Unhappy or unfulfilled at your current law firm?
You’re far from alone. In fact, nearly half of all partners surveyed in recent research were unhappy at their firm. Meanwhile, nearly 86% of lateral partners reported satisfaction in another survey. Yet, while lateral partner moves are becoming more common, too many rainmaking partners I talk to feel stuck in professional situations that just don’t work, unsure what to do besides privately complaining.
Here’s the problem: Partners feel like they have just to endure the unhappiness.
All in a day’s work, right?
It doesn’t have to be.
It’s not hard to understand where this instinct comes from. Lawyers are trained to persevere through long hours and difficult circumstances. Good lawyers are overachievers who work hard.
There aren’t many lawyers who make it to the partner level without putting in years of diligence and dedication.
But the truth is, when it comes to your career, this mindset can actually become counterproductive, especially when it leads you to stay at a firm where you aren’t happy, supported, fairly compensated, and fulfilled. What’s more, you don’t need to be unhappy about every single thing about your firm to consider making a change. Sometimes just one legitimate complaint is enough to justify exploring your options for a lateral move.
The bottom line is that it’s important you keep an eye on your future career and make sure you’re at the right place to enables you to best serve your clients, grow your expertise, move towards your goals…and even have your weekends off! (Yes, it IS possible, and you DO deserve it.)
If any of those aren’t true for you, it might be worth considering whether they could ALL be true somewhere else.
So, if even just one of the following common law firm partner complaints sounds like something you consistently deal with at your firm, you don’t have to wait until things are so horrible you want to quit on the spot — start thinking about your lateral move today.
“I always work long hours.”
There are times when working long hours or weekends are just inevitable for lawyers of any rank. But as a partner with a rainmaking book of business, long hours and weekends should be the exception, not the rule. You need the flexibility to be able to delegate tasks and live your life.
After all — as I discussed recently on this blog — your business-building activity is the value you bring to your firm, NOT the billable hours you personally work. Your firm should recognize that value, and your hours should reflect it, too.
“I do all the work and don’t have enough support to grow my practice.”
Feeling like you’re carrying an outsize portion of the workload is incredibly frustrating. It may mean you don’t have the time or resources to grow your practice, whether that means taking on new clients or developing new areas of expertise.
Whether it’s associate support, marketing support, business development support, or even office maintenance tasks, it makes all the difference in allowing you to put your focus where it should be: your book of business. Remember: you can’t bring new clients to the practice if you’re busy doing all the grunt work or changing the toner in the printer!
“I can’t get good associates assigned to me.”
If your firm’s recruiting efforts don’t deliver the quality thinking you require, this can have a serious impact on your well-being (not to mention hours in the office, and fixing work). It’s important for firms to carefully select and assign associates to a practice to ensure that they have the necessary skills and experience to support the rainmaker’s work.
Additionally, firms can implement mentorship programs and training opportunities to help associates develop their skills and become more effective members of the practice. If you’re struggling to build a reliable team, it may be time to consider a lateral move to a firm with a better track record of associate support.
“I had a bad compensation meeting.”
Compensation is a sensitive issue for lawyers, and feeling strung along can leave you understandably nonplussed. Your firm keeps promising one thing but always finding a way to shift the goalposts; you thought you were going to receive X, but instead, you received Y, and now you feel manipulated and misled.
It’s almost like an abusive relationship, and you keep going back, feeling undervalued and let down, your trust damaged. While this can be a sign of an unhealthy working relationship, it can also be a wake-up call for you to consider your other options.
“My firm doesn’t have offices in the locations where my clients need them.”
Your firm only wants to have an office in New York, but your clients have needs in LA, or Miami, or Phoenix. As a result, you find yourself referring business to other firms, losing origination credit, and potentially damaging your relationship with the client.
It’s not just an issue for the firm; losing clients can be severely detrimental to your ability to grow your book of business over time. If you’re consistently facing this challenge, it’s time to consider a lateral move to a firm with the right geographic footprint.
“My clients need a type of law my firm doesn’t offer.”
Your clients need help with intellectual property law, and your firm doesn’t have that expertise. Once again, you find yourself repeatedly referring clients to other firms — clients you may otherwise have been able to effectively serve. Instead, you lose the client (not to mention the origination credit).
Losing business to other firms is never fun, but when it happens time and again due to the limitations of your firm’s expertise, you may want to ask yourself if your book of business hasn’t outgrown your firm’s ability to meet your clients’ needs.
“I’m not getting the origination credit I deserve.”
A lawyer who brought in a client years ago gets all the origination credit for the client even though you’re doing all the work and bringing in new business from the client today. This lack of recognition for your contributions can be demotivating, especially if you feel that your contributions are not being acknowledged or compensated appropriately and you’ve put in significant effort.
That’s why it’s so important for firms to have transparent and fair origination credit policies in place to ensure that all lawyers are appropriately recognized for their contributions to the business.
“I have no flexibility in coming to the office”
Even though you have a long commute, you have to go into the office all week, wasting hour upon hour in the car or on the train when you could be working productively to grow your practice and bring more business to the firm. This can be especially frustrating in the wake of COVID-19, when many people grew accustomed to the benefits of flexibility towards remote or hybrid work.
Sometimes you are simply able to be more productive not going into the office, and as a rainmaking partner, you deserve to be able to make those calls for yourself.
“My firm doesn’t have a good strategy (or any strategy at all).”
Effective strategy is essential for the success and growth of any law firm, and a lack of it can cause major issues for partners. In fact, in a recent survey, nearly half of respondents reported leaving their former firm because they lacked confidence in its management and strategy.
This can manifest in various ways, from a reluctance to expand into new geographies or industries to a resistance to adopting new technologies or innovative practices. As a partner, you may find yourself unable to support your clients in certain areas or industries or forced into situations that don’t align with your expertise or values. Maybe you don’t like your firm’s succession plan — or maybe they don’t have one at all! Understandably, you may start to feel a bit nervous about your long-term career prospects!
“I don’t like the culture of my firm.”
The culture of a firm can make or break a lawyer’s experience. If the culture is too competitive, it can create an uncomfortable environment and cause undue stress. On the other hand, if it’s not competitive enough, it can breed complacency and a lack of motivation.
Another crucial aspect of culture is the people you work with. If your firm does everything else right, from support to compensation to strategy and everything in between, but you simply don’t like the people you work with, it can make every day at work difficult.
This is another example of the kind of complaint too many lawyers I talk to tend to minimize, feeling inclined to just stick-it-out. But this is not an unimportant concern; a bad culture fit can signify a firm that doesn’t align with your values and professional goals, and sticking it out can be detrimental to your career over time.
You deserve a firm with a culture that’s a good fit for you. If that isn’t your current firm, the culture that will be a good fit does exist.
Not only is this a valid reason to explore a change — it’s also one of the most common reasons lawyers do just that.
Ready to Consider a Lateral Move?
Making a lateral move can be daunting, but, with careful consideration, it can also be an opportunity for a career-changing decision that yields greater personal and professional satisfaction and success.
Your perfect-fit law firm is out there, and you can find it. It’s just a matter of taking the next step.
Schedule a call today to discover how we can help.