Ready to Leave New York?
Many associates begin their practice in New York regardless of where they initially hail from or attended school. This is no surprise to us native New Yorkers. New York offers sophisticated work, “Big Law” experience and certain practice areas which are primarily based here. Throw in great pizza, unlimited arts, nightlife and fun weekend destinations and who would ever consider leaving? That said, for some of you there comes a time when you’re ready to toss the Big Apple and all that it offers. Perhaps you are looking to raise a family, want to be closer to home, find a city that offers a better cost of living or improve your work-life balance. If leaving New York is something you’re seriously contemplating now or even down the road, this is the time to start preparing.
WILL I BE MARKETABLE OUTSIDE OF NEW YORK?
If you’ve managed your career up to this point, you’re well trained, have worked on a broad range of matters and logged some serious hours. If that’s not the case, you need to have an honest conversation with yourself about how your career has fallen short and what you’re prepared to do to remedy that. You may want to enlist the help of a professional, such as a recruiter, to help direct that dialogue. Assuming you’ve accomplished what you hoped to when you graduated law school, there are other steps you should be taking to maximize options. Make sure you have a compelling story — perhaps geographic ties to the region, an understanding of what it’s like to live in that community and knowledge of the legal and business climate. You also need to consider how on point your work experience is compared to the types of work available in that market. If it’s not on point, perhaps now is the time to transition practices. Make sure your resume is tailored to highlight those skills that will be most desirable and be prepared to explain how your experience will translate.
SHOULD I USE A LOCAL RECRUITER?
For any move, you should use a recruiter that is well-respected, understands the markets in which you are interested in and can intelligently discuss your range of options. This need not be someone who is resident in your destination city. An experienced recruiter will have relationships outside of New York and be able to leverage their New York-based contacts to open doors in other cities. In addition, many national law firms now have centralized recruiting departments which handle searches across offices and can serve as a point of entry for someone known in New York. Equally important is that you find someone who takes the time to understand your priorities and objectives and will serve as a trusted advisor. They should be impressive on the phone and in person. Chances are, if you don’t respect the recruiter, neither will the law firm. Bottom line — be discriminating as there are many good recruiters out there and you want to ensure that one of them is really representing you, as opposed to just being conveniently located.
LAW FIRM VERSUS IN-HOUSE
If law firms are your likely path, work with one recruiter. If you’ve taken our advice and enlisted someone who is well-connected and well-respected, they should be able to open whatever doors you’re knocking on. They will be motivated to work hard on your behalf and having one representative will minimize the chance for potential snafus such as multiple submissions or competing searches. You will also have one trusted advisor who can help you compare, contrast and ultimately decide between different options in an objective fashion. This is the true key to long-term success, particularly if you’re looking at a city with which you are unfamiliar. Only enlist other recruiters when in-house is on your agenda. Unlike the law firm market, those positions tend to be exclusive to one agency and you will want to speak to those recruiting firms that specialize in this type of work in the appropriate geographic market.
CAN I GO STRAIGHT IN-HOUSE?
My advice — start with a firm, not a company. You will already be encountering tremendous change in connection with this move, why not minimize the number of speed bumps you encounter along the road? Also, companies in a particular region will usually hire known quantities — someone they’ve worked with in the past or who hails from a firm with whom they have a relationship or previously made successful hires. An associate entering a new market through a relocation will be at a disadvantage. Also, if for some reason the job is not the right fit, it will be difficult to re-enter the law firm market without having any ties to local law firms. In addition, if you ever think you might one day relocate again, you will be more marketable as a law firm attorney than as an in-house lawyer.
CAN I TRANSFER WITHIN MY CURRENT FIRM?
If you think relocating is possible, doing it within your firm offers a convenient option. It enhances your resume by demonstrating your firm’s commitment to you and also avoids the hassle of conducting a job search in a new location. That said, make sure that the office and team you will be joining is the strongest possible platform for you and ultimately makes the most sense to your long term career trajectory. Does it have the work you desire on a consistent basis? Is their reputation strong in that market? Is the office stable and valuable to the firm’s overall growth plans? And are there any concerns relating to partnership demographics, culture, clients and/or other issues?
KEEP AN EYE ON THE BIG PICTURE
Make sure to keep sight of your priorities during your search — both immediate and longer term. Before you embark on this process, sit down with your recruiter and make a list of your objectives and their order of importance. Once you’ve identified the key components, make sure to closely evaluate your potential options to make sure they stack up. At a minimum, you want to be sure that the position benefits your career in the long-term, will expand your skill sets and help you grow and develop in a way that will create better opportunities down the road. Once you feel confident that you’ve done your diligence and found the position that best suits your needs, take a deep breath and take the plunge.