Should I Stay or Should I Go?
When The Clash released this hit in 1982 we can safely assume that the trials and tribulations of City lawyers in London were as far from their minds as possible! Nonetheless the song and its lyrics provide a surprisingly accurate representation of the thought process that most people will go through at least once in their careers.
Your law firm might be going through a major merger; leaking partners to the expansion of US firms; struggling to adapt to the technology revolution; threatened by on-shoring and off-shoring models driving down costs or, for the lawyers who used to be at King & Wood Mallesons, perhaps it's just falling apart. Whichever of these situations applies, the lawyers will be pondering to themselves (and their recruiters) “should I stay or should I go now?”.
The decision is often complicated. There are many considerations...
Factors including promises from partners that things are fine/improving, loyalty to colleagues (in particular peers who you have perhaps known since being a trainee), the lack of time/energy and a totally human sense of trepidation at stepping out of your comfort zone all come into play. Then there's the realisation that it's not a one way process… Somebody has to want to hire you as well.
This process is not made any easier by the fact that week to week your opinion may change... “One day is fine and next is black”. In my experience of dealing with lawyers at various stages of that thought process, the fact that there is a question mark in their mind over their role or firm is often very telling. A lot of lawyers are by nature very conservative in their career choices and as law firms struggle to recruit particular skill sets, they work hard to retain their staff. That makes it hard for a lot of people to make the break.
Too often lawyers fall into the trap of thinking that there are two options: they can stay and "there will be trouble" or they can go but then "it will be double"! Neither option sounds appealing so perhaps it's best to just wait it out... No. This is where reality diverges from this 80s punk classic.
Being aware of your options as a lawyer is not trouble, far from it, it helps keep you informed and aware of what you should expect from your current law firm/employer. There is absolutely no reason why you should have to accept firm-wide decisions which are adverse to your interests, nor should you be obliged to brush over and ignore the impact which key partner departures will have on your work and development.
If you keep track of the market and have conversations with your recruiter on a regular basis, then you will feel much more in control of your destiny.
Finding a dream role often takes time and consultation with somebody who gets to know you and what you want. These relationships are rarely born overnight or after a 5 minute phone call. They can take months, even years, but they are the ones which will genuinely help you stay happy, motivated and fulfilled in your career.
Too often lawyers wait until they are teetering on the edge of a precipice, weighing up the pros and cons of staying or going. This can lead to rushed and in some cases wrong career moves.
Instead of getting to that point, talk openly to your recruiter as soon as you do have doubts in your mind. Try and develop a strong professional relationship with your recruiter. Explain what you want from your career. Be honest to yourself about what is good as well as bad in your current position - rarely is it really all one sided.
There isn’t going to be a magic solution to overcome any work-related woes. A rewarding career requires you to take control and make decisions. An essential first step towards making an informed decision is to get the right recruiter who will help you know what the options are and what they could be… Only then can you really know the answer when you ask yourself “should I stay or should I go now”?
If you want to have a confidential conversation without any obligations, please do get in contact with one of the team at Chadwick Nott. We pride ourselves on being able to provide you with advice that is tailored to your circumstances. It may be that at the exact moment we first speak there isn't a perfect opportunity available, but we want a long term relationship with our candidates.
Luke Woodward is the Manager of Chadwick Nott’s London Permanent Qualified Team and can be contacted on email@example.com, T 0203 096 4553 or M 0788 005 6151.