Tag Archives: Lateral Moves

Government Attorneys: You Owe It to Yourself to Test the Market

Good news for government attorneys! Demand for your skills is off the charts. High-level government attorneys have recently joined Cravath, Sidley Austin, Skadden, Cleary, Kirkland, Jenner, Arnold & Porter, Mayer Brown, and Boies Schiller, among other firms. If you are a government attorney, now could be the time for you to make a lateral move to private practice.

The Surge in Hiring

Government attorneys are getting more traction with firms than at the same time last year.  Here’s why:

  • Client Demand: As companies grapple with recent changes to the regulatory landscape, they need attorneys with government expertise. That demand is fueling the current hiring boom.
  • Strategic Timing for Attorneys: If you joined the government at the beginning of the term, you have accumulated significant experience with the current administration, which few attorneys at firms can offer. This translates into immediate value for a firm and their clients. Equally important, the third year of a presidential term is a golden period to leap into private practice. Attorneys who move in year three often secure better positions with more prestigious firms and higher guaranteed compensation than attorneys who join the crowd making a rush for the exit at the end of a term.

Government Attorneys Offer Valuable Expertise

The experience you have gained in government is a scarce and valuable resource. Specifically:

  • Shapers of Policy: Whether as political appointees or career officials, recent government attorneys have played pivotal roles in shaping current policy shifts. Firms value your perspective on agency priorities and the nuances of fresh regulations.
  • Guiding through Uncertainties: In an era when new rules have emerged but few cases set precedents, businesses are in unfamiliar territories. If you have just left a government role, your fresh insights are pivotal in helping companies understand and navigate this new regulatory environment, especially in sectors where regulatory history is sparse.

The Risk of Limiting Your Options

Too often government attorneys consider only one firm when they move to private practice – perhaps returning to their prior firm, or in response to a direct call from a law firm. 

  • Easier is Not Always Better: It is flattering to get the call asking you to return to your old firm, or when a practice chair reaches out to invite you to an interview. It can be efficient, but remind yourself of the potential cost. Saying “yes” might mean missing out on a better opportunity elsewhere. 
  • Keep Your Options Open: Another firm may provide a stronger platform for you, have a stronger track record of success with former government attorneys, offer more compensation, present a better title, or promise more powerful leadership opportunities. 

How to Efficiently Navigate the Market

Transitioning from government to private practice presents distinct challenges. 

  • Unique Concerns: Government attorneys have different guidelines than law firm attorneys when it comes to issues like recusals, profit sharing when joining a firm, appearing before agencies following departure, aspects of confidentiality, and much more. You also need to understand how to develop a business plan while having no immediately portable business. 
  • The Right Recruiter: Find a respected recruiter known for working with government officials. The right recruiter will identify the firms interested in government attorneys in your practice area; and will also help you navigate issues unique to government attorneys, simplify the process, save you time, ensure a more effective search, and help you secure a better result than you can on your own. 

Next Steps

If you are a government attorney contemplating a lateral move to the private sector, there’s no better time than now. Your expertise is a sought-after commodity, and with the right guidance, joining  a law firm could help you take your practice to the next level. Navigating this transition, however, requires not just expertise but strategic guidance to ensure that the move aligns with both immediate goals and long-term career aspirations.

Looking to make a move? Connect with Amy Savage, Chair of our Government Enforcement & Regulatory Group, and the Lateral Link team to explore a brighter horizon and ensure your next step is the right one. Your potential, our expertise—let’s chart your future together.

Career Advancement in Legal Profession: Exploring Lateral Moves and Reasons Lawyers Switch Firms

Countless attorneys experience satisfaction with their current law firms. However, a perplexing query often surfaces: “Why shoulder the challenge of starting anew or abandon established relationships?” The primary motivation behind such a decision lies in career progression. Progressive lawyers steering their professional journeys recognize the pitfalls of complacency and strive for career evolution that should be accompanied by amplified satisfaction. Though the present conditions might be conducive, they constantly evaluate – can they improve further elsewhere? Delve into these 12 compelling reasons triggering lateral transitions in law firms and assess whether these circumstances echo your professional situation.

