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Reflecting on an Age-Old Question: Should I Stay or Should I Go? - A Recruiter's Insight (Part II)

published April 13, 2023

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
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( 6 votes, average: 4.4 out of 5)
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Understanding the decision to stay or leave your job as a recruiter can be a difficult question to answer. To make an informed decision, you need to consider the pros and cons of staying or leaving. In Part II of “Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Recruiter Reflects on an Age-Old Question,” recruiters are presented with four key questions to consider in their decision process.

Recruiters should reflect on whether the job has become stagnant or has become too manageable. If a job has become too stable, then it can lead to a sense of boredom. However, recruiters should also consider if leaving the job will create a negative impact on their career, or if staying can give them an edge in a future role. Additionally, recruiters should evaluate if the people they work with make the job a positive experience. Lastly, recruiters should assess whether the job is still meeting their overall goals in life.

Staying in a job could be beneficial to a recruiter's career in many ways. Staying affords them the opportunity to develop relationships with decision-makers and gain stability within the company. Staying in a job could also help the recruiter build more expertise in the industry. Despite the benefits, staying in a job too long can also be a negative for a recruiter's career. Staying too long can lead to a lack of exposure to new ideas and experiences, which can ultimately limit career advancement.

On the other hand, leaving a job may offer recruiters more opportunities for career growth and professional development. Leaving a job and taking a chance on a new position can give recruiters exposure to new people, experiences and opportunities. Additionally, recruiters can gain access to higher-level opportunities and explore holistic career advancement.

Ultimately, only the recruiter can make the decision to stay or leave a job. Recruiters should take the time to evaluate the pros and cons of both options and consider the four key questions to make the best decision for their career.

Recruiters must assess the pros and cons of staying or leaving their current job to make an informed decision. Consideration should be made for whether the job is too stagnant, whether leaving would negatively impact a recruiter's career, if the people within the job environment make the job a positive experience and if the job is still meeting the overall goals in life. Staying in a job could offer stability for a recruiter, as well as an opportunity to develop relationships with decision-makers and gain expertise in their industry. However, staying too long can limit a recruiter's career growth. Alternatively, recruiters may leave their job to gain access to higher-level opportunities, explore opportunities for professional development and gain exposure to new people and experiences. Recruiters should consider the four key factors and assess the pros and cons to make the best decision for their career.

Staying or Going: The Recruiter's Perspective Part II

Years ago, the idea of staying with the same company for the duration of a career was quite traditional and even expected. Job loyalty was not just a feasible option, it was a convenient one. Fast forward to the present time, and sudden changes in career paths are suddenly more common than ever. The concept of job loyalty has been replaced with a "what can they do for me' mentality.

That being said, in recent times many people have seen the value in staying with a company for longer periods of time. This decision would hold the employee in the same position and offer a lasting connection between the employee and their employer, while also providing financial stability. Concerns that led people away from job loyalty in the past are still valid, such as: conservative cultures, inadequate compensation and salary, and limited career growth.

As a recruiter, I've observed that job seekers of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels have become more aware of the benefits of staying with a company for longer than just a few years. These job seekers understand the value of building relationships and the impact those relationships can have over time. They recognize the importance of a work-life balance and how, if it isn't there, it will soon be all work and no play.

Staying with an employer long-term has become more attractive as potential employers view individuals that have stayed with the same employer for longer periods of time favorably. Individuals who have stayed with the same employer are viewed as being more committed, dependable, and dedicated. These qualities have a lasting impression on a hiring manager, which can often be the difference between being chosen for the job or having to wait for the next opportunity.

Job Loyalty in the Modern Age

In today's competitive employment landscape, job loyalty is a valuable asset for any employee. Companies often take note of employees that stay with them long term, rewarding them with promotions, increased pay, and better benefits. Additionally, staying with the same employer can help employees build strong relationships, gain more experience, and increase their value to the company.

At the same time, it's important to weigh the potential risks of longer term employment against the potential rewards. Factors such as salary, work-life balance, job security, and career advancement opportunities should all be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to stay with an employer.

What viable alternatives do I have?

If I did not get the opportunity to work with BCG, I likely would still be working as an attorney. I am very glad it worked out, though, because it has proven to be the right choice for me. Having an idea of what the next step could be if you do choose to leave law will be necessary for many people.

The uncertainty that can arise from leaving something that you have worked so hard to achieve for nothing in particular is a drastic step that may end up making you even unhappier. The remedy for that lies in finding a new career path that you believe will make you happier. This point merits the most attention in this process. Without having something else in mind, there is more willingness to look back and regret; having something to look forward to changes that.

While there are not as many opportunities for working as an attorney outside of a law firm as there were a few years ago under the tech boom, corporations have a continual need for in-house representation, and the larger corporations can staff dozens of attorneys. Still, in-house corporate work may end up being a lot like a law firm, and if the actual work is what you are trying to get away from, this is probably not the best option. If however, the law firm environment is what you find stifling, in-house work tends to mean fewer hours and a less cutthroat atmosphere, but also can mean less compensation.

Alternatively, though law school may be in your rearview mirror, if the thought is not too painful, it may be possible to go back and teach. A strong mind for legal theory and a desire to mold the legal minds of tomorrow are what make a good candidate for a professor. Excellent academic credentials certainly do not hurt, either. Summers off, less stress, and more time and resources available for research and publication are what make these positions so highly sought after. Similarly, working in the public sector for the government or a public interest group may seem like a step down in terms of prestige, but it can mean more interesting work and a lot less stress.

