Should I Lateral?

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Should I Lateral?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:35 pm

(I know it's a personal choice and no one can truly answer this question except me. But I'm running into some dilemma here and any random thoughts would be appreciated. Maybe there's something I haven't thought of, etc.)

My current firm is generally great, but it has had rough times throughout the years and the partners sometimes aren't great under pressure (people work massive hours sometimes, get yelled at by partners if their work isn't up to par, or they are perceived to not be working hard enough, etc.). I applied to some other firms after a few particularly rough times lately. I also had a few other reasons to look elsewhere--e.g., I want to work in a practice area that my firm doesn't do much of at all--but those reasons hadn't spurred me to do anything until now.

On the other hand, the comp and benefits here are amazing (think at/above market pay), and somehow I got a good EOY review last week despite being one of the associates yelled at a few times for stuff lately. I also generally like the people here. The partners can be tough (as noted above), but they're generally still very nice people. The other associates/senior associates/of counsel are good people and fun to work with.

The upsides I can see to lateraling basically come down to (1) the firms I'd be considering seem to be better places to work with equally great people but without the occasional blow-up, (2) I'd get to be in the practice area I want to be in, and (3) lower hours requirements. The biggest downsides are (1) leaving a place and people that I've known for a while now and (2) taking a pay cut for the lower hours.

I'm a k-jd and don't have tons of work experience. I don't know if it's just inertia or some form of stockholm syndrome making the decision difficult, or if I am objectively already at a great firm that I'm crazy for thinking about leaving. Sorry, just kind of rambling now, but my brain is breaking from having to actually make decisions. I actually have a couple offers so I need to make a decision but I have some time to think. Seriously, any thoughts are appreciated.

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Re: Should I Lateral?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:09 pm

It sounds like you're unahppy with your current firm but are afraid of a prestige hit by lateraling. Is that an accurate assessment?

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Re: Should I Lateral?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:It sounds like you're unahppy with your current firm but are afraid of a prestige hit by lateraling. Is that an accurate assessment?


Prestige is actually a non factor at all. Compensation and lifestyle are, but not prestige. (The firms i’d be lateraling to are objectively more prestigious than my current one in the niche practice area.)

I have mixed feelings about my current firm. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I hate it. I think what I’m afraid of most is lateraling and then finding out that I should have stayed at my current firm for various reasons—whether because I liked working with the other peeps here or because I got paid more here, etc.

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Yea All Right

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Re: Should I Lateral?

Postby Yea All Right » Tue Dec 19, 2017 2:17 am

Any possibility you could change practice groups within your firm, switch to working with other people more, etc.?

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rpupkin

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Re: Should I Lateral?

Postby rpupkin » Tue Dec 19, 2017 2:40 am

Anonymous User wrote:The upsides I can see to lateraling basically come down to (1) the firms I'd be considering seem to be better places to work with equally great people but without the occasional blow-up, (2) I'd get to be in the practice area I want to be in, and (3) lower hours requirements.

How confident are you that hours expectations/demands will actually be lower at these other firms?

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Re: Should I Lateral?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 19, 2017 2:41 am

Yea All Right wrote:Any possibility you could change practice groups within your firm, switch to working with other people more, etc.?


Nope. I didn’t specify but it’s a small general lit boutique. Can’t really pick and choose, and especially not at the partner level because we only have a few of those.

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Re: Should I Lateral?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 19, 2017 2:48 am

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The upsides I can see to lateraling basically come down to (1) the firms I'd be considering seem to be better places to work with equally great people but without the occasional blow-up, (2) I'd get to be in the practice area I want to be in, and (3) lower hours requirements.

How confident are you that hours expectations/demands will actually be lower at these other firms?


Pretty confident, based on the firms and the practice area. I’d estimate that I’d be doing anywhere from 200 to 500 fewer hours of work-related stuff (billables + non-billables) a year.

My current firm has a low stated billable requirement but the reality is that everyone tends to hit at least low 2k, sometimes mid depending on trials n stuff.

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Re: Should I Lateral?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 19, 2017 3:14 am

Tough call. Personally, I'd make a mental note that I'd be there for no more than 18 more months, unless something drastically changes. Then, I'd be selective about what jobs I applied and interviewed for. When I did interview I'd use it more as an opportunity to interview the firm and find out about the things you mentioned. Only then would I make a decision. Just interview discreetly and make a decision when you're holding all of the cards.

