Legal Career Resources

Is Now the Right Time for You to Leave Your Law Firm?
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Summary: Timing when to leave your law firm can be tricky, so follow these guidelines of when to leave and not to leave your firm.

Attorneys are competitive in nature, possessing a drive to succeed and be the best. Often this drive may turn into a situation where an attorney feels they need to jump around a lot to find the best position. Unfortunately, that often is more damaging to a career in the long run. Learn more about when a move is appropriate and when it isn’t in the article “When You Should and Should Not Leave Your Law Firm to Get Ahead” by Harrison Barnes.

  
What
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When to leave your current firm:

  • You want to work in a different geographic location that you current firm does not have an office in. Perhaps you are looking to move back home where you grew up but your firm does not have an office in that area. This is a good time to make a move. There are a number of other reasons that would drive an attorney to change markets.
  • Your current firm is struggling and is likely to dry up soon. Law firms go through ups and downs but if a firm has been going down for a long time with little improvement, it is best to make a move to another one that is experiencing success. This also includes when a branch office is not looking like it will survive whether because of lack of work, scandals, malpractice suits, or other things diminishing the offices future.
  • You want to handle different types of work. You may find yourself getting the same work over and over again at your current firm and want a change. If you have a desire to work with specific clients or on specific matters, whether in your current practice area or another, changing firms is a good idea. Make sure that there is no option left at your current firm to get that kind of work either by your own efforts or more time.
  • Your future plans cannot be achieved at your current firm. You may know where you want to go with your career but sometimes a law firm will not be capable of getting you there. If you want to end up in an in-house position, working for a large law firm will make the possibility for likely. An attorney that wants to eventually start their own private practice would benefit from working at a smaller firm that encourages an entrepreneurial way of thinking.
  • Your firm begins smarting up and running like a business, only bringing in lateral hires with business and preventing the lower associates from moving up too easily. These kinds of firms realize that they can pay less for the same work if they get someone new. These firms turn to consultants to get lower costs. There is less commitment from the firm to their attorneys and vice versa. You would do better at a firm that is less organized, giving you the opportunity to gain big.
  • Your law firm is not a good place to get clients. There are just some law firms that clients gravitate to. You want to find smaller clients but working at a high billing rate law firm will not be easy to get those kinds of clients. You may need to move to a slightly smaller law firm if you want to secure lots of smaller clients. Once you have a large book of business, you can always take it with you to a larger firm.
  • You look at your superiors and bosses, knowing you don’t want to be like them. If the way your superiors work is not the way you want to, then it is time for a change. Do you admire them? Do you think they have a good job? Do you aspire to be them? If the answer is no, find out what needs to change in order for you to want those jobs.
  • You earned a reputation that you can’t escape at your current firm. Everyone makes mistakes or does something that earns them a reputation but some find they can’t escape those incidents. If you find yourself in a position where you have developed a bad reputation that you can’t shake, move on to a new firm before things get worse.
  • Those more talented than you can’t even get ahead so there is little to no chance for you. After working in a law firm for a number of years, you will know where you stand among your colleagues on the talent level. When a fellow attorney that is clearly superior to you in areas of billing hours, politics, intelligence, etc., but still not getting ahead, then you need to consider finding a new law firm where you have a better chance. Keep in mind that out of every class starting out as an attorney, only a few make it big in that firm.
  • You are the talented attorney but not being rewarded for it. After comparing yourself to your colleagues, you may realize you are the top talent. Once you realize that, you may realize that you have gotten nowhere within your firm. This is a big warning sign that you won’t get anywhere and should move on to a firm that appreciates your skills.
  • You are unhappy. No matter what is going on in the firm, if you are not happy then things likely won’t improve for you. Moving to a new firm may be the change you need to be happy in your work.
  • The law firm’s culture doesn’t fit yours. Some law firms have specific cultures that are not going to fit with everyone. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and a good reason to find a new law firm that fits your culture better.
  • You can find opportunities that better fit your interests somewhere else. Go with the punches and take advantage of better opportunities when they come up.
  • You know lots of others that have already left the law firm and much happier now. Some law firms are toxic places that everyone needs to get away from.
  • There is no reward for being loyal to the firm. Some law firms reward their attorneys for being loyal and committed to their firm.
  • Sometimes you just get the feeling that you need to leave your current law firm. Those feelings can sometimes be addressed and fixed but sometimes it is a sixth sense of impending doom.

To learn the reasons why you should stay at your current law firm, read here.

Do you think moving from one firm to another should happen rarely or often? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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