Moving In The Fourth Quarter: Should You Delay Your Search Until After Firms Pay Bonuses?


Are you considering a lateral move, but you aren’t sure that now is the right time? Do you feel like it’s so late in the year that you might as well stay the course until bonuses are paid? Attorneys often ask whether they should delay their searches rather than leave bonuses on the table this time of year.

It pays to carefully consider how bonuses and other factors should affect the timing of your move. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Competition for positions will soar in January because many attorneys will wait until the New Year to start a search. If you are willing to consider a move today, you stand to benefit greatly by starting your interviews before the New Year’s crush of applicants.
  • Opportunities that are available today may already be filled by other attorneys come 2016. After all, the firms hiring now have the most active needs and want to fill them quickly. By not considering a current opening, you may miss out on the opportunity altogether.
  • Starting a search today and receiving your bonus aren’t mutually exclusive. You can interview now but may be able to start your new job after bonuses have been paid. We have several candidates interviewing this month who do not plan to start until early 2016.
  • We have recently secured signing bonuses for several attorneys who would have lost their year-end bonuses. Many firms are willing to invest in substantial bonuses to get skilled attorneys on board more quickly. That allows firms to keep work they might have to turn away due to lack of capacity, and of course it means that the new attorney will start contributing to the firm’s bottom line more quickly. From a firm’s perspective, a signing bonus quickly pays for itself when the firm captures hours that otherwise would not have been billed.
  • Partners’ year-end distributions also impact timing; those distributions often equal or surpass base draws or salaries. Additionally, partners draw their bonuses at the same time as associates in late December or early January. Rest assured that for the right hire, some firms will invest millions to attract a superstar. It’s worth a confidential conversation.

Should you wait or should you go? Make a chart of the pros and cons that apply to your situation. Then ask yourself what if anything you have to gain by waiting.


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