Are you happy practicing law at your current firm? You should be. If you’re not, maybe it’s time to search for a better fit. Here’s how to do that.
There are many considerations when changing firms. Reasons to change firms include reputation, areas of practice and fit, the right staffing model, increased compensation, cultural fit, and quality of life concerns (whatever that means to you.) What you want to avoid, though, is a grass is greener approach: make sure the new firm is a better fit rather than just the impression of a better fit.
Lawyers who make lateral moves are unhappy about something at their current firm. If you are a successful lawyer with a book of business, you deserve to be happy.
When making a move, make sure the new firm has what you need. Here’s how:
Critical considerations when moving to a new firm.
Areas of practice
Ensure the future firm allows you to practice the law you want to practice.
Partners often complain about a firm’s restrictions on new practice areas. For example, you may want to venture into emerging markets like cannabis. Or you may be interested in startups, but your firm is not.
Alternatively, your firm may be chasing every new market niche, and its emerging reputation puts your current clients at risk.
Fighting the current of your firm is always exhausting and often futile. So, look for a firm that fits your practice. Do you need the flexibility to dabble in new practice areas? Or do you need consistency to serve your more conservative clients?
This may also extend to geographic areas
Is there a region where you want to do business but can’t? Would you rather live somewhere but can’t with your current firm? Find a firm that works for you.
What this means for you: Consider the areas of practice, risk tolerance, and geographic location of the new firm and make sure that it matches your needs.
Make sure they have the right staffing model
If you are overwhelmed with work to the point where you don’t have time to take care of your clients the way you want, have time to meet new clients, or are spending long nights in the office, then you likely face a staffing model issue.
Partners who don’t have the support of associates or legal staff end up doing the work themselves. This makes for unnecessarily long hours and soaks up the time that should be spent making clients happy and building your book of business.
What this means for you: Check the new firm’s staffing model. Do they offer the support that will amplify your work?
Additional Resources: marketing, administrative, and back office
Aside from legal support, what business support services do you need? Marketing resources can have a multiplicative effect on your personal outreach and help you scale your book of business.
If you spend any time ordering toner or putting paper in the printer, think about how efficient you would be with the proper administrative and back-office support. Some firms even offer concierge services that make your private life more efficient. Removing time-draining administrative work gives you more time to focus on your clients.
What this means for you: Identify the marketing, administrative and back-office support that the new firm offers. Do they provide back-office resources to make your focus easier?
And then there is culture – fit is crucial.
Beyond your genuine interest in the firm, practice areas, geography, and resourcing, you need a firm where you want to work. You should enjoy, not dread, heading to the office (or jumping on Zoom).
You almost certainly do not want to be at a firm where everyone brags about working around the clock seven days a week, never sleeping, and never seeing their families. This appeals to a tiny slice of the population – probably not you.
Instead, you probably would prefer a firm where people brag about how they do high-quality work for great clients and enjoy the work they do at the office. They may admit to sometimes working hard around the clock due to a trial or a big deal. But that isn’t the norm.
If you fall ill, you want to be sure other people can step in and pick up the slack while you take care of your health. You don’t want to be at a law firm that says, “we don’t care if you have COVID; you better write that brief.”
You may also consider whether the firm allows attorneys to pursue other interests.
- Does the firm allow you to work part-time or have other flexible work arrangements?
- Are there attorneys at the organization who are very involved in outside pursuits like hobbies or charities?
- If you have been practicing for a long time, you may want to narrow the focus of your practice; is that possible?
What this means for you: Decide what kind of culture you want and seek out the firms that fit. If you do want to brag about working 24/7, there is a firm for you. If you would rather brag about your amazing clients and fantastic work, there is a firm for you too.
How do you know?
First, do your research. Talk to people about the firm and get some opinions. Google can be very helpful in this research.
But also recognize that you are not getting the complete picture through your research.
The best way to understand the culture is to pay attention at the interviews. Be sure to talk to partners and associates in your practice area.
Do you want to work with these people? Do you see yourself in the legal trenches with them?
We usually suggest to candidates that they meet other lawyers from the firm away from the office. Take them out for drinks or lunch and ask them what “a day in the life” looks like.
Tell them: “I am considering joining the firm and am interested in its culture. What do you think of working here? What is your experience.” And casually mention that they should tell the truth because if they don’t, you will remember the lie when the two of you are stuck in the office late at night together.
These interviews will probably be your best source of information. People will tell you what they think. If they show up looking shell-shocked, warning you to stay away: stay away, there is a better firm out there.
We can help you with this. At Gillman Strategic Group, we have placed many lawyers in many firms and have a good understanding of the cultures. Even if you are not working with us and have a question, call us. We’ll tell you what we think.
Choosing a law firm is about you enhancing your work and your life – find a fit for you.
There are many reasons you may consider switching law firms, some of which we have covered here. Your reasons may be different.
What I want to communicate, however, is that you should find your exact right perfect-fit law firm. You are a rainmaker. You are a successful partner. You should enjoy practicing law.
What this means is that you should find a firm where you:
- Can practice the law you want to practice the way you want to.
- Enjoy your work and the people you work with, and have a life. You should be able to take care of yourself and spend time with your family.
- Can support your clients, grow your book of business and be successful.
Does money matter? Sure, but any firm will pay you. Ultimately your happiness comes down to culture.
There is an exact, right perfect fit firm for everyone.
If you are considering making a move, let’s talk. We can help you find the right firm or provide some input into your choice. We want you to enjoy practicing law.