As you progress through your legal career in a busy lateral market, attractive career opportunities will arise both locally and in other cities. As a significant number of lateral attorney hires per year include those relocating from other jurisdictions, we thought it may be helpful to examine the nuances of planning for and navigating an intermarket lateral move.
Common reasons why attorneys relocate to another region include moving to their home state, moving to be closer to family/friends, following a significant other, or moving for an opportunity that is too good to pass up. We also hear from attorneys who, for a variety of reasons, did not land in their first-choice city right out of law school, and are looking to lateral in order to be in their city of choice. Equally as common are those who seek to relocate to a less crowded city with a better cost of living. Conversely, some attorneys want to move to a larger market to work on more sophisticated matters and gain exposure to a busier practice, while enjoying the hustle and bustle of a larger city. The reasons are endless, and law firms are very accustomed to hiring attorneys from different markets. In fact, certain types of experience gained in other markets is highly coveted, such as training from a top New York corporate or finance practice group or experience from a leading IP litigation group at a firm in Silicon Valley or D.C.
Where to Begin? Whether you are evaluating a specific opportunity in another market that you were recruited for or you are conducting a comprehensive job search in a specific region, there are a number of beneficial resources to use in your diligence process. When looking at law firms in a new location, it is important to review the prospective firms’ practice area strengths and capabilities and overall reputation both locally and nationally. You can utilize select resources to determine the key players within a specific market. Chambers and Partners, Chambers Associate, the Legal 500, and Vault are helpful periodical resources that can provide guidance. In addition, a good recruiter located in the specific market you are considering can assist and effectively streamline the application and interview process. When selecting a market-specific recruiter, you should choose a recruiter with strong local relationships and a comprehensive understanding of the city’s law firms and practice groups. More importantly, your recruiter should be able to offer intel on the firms’ cultures, partner to associate ratios, matter staffing, lateral integration, and the interview process for specific practice groups. Also, if the market you are relocating to has a substantial alumni base from your law school or undergraduate university, you can reach out to a fellow alum at firms of interest to gain his or her perspective.
Timing and Planning Your Move. For a relocation, it is prudent to begin well in advance of your anticipated move and start date. Factoring in resume and deal sheet preparation, initial applications, first and second round interviews, offer-stage/negotiation, conflicts and background checks, and actually completing your move, the process itself takes at least three months and often longer based on firm hiring needs and coordinating multiple applications. You’ll probably also want to take some time off in between jobs so that you can settle into your new city and start the new job feeling refreshed and energized.
Geographic Market Ties and Licensing. In preparing your introduction to a firm located in another market, your recruiter should convey your specific ties to the geographic location. While certainly not required, firms like the assurance of a long-term commitment to the city you are applying. Your recruiter should, therefore, share ties to the area and reasons for relocating.
Being eligible to waive into another jurisdiction without having to take the bar exam is another attribute you should highlight in your application to a firm in another market. Most states have adopted the Uniform Bar Examination “UBE,” giving attorneys greater mobility between states. In most jurisdictions, a score of 266 or higher on the UBE allows you to waive into another state’s bar without examination. Becoming licensed only requires completing the character and fitness application component. If you are relocating to a non-UBE jurisdiction or have not taken the UBE (e.g. if you are in a state that recently adopted UBE after you took the state bar exam), you may still be able to waive in to the bar without taking the exam if you have actively practiced law for at least three to five years (depending on the state). Also, certain corporate in-house roles may not require you to have passed the bar in the jurisdiction in which you work, so long as you meet the criteria to work as in-house counsel in that state. Even if you are unable to waive into another state bar, most law firms are very receptive to candidates who are not yet licensed in the state if they are coming from prestigious law firms and have strong academic credentials. In this circumstance, an attorney may practice under the supervision of other attorneys licensed in that jurisdiction and simply take the next offered bar exam. Most firms will cover bar registration and licensing fees as well as preparation courses and offer time off for the attorney to study, which is typically three to four weeks.
Interviewing and Offers. Most interviews for a position in another market will begin with a brief phone or videoconference interview. If you have upcoming plans to be in the city that you are relocating to, your recruiter should notify any potential employers to try to arrange an in-person interview. An initial in-person interview is preferable to a phone interview as you can more easily connect and build rapport with the interviewer. In addition to general interview preparation and strategy, as a relocation candidate, you will want to detail your reasons for relocating and highlight any ties and contacts to the market (as mentioned above). Importantly, you will also need to impart why you are specifically interested in the firm or practice group you are applying to and avoid the perception that you are simply looking to relocate without adequate knowledge of the particular firm or company with whom you are interviewing. You should have sufficient working knowledge of recent matters a firm has handled and discuss comparable matters you have been involved with that align well with that firm’s practice. Following a successful first-round interview, a second-round interview will usually be in-person with several attorneys and often include a lunch or dinner. Most firms will reimburse for interview-related travel expenses.
Regarding scheduling, it is useful to have a local recruiter to centralize coordinating multiple firm interviews in one trip to avoid the inconvenience of making multiple trips and being conspicuously out of the office of your current firm. This will also allow the interview results to progress concurrently so that you can compare, and contrast multiple offers at once and follow-up with any negotiation points.
The Relocation. Typically for relocation expenses, firms will reimburse up to $5,000 for expenses associated with moving and will often assist in connecting you with preferred realtors or set you up in temporary corporate housing. Firms understand that moving is a significant process, so following your acceptance of an offer, firms will often afford additional time for relocation (beyond the two-week notice given to your current employer). It is not uncommon for firms and companies to allow a month or so between acceptance and start dates for relocation candidates.
We hope this serves as a general roadmap of what to expect during an intermarket lateral attorney move. If you are considering a geographic relocation now or in the future, teaming up with a qualified recruiter can make the process exponentially easier. Our expert recruiters can be an invaluable resource when navigating this process, so feel free to connect with one of us anytime if you are curious about another legal market.