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Does it look bad that I have moved 3 times in 6 years?

By Edward Honnold

Question: I am a senior transactional associate at a premier Chicago "biglaw" firm. I latteralled here from another "biglaw" firm 2 years ago. Prior to that, I practiced in the litigation area for about a year. Pure and simple, I am not happy at my current position. There is too much politics, back stabbing and finger pointing occurring at my firm that has made my practice unpleasant to put it mildly. I don't have any portable business and I am up for partner next year. Honestly, I don't think they will make me partner next year (for a host of political reasons). My questions are: Does it look bad that I have moved 3 times in 6 years? How do I explain the political games at "bigLaw"firms? Shall I go in-house? Shall I switch geographical locations ( move to California) to improve my job prospects? One final note: I want to make my current salary which is around 200K. Thank you in advance for any advice related to the foregoing.

Answer: First of all, know that you are not alone in your discontent with big law firm life. A high percentage of law firm associates have similar discontent. Though some of your concerns may be specific to your firm, you have enough private law firm experience to make a well-reasoned decision whether or not to stay in private practice (for example, as "of counsel" or non-equity partner in a smaller firm). Your income requirements (to earn 200K), however, will constrain your options. If these requirements are inflexible, you may have no option but to remain in the private sector, most likely as in-house consel. Until you have fully explored in-house counsel positions in Chicago, I see no reason to move to California to expand your options, unless you are drawn to move West for some other reason. Finally, I do not believe your professional mobility to date will serve as a liability; in fact, it may be an asset. In the New Economy, flexility and adaptability are valued qualities for professionals, including lawyers. I have served on several law firm and government hiring teams, and I have never experienced a bias against lawyers who shift positions every two years or so. To the contrary, I believe job mobility often reflects an attorney's eagerness to learn new skills in new environments, and to take risks. I hope your next steps work out well.

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