New opportunities don’t always knock

As a legal recruiter, I help prepare you to take the next step in your legal career with one-on-one career goal determinations, appropriate position identification, and interview preparation to help you find the right opportunities.

There are a myriad of reasons (i.e., too many to list) that serve as the basis for taking the ‘next step’ in your legal career:

  • Lack of genuine career advancement and engaging, substantive assignment opportunities
  • A law firm or company culture has become unappealing, toxic, or stale.
  • A management style that doesn’t fit your current level of responsibility or career maturity
  • Firm size (i.e., too large or too small)

Whatever your reasons or motivations drive your urge to consider prospective opportunities might be, it is essential to convey to the potential employer your motives to make a change in a clear, concise, confident, and professional manner. Taking the time to think about and fine-tune your motivations for a move is a useful exercise with, or without, the assistance of a recruiter. Whether your underlying motivations for change are complicated or relatively straightforward (i.e., no longer ‘feeling the love’ from your employer), your reflection and introspection concerning your reasons for a change are invaluable in determining the practice group roles, career advancement opportunities, and often intangible law firm or in-house qualities that best allow you to pursue your long term career goals.

Job Description

Your daily activities and the opportunities presented have a significant impact on your personal and professional satisfaction and growth.

What do you want from your next career step?

What does your ideal job look like to you?

1. Key responsibilities

Identify those aspects of your current practice or environment that you enjoy regarding your current and past roles. With that in mind, write down those ‘must-have’ responsibilities in your ideal role. You should take the opportunity to express how you want to progress in your ideal role and how this identified role fits into your overall career goals.

2. Strengths and weaknesses

Clarity of expression is important when identifying your unique selling points to a prospective employer. Your reflection will allow you to determine the soft and hard skills necessary for success in your ideal position’s responsibilities, as well as any skillsets that your honest assessment suggests you may need to improve upon. A legal recruiter can discuss with you any perceived skill gaps and help you to bridge those gaps as your ideal opportunity and role take shape.

Law Firm or Company

Your ideal position and definition of a great place to work will differ from those expressed by others because each of us has individual interests and desires. It is critical at the early stages of your search to reflect on the look and feel of your ideal work environment. There are no right or wrong ‘ideals.’ Your ideal positions or roles may not be unique in a global professional sense, but they should reflect your well-thought-out interests, goals, and desires in a prospective employment environment.

1. Industry 

Throughout your legal career within what industries or subject matters have you most enjoyed working?

What industries or subject matters match your personal or professional passions?

You don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to those areas or subject matters in which you possess prior industry experience. There are many attorneys’ interests, and practice focuses change as their careers progress. Wholesale practice area changes can be challenging, at best, depending on your experience level and targeted employer, but ‘where there’s a will,’ there is usually a way to achieve that goal. Such a change will require you to identify the transferable skills from your past and recent experiences that will allow you to succeed in your new chosen industry.

2. Size and Scale

When it comes to your ideal work environment, there is no one size fits all solution. Do you want to practice within a large law firm with a goal of partnership and building a solid book of business, pursue an in-house opportunity incorporating business-driven (i.e., non-legal) activities into your in-house legal role as you work your way up the corporate? Perhaps you envisioned yourself working with startups and having direct contact with senior management and key stakeholders. There are pros and cons for working at law firms or companies of any size and scale. It is strictly a matter of finding the perfect fit for you.

3. Culture

What type of work environment is best suited to your personality?

Again, the key is to be true to yourself. A less than satisfying fit is often a primary reason that candidates don’t work out. Know those elements of a work environment that are most important for your short and long-term happiness at work. You should feel comfortable and confident in openly discussing with your recruiter any aspects of a prospective firm’s or company’s culture that are important for you in a new work environment.

“Must-haves” vs. “Nice-to-haves”

Once you have clearly defined the elements above, you need to determine what your “must-have” and “nice to have” ideals are for a new work environment. Be honest with yourself, and realistic, but do not compromise on those items that are most important to you. While it is necessary to accept that not every ‘terrific’ opportunity will check every “must-have” or “nice-to-have” box, there are certain factors that will be vital to your overall career goals, professional growth, and workplace enjoyment. Pursue your needs (it’s quite OK if they change along the way), and be sure to communicate with your recruiter about the aspects of a prospective role and work environment that are non-negotiable for you.

Be Practical

I think it is essential to have a clear vision of what you want to see in your next employment opportunity. Open and honest communication between you and your recruiter will ensure that you and your recruiter stay on the same ‘sheet of music.’ I believe that open communication, in whatever form (i.e., text, email, telephone, in-person meetings), will make your job search experience more engaging and less frustrating as you work together to identify and approach opportunities matching your specific interests, professional development, and long-term career goals. Items or issues to research and reflect upon may include:

  • Short-term and long-term career advancement opportunities
  • Bonus-eligibility or Stock Options
  • Benefits (i.e., Flexible Spending Accounts, Healthcare, Childcare, etc.)
  • Flexible or Remote workplace policies
  • Office location/commuting considerations
  • Compensation packages

Be open, honest, optimistic, and communicative with your recruiter as you develop and strengthen your working relationship. Your legal recruiter will keep her lines of communication open, so be sure to keep your lines of communication open as well. Keep your recruiter updated on any adjustments or revisions to your criteria for your perfect opportunity and of any new opportunities that you have become aware of, or pursued, on your own. Open communication and timely responses to electronic communications will ensure an engaging and professional recruiting process while permitting the recruiter to take full advantage of their law firm and in-house employer relationships.

If you are interested in discussing your legal career options, please contact Tom Jones at Thomas Jones Consulting to set up a call at your convenience.