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Guide to Making a Lateral Move as a Legal Associate

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In the turbulent job market of the 1990s, lateral hiring has become a common phenomenon in law firm circles. Fast forward to the 21st century, "Cherry picking," or hiring experienced lawyers with a solid book of portable business away from the competition, once sneered upon by law firms, now happens every day. Associates, with little loyalty to firms that cannot or will not wave the carrot of partnership in front of their noses, now regularly move from firm to firm, looking for a kinder and gentler lifestyle, more interesting work, better chances of making partner, or more money. In fact, it is becoming increasingly rare for attorneys to spend their careers under the roof of one law firm. It's safer now to view your job as a long-term project, instead of anticipating spending your career in one place anymore.

But how do you know when the time is right to make a lateral move? And how often can you change firms in the current legal market without blemishing your record? What do firms look for when they hire lateral candidates? And what can you, as an associate or partner, do to improve your chances of finding a better position in the lateral job market?

FIRM EXPERIENCE OR THE RIGHT CONNECTIONS

As a general rule, if you weren't able to break into the law firm market as a student, chances are slim that you can do so as a lateral attorney, unless you have a large book of portable business or extremely influential connections that may be useful to law firms. Unfortunately, most of us do not possess these connections. Be extremely realistic about how valuable your work experience may be to law firms.

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