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Re: Should I Lateral?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 19, 2017 8:50 am

I am in a very similar position. In fact your description of your work enviroment is so like mine I thought I worked with you. I also deal with very difficult partners and I think the main concern should be in a boutique is whether you are considered part of the family. I rarely get yelled at anymore even though it does happen. If it is not a partner who is yelling I can usually be a bit of a dick back and get away with it.

The biggest concern that I have is that I have put in the sweat equity into my current firm. Everyone knows my work and likes to work with me. If I move firms I need to reprove myself. Also a lot of boutiques are not up and out. If you do a good job and business is good no one will push you out.

That being said...what is your end goal? In-house? A brand name is certainly a better choice then.

Just as an FYI - The more "prestigious" the firm you go to the worse your hours will be. Usually prestige means more business.

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Re: Should I Lateral?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 19, 2017 2:08 pm

Tough call. Personally, I'd make a mental note that I'd be there for no more than 18 more months, unless something drastically changes. Then, I'd be selective about what jobs I applied and interviewed for. When I did interview I'd use it more as an opportunity to interview the firm and find out about the things you mentioned. Only then would I make a decision. Just interview discreetly and make a decision when you're holding all of the cards.


Yeah, I went through this and am holding some of the cards already. As far as the people go it's difficult because the people at my current firm are more of a known quantity while the people at the other firm I've either only met for 30 minutes during the interview or I met them through bar and community events where everyone's happily volunteering and networking so I always see the "good" side of those people.

Anonymous User wrote:I am in a very similar position. In fact your description of your work enviroment is so like mine I thought I worked with you. I also deal with very difficult partners and I think the main concern should be in a boutique is whether you are considered part of the family. I rarely get yelled at anymore even though it does happen. If it is not a partner who is yelling I can usually be a bit of a dick back and get away with it.

The biggest concern that I have is that I have put in the sweat equity into my current firm. Everyone knows my work and likes to work with me. If I move firms I need to reprove myself. Also a lot of boutiques are not up and out. If you do a good job and business is good no one will push you out.

That being said...what is your end goal? In-house? A brand name is certainly a better choice then.

Just as an FYI - The more "prestigious" the firm you go to the worse your hours will be. Usually prestige means more business.


Ha. I feel like I am part of a family here, but everyone still gets yelled at by the partners from time to time (the non-partners don't yell, at least not at each other). I definitely get the sweat equity thing. I'm known here, people know my work and like to work with me, too. I know I'll never make partner here, but it's not up-and-out, the comp is good, the people are generally okay (minus the aforementioned occasional yelling and blowups), etc.

Speaking of up-and-out, I think one thing I failed to mention before is the long-term career prospects here. I will never be pushed out here, but I'll also never make partner, and the more I work here, the less likely I am to have marketable skills.

My end-goal career wise is basically to have a happy career in the practice area I'm really interested in (the one that this firm doesn't do much of, but the firms I've applied to focus on), working with good people such that I can look forward to going to work every day (as much as anyone ever does). I'd also like to live comfortably, too, so the comp is still a factor. But I wouldn't stay at a place just because it pays well (that's why so many people leave biglaw with a paycut to go elsewhere!).

I understand the hours/prestige thing as a general matter, but I'd ask everyone to take my word about the hours here. These firms are prestigious, but in a specialized practice that just doesn't have the same kind of hours requirements as like a pure trial litigation firm (no trials = no 250 hour months) or a biglaw corporate practice (where your whole weekend can be ruined by a Friday night e-mail, etc.). Obviously when there is work to be done, there is work to be done, but the schedule is for the most part pretty predictable and a lot of people at these firms tend to be able to go on vacations pretty often too. (The pay cut though, ugh!)

Anonymous User
Posts: 327392
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Should I Lateral?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 19, 2017 2:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tough call. Personally, I'd make a mental note that I'd be there for no more than 18 more months, unless something drastically changes. Then, I'd be selective about what jobs I applied and interviewed for. When I did interview I'd use it more as an opportunity to interview the firm and find out about the things you mentioned. Only then would I make a decision. Just interview discreetly and make a decision when you're holding all of the cards.


