In my last post, I suggested that changing industries is easier said than done for many professionals. I also suggested 2 ways to overcome industry bias: 1) find opportunities through networking and 2) when it is feasible, accept positions on a contract basis.
For attorneys who work in a law firm environment, there are several additional options to consider.
If you have established yourself as one of the “keepers”, then it may be possible to shift your work assignments within your firm. If you are more interested in biotechnology than financial services, for example, see if you can be proactive about getting work from partners who service those clients. If your firm serves both industries and partners serving the biotechnology clients are busy, your firm may let you make an internal move rather than lose you.
I’ve even seen law firm associates make complete practice area changes (i.e. not just a change in the industries that the associate is serving). During the dot.com boom, for example, I counseled an environmental associate to ask to be moved into the corporate department at his firm. The firm was happy to keep this individual and he was able to retool, despite his lack of corporate experience.
If making a change internally is not feasible (either because your firm is not busy enough in that department or the firm doesn’t have clients in the industry that interests you, then it may be time to consider a lateral move. Mid-level corporate and real estate associates with large law firm experience are in great demand right now so take advantage of the market conditions to get your career moving in the direction you want. It will only get harder as you get more senior.