Searching for new work at midcareer can be daunting, especially with the market tighter than it's been in recent memory. But sometimes it's necessary - say, when a mentor retires, a firm dissolves, or a practice area withers.
One key strategy is "relationship cultivation," says Sari Zimmerman, assistant dean for the Office of Career & Professional Development at UC Hastings. For example: Christopher Diaz changed jobs after a friend at a dinner party gave his contact information to an attorney whose firm was expanding in his specialty, municipal law. Of course, Diaz researched the firm to make sure it was a good fit and then prepared for interviews. And these steps are more critical than ever, recruiters say, because jumping ship may make it more difficult to find another new job later.
Debra Fitzsimmons, an insurance defense litigator for 25 years, consulted with career counselor Hindi Greenberg, herself a lawyer, and went on about a dozen informational interviews with lawyers she knows, as well as their acquaintances. Fitzsimmons was surprised at how many people were willing to offer advice on the pros and cons of certain kinds of work - and then give her more contacts to pursue. She took a legal position with the state in February.
Doing pro bono work can also provide opportunities for gauging new interests, and all lawyers should of course keep building their expertise and contact base by taking MCLE classes. In addition, attorneys should have a narrative ready about why they're perfect for a particular new job - and steer focus away from why they want or need to move on. But be warned: Competition is stiff. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts attorney employment will rise just 10 percent between 2012 and 2022, most notably with consulting firms, health care providers, and financial and insurance firms.