With the end of 2015 fast approaching and a well earned break ahead for many lawyers over the New Year period, now is an opportune time for self-reflection and to give some thought to the year ahead. Might it be that you see yourself in a new role at some stage within the next 12 months? And more generally, when is the best time to change roles? If you sense change may be in the air, here are some factors to consider that will better prepare you for a smooth transition.
The state of the market and demand for your skills
Moving when there is a heightened demand for your skill set should see more interest from potential employers and often better remuneration. Several Australian legal industry publications provide commentary on this so read widely and between the lines. An informed legal recruiter should also be able to explain the state of the legal market generally and also discuss roles at your level of experience and in your practice area. For example, over the past few months in Melbourne, we have seen a strong demand for lawyers with 2-6 years of post-admission experience (PAE) in property, building & construction, commercial, corporate and IT law. Also factor in that the market tends to go quiet during school holidays and from mid-December until the end of January.
Alignment with your professional goals
Too many lawyers we speak to haven’t mapped out their career path over the next 5-10 years and beyond, and are at risk of coasting along. By defining your professional goals clearly, with sufficient flexibility built in to accommodate life’s unexpected events, you can incorporate intermediate steps along the way enabling you to measure your progress. Doing so also keeps you motivated. Accepting a new role simply for better remuneration and/or because lawyers in your area are in demand can delay or stifle your ability to remain on track. Again, a legal recruiter should be able to assist you in terms of discussing these intermediate steps. Irrespective of whether you are considering moving, you should have a clearly laid out plan for career progression with your current employer.
Timing your start date
Starting in a new role and taking leave soon after for a significant length of time can upset a new employer and usually makes little sense. Being aware of the potential timeframe from application to start date, up to several months for more senior roles, where known personal events are thrown into the mix is an important factor to consider.
Time in your current role
Given the idea that one’s past behaviour tends to be a good predictor of their behaviour going forward, employers like to see a stable employment history. To take an example, a 4 year PAE lawyer who has remained at the same mid-tier firm since admission steadily building their client base and skill set will always be seen as a less risky proposition than a lawyer with identical experience with 3 separate firms to their name (even if all are good firms) since their admission. Aim for at least two years in a role and settle at 18 months at a minimum where possible. At the more senior end, having a transportable client base is often seen as a key requirement prior to being offered a new role. As such, if additional time in your current role will allow you to cultivate a more portable and sizeable client base then recognise that this will make you more marketable and therefore of more interest to potential employers.
$, conditions, work-life balance and gut instinct
A move for better remuneration alone is usually a move for the wrong reason. A move to a new role with better remuneration and conditions and a greater work-life balance (more important for some than others depending on the stage of your career and life) and where the role aligns with your professionals goals is far better. Add in that the role feels right and that your particular skills are in demand and you would be well advised to give the new role some serious consideration.
Ultimately, deciding to change roles is, as is often the case in law generally, a balancing act. It may be that you are well looked after in your current role, that you are getting some great support and ticking off each of those intermediate steps and well on the way to achieving your professional goals. For many of you, this will be the case. For others, giving some consideration to the above factors should assist when considering whether it is time to move on. Whichever stage you are at, having a clear sense of your professional goals and remaining committed to those are the key.
If you are looking to make a move or want to discuss your options please contact Thomas on 03 8676 0342 or email [email protected]