Yeah, I went through this and am holding some of the cards already. As far as the people go it's difficult because the people at my current firm are more of a known quantity while the people at the other firm I've either only met for 30 minutes during the interview or I met them through bar and community events where everyone's happily volunteering and networking so I always see the "good" side of those people.

Anonymous User wrote:I am in a very similar position. In fact your description of your work enviroment is so like mine I thought I worked with you. I also deal with very difficult partners and I think the main concern should be in a boutique is whether you are considered part of the family. I rarely get yelled at anymore even though it does happen. If it is not a partner who is yelling I can usually be a bit of a dick back and get away with it.

The biggest concern that I have is that I have put in the sweat equity into my current firm. Everyone knows my work and likes to work with me. If I move firms I need to reprove myself. Also a lot of boutiques are not up and out. If you do a good job and business is good no one will push you out.

That being said...what is your end goal? In-house? A brand name is certainly a better choice then.

Just as an FYI - The more "prestigious" the firm you go to the worse your hours will be. Usually prestige means more business.


Ha. I feel like I am part of a family here, but everyone still gets yelled at by the partners from time to time (the non-partners don't yell, at least not at each other). I definitely get the sweat equity thing. I'm known here, people know my work and like to work with me, too. I know I'll never make partner here, but it's not up-and-out, the comp is good, the people are generally okay (minus the aforementioned occasional yelling and blowups), etc.

Speaking of up-and-out, I think one thing I failed to mention before is the long-term career prospects here. I will never be pushed out here, but I'll also never make partner, and the more I work here, the less likely I am to have marketable skills.

My end-goal career wise is basically to have a happy career in the practice area I'm really interested in (the one that this firm doesn't do much of, but the firms I've applied to focus on), working with good people such that I can look forward to going to work every day (as much as anyone ever does). I'd also like to live comfortably, too, so the comp is still a factor. But I wouldn't stay at a place just because it pays well (that's why so many people leave biglaw with a paycut to go elsewhere!).

I understand the hours/prestige thing as a general matter, but I'd ask everyone to take my word about the hours here. These firms are prestigious, but in a specialized practice that just doesn't have the same kind of hours requirements as like a pure trial litigation firm (no trials = no 250 hour months) or a biglaw corporate practice (where your whole weekend can be ruined by a Friday night e-mail, etc.). Obviously when there is work to be done, there is work to be done, but the schedule is for the most part pretty predictable and a lot of people at these firms tend to be able to go on vacations pretty often too. (The pay cut though, ugh!)


It sounds like working the different practice area is one of the most important things to you. If the other firms are offering you a chance to work in that area, I think you should take it. The people at your current firm may come and go but you'll be stuck doing the type of work your current firm does for the rest of your life. Better to go some place that does work you're ultimately interested in now.

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rpupkin

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Re: Should I Lateral?

Postby rpupkin » Tue Dec 19, 2017 4:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The upsides I can see to lateraling basically come down to (1) the firms I'd be considering seem to be better places to work with equally great people but without the occasional blow-up, (2) I'd get to be in the practice area I want to be in, and (3) lower hours requirements.

How confident are you that hours expectations/demands will actually be lower at these other firms?


Pretty confident, based on the firms and the practice area. I’d estimate that I’d be doing anywhere from 200 to 500 fewer hours of work-related stuff (billables + non-billables) a year.

My current firm has a low stated billable requirement but the reality is that everyone tends to hit at least low 2k, sometimes mid depending on trials n stuff.

The reason I ask is that it's a pretty common for associates to lateral based on the promise of more reasonable hours only to find that their hours are similar or worse at the new firm. Although associates tend to brag about and/or exaggerate their high hours when trading war stories with friends, they tend to exaggerate in the other direction in the context of recruiting and interviewing. Also, firms will sometimes tout statistics--like average associate hours--that are pretty misleading. For various reasons, mid-level laterals are often expected to bill well above a firm's average.

It sounds like you have solid reasons for believing that your hours really will be lower if you lateral, so my words of caution probably don't apply to you. But I thought I'd throw the concern out there.



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