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My Boss is Moving Firms – Should I Go with Them?

25 February 2019

Everything’s going just fine – you turn up to work each day, knowing that Bruce will be on your left and Jane will be on your right.

You settle down with a strong coffee to start your day of paperwork, research, telephone calls and meetings.

And then your supervising partner calls you in, closes the door behind you and says “I’ve taken an offer at a new firm, and I want you to come with me.”

What do you do?

Don’t Panic… And Don’t Decide on the Spot

Hopefully you don’t have a partner who’s going to insist you decide within 2 minutes – and even if they do, you shouldn’t.

A bunch of thoughts are going to race through your head in a short space of time.

The problem you’re going to have is that most big career decisions are fairly predictable. If you’re moving firms, then you’ve been planning it (or thinking about it) for a while, working through the complex questions that arise before you make a change.

Now, however, the available time to dwell on this stuff is probably a lot shorter, and may not have even been on your to do list.

So, let’s run through some of the big issues and how you might approach them.

The Team Dynamic

The chances are that your partner has asked you to come with them because they value you in some way. Perhaps there is a good team dynamic between you, perhaps you are a valuable contributor to their group, and perhaps because their clients trust and like you.

Whatever the case, we can’t ignore the fact that sometimes it’s “better the devil you know”.

But that can’t be the only factor.

What’s Good for Them Isn’t Always Good for You

One of the things we take seriously around here is finding the right position for the right lawyer at the right time.

And while this might be an ideal career move for your boss, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s a good move for you.

Perhaps, for example, they have the benefit of 20 years’ high-level expertise and connections that they’re going to leverage in the new firm. But if you don’t, and you take yourself out of the best environment to get you those things, then it’s going to have an impact on the future of your career.

So, to help you recognise some of the realities, we need to try and ask…

Why Are They Moving?

Partnership moves happen for many reasons, and the chance you’ll get the entire truth might be slim.

But, if possible, have a frank discussion with your partner about why they are moving. They might or might not want to be forthcoming, but hopefully you’ll be able to find out some relevant pieces of information.

Is it because of a disagreement with the existing partnership?

Is it about money?

Is it about lifestyle?

Whatever the reason, the thing to address for you is how, if at all, those issues affect you or even apply to you. Beyond the known (your current Partner and firm) you need to think about which role is best for your career – the size of each firm, the firm culture, the team structure, the work that the team does and the career progression opportunities available to you at each. It certainly wouldn’t hurt at this juncture to ask around about the new firm.  Ideally it will also help you to talk to or meet other people at the new firm (if that option is available to you).

What Will You be Staying At if you Stay?

Of course, this might involve a conversation as well – with your current employer.

Naturally you’ll need to find out how covert this whole thing is, and whether you’re comfortable with that. If it’s a big secret, then asking another partner in your current firm might not be possible.

But if it’s generally known, then perhaps you can ask what the lay of the land is if you’re going to stay.

For example:

  • Is your partner the only person practising in their area?
  • If so – what’s the plan? Is this an opportunity for you to take a leadership role? Will you be pushed into another group?
  • If not, what is the calibre of the remaining partner and how’s your relationship with them?

What we don’t recommend though, is playing one side off against the other. While it might get you a few more bucks, it’s not likely to commend your character to either camp in the long run.

And Finally… Be Honest About Fear

Your lawyer’s brain is going to throw up a lot of “what if” scenarios.

What if:

  • The new firm culture is terrible;
  • The old firm decides to shut down that practice area;
  • You can’t do what’s being asked of you;
  • This damages your career;
  • The move is a failure for your partner and they move again, leaving you in the lurch?

If you’re inclined one way or the other, the most sensible question to ask is… why?

What is it that attracts you to one decision or drives you from making the other? And is that a sensible thing to allow your decision making to be based on?

Need help? Give us a call and we’ll be happy to work through it with you.