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One New Year's Resolution Attorneys Don't Tell Their Boss

Oh, the holiday season, a time when social networks feed you their version of how great – or not – your year was.  A time when you gather with friends and family – whether by choice or obligation – to reflect and start thinking about resolutions for the New Year. 

2018 was a crazy year in the law firm universe, filled with associate raises, summer and year-end bonuses and the most associate hiring in almost a decade. After talking with countless attorneys, there are some common themes why some are making finding a new job their New Year’s resolution, they include:

1. To Increase Partnership Prospects

Many associates realize that not all law firms are created equal when it comes to the possibility of making partner. There are many factors at play when identifying whether there is a realistic path to partnership and whether their firm is the right one to bet on once they do. Firms that offer the best path to partnership empower associates to take the lead on cases/deals; offer formal business development training; provide exposure to clients; and offer mentorship and possibly even advocates for associates once they are up for partner. 

2. To Find a More Attractive Platform to Build a Book of Business

While not all associates want to make partner, there are still a significant number of associates that do or at least want to keep that option open. In today’s law firm world, building a book of business is imperative to becoming a valued member of the firm. In addition to being a fantastic networker, having the right platform simply makes this goal more attainable. Winning client pitches in a competitive legal market becomes more likely when an associate is in an office that has a strong local reputation and is being invested in by the firm as a whole.

3. To Find a Better Springboard to In-House Positions

Many associates are not interested in making a move to another firm but are only looking to go in-house. Consequently, in-house opportunities have become increasingly competitive and it has become vital that associates set themselves up for success by finding the right springboard firm. This means joining a firm that has a strong practice with local clients who are in the industry they see themselves working in, has a strong alumni network in-house and outwardly markets themselves as offering an easier path to in-house positions. Many law firms have come to realize that they can set themselves and their associates up for success by giving their associates the opportunity to join their client’s in-house teams.

4. To Broaden, Narrow or Change

Picking the “perfect” practice to devote your career to is not an easy task and there are times when an associate ends up in a practice that is not the best fit. Transitioning practices is definitely one of the most difficult types of moves as more and more firms are unwilling to retool associates. Consequently, this move is most effectively accomplished as a junior associate with one or two years of experience as firms prefer not to retrain more senior associates. That said, it is much easier for an associate to broaden or narrow their current practice. While it is ideal to do before an associate is in their fourth year of practice, it is still possible throughout an attorney’s career.

5. To Identify a Better Culture Fit

Culture fit is one of the biggest reasons that an associate should move. It is common for an associate to not even realize that what they have been “dealing with” can be changed. As many associates spend a significant amount of time at work, it is important that it is a place that makes them happy and provides them with what is necessary to achieve their long-term goals.

There are a variety of reasons why a firm may not be the best culture fit. This can include everything from there not being many associates in a group or being a part of a satellite office that doesn’t provide opportunities for partnership or simply that you are working an obscene number of hours or there is a lack of mentorship. Attorneys are generally risk adverse and the idea of making a change can be daunting, especially when they are “mostly” happy. It is important to assess whether there is anything that could be changed that can make a difference in achieving your long-term goals or simply enjoying your job.

6. To Work with Local Clients/Originated Work

Having too many clients outside of the local market/industry or having work originated primarily by another office has a lasting effect on whether an associate can ultimately reach his or her long-term goals. As either path of going in-house or making partner is already challenging, having a strong network of local clients provides more opportunities to achieve these goals. 

7. To Relocate to a New Geography

More and more associates are relocating to be closer to family or a significant other, to have the opportunity to work with a different industry of clients, to find better work-life balance or to have a more family friendly community. The most important part of the relocation process is to make sure you are working with someone who is an expert in the marketto set you up for success in finding the right opportunity. Relocating gives an associate the opportunity to evaluate their current situation and to look for options that may resolve any unhappiness they may have in their current role. Relocating also allows an associate to start fresh in a firm that gives them a better opportunity to meet their long-term goals. 

As 2018 ends and bonuses are paid out, it is important to let it all sink in, reflect and enjoy everything that the holidays have to offer. As you start to organize what New Year’s resolutions you want to undertake, think about whether any of these themes ring true with you.

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