Angela Kopolovich, managing director of recruiting firm Alegna International, is the guest blogger. This is the first of a three-part series on making a lateral move.
by Angela Kopolovich
The legal job market is still shaky. Yet, despite predictions of more layoffs and a shrinking market, there is a fair amount of lateral movement in the associate ranks. So if you’re one of those brave souls, looking to make a transition in this uncertain economy, be armed.
Generally, if the stars are aligned in your favor, a lateral move typically takes at least eight weeks— from submission of a resume until you start your new job.
But before we get started, heed this warning: Keep your job search a secret. Do not share your search with anyone at your firm—not your work-wife, not your BFF, no one! Remember, the job market is fiercely competitive, and firms see tens, if not hundreds, of qualified resumes for each position. Getting an interview will make you want to dance around your office, but don’t do it. I’m speaking from experience. (I worked with a candidate recently who was interviewing for his dream job. I warned him not to tell anyone, but he didn’t listen. “Don’t worry,” he told me, “Larry’s not gonna submit for it; he’s not even looking.” You guessed it: Larry got the offer, and my candidate got bubkes.)
Now that you've been warned, here are the three items you should have ready—even if you're not looking for a job right now:
1. Resume. If your experience qualifies you for more than one position or practice area, draft different versions of your resume. Candidates often make a mistake of submitting a resume that doesn’t fit the job description. If your resume doesn’t precisely list the skills a firm is seeking, you will not be considered.
2. Transcript. Generally, firms are only interested in your law school transcript (unofficial copies are fine). If you attended more than one law school, get transcripts for each school. If you’re a patent lawyer with a tech background, your undergrad/graduate transcript is also relevant.
3. Sample Work Product.
• Litigation: Writing sample that showcases your skills. Ideally, the document should be entirely your work; it should be persuasive, dispositive, and successful. If the filing is not public, a draft of a motion is also acceptable, but it must be a redacted version. Exclude all identifying client information. (A slipup will not only cost you the job, but can also result in you being reported to the bar for violation of confidentiality.) For labor and employment lawyers, don’t submit anything with a scandalous or explicit fact pattern, no matter how good it is.
• Corporate: Deal sheet (a list of your transactional experience, grouped by practice area). Each bullet point should describe a transaction, its value, the industry, and the type of client. The length will obviously depend on your level of experience. Short and sweet descriptions work best.
• Patent: Patent applications you’ve drafted, or sometimes, an office action. Make sure the document represents your best work. Pick something that is as recent as possible.
One final point: You need to be straightforward about any red flag issues you might have from the start. Perhaps you didn’t pass the bar on the first attempt, or you didn’t get that summer associate offer, or you've been warned that you’re going to be laid off. These issues will come to light during the interviewing process, and if it looks like you’ve concealed them, your candidacy will be derailed.
Next installment: The interview.
Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email chief blogger Vivia Chen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow The Careerist on Twitter: twitter.com/lawcareerist