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Advice for how to lateral


lawstudentvancouver

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lawstudentvancouver
  • Law Student

I am in 3L at UBC. After graduation, I will article at a big law firm in Vancouver. There is another big law firm in Vancouver I preferred during recruitment, but ultimately didn't end up with.

Any advice on how I can work towards lateraling there after articling? Their recruiter has since changed, and only one contact I was close with (a junior lawyer) hasn't left the firm. 

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Rashabon
  • Lawyer

Not going to lie this seems fairly premature given you haven't even experienced articling at the first shop yet, but if you're dead set on it, keep an eye on when the second firm has job postings open and apply to those.

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lawstudentvancouver
  • Law Student

Yeah that's fair. I had an amazing 2L summer at my firm, it's just that this other firm has a better practice in the area I want to work in (whereas at my firm, it's a very small practice area). 

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chaboywb
  • Lawyer

I'd encourage you to go about this delicately. The big law bar can be very small, especially if you're targeting a niche practice area. In my experience, external recruiters and internal hiring directors will maintain some level of confidentiality, but it could get awkward if you cold email a lawyer at your firm of interest and someone at your firm finds out through the grapevine. This is a remote possibility but it exists.

That said, it would raise more eyebrows if you were caught looking elsewhere before articling or in the early months. As you get to the end of articling, it's a lot more common to start exploring options (even if you feel you'll get hired back).

If there are conferences or networking events in your area of interest, make a point to attend and try to form organic connections with lawyers at your target firm. But I'd probably not start cold emailing for at least the first six months of articling. Take the opportunity you have in front of you to do as much good work as possible in your area of interest and make yourself a marketable candidate to lateral down the line. Don't sacrifice the bird in hand.

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lawstudentvancouver
  • Law Student

Thank you so much! It honestly didn't even occur to me to cold email anyone there. 

That's great advice on conferences and networking events, will do. Should I be trying to build a relationship with their new recruiter, too?

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chaboywb
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, lawstudentvancouver said:

Thank you so much! It honestly didn't even occur to me to cold email anyone there. 

That's great advice on conferences and networking events, will do. Should I be trying to build a relationship with their new recruiter, too?

Perhaps. However, they are going to be largely focused on their current crop of articling students and ongoing summer recruitment efforts and it's unlikely you'll be able to get meaningfully on their radar as an incoming articling student at a competitor firm. Again, this isn't something I'd start doing in the early days of articling.

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canuckfanatic
  • Lawyer

I'm here to echo most of what @chaboywb has been saying.

The other firm's recruiter isn't going to be interested in talking to another firm's articling student when they have their own cohort to manage and hire back. Also, most third-party recruiters don't work with brand new calls. 

If, near the end of your articles, you're still wanting to lateral, then your best bet is to keep an eye out for a job opening. As mentioned above, try to build connections organically.

Anecdotally, I used to work at a BigLaw firm in a niche group. They were looking to hire another associate, and we were asked to refer people we knew at other firms in the same practice area. It can be useful to build and maintain connections with students/associates at the other BigLaw firm in your desired practice area.  

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Ohshmagoda
  • Lawyer

I would echo that there’s a real risk here of looking pretty silly not only to your current firm but to the one you want to lateral to. It’s not just about hurt feelings over you wanting to work somewhere else; expressing a desire to lateral this early is so unusual that my first instinct would be to question your judgment (whether I worked at your current firm or was interviewing you as a potential lateral). Between now and then all kinds of things could happen - you might realize you don’t actually want to practice this niche subject area, for example. While somewhat rare, sometimes entire niche practice groups (or key partners) defect from a firm, which would make your efforts to setup a lateral move pointless.

I don’t disagree with any of the advice above, but I want to emphasize that you would be well served by playing this cool and not at all showing your hand.

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Make sure you cultivate good references at your current firm. While building a personal network is always helpful, it's extremely unlikely you can network in a way that would make it more likely you'll get a first year associate position at a specific firm if they don't have an opening. However, not every position is posted, so having some connection in the firm might get you a heads up that a firm is looking for someone.

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halamadrid
  • Law Student

Not to divert the thread...but if we know we're not going to be hired back before we even start our articles (in-house position with a small legal team), when would it be appropriate to start looking around or networking?

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Psychometronic
  • Lawyer
16 hours ago, Ohshmagoda said:

Between now and then all kinds of things could happen - you might realize you don’t actually want to practice this niche subject area...

...you would be well served by playing this cool and not at all showing your hand.

I would go even further to say that you should focus your efforts on learning what you can at your current firm and maintaining your interest and engagement. You never know what could happen, Like Ohshmagoda said, and firms can tell when someone is disinterested.  

Edited by Psychometronic
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LMP
  • Law Student
3 hours ago, halamadrid said:

Not to divert the thread...but if we know we're not going to be hired back before we even start our articles (in-house position with a small legal team), when would it be appropriate to start looking around or networking?

There's never a bad time to network. But as for explicitly asking about associate roles or opportunities, might be better to wait until other firms actually shore up who's coming back from their articling cohorts. 

Also, don't be afraid to speak to the people you work with. If there's no spots for new hires they will likely be more than happy to use their own networks to help you out. You can facilitate that by proving what an asset you are during articling. 

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Dinsdale
  • Lawyer
On 12/6/2023 at 12:36 PM, lawstudentvancouver said:

I am in 3L at UBC. After graduation, I will article at a big law firm in Vancouver. There is another big law firm in Vancouver I preferred during recruitment, but ultimately didn't end up with.

Any advice on how I can work towards lateraling there after articling? Their recruiter has since changed, and only one contact I was close with (a junior lawyer) hasn't left the firm. 

Unless the target firm has a miraculous opening for a first-year associate even after sifting through all of their own articling students, you have no shot.  Don't waste your energy.  As others have said, put your head down, do good work, learn as much as possible, and get yourself hired back at your present firm.  It is way, way easier to lateral in year 3 than in year 1.

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Dinsdale
  • Lawyer
On 12/7/2023 at 5:04 PM, halamadrid said:

Not to divert the thread...but if we know we're not going to be hired back before we even start our articles (in-house position with a small legal team), when would it be appropriate to start looking around or networking?

The day you start your articles.  Has the company told you (either directly or in so many words) that there is no chance of hireback?  If so, they should have no objections to you networking and, as others have said, if they like you they will even probably be helpful in trying to get you placed somewhere.

Edited by Dinsdale
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