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Your career: When the time is right

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2015 89 (12) LIJ, p.83

Do you see yourself in a new role within the next 12 months? 

With the end of 2015 fast approaching, now is an opportune time to give some thought to the year ahead. Do you see yourself in a new role within the next 12 months? If change is 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. Read up on this and talk to an informed legal recruiter who should also be able to explain the state of the legal market and discuss roles at your level of experience and in your practice area. In Melbourne there has been demand for lawyers with two to six years experience in property, building and construction, commercial, corporate and IT law. Also factor in that the market is quiet during school holidays and from mid-December until the end of January.

Alignment with your professional goals

Too many lawyers haven’t mapped out their goals for the next five to 10 years and are at risk of coasting. By defining your goals clearly you can incorporate intermediate steps to measure your progress. This also keeps you motivated. Accepting a new role simply for better remuneration or because lawyers in your area are in demand can delay your ability to remain on track. A legal recruiter should be able to assist by discussing these intermediate steps. Irrespective of whether you are considering moving, you should have a plan for career progression with your current employer.

Timing your start date

Starting in a new role and taking leave soon after can upset a new employer and usually makes little sense. Be aware of the potential time frame from application to start date, up to several months for more senior roles, and factor in any personal events likely to arise soon after starting.

Time in your current role

Employers like to see a stable employment history.

For example, a four year post-admission 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 three 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 senior end, having a transportable client base is often seen as a key requirement before being offered a new role, depending on the area of law. 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 of more interest to potential employers.

A move for better remuneration alone is usually a move for the wrong reason. A move for better conditions, work-life balance and where the role aligns with your professional goals is far better.

Whatever stage you are at, having a clear sense of your professional goals and remaining committed to them are key.

Thomas Hobbs is a consultant at Burgess Paluch Legal Recruitment. He is a former lawyer and is a member (and 2016 co-chair) of the LIV’s Young Lawyer Section Professional Development Committee.

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