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Tips on Making a Lateral Associate Move (Part 1—The Nuts and Bolts)

The Careerist

November 19, 2012

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.

© Dominic Clinton - Fotolia.com[3]Part 1: Resume, Transcript, and Writing Samples

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 vchen@alm.com. Follow The Careerist on Twitter: twitter.com/lawcareerist


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Hi Jay,

Each individual situation is different, so I'm happy to discuss the specifics with you offline.

As a general rule - you want to submit a writing sample, or multiple samples, that are your work (regardless of whose name is on the document). It is understood that with public filings, those documents have been edited by partners to some extent. You don't want to mislead the new employer about your writing abilities, so I would suggest submitting something publicly filed (which was successful and dispositive), as well as a memo, for instance, that hasn't been edited by someone else. Assuming the writing styles match up, it will confirm to the employer that the filed document was really your work.

Re: redacting writing samples. If it's a public filing (and isn't under some sort of seal or court order) then there's no need to redact it. If you're uncertain whether the document is part of the "public record," I often try to think of a worst case scenario to guide the decision (ie if this got into the wrong person's hands, would it pose a problem for my client?).

Hope that helps!

Hi - A couple of questions.

One, all of my writing samples have both my name and a partner's name on
them, going back 10+ years, as I haven't been a partner in the firms I've been at. All have to some extent been edited or worked on by the partner
whose name is also on it. What do you think of using such samples, since
they're all I've got? In all cases the bulk of the work has been mine.

Question 2: If I'm using a motion for summary judgment that was filed in federal court, do I need to redact the names of the parties? I have been, just to be safe, but not sure it's necessary.


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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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