A job offer that unexpectedly comes the way of an in-house lawyer today may be more an exception than the rule, but it does happen. Corporate legal organizations are carefully watching costs, but the trend in many departments to bring more work in house sometimes requires them to make selective additional hires to relieve current employees who have become pushed past their maximum.
When an unexpected opportunity knocks for corporate attorneys, it’s always tempting to consider it, particularly if they feel their skills are not as valued as they should be at their current employer. And given the improving outlook in the legal field, more professionals may be approached about positions they haven’t sought. Although the prospect of a better opportunity is enticing, a job change always requires careful consideration. Here are some questions to mull when lawyers face an unsolicited offer:
- How do the position’s responsibilities compare with current ones? Are they more of the same or do they represent a step forward? A new opportunity should be consistent with a lawyer’s professional goals and not just appealing because it represents a change.
- What is known about the prospective employer’s corporate culture? The environment in various legal departments can vary widely, depending on company size and industry. Before responding to a hiring manager, lawyers should try to find out more about a firm through their networks – ideally, enough to assess whether a good cultural fit is a possibility.
- Before seriously considering leaving a current position, lawyers mulling an offer should meet with their management to discuss their career paths and salary if this type of conversation has not been held recently. This makes for a more fair decision. It is best not to mention another possible offer, however.
It’s always flattering to be presented with an opportunity that could lead to a more prestigious position or better compensation, but the lure of something unexpected shouldn’t be allowed to cloud judgment and cause lawyers to act too hastily. It could be that their current department is making plans to reward professionals who have been indispensable during the recession. Most employers realize that an improving legal environment means they’ll need to take extra measures to retain their best people. All of these possibilities should be considered before making a move.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.