Careers that have absolutely nothing to do with the law are also a possibility, as a law degree is much more versatile than you might think. A legal education is welcome in almost any field, as it shows strong training in the ability to think analytically, and it hones writing skills. Putting that training to use for something other than the law may seem abnormal, but there are thousands of working Americans with J.D. degrees who have chosen other fields.

Now that you have a sense of where you'd like to go, you still must consider whether it is practical for you to go at all. Sorry, but it's true. There are a few questions you should answer as part of your analysis:
  1. Is it financially feasible to change professions?
  2. Do I need to be in a stable profession? How risk-averse am I? And
  3. What environment am I most comfortable in?
Is it financially feasible to change professions?

This question looms large when it comes to switching careers. Sure, less stress, more fun, and less time spent at work all sound wonderful, but they all come at a cost—and that cost can run up to $100K per year. Firms are traditionally some of the best-compensating organizations in the world, and very few other professions are going to pay six figures to start. Are you willing to sacrifice a very large chunk of your annual income for an opportunity to get away from it all?

This question essentially comes down to what matters most to you. If you are truly unhappy working in a law firm, then there is plenty of incentive to take a pay cut. As another type of professional with a good education, you will most likely be able to make as much as you need, although that is always relative. Someone like me, who does not have a family counting on a large check from me, can take the plunge with very little concern for the money. Others must consider salary first and foremost because of familial or other financial obligations. The age-old question of whether to choose happiness or money will not be decided here, but both come with pros and cons. It's up to you to decide which takes precedence.

Do I need to be in a stable profession? How risk-averse am I?

Some people are going to dive off a cliff as soon as the opportunity arises, and others are afraid to walk out the front door without checking and double checking if they locked the bathroom window. In general, the legal industry is filled with people who are more likely to go back to the window for a second look rather than cliff dive. It is a common joke that the majority of graduates of the top law schools ended up there because they had nothing better to do, but there is actually a bit of truth to it—many lawyers entered the profession simply because it is safe and respectable. These are the people that are the least likely to enjoy the work and probably the most in need of a change, yet the least willing to actually make one because it requires risk.

I was able to jump off the cliff, but only because at the time I did, I had a net at the bottom. Leaving the legal industry would be a risk no matter what you are leaving it for, but having something to fall back on is comforting.

What environment am I most comfortable in?

I took a personality test to determine this one. While the questions on those tests are usually leading (e.g., the question, "Do you like work to come in at a slow pace or a busy pace?" is of course able to decipher miraculously whether you like to work in a relaxed or hectic atmosphere), they more or less get you to think about the questions that you might not otherwise consider in your job search. If you are unwilling to put your career in the hands of some Internet technology, then feel free to consult us.

My advice to attorneys in slow practice areas

Your practice areas may be experiencing slow downs. It happens. When I left the practice, areas in the doldrums included: corporate, M&A, IPOs, project finance/capital markets, "soft" IP such as trademark and licensing, healthcare, environmental, telecommunications, and some regions of commercial real estate. Because there was not much work in these practice areas, attorneys who would wanted to continue in the profession needed to be flexible with the areas of law they wanted to practice in. The same holds true today. The areas on the up or down swing will shift, but if you are in a down practice, you must recognize that point and take appropriate action.

For example, if you are a corporate attorney who does not have any work, you need to think of alternatives to solidify your position within a firm. Many corporate attorneys transition into positions as commercial litigators. This does not have to be a long-term career change, but you must do it if you would like to continue in the profession. Nothing is forever, and most careers take some strange turns. Who knows, it may benefit you in the end. Perhaps you will meet a contact that you would not have met as a corporate attorney and voila! You've got yourself a client. One note: If your long-term career goal is to be a partner for a major law firm, then you must stick out the downturn in the economy.

Do your homework

So you've asked the questions and are ready to go, right? Wrong. Be a good lawyer. Do your homework:
  • Talk to your peers (law school classmates and/or co-workers), mentors, law school career counselors—anyone who can help shape your perspective and push you in the right direction. And of course, feel free to contact a BCG recruiter. It's our job to offer you advice about your career
  • Read about career changes and other ways to use a law degree—your law school career center or its bookstore likely has books on this subject.
  • Make a list of pros and cons for both staying and leaving the profession. Discuss this list with all who will be affected by your decision: your significant other, family, friends, and whomever else you feel may be affected.
When the decision is made, question it before you act on it

One more thing you may want to take into consideration when making your decision is whether or not you are likely to second-guess yourself and choose to go back to working in a law firm. If you think that you might, then you almost definitely should not leave. For starters, in a down economy, law firms are not going to be all that sad to shed some excess attorneys, and a firm that you unexpectedly left will not be thrilled to see you again two months later if you have a change of heart. Additionally, other firms want to ensure that their staffs are committed to the law, and if you have already proven you are not by leaving for something else, you will undoubtedly be seen as a question mark in a profession that is used to periods. Ultimately, though, if you can see yourself actually going back to firm practice, then you probably are not as fundamentally unhappy with the law as you might feel at the moment. Perhaps you just need a change of scenery within your current career and not an actual career change; or maybe all you need is a month in Paris. Questioning your decision now will prevent you from having to question it later, when there is a lot less you can do about it.

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit

published April 13, 2023

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 6 votes, average: 4.4 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.