Avoid These 10 Common Pitfalls to Stay Marketable as a Lateral Law Firm Attorney | BCGSearch.com

Avoid These 10 Common Pitfalls to Stay Marketable as a Lateral Law Firm Attorney

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In the competitive world of legal recruitment, standing out as a marketable candidate is crucial. Here’s an in-depth guide to help you avoid common pitfalls and enhance your employability as a lateral attorney.
Avoid These 10 Common Pitfalls to Stay Marketable as a Lateral Law Firm Attorney
 

1. Avoid Being a Generalist: Specialize in a Single Practice Area


Mistake: Presenting yourself as an expert in multiple, unrelated practice areas (e.g., entertainment law and trusts and estates).

 
Why It’s a Problem: Law firms value specialists over generalists. A specialist's deep knowledge in a single practice area is more beneficial than a broad but shallow understanding of multiple fields. Firms seek attorneys who can provide expert advice, handle complex issues within a specific area, and stay current with developments in that field.
 
Solution: Focus on specializing in one practice area. Choose a field that aligns with your interests and strengths, and then immerse yourself in it. This might involve taking on specific types of cases, attending relevant conferences, and continuously updating your knowledge. By becoming a specialist, you offer unique value and increase your marketability.
 
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2. Don’t Go Solo Without a Book of Business

 
Mistake: Becoming a solo practitioner without a substantial client base.
 
Why It’s a Problem: Solo practitioners who lack a robust book of business often face significant challenges when trying to transition back into a law firm. Firms may view solos as less stable and question their ability to work within a team-oriented environment. Moreover, solo practitioners might develop habits and workflows that are not aligned with firm standards, making integration difficult.
 
Solution: If you choose to go solo, ensure you have a strong book of business. This means having a consistent client base that generates reliable revenue. Focus on building and maintaining client relationships, delivering exceptional service, and actively seeking referrals. Having a book of business not only demonstrates your ability to generate revenue but also your capability to manage client relationships effectively.
 
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3. Gain Law Firm Experience

 
Mistake: Having little or no law firm experience, or a significant gap in your law firm employment history.
 
Why It’s a Problem: Law firm experience is crucial for understanding the rigorous demands and expectations of firm life. This includes handling multiple clients, meeting tight deadlines, and working under high pressure. Candidates without law firm experience might struggle to adapt to these demands, resulting in lower productivity and higher turnover.
 
Solution: Seek opportunities to work in a law firm environment. Even if your initial positions are not ideal, they provide valuable experience that will be beneficial in the long run. Internships, clerkships, and associate positions are excellent ways to gain this experience. If you’ve been away from a firm for a while, consider taking a refresher role to reacquaint yourself with firm dynamics and expectations.
 

4. Get Practical Experience Early On

 
Mistake: Graduating recently without gaining practical experience in a law firm.
 
Why It’s a Problem: While law school provides theoretical knowledge, practical experience is essential for developing the skills needed to succeed in a law firm. Firms typically seek candidates with 2-6 years of practical experience. Without this experience, recent graduates might struggle to meet the firm’s expectations and require extensive training and supervision.
 
Solution: Focus on gaining practical, hands-on experience as soon as possible. Internships, summer associate positions, and clerkships are excellent opportunities to gain this experience. Take advantage of every opportunity to work on real cases, interact with clients, and understand the day-to-day operations of a law firm. Early exposure to firm work can significantly enhance your employability.
 

5. Stay Within the Law Firm Environment

 
Mistake: Transitioning to roles outside of law firms (e.g., in-house, government, accounting firms).
 
Why It’s a Problem: Non-firm roles often involve different skill sets and work habits. These positions might not provide the same level of relevant experience needed for a law firm. Law firms require specific skills such as business generation, specialization, and billable hours, which are less emphasized in non-firm environments.
 
Solution: If your goal is to be a marketable lateral attorney, maintain your career trajectory within law firms. This environment will help you develop the skills and experience valued by law firms. If you do transition to a non-firm role, ensure it’s a strategic move that aligns with your long-term career goals and provides valuable, transferable skills.
 

6. Avoid Long-Term Unemployment

 
Mistake: Experiencing long-term unemployment.
 
Why It’s a Problem: Long-term unemployment can raise red flags about your performance and adaptability. It suggests that you may have been fired or chose to leave a job without securing another position. This can indicate potential issues with your work performance, relationships with colleagues, or overall stability.
 
Solution: Stay employed to the best of your ability. If you find yourself unemployed, take proactive steps to quickly secure a new position. Engage in activities that demonstrate your continued professional development, such as attending legal seminars, obtaining certifications, or volunteering for pro bono work. Showing that you are actively improving your skills and staying engaged in the legal community can mitigate concerns about your unemployment.
 

7. Demonstrate Stability

 
Mistake: Frequently changing jobs, indicating instability.
 
Why It’s a Problem: Frequent job changes can indicate a lack of commitment or poor performance. Law firms invest significant resources in training and developing their associates, and they want to ensure that these investments are worthwhile. Candidates who frequently move from one job to another are seen as risky, as they might not stay long enough to justify the investment.
 
