As many young associates begin their careers, they often choose one of the big name firms for their prestige, their clout or because of their high AMLaw 100 rankings. While these firms can be great places to build the foundation of your legal career, you can become pigeon-holed into legal jobs you aren’t passionate about or find yourself wanting to move elsewhere in-house . In such cases, it can make sense to make a lateral move to help you get to where you want to be.

When deciding whether or not to make a lateral move, there are several things to consider. The first would be the timing. There is a narrow window for associates to make the decision to take advantage of a lateral move, and it’s usually around the 3-5 year mark. When that window closes, lateral moves are often unavailable or difficult to make. While partnership decisions are not made until the 8-10 year mark, associates who wait that long to understand their place in the market can lose out on both partnership and lateral move opportunities.

Even using a broad brush, it’s important to paint a picture of where you want your career to go. Do you want to make partner but don’t see it happening where you currently are? Do you want to move in-house? If you fall into either of these categories, it can often be beneficial to make a lateral move. In my time as a recruiter, I’ve seen many associates either improve their chances at partnership or build a sturdier foundation to a subsequent in-house role by making a savvy lateral move.

Lastly, never make a move simply for the sake of moving. Be thoughtful and strategic in your career path decisions. With a deeper understanding of the market, recruiters can help steer you in the right direction to help you gain control of your career. We understand how career arcs are shaped and can help you develop an exit strategy that will ultimately add value to your career down the road.

Get to know a recruiter who’s not pressuring you to make a move but instead is giving you market intel. This can be a strategic way to pave your way to long-term success. Have you considered a lateral move? Or are you looking to change directions in your legal career? We want to hear from you.