Scouting firms for a prospective lateral move is somewhat akin to walking through a minefield with a blindfold; there are many hazards and traps that have been tripped by other attorneys, but without a point of comparison, it can be difficult to navigate the market without sending signals to your current firm. Here are the four mistakes attorneys make when exploring the market.
1. Self-Submitting Blind Inquiries. Fewer things will get your résumé thrown into a recruiting director’s comically large trashcan faster than a self-submitted application for a non-existent position. If you are going the self-submission route, make sure the firm has a listed need that you fill. Everyone wants to work at the Wachtells of the world, but unless they have a specific need, your résumé becomes a nuisance and can negatively impact future applications when a position does open up in your practice. So do not self-submit to firms just because you like the firm; make sure a need exists as well. If this is your dream firm and you still want to send an inquiry, talk to a recruiter. Recruiter’s blind inquires are well received by recruiting directors because they assume the recruiter is submitting a candidate who is both on par with the firm’s standards and practices in an area that has unlisted needs. Our recruiters have close relationships with many recruiting directors and often have a surfeit of unlisted needs that the firm chooses not to disclose publicly.
2. Becoming The ‘Invisible’ Man/Woman. If you’re leaving work for “appointments” several days a week, your frequent absence will become conspicuous and the firm will most likely realize that you are interviewing. Unless your firm is aware and condones your lateral search, try to limit your interviews to non-business hours or try to spread them several weeks apart. One of the most important parts of a lateral search is making sure that your current firm does not know about it. Oftentimes attorneys scout the market only to decide their current firm or offer is better than any other available firm. Should you decide to stay at your current firm, knowledge that you initiated a lateral search could make you seem untrustworthy in the eyes of management—and could have negative repercussions on your chance to make partner.
3. Tipping Your Hand Too Early. A conflicts check is an important part of the lateral process, but under no circumstances do you want to divulge client or firm billing information at the beginning of the process. The conflicts check is usually the task after all other steps have been completed in the process and the firm is ready to consummate the lateral move. Pull the trigger too early, and you just sent a competitor a descriptive insight into your practice and the firm’s structure.
4. Not Using A Recruiter. There is no reason not to use a recruiter. Recruiters will help you stack up your credentials and decide on appropriate firms to submit to. Recruiters will help you perfect your résumé, prepare for lateral interviews, and offer you insights into firms that are available nowhere else. Best of all, they’re free to you. Recruiter submissions are treated with a higher priority because it’s our job to match attorneys with firms and vice versa. There is no reason not to use a good recruiter, but beware, a bad recruiter can hinder or harm your lateral search.