It may seem counterintuitive, but switching firms can actually lay the groundwork for a successful move in-house down the line. Here are a few reasons why:
- Many firms—almost all of the indigenous Bay Area firms plus a slew of others—have in-house job boards, seminars on how to position yourself for an in-house gig and even internal career advisors. If you’re at a firm that has none of these things, you may be missing out on some of the puzzle pieces that can get you where you want to go.
- Your firm may not be a great platform for an in-house role. It could be because that work you’re doing (i.e., all class actions in labor and employment law) is unlikely to lead to the kind of role you’re hoping for in a corporation. Or you firm could just be a smaller name in the Bay Area, and thus unlikely to be on the radar of the kinds of companies you want to work for. It could also be about the clients—if you represent only one kind of company (i.e., pharma) and you don’t want to go in-house to them or one of their peers, you’re shooting yourself in the foot by staying. Finally, firms fail their associates when they don’t allow them strong client contact—if you’re not able to be a broad business advisor to your clients from your current role, you’re missing a major piece of your in-house toolkit.
- It’s good to experience different work environments and to know what works for you and how you can contribute in varied circumstances. You may think that the ideal is a spotless, one-firm resume, but all that tells a potential in-house employer is that you thrived in that one specific environment. Law firms are very unique organisms—showing that you’re able to be a huge contributor in more than one can go a long way. Interpersonal skills matter for in-house roles, and you have to wear many hats. Being a one-firm-only lawyer may not demonstrate your versatility.
As lawyers we’re inherently cautious and a move to another firm can feel risky. However, making a strategic move can be worth it for your long-term career plans.