Knowing When to Move Law Firms

January 14, 2020

It’s Sunday afternoon. You’ve had a great weekend – maybe it was with good friends or family. Perhaps you got away for a short trip. Or maybe you had a staycation, relaxing at home and enjoying some downtime. Whatever you did, it felt great to be away from your office for a few days. But even though the weekend isn’t over, your mind is already turning – not in a good way – to the work week ahead. Perhaps there is a stressful file or application to deal with, or a difficult colleague or demanding client. These are the normal stresses that come and go in any professional career. But if you regularly find yourself with “Sunday Night (or worse, Afternoon) Syndrome”, it could be time to ask yourself what you can do to improve your situation. Assuming you are appropriately compensated for your position, the issues (stressors?) I’m talking about relate to culture and career progression. 


In the 20 years I’ve spent in and around law firms, with 15 of those dedicated to recruiting lawyers and students, I have heard countless stories from friends, colleagues and even strangers about their careers. One of the recurring themes for lawyers as they navigate their career is knowing when to make a move to another position, be it a firm, in-house, government, or something completely different. 


Considerations for moving 


How do you know when it’s time to stick with your current situation or try something new? Here are a few things I’ve observed over the years that can help you decide whether to stay the course or chart out some new territory. If you aren’t completely happy, but still not sure whether a move should be on your agenda, consider doing the following: 


1. Check in with trusted friends and family.

If you are feeling profoundly unhappy for long periods of time, and especially if old friends and family – the people who have known you in various life stages – see a change in you that isn’t positive, pay attention to their observations. These are the people can give you an unbiased opinion. Work colleagues are often the people we spend the most time with, but they may also feel conflicted about a potential departure of a friend and be unable to offer objective advice.

2. Look toward the future. 

Imagine being in your workplace in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years from now? If the answer is a firm ‘no’, it’s time to start considering other options.  


3. Ask yourself what your dream job is and be expansive in your thinking. 

What kind of law are you practicing? Are you in a firm, in-house, government? Are you an owner, or an entrepreneur? How much autonomy do you have, how much risk do you want to take on? Be honest about what your idealized job looks like and work towards it. Don’t dream small! If your current position doesn’t compare to your dream job, there is little downside to seeing if there is something else for you. 


Finally, if you’ve decided to hold your course and stay where you are, consider making some changes to improve your quality of life. You don’t need to start from scratch. Take advantage of your colleagues’ experiences – if they are happy, learn from them rather than make your own mistakes. They can offer you invaluable advice about how they managed their careers, the decisions they made, what they sacrificed to get where they are, and what they would do differently. 


If you’re interested in exploring your legal career options, contact us for a confidential discussion today.


Alison Bennett, Director



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