Legal Career Resources

The Market Can Determine Possibilities to Lateral
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legal market

Summary: The legal market has a big effect on whether or not an attorney can move to a new law firm, especially when they are looking to move up in location and market size.

The abilities for an attorney to find a new job rely heavily on the market. With strong qualifications and experience, attorneys have a good chance of moving to a new firm but there may be some waiting involved. Harrison Barnes, using his expertise as a legal recruiter to help attorneys find new positions, has been collecting examples of the types of typical and not so typical circumstances that attorneys can expect to deal with during a job search.


Attorneys looking to move to a new region can do so easily when the reason behind the move centers on moving to be closer to family. Law firms know this reason will keep the attorney with their firm longer. An attorney looking to move to a new region just because they want a change is often seen as a flight risk. A move like this becomes even more complicated when an attorney is currently employed in a contract position.

Barnes worked with a contract attorney that was wanting to relocate from the Midwest to the West, specifically to Seattle. Luckily, the attorney had great qualifications and was looking for a new position because his current firm did not have enough work to even keep him on in a full-time position and not because he was being fired. With his qualifications and not enough work to keep busy, the attorney wanted to see what other opportunities there were for him out there.

The reason the attorney decided on Seattle was from a trip he enjoyed with friends to the area. The reason may not seem very strong enough for law firms to consider but a legal recruiter can counter this reason with a strong presentation of their qualifications. A transition from a small market in the Midwest to a larger market in Seattle may seem like an impossible feat but using a good legal recruiter can make it possible. This attorney gained environmental experience through his contract work which proved valuable experience for Seattle. They also had prior environment law experience working for a leading environmental law firm in the Midwest. The attorney was quickly snatched up by a law firm with a big environmental practice area.

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In another case, Barnes helped a senior East Coast bankruptcy attorney return to New York City. Once an attorney leaves New York City, coming back can be very difficult for most attorneys. This particular attorney started out in New York City after law school but eventually left to work in a smaller East Coast market. By this point the attorney had around 10 year of experience. Bankruptcy is generally a slower market so a senior attorney in bankruptcy would likely hit several roadblocks.

When Barnes started working with the attorney, there were no openings in bankruptcy law in New York. The attorney remained patient, waiting months for the market to change. Law firms that Barnes had already approached for the attorney at the start of the search were now interested in the attorney. The change in the market completely changed the game for this attorney. The attorney ended up finding a good fit with a very prestigious law firm with one of the best bankruptcy practices.

This attorney was able to make the change they wanted, it just took time. In both examples, the attorneys happened to be looking at the right time and this is quite often the case. The search for a new position can take time but can be possible. An attorney will never know what is possible unless they try.

What can attorneys do to better their chances of lateraling? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about how lateral hiring, read these articles:



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