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Can a Second Year Associate Make a Lateral Move to Another Law Firm?

published January 05, 2016

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 278 votes, average: 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.
Question:

I am a second-year corporate associate at a large firm in New York, and my colleagues are telling me I need to wait at least another year or two for a lateral job search – is this true?
 
Can I make a lateral move as a second year associate?

Answer:

As with most everything related to the legal market, and as attorneys a phrase with which I am sure you are intimately familiar, it depends.
 
It partly depends on how strong your credentials are, both academic and experience-wise (have you been tasked with sophisticated assignments at your current firm, are you performing above and beyond your class year, do you have direct client contact on a regular basis, are you making court appearances, etc.).

But it mostly depends on the current lateral market and what firms are looking for. Is your practice area currently in demand because business is booming? If so, you may be able to make a lateral move sooner than you think. For instance, a friend who asked me the question above is a corporate associate at a top firm from a top law school. Even if this attorney were just finishing his or her first full year, I would still be able to find a couple of other top firms who would be open to a solid junior corporate candidate simply because there is so much business right now, and firms are hiring and can fill an associate workload at all levels. This is the same with real estate, where we have recently fielded inquiries from firms seeking real estate associates for their hotels & leisure practice, and were willing to interview first year associates and train them into the practice if necessary.
 
If your practice area is in lesser demand (for instance, bankruptcy right now, although that will always change in a few years based on market cycles), or if your practice area typically requires significant experience or a book of business for firms to be interested in your lateral candidacy (trusts & estates comes to mind), then you will likely find little to no traction in the lateral market.
 
Finally, it also depends on your reasons for relocating. If you are relocating within the same city simply because you are unhappy with the firm you picked out of law school, or because after only a year or two you do not like large firm practice and want a “lifestyle” firm (hint – there is hardly ever such a firm), then even in a hot practice area where firms are hiring like crazy, they will generally be less interested in your candidacy.
 
Another factor that hardly ever applies to junior associates, but is a major factor when it does apply, is portable business. I had a candidate a few years ago who had only been practicing patent law for barely two years, yet through his personality and determination he had already built a $50k+ book of business, and was able to garner multiple interviews at top firms even though he did not go to the best law school (and did not have great grades), and had a life science background, which was much less in demand. He got traction because he demonstrated the drive and dedication that let prospective firms see that this candidate would be great for their bottom line and a potential future rainmaker.
 
Find out the top 9 ways attorneys can develop a ton of business in this article.
 
In sum, unless you are fresh out of law school and have only been at your current firm for a few months, there is no “too early” to explore the lateral market if your practice area is hot. If you’re wondering about the state of the market, and what your lateral options might be, just get in touch with one of us at BCG!
 
Browse to view reports about the state of the legal market on BCG Attorney Search.

published January 05, 2016

By Author - LawCrossing
( 278 votes, average: 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.