  1. Aiming for Improved Partnership Opportunities: Often the driving force behind lateral moves in law firms.
  2. Desiring Less Pressure Towards Partnership: Not everyone aspires to be a partner. An alternate role with reduced up-or-out pressure might be more appealing.
  3. Craving Substantive Work: Are you prematurely categorized into a specific specialty?
  4. Seeking Increased Responsibility: Does your firm’s culture overly value hierarchy?
  5. Yearning for Enhanced Client Interaction and Business Development: Firms have diverse outlooks on associate participation in client development.
  6. Preference for Diverse Industry Exposure: Are you more inclined towards corporate interaction rather than dealing with financial institutions?
  7. Choosing Smaller Boutique Law Firms: Particularly among litigators, boutique firms could offer more sustainable hours and smaller, personalized teams.
  8. Caught in a Demanding Project: Predominantly observed among litigators. Sometimes, a switch to a different firm becomes the only feasible solution!
  9. Relocating to a New City: Are you contemplating a move to a new market for enriched work exposure or client interaction?
  10. Incompatibility with Colleagues: The overarching culture of your firm might not align with your personality or career aspirations.
  11. Eyeing Government or In-House Roles: A lateral transition could pave the way for your dream in-house or government role.
  12. Striving for Better Compensation: A transition to a firm offering industry-standard or even higher remunerations might be possible.

A skilled legal recruiter can provide valuable insights considering your unique experiences, seniority level, prevailing legal market conditions, and anticipated industry trends. After evaluating your options, you might decide to continue with your present firm. The critical point to remember is: take the reins of your career and professional development. Whether you choose a transition or remain with your present firm, ensure it’s a conscious decision, not a mere default option.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait Until January to Start a Lateral Search

With a month to go until Thanksgiving and two months until Christmas, I’ve lately been having similar conversations with many law firm associates. They’re interested in exploring a lateral move, they tell me, but it wouldn’t make sense to start the process this late in the year, right? Wrong!

In fact, now is the perfect time to start looking for lateral opportunities. Because so many candidates have the misconception that it’s best to wait until January, those who begin the process now will get a jump on the competition. And the odds are typically quite good that you won’t end up starting at your new firm until 2023, anyway.

Allow me to address some of the main objections I hear to starting a fall lateral search.

Wouldn’t it be weird to start a new job in December?

Many candidates envision themselves starting at a new firm in the midst of the holidays and don’t like that idea. But it’s important to understand that December start dates are typically less common than January start dates. Barring a scenario where your new practice group is exceptionally stretched and needs help as soon as possible, firms will typically be fine to have you start in the new year. All else equal, the new firm would rather that your current firm pay your 2022 bonus, so a January (or even February) start tends to work well for everyone.

What about my bonus?

Having already accrued most of their hours for the year, candidates are naturally averse to doing anything that would jeopardize their bonus. But this really should not be a concern. One of two things will happen. In the event the new firm is desperate for you to start immediately, it will make you whole on the bonus you sacrifice by leaving your current firm. More likely, as discussed above, the new firm will make it possible for you to collect your bonus from the current firm and then make the switch. There is an obvious financial incentive for them to do so.

Will firms even want to interview late in the year?

Candidates often assume that everything will slow down towards the end of the year, so if they apply now they risk entering a dead market. Although it’s certainly true that few firms conduct interviews in late December, the fall is a different story. New openings continue to arise in this period, and firms will also have unfilled searches from earlier in the year. With relatively few new candidates joining the market, there is a real opportunity to stand out in a window when firms are absolutely still looking to interview.

I’m tired. Can’t I just wait until January when I’ll have more energy?

It’s obviously important that you project a positive and energetic attitude when interviewing, so this is definitely a factor to consider. However, I find that candidates who are new to the lateral search process often imagine the experience will be more burdensome than it actually is. If you are feeling a little overwhelmed and you aren’t sure you’re up for a search right now, it’s still worth having an initial conversation with a recruiter. There is a randomness to when opportunities arise, especially if your practice is more specialized. It may happen that the recruiter knows about a current opening that could be an especially good fit for you. And you might find that hearing about that opportunity energizes you to a degree that you aren’t feeling now. Regardless, a 20-minute phone call will give you valuable individualized insight based on your specific practice area and market.