Is now a bad time to consider a lateral?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 359174
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Is now a bad time to consider a lateral?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 19, 2020 3:00 am

Hi all!

I could really use some guidance and collective wisdom on whether it is an good idea or a flat-out stupid idea to consider doing a lateral right now.

My Situation: I'm a 3rd year L&E attorney making about $150,000 per year in San Francisco Bay Area. I usually bill about 2,100 hours. Most of my cases are wage-and-hour class actions, but I handle discrimination, harassment, accommodation, retaliation, etc. The Partners I currently work with are all very chill people and we all get along great. With the pandemic, my firm has (currently) said we can work-from-home for as long as we want (i.e., no need to get on public transit or go into a building with hundreds of other folks and risk being infected by COVID)

In talking with a recruiter, I've been made aware of opportunities at firms larger than mine that pay more Cravath scale. The positions are also L&E. Here are my concerns: 1) My current job is secure, but is it worth risking going to a new firm (i.e., what if it doesn't work out)?, 2) If the new firm does not have a similar work-from-home mentality/policy, then I'm stuck with increased odd for COVID exposure, and 3) Any chance the new firms later downsize or engage in layoffs and start with "last-in = first to go"?

I guess I'm just panicking that I'm missing out on a career move opportunity OR I'm being greedy and letting that short-sight impair my judgment and risk a good thing in an unstable economy.

User avatar
KunAgnis

Bronze
Posts: 303
Joined: Mon Apr 13, 2015 11:41 pm

Re: Is now a bad time to consider a lateral?

Post by KunAgnis » Tue May 19, 2020 4:35 am

Based on my limited knowledge, isn't L&E supposed to pick up during recessions/depressions? Given that they're actively recruiting when plenty of law firms are downsizing, I can't imagine you'd be dropped soon after you went in.

The remote work policy may be something you could ask people you know at the firm (or if you don't, might need to carefully ask during the interviews? Apparently quite a few people think COVID-19 is a joke). 150K in SF is relatively low and I'd at least interview there and see what happens in your position.

Spartan_Alum_12

Bronze
Posts: 155
Joined: Sat Oct 06, 2012 8:14 pm

Re: Is now a bad time to consider a lateral?

Post by Spartan_Alum_12 » Tue May 19, 2020 6:00 pm

I wouldn't be too worried about last in/first out. I also think almost all firms in the SF Bay have to have a lax WFH policy right now, but I could be wrong. However, I would think hard about whether you really want to leave a great group of partners and what appears to be a good firm culture. I've been at firms with both good and toxic cultures and it makes a huge difference (not that it's guaranteed you'll move to a firm with a worse culture, but it can be hard to detect in an interview in my experience). It's really a personal decision. Sometimes more $$$ isn't always worth it, but I get that your salary in relation to the hours you're billing isn't great for the SF Bay and a ~$75K increase is no joke. Best of luck!

jacketyellow

Bronze
Posts: 300
Joined: Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:51 pm

Re: Is now a bad time to consider a lateral?

Post by jacketyellow » Tue May 19, 2020 6:49 pm

Going against the grain here...

I wouldn't leave. While your salary is appallingly low with the amount of hours you're billing and your class year, it's just too uncertain right now. You love your partners and your colleagues at the place you're at now. And, you have no fear of being laid off at your current firm. I could be wrong, but I'd say you're probably at a midlaw shop right now. There are many midlaw boutiques in the DC area (where I am), and almost none of them are conducting outright layoffs, stealth layoffs, or initiating pay-cuts -- because they usually have little to no debt and pay their lawyers below Cravath. And those lawyers still live comfortably. I worked at a midlaw shop in 2014 at a salary of $135,000 (market rate was $160,000 I believe), and I found no decrease in my level of living. I also left for the vaunted $180,000 and got screwed.

At any rate, if you leave, you could be leaving a nice culture for a horrible one. Firms always promise not to fire folks, but they end up doing it anyway during a recession. Also, since you'll be new, it'll be difficult, in this climate, for people to trust you and give you work right away. And, if/when the work dries up, you'll be the first one to be cut.

