Angela Kopolovich, managing director of recruiting firm Alegna International, is the guest blogger. This is the last installment of a three-part series on making a lateral move.
Part 3 - Moving On
But wait, don't celebrate just yet.
When you get that call from the hiring partner with the offer, don't jump at it. You should thank him/her, and say you’re looking forward to reviewing the details in the offer letter. Be enthusiastic, but don’t commit to anything until you see it in writing.
Remember, the offer is always conditional on your clearing various checks. As you know from law school: conditional = revocable. So proceed with caution.
1. Preparing for background, conflicts, and reference checks. The offer letter usually arrives with several attachments, including:
- The background check—Fill this form out immediately. This usually takes the longest time to process, so it should be submitted right away to avoid delays.
- The conflicts check —Be ready with a list of clients and matters you’ve worked on—all of them. Once you submit this form, the firm’s conflicts department goes to work, running those names against its client database for adverse representations. If something is flagged, a firm will put up an ethical wall (also called an ethical screen) before your start date. It’s rare that an offer is revoked due to insurmountable conflicts, but it can happen.
- Your references—Be sure to pick someone who will give you a positive review. What happens, though, when the new firm insists that you give the name of your supervising partner—the person who's the very reason you’ve decided to leave?
First, try to push back delicately, and suggest other references, at least until you’ve given notice. If that doesn’t work, you should diplomatically explain the issue to the new firm. If you suspect that your supervising partner will not act professionally, say so. Tread lightly here. Refusing to provide a reference the new firm wants might cost you the offer. You’ll have to weigh whether the risks are worth it. And, yes, some people decide it's too risky and find themselves stuck where they are.
2. Giving notice and negotiating a start date. After clearing the checks, it's time to give notice. Two weeks' notice is standard. If you’ve decided to take a vacation in the hopes of decompressing, or to detox from the Xanax you’ve been popping like M&M’s, that’s fine. Taking four weeks between jobs is generally acceptable. Another week or two is also okay, if a relocation is involved. But don’t make your new firm wait too long.
3. Navigating the counteroffer. After you give notice, your current firm might decide that you are absolutely indispensable and make you a counteroffer. When firms go into counteroffer mode, they pull out all the stops. They’ll say and do just about anything to keep you from walking out the door. Recently a firm called my candidate’s spouse to get her to convince the candidate not to leave. It was creepy and reminded me of Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate.
Let me be clear: Never, ever accept a counteroffer. When faced with the idea of losing a good associate, employers make promises that are rarely kept. Three months later, all the same issues that bothered you will resurface. What's more, the firm will see you as disloyal for going behind its back. When the time comes for reviews or promotions, it will be held against you. The bond of trust is broken. I could go on about why accepting a counteroffer is a bad idea, but just take my word for it.
Ta-dah! That’s it. The process is finally over. You can start transitioning your matters, and watch as your soon-to-be-former colleagues turn into green-eyed monsters.
But take the time to write a departure letter. It should be a brief email indicating your last day, expressing your gratitude for the opportunities afforded to you, and including your contact information for the future. A departure letter is not the appropriate forum for a psychotic rant. Try to avoid having it turned into a tabloid headline. No matter how bad the situation, don't burn bridges on the way out.
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