Monday, December 15, 2008

questions on early lateral moves

A commenter asked about the options:

- if you hate your first job
-- how long one can expect to have to stay at a firm before moving on
I'd say after 2 years is a good time to start working with a recruiter (ask trusted friends for recommendation, preferably someone outside your firm to avoid leaks). Most firms and recruiters think that you should stay 2 years before moving; you get a fair amount of experience and you don't look like and immediate job-hopper. Years 3-4 are probably the busy times for lateral associates, more movement, better focus by the associate as to what kind of practice they want, how firm B could be better than firm A, what they are really looking for long and short term. The recruiter calls do slow down as you hit year 6 and above.

-- how long grades are going to be following you around, etc.

E.g? great grades 1L and 2L, great firm for summer, and then C in 3L: cause for worry if want to lateral after 2 years.

E.g.: grades not great, but land job @great firm; at what point grades irrelevant.
Grades do become less important. Firms you are considering lateraling to will ask for a transcript as a matter of diligence (even HP had to give one when HP moves firms as a P). As an associate, your grades may be reviewed, but if you worked at a solid place, have a good reputation/references, as long as your grades aren't totally in the toilet, you should be fine. After a couple of years, at least in most places (I'm excluding special practices like Supreme Court practices where they may be partial to Yale Law grads and brainiacs), the HP is more interested in your experience in the workplaces and whether you are qualified for the position, and less concerned about the grades. Good grades are always a plus, but I can tell you in any mid size to large firm, if you pulled out the transcripts, there are a wide range of grades and even law schools out there.
If grades not great, keep plugging along, develop expertise, get known within the local and/or speciality bar, get out to bar and other events, grow your base.
I've even seen one guy with hideous grades get an associate job at a firm because he had very particular expertise and background that a practice group leader needed. Now, he didn't work out long term (and this HP wouldn't have hired him in first place because grades were really, really bad and he wasn't that far out of school), but the point is that experience can surpass grades when it comes to hiring.
I will aim to get back posting and I have to encourage my guest posters to start posting!


g2 said...

Thanks for answering my questions, HP. This is very helpful.

Anonymous said...

define "really, really bad." like bottom 10% or bottom half?

Anonymous said...

This post reads like it was written by a LS student who's just done with exams. Hmmmmm......

Anonymous said...

Exactly the info I needed - thanks HP!

Anonymous said...

I'd also be interested in knowing whether the lower 50% of class is really really bad, or whether it's the bottom 10%.

Hiring Partner said...

lower 50% of class is not good. lower 10 is hideous.

Anonymous said...

If you are a contract attorney for 1-2 years, is that considered experience or are you treated as an entry-level attorney in the eyes of employers? Is it better to be a contract attorney for a big and well-known firm or to get a crappy paying job as an associate at a solo or no-name firm for the sake of experience?

I'm afraid of getting stuck in the contract attorney route. It pays well (around $50-60K/year), but it is taking me nowhere. The only associate jobs out there are only paying $30-40K/year with no benefits and 2000+ billable requirements. I realize the economy is bad, but I never expected a pay cut after graduating from law school compared to a job as a manager of a Gap.

Anonymous said...

"lower 50% of class is not good. lower 10 is hideous."

To what extent does that depend on law school? How bad off are you if you finish in those tiers at an Ivy League (or comparable) law school?