• CarterJay Legal

Don't Leave It Too Late to Move Job

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

The legal world is an interesting place to be, especially in this day and age. And there is no shortage of firms to experience it in. Once you complete your training contract, in many ways, the world is your oyster. You pick your area of specialism and off you go – you become a corporate solicitor. Or, you specialise in litigation and arbitration. Maybe banking and finance is your thing. Either way, assuming you spend your working life as a lawyer, the path is more or less set for you. Associate, senior associate, partner, head of department and so on.

But, do you achieve all this at the same firm, for the duration of your career? Is there pressure from others (and pressure you put on yourself) for you to stay and make that next level? Have you been told that you will be promoted in the next round? Have you had the conversation where a senior partner suggests that you have a fantastic career ahead of you … if you stay? Is there pressure on you to continue developing your client relationships? Could making a move to a competitor enhance your career prospects? If you test the market, will anyone find out? What happens then?

There was a time when ‘a job for life’ really meant exactly that. Those days, for better or worse, have gone. Various polls suggest that millennials fully intend to move jobs on a regular basis for a variety of reasons, including, that it will allow them the opportunity to continue learning in a new environment, from new people and have the opportunity to work with different clients and within different sectors. A Gallup report stated that 21% of millennials had changed their job in the last year. That number is likely to continue rising.

So, can staying at a firm for too long, hurt your career?

Staying in your comfort zone.

Understandably, it is easy to stay with your current firm. It is a known entity and they treat you pretty well! You are settled in your group, you know all the partners and you have friends that you also spend time with outside the office. But, staying in your comfort zone means that you are not necessarily being challenged. And, consider the possibility that one of your friends or colleagues, who is a similar level to you, makes the move to a competitor firm. They get a pay rise. They have access to new and exciting clients. They get a promoted title on appointment. Suddenly, your current role isn’t looking quite so nice!

Maybe it is time to start asking yourself some questions.

Have you stopped learning?

If the answer to this is a resounding ‘yes’ then it might be time to move on. Being challenged and continuing to learn (and ultimately becoming an expert in your field) is a key part of your career trajectory. If you are spending your days exactly as you have been for the last four years, then you might want to take a leaf out of your colleagues’ book and start considering options elsewhere.

Why haven’t you been promoted to senior associate yet?

This could also apply to why you haven’t made partner yet! There could be any number of reasons as to why you are still an associate. You haven’t quite hit all the targets! There are maybe already too many senior associates in your group. Or, the firm doesn’t like making people up unless it is an exceptional case. Either way, it is something that you want. You deserve it! And, if you got it, suddenly you would be seen differently by both peers and clients alike. It is not uncommon for lawyers to move to get the next title. Sometimes firms can’t see you as anything other than how you were when you started at the firm. If you were a trainee at the same firm, some partners will always see you as such. Maybe it is time to move on and ensure that you get that all important title because if you aren’t going to get it at your existing firm, why stay?

When did you last get a significant pay rise?

It helps to feel valued in the workplace. And, often there is no better way for a firm to show they think your good at your job than by giving you a pay rise. We speak to multiple lawyers every day and we also speak to a lot of HR Directors and partners about salaries and benefits. It is not unusual for solicitors to speak to us first before their salary reviews to ensure that they are getting the market rate. So, getting a 1-2% salary rise isn’t quite going to cut it. If you want to increase your salary, then consider making a move as this is the surest way to name your price. In case you are interested, here’s a link to our latest salary survey. See if you are being paid the market rate!

Have you had the opportunity to work with new and different clients?

Most of your day will be spent working on client matters whether it is drafting documents, sitting in court or attending client meetings. Depending on the firm you are with, and the level you currently operate at, most of these clients will be overseen by partners and ultimately it will be their relationship. So, having spent the last three or four years at your current firm, have you had the opportunity to work with a variety of clients and could you say that you have built lasting relationships with them? Because, if you have a limited number of clients that tend to give you the same kind of work and your partner is the one that holds the relationship, you again might want to consider opportunities elsewhere – somewhere where you can start to call the clients your own!

Do you have a client following?

This is something that is expected of you as you progress. Realistically, you are unlikely to be in a position to introduce and oversee clients until you have a good few years’ experience under your belt and the senior associate title is something that you would like to replace … with partner. But it doesn’t hurt to think like a senior lawyer as early in your career as possible. Look out for those opportunities and always think about how you can turn an acquaintance or contact into a fee paying client to call your own. Having client relationships and a book of business is an excellent way to keep your career trajectory on the up and up. If your current firm isn’t allowing you access to existing clients and not really encouraging and supporting you in your business development endeavours, you should definitely consider a move. The more senior you get, without a following, the harder it will become. That’s a fact. So, don’t leave it too late. Call us and we’ll talk through the options with you.

This article was written by Peter Robertson for CarterJay Legal. Peter can be contacted on peter@carterjay.co.uk or 07834 436775. CarterJay Legal is a boutique legal recruitment agency based in London. They specialise in private practice roles with a large variety of law firms, catering for associates and partners alike.

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