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Legal Career Homework: How to Maximize Lateral Success

Although successfully moving from one law firm to another is not the same thing as fighting a war, a great lesson from warfare (thank you, Sun Tzu and the Art of War) applies to lateral success:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

To maximize lateral success, whether working with a legal recruiter or going about it on your own, the key is to accurately know yourself and your target employer. The more information you have, the better equipped you will be to successfully transition. If you add an experienced legal recruiter to your corner, communicating what you know will help your recruiter maximize the odds of your success.

Maximizing lateral success requires learning to accurately qualify yourself as a candidate.

If you’re thinking about pursuing your career at another law firm, it is important that you think through the following questions and share what you uncover with your recruiter.

  • What gaps will be filled by hiring you?
    • Do you broaden the breadth or deepen the depth of a firm’s services?
  • What will your short term, and long term contributions be?
    • What specific skill sets or area of expertise can you bring on day one—and what will you be able to develop at the new gig??
    • What relationships do you bring with you? What new relationships are possible with the new firm?
    • What would you do to further goals, objectives, and performance of the firm or team (be as specific as possible—even if it’s a small for now)?
  • What is your professional reputation?
    • What specific examples of leadership and initiative can you share that demonstrates your potential?
    • How will hiring you help the firm attract or retain clients?
  • What are the demographic facts about the target law firm, and how do you fit in the picture
    • What do you know about the firm’s geographic reach?
    • Will you fit in with, and thrive in, the firm’s culture?
  • Why are you leaving your current position?
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