This is just my opinion. Take it with a grain of salt. Good luck.

DiligentSage

New
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2015 2:25 am

Re: Is now a bad time to consider a lateral?

Post by DiligentSage » Tue May 19, 2020 8:54 pm

I wouldn't worry too much about WFH -- even after firms open up offices, there will likely still be enormous deference paid to people who would prefer to stay at home if only from a PR perspective. Granted, harder in your case since you'll be a lateral and it's a lot harder to integrate into your new group remotely but still. Add on the already lax face time requirements for most Bay Area firms and it only furthers the point.

re: the culture and fit issue, that's definitely the most pressing one you've raised but $70K in base plus whatever the delta is in bonus is a lot of money to be missing out on, especially when you're already billing biglaw hours. If your current firm likes you, moreover, you could try to lateral back in a few years if the fit is truly awful and you'll pocket a significant amount of money for your troubles. Have to imagine the pay gap only gets bigger as you get more senior too.

At the very least, sounds worthwhile to interview with your prospective firms and insomuch as you can, try to get a sense of the teams you'll be working with.

Want to continue reading?

Register now to search topics and post comments!

Absolutely FREE!


Anonymous User
Posts: 359174
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Is now a bad time to consider a lateral?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue May 19, 2020 9:28 pm

jacketyellow wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 6:49 pm
Going against the grain here...

I wouldn't leave. While your salary is appallingly low with the amount of hours you're billing and your class year, it's just too uncertain right now. You love your partners and your colleagues at the place you're at now. And, you have no fear of being laid off at your current firm. I could be wrong, but I'd say you're probably at a midlaw shop right now. There are many midlaw boutiques in the DC area (where I am), and almost none of them are conducting outright layoffs, stealth layoffs, or initiating pay-cuts -- because they usually have little to no debt and pay their lawyers below Cravath. And those lawyers still live comfortably. I worked at a midlaw shop in 2014 at a salary of $135,000 (market rate was $160,000 I believe), and I found no decrease in my level of living. I also left for the vaunted $180,000 and got screwed.

At any rate, if you leave, you could be leaving a nice culture for a horrible one. Firms always promise not to fire folks, but they end up doing it anyway during a recession. Also, since you'll be new, it'll be difficult, in this climate, for people to trust you and give you work right away. And, if/when the work dries up, you'll be the first one to be cut.

This is just my opinion. Take it with a grain of salt. Good luck.
This is somewhat false. I’m at a midlaw/boutique dc firm and my firm cut salaries. It asked that we not share with Above the Law and surprisingly no one has done so. To be fair, though, I am/was significantly closer to market than quoted OP.

Edit to add that just your midlaw firm may cut salaries or do layoffs too, so it may make sense to jump ship if it means a significant pay increase.

Anonymous User
Posts: 359174
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Is now a bad time to consider a lateral?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed May 20, 2020 1:01 am

Hi all! OP here. Thank you all so much for your guidance so far! I really appreciate how thoughtful everyone's responses have been. I'd love to pick your brains a little further as I sort through my half logical/half fear driven muddled thoughts.

You are all correct that I am currently at a mid-law type firm (think Gordon Rees, Lewis Brisbois type). Culture is a big focus for me and I think you all are right that I should keep this issue at the forefront. Is there any meaningful way to suss out the culture at a new firm during interviews or through other means (short of knowing someone at that firm)? Do you all recommend any L&E practice groups with any firms in the San Francisco Bay Area that have a good culture?

Jacketyellow made a good point too. Until you all mentioned it, I hadn't thought about the issue of getting work and building that trust that I already have with my current Partners. Is that a hurdle that can be reasonably overcome? Or too risky in your collective wisdom?

Any downside in testing the market through interviews even if I'm not 100% committed to leaving my current firm? I wonder if I'd be burning any bridges by interviewing and being offered a job, but not taking it.

If you all think of anything else that I should consider, I'd really appreciate the great guidance!

Thanks again everyone and hope you are all gainfully employed and staying healthy.

Want to continue reading?

Register for access!

Did I mention it was FREE ?


Post Reply Post Anonymous Reply  

Return to “Legal Employment”