Whether you’re a law student, associate, or partner, you always need to be thinking about the next career hurdle. You might have achieved a major career goal - getting into a top law school, landing a job as a Big-law associate, making partner - but you can’t rest on your laurels.
1. Be open to opportunity.
Careers take unexpected and surprising turns, often driven by luck. And you can “make your own luck” by keeping up to date with industry news (by following us on LinkedIn), networking (in person and online), and being receptive to possible opportunities (from recruiters even if an opening might not initially seem like your dream job).
Going to an interview doesn’t obligate you to take the job. But going to an interview, even for a job you ultimately decline or don’t get, could help you learn about a job that you do accept, make a valuable new professional contact, or land a client.
2. It’s no longer all about prestige.
When picking where to start their careers, many law students go for the firm offering the biggest pay-check and greatest prestige (which often just boils down to prestige, since most of the top firms pay on the same scale. This is an admittedly crude way to pick a firm, but it’s the approach of many students and it has a certain logic: if you don’t know what type of law you want to practice, you might as well “start at the top” and keep as many doors open as possible.
3. Don’t go in-house too early.
Speaking of moving in-house, it’s the promised land for many Big-law associates (and even some partners), and many can’t wait to make the jump. But don’t make the jump too early.
4. Don’t leave Big-law too late.
The conventional wisdom is true: there’s a sweet spot for leaving Big-law, falling somewhere between your 3-6 years. If you know that you don’t want to stick around to make a run at partnership, either because you don’t want or don’t think you’ll make partner, then figure out a good time to leave.
If you search for jobs - you’ll find lots of jobs for lawyers with two to six years of experience, and then fewer jobs for lawyers with six or more years of experience (although this will vary based on a number of factors).
Beyond a certain point of seniority, you ideally want to be a partner. Partner hiring doesn’t rely as much on public job postings; instead, legal recruiters play a major role.
By Legal Recruitment Managing Consultant Charlie Simpkin