Solution: Showcase your ability to commit to and grow within a firm. Stability is a key factor for law firms, as frequent job changes can suggest poor performance or an inability to settle. Aim to stay in roles long enough to demonstrate your value and achievements. If you do change jobs, ensure that each move is strategic and clearly contributes to your career growth.
 
Avoid These 10 Common Pitfalls to Stay Marketable as a Lateral Law Firm Attorney
 

8. Understand Market Dynamics

 
Mistake: Overlooking the importance of market saturation and demand.
 
Why It’s a Problem: Supply and demand dynamics play a crucial role in legal recruitment. In highly saturated markets like New York, there is intense competition for positions, making it difficult to stand out. Conversely, in smaller markets, firms might be more willing to accept candidates who might not meet every criterion but can still contribute significantly to the firm.
 
Solution: Be aware of the supply and demand dynamics in your target markets. High-supply areas like New York can be highly competitive, while smaller markets might have more opportunities for less-than-perfect candidates. Tailor your job search strategy accordingly. In high-supply markets, emphasize your unique skills and experiences to stand out. In lower-supply markets, be prepared to demonstrate how you can bring value even if you don't fit the traditional mold.
 

9. Build and Maintain a Book of Business

 
Mistake: Being a senior attorney without a client base.
 
Why It’s a Problem: Senior attorneys without a book of business don’t contribute to the firm’s revenue, making them a financial burden. Firms prefer senior attorneys who can bring in clients and mentor younger associates.
 
Solution: As you advance in your career, focus on building and maintaining a book of business. Law firms highly value attorneys who can bring in clients and contribute to the firm’s revenue. Developing strong client relationships can set you apart from other candidates. Engage in networking, attend industry events, and consistently deliver exceptional service to build a loyal client base.
 
See Related
 

10. Commit to Traditional Law Firm Roles

 
Mistake: Holding non-traditional roles like staff attorney or contract attorney, which might suggest a lack of commitment to a traditional law firm career.
 
Why It’s a Problem: Staff attorneys and contract attorneys are often seen as less committed to their careers. They might have chosen these roles for the lower stress and better work-life balance, which can be viewed negatively by traditional law firms looking for driven, high-performing individuals.
 
Solution: Aim for roles that demonstrate your commitment to a career in a traditional law firm. These positions are often viewed as more demanding and indicative of a high level of competence and dedication. If you hold a non-traditional role, clearly articulate how your experiences are relevant and how you are committed to excelling in a traditional law firm environment.
 

Conclusion: Enhance Your Employability as a Lateral Attorney


Avoiding these common mistakes can significantly enhance your marketability as a lateral attorney. By focusing on specialization, gaining relevant experience, maintaining stability, and demonstrating your commitment to a law firm career, you can stand out as a strong candidate in the competitive legal market. Make strategic career choices to ensure you are seen as a valuable asset to potential employers. Your career path should reflect a trajectory of growth, stability, and increasing responsibility, making you an attractive candidate for any law firm.

 

QUESTIONS ANSWERED IN THIS ARTICLE
 

1. Why is it important for lateral attorneys to specialize in a single practice area rather than being a generalist?

Specializing in a single practice area is important because law firms value deep knowledge and expertise in a specific field over a broad but shallow understanding of multiple areas. Specialists can provide expert advice, handle complex issues, and stay current with developments in their field, making them more valuable to law firms.
 

2. What are the potential drawbacks of becoming a solo practitioner without a substantial book of business?

Solo practitioners without a substantial book of business may face significant challenges when trying to transition back into a law firm. Firms may view them as less stable and question their ability to work within a team-oriented environment. Additionally, solo practitioners might develop habits and workflows that are not aligned with firm standards, making integration difficult.
 

3. How can a recent law school graduate enhance their employability in a law firm?

Recent law school graduates can enhance their employability by gaining practical, hands-on experience as soon as possible. Internships, summer associate positions, and clerkships provide opportunities to work on real cases, interact with clients, and understand the day-to-day operations of a law firm. This practical experience is crucial for meeting the firm’s expectations and reducing the need for extensive training and supervision.
 

4. Why is maintaining employment important for lateral attorneys, and how can they mitigate concerns if they experience long-term unemployment?/span>

Maintaining employment is important because long-term unemployment can raise red flags about an attorney's performance and adaptability. It suggests potential issues with work performance or stability. If experiencing long-term unemployment, attorneys can mitigate concerns by engaging in activities that demonstrate continued professional development, such as attending legal seminars, obtaining certifications, or volunteering for pro bono work. This shows they are actively improving their skills and staying engaged in the legal community.
 

5. What strategies can a senior attorney use to remain marketable in a law firm environment?

A senior attorney can remain marketable by building and maintaining a book of business. Law firms highly value attorneys who can bring in clients and contribute to the firm’s revenue. Developing strong client relationships, engaging in networking, attending industry events, and consistently delivering exceptional service can help build a loyal client base. Additionally, showcasing the ability to mentor younger associates and demonstrate leadership can further enhance marketability.
 
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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