to be from the outside.

Do you think going in-house is a good move? Why or why not?
 
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13. You Have a Mentor and Someone Looking Out for You


If you have a mentor and someone looking out for you inside of your existing law firm—someone you truly believe is trying to help you—then it is not always a good idea to leave.

I was speaking with an associate recently who has moved firms with a partner she works with three times in seven years. He gets to a firm and brings her and a few other associates with him, they do not pay him as much as they promised they would (something that is very common), and then he moves with his associates to a new firm. The partner has a lot of business. When she told me that she wanted to move firms (without him), I seriously urged her to stay with him. He was going to make her partner eventually (at whatever firm he was at), and he liked her work. He obviously thought highly of her because he kept asking her to join him at his new firms. Getting someone like that partner on her side at a new law firm would be a huge challenge and might not even be possible.

When you have someone who is protecting you, this is a major advantage. If someone is protecting you, then this means that your career is safe as long as this person has your back. I have seen attorneys have long, fruitful, and very rewarding careers all because one very powerful person had their backs. Having a very good mentor is something that can make your career and the best thing that could happen to you.

Do you have a mentor in your current firm? If so, how can you get one?
 
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14. The Firm Is Telling You That You Have a Future


If a firm tells you that you have a future with the firm, and if the firm means it, then you should not look elsewhere—unless there are other reasons motivating the move. If the firm likes you, you have enough work, and you have a future in the law firm, then looking for a new position may not be in your best interest. The problem is that you will have to find a new firm where you also have a future.

Before most people get married, they have several relationships with other people. Most relationships do not work, and because they do not work very few people marry the first person they date—they find something that works. If you are in a relationship with your law firm that works, then why would you want to start from scratch and date a new law firm? It may not work out with the new firm and you might not have a future there. Having a future in a law firm is dependent upon things like (1) people liking you, (2) there being enough work in your practice area, (3) the firm thinking you do good work, and (4) the cultural fit you have with the law firm. There is zero reason that you should be doing something else if what you are doing is working.

Do you think you have a future at your current firm?

 

15. You Would Like to Try Another Career (Government, In-House) Before Committing to a Law Firm


If you are in a law firm now, you have one shot to succeed. Once you leave the law firm world, it is difficult to impossible to come back. That is like telling someone you are dating that you want to see other people for a while and then try to start up again. It does not work. Law firms almost always only hire from law firms. Once you are in a law firm, you need to make it work, as you get only one shot in that practice environment (at least at a high level).

It is possible to leave a large law firm, take an important position in government and then come back with a bigger title than you had when you left. This is common in many major law firms such as Sullivan & Cromwell, for example. Nevertheless, this is rare and not something that occurs often.

Are you interested in trying another career?
 
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Conclusions


Attorneys can be classified into a couple of camps: (1) junior associates, (2) midlevel associates, (3) senior associates, and (4) partner level attorneys.

It takes about five years for most attorneys to learn what they are doing and become competent in any practice area. If you are at a large, well-known law firm and being trained and paid during that initial period, you need to realize that you have a pretty good deal. Starting over at a new firm is not going to change the fact that you are still “in training” and have a lot to learn. If you leave the law firm world during this period and go in-house, into the government, or do something else entirely, you are never going to learn how to practice law. Your experience will largely go to waste.

Midlevel attorneys are making a mistake when they leave for a new job just when they start to know what they are doing and when they start to become profitable to their law firms. All of the growth, shared experiences, alliances, and connections they have experienced at their current firms—especially if they started out as summer associates—are thrown out the window. Law firms like the idea of grooming people, as there is value to continuity, to knowing how things work, and to growing in the same environment.

The senior associate or counsel attorney who gets restless because he or she is concerned that he or she will not become a partner, or who feels that he or she should be doing something else—yet is being paid extremely well and not being asked to leave—often makes a mistake by switching firms. When a law firm asks a senior associate to leave, the firm will give the senior associate at least three months and often over a year to find a new job. I believe that there is no harm looking for a job when you do not have to, but if there is not pressure to leave and the money is good, then what is the problem? The same goes for the income partner under no pressure to leave. Why are you leaving?

Partners with business looking for positions typically do so for business reasons. At this point, most of them know what they are doing, and moving is a business decision that is motivated by other concerns.

The bottom line is that many attorneys leave jobs for the wrong reasons. If you are going to switch jobs, then you better know what you are doing before you do. More careers are harmed by moving for the wrong reasons than they are than staying. Moving seems exciting and sexy, but the reality for your career is that you may be setting yourself up for something that does not benefit you in the long run.

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Share Your Thoughts


What are some legitimate reasons for leaving a law firm that won’t harm your career?
How can you know when the right time is to make a move and where to go?
What moves have you made (or seen others make) in their legal careers that turned out well?
Share your answers to the above questions and any other comments you have by commenting below the article.


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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