Tips for Successful Lateral Moves in Law Firms

Navigating a lateral move in your legal career? This blog provides strategies for a smooth transition: reconnect with interviewers, engage with recruiting, find a true mentor, build relationships, embrace new work, and avoid comparisons. Ensure success and thrive in your new firm.

Tips for Successful Lateral Moves in Law Firms

Transitioning to a new law firm can be a daunting prospect, particularly when you are leaving behind a place that feels like home. However, being proactive in your integration efforts can lead to greater professional growth and satisfaction. Here’s an in-depth guide on how to ensure a smooth and successful lateral move, with relevant examples to illustrate the key points.

The Comfort of Home vs. Exploring New Opportunities

Staying in a familiar environment can be very comforting. You know the personalities of the partners, have built up goodwill, and have strong friendships with colleagues. You know the quickest route to the bathroom and have a favorite spot for lunch. However, staying within this comfort zone can lead to complacency. While comfort is appealing, it’s important to remember that professional growth often requires stepping outside this zone and exploring new opportunities.

For example, consider an attorney who has been with the same firm since graduation. They know the ins and outs of their current environment and feel a sense of security. However, they may also find themselves stuck in a rut, with limited opportunities for advancement or professional development. By exploring new firms, they may find a place with better growth prospects, more challenging work, or a better cultural fit.

Key Strategies for Successful Lateral Integration

Reconnect With Your Interviewers
When you join a new firm, you are not starting from scratch. The partners and associates who interviewed you are already part of your "fan club." They saw potential in you and wanted you on their team. Take the initiative to reconnect with them. For instance, you could send an email expressing your excitement to join the firm and looking forward to working together. This helps to lay the groundwork for strong professional relationships from the outset.

Engage With the Recruiting Department
The recruiting department plays a crucial role in your initial integration. If you were active in recruiting at your previous firm, don’t leave this behind. Introduce yourself to the recruiting team and express your interest in participating in recruiting efforts. This not only helps you build connections but also makes you feel more involved in the firm’s community. For example, you might offer to interview prospective candidates or participate in recruiting events, demonstrating your commitment to the firm's future.

Identify and Cultivate a True Mentor
While firms often assign a mentor, it’s important to find a MENTOR who can truly guide your professional development. This might be someone you interviewed with, a partner whose work you admire, or a colleague who has a reputation for being a great leader. For instance, if you admire the work of a particular partner, take the initiative to seek out opportunities to work with them and learn from their experience. Developing this kind of mentor-mentee relationship can be invaluable for your career growth.

Be Social and Visible
Building a new network within your firm is essential. Make an effort to introduce yourself to colleagues, attend firm events, and engage in social activities. Simple actions like saying hello in the hallway or joining colleagues for lunch can help you establish a presence and build rapport. For example, attending a department meeting or a firm-wide event can be a great way to meet new people and show your commitment to the firm.

Embrace and Seek Out Work Opportunities
Taking on new assignments is one of the best ways to integrate into your new firm. Show your colleagues that you are eager and capable by volunteering for projects and demonstrating enthusiasm for your work. For instance, if you hear about a new case or project that interests you, express your willingness to contribute. This proactive approach not only helps you build relationships with your colleagues but also allows you to showcase your skills and dedication.

Avoid Constant Comparisons
It’s natural to compare your new firm to your old one, but it’s important to leave these comparisons behind. Constantly comparing can prevent you from fully embracing your new environment and opportunities. Focus on the unique aspects of your new firm and how they can benefit your career. For example, if your new firm offers different types of cases or a different work culture, view these as opportunities to grow and learn rather than drawbacks.


Leaving the comfort of your current firm can be challenging, but being proactive in your integration efforts can lead to significant professional growth and satisfaction. By reconnecting with interviewers, engaging with the recruiting department, finding a true mentor, being social and visible, embracing work opportunities, and avoiding constant comparisons, you can ensure a successful lateral move. Remember, the power to make this transition a success lies primarily in your hands. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone and explore new opportunities—you never know if there’s a better fit out there until you try.