Do Not Drink the Kool-Aid!–A Wake-Up Call for Young Associates

There are lots of good reasons why forty-plus percent of fourth-year attorneys are in their second law firm. Personally, I’ve enumerated about a dozen categories of reasons that associates switch firms early in their careers, all of them reasonable. But the big three, and the ones many think are unreasonable or at least disadvantageous, are really the best reasons for leaving, and ones you should make sure don’t apply to you if you are planning to stay put–especially as you allow the fourth and fifth years to roll by on your career clock. Bottom line: listen to your gut, even your flights of fancy, and especially the market. Don’t “drink the Kool-Aid” by swallowing your own firm’s marketing brochures. Be a careful and wary “partner” with your law firm.

Further, disregard the politically correct purveyors of “moderation” and “loyalty.” These are good concepts in the abstract, but you have to know how to apply them appropriately. Let’s face it, firms certainly aren’t out to get you, but they do see every single attorney (partners as well as associates) as a practice in and of itself, and someone (while hopefully integrated into the firm and “cross-selling”) who is, if not expendable, then separable depending on the needs of the firm. You are an important cog, maybe, but still a cog. Realize that firms spend considerable resources determining which attorneys and groups remain within the “core competencies” of the firm (to say nothing of their respective impact on PEP at year-end). As such, you would be well-served to constantly make your own analysis of the fitness of your current firm. If one or more of the following three scenarios fits your circumstances, a switch may be what the doctor ordered: you want more money; you want to cleanse a less-than-picture-perfect early career; you have a strange itch to move that you can’t put your finger on. These reasons are not as crass and superficial as you may think–each is important on its face, but may also underlie latent analyses that you haven’t taken the time to flesh out. I’ll be writing about each of these issues in the next couple of days—stay tuned!

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