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webbingalong

Hirebacks: Just Told by Senior Partner to Switch Practice Groups

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I am about halfway through articling. My firm has two main practice groups/two rotations but they are very flexible and students can choose to remain in the practice group that they have been working in since the beginning. I haven't spoken with anyone in my practice group about hirebacks because I think it is relatively early.

However I also work closely with a senior partner from the other practice group, and he just told me that my best chance to get hired back is to switch into his group as he will vouch for me and I just need to get a couple more lawyers in his group on board.  Apparently for hireback decisions the two groups do not decide together, students get hired back either into one or the other, and I think no matter how senior a lawyer is in a group he/she does not have influence in hiring decisions of the other group. While I enjoy working with this particular lawyer a lot, I prefer the work in the group I am working in now. But I've only had four months of legal work experience so I may change my mind.

Maybe he has heard of some bad feedback from the group I'm in now, so I don't know if I should make the jump into his group now, or stay put a little longer to ask about hireback decisions from my current group.

Edited by webbingalong
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I'm taking a stab in the dark here, but my gut tells me that the senior partner from the other practice group wants you as an employee in his practice group based on your skills and work ethic (etc). Maybe you are a good fit for this other practice group because your skills and work tendencies fill a need within that group.  I feel that their desire to have you in their practice group has more to do with them "headhunting" you than your likelihood of hire back with your present practice group.

So your chance of hire back with the other practice group is likely, and the chance of hire back with your present practice group is unknown. The safe bet might be to grab the low hanging fruit and accept this senior partner's offer.

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If your goal is to get hired back at the law firm, you should play the politics and maximize exposure to the group that will line up the right votes. You should also try and get a sense of whose voice matters and how decision making is done regarding hirebacks at your firm.  
 

If your goal is to build a practice that you find meaningful and rewarding, and you are relatively confident you can see a good fit for you in your present practice area, and not the practice area of that senior partner, then stay in the practice area you like. 
 

The difference is whether you go with what resonates with you the most or whether you play the game to get hired back only to switch out as a lateral associate or spend the rest of your life hating your job and probably leave law entirely. 
 

I ultimately did not get hired back for a similar reason (non-committal on practice groups—open to anything) and that was the best thing that happened. It clarified my values and direction and gave me drive. I ended up at a better firm, with a better fit in practice area, as well as better culture, prestige, compensation, etc., all without skipping a beat. Your mileage may vary but be sure and confident of who you are and what you bring to the table. Life does not turn on articling hirebacks. 

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I would think the obvious question is "do you want to work in that other practice area"?

The other question would be to go and ask your principal about this offe3r and what they think you should do.

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1 hour ago, Malicious Prosecutor said:

The other question would be to go and ask your principal about this offe3r and what they think you should do.

I think you should do this either way.

Disclaimer: not a lawyer. But I'm old. And I've come and gone from some jobs in my career. In general, if you're planning to switch jobs within a company it's best to speak to your current boss (manager, partner, whatever the case may be) to avoid any misunderstandings on why you left. You never know what impression you switching without a word might have on your current senior partner, and you never know when said person may pop up in your career path again. Try not to burn bridges :) 

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I was told about 1/2 to 2/3rds of the way through my articles, that I was well liked by group X in area Y, and that it would be a good opportunity to be brought back. I wasn't sure I wanted to do just area Y, so I indicated I was okay with doing it some of the time, but not all of the time. I ended up not hired back, and the firm hired externally for area Y. Would they have hired me instead? I don't know. Years later, I probably would be okay with area Y.

Your mileage on this advice may vary.

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On 1/16/2021 at 2:48 AM, webbingalong said:

Maybe he has heard of some bad feedback from the group I'm in now, so I don't know if I should make the jump into his group now, or stay put a little longer to ask about hireback decisions from my current group.

Don't overthink this or read in some completely unmentioned negative purpose. If you're willing to work in that group, take the opportunity that's available. Especially if you like working with that lawyer! No matter how good or aligned with your interests the work is, there's no substitute for working for and with good people. Consider also that it is not a great market right now to be choosy in. As said elsewhere, discuss with your principle first. I imagine you'll get the same advice from them.

Edited by FineCanadianFXs
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Ugh. This reminds me of my articling year. Constantly trying to interpret everything and successfully navigate the firm politics, which you know very little about. 

I don't have much helpful advice, except to say that I was so neurotic during articles that I would have jumped at an opportunity like that, unless I absolutely hated the practice area. A bird in the hand...

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3 minutes ago, FineCanadianFXs said:

-snip-

No matter how good or aligned with your interests the work is, there's no substitute for working for and with good people. 

-snip-

This is excellent advice, and something I wished I learned a heck of a lot earlier in my current career.

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It’s a pandemic. Take whatever path is most likely to result in a job and switch groups later. If your firm is anything like mine you can switch groups/specialties later on or take work from both groups of interest. It’s easier to move around internally once you’re already hired  

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You remind me of me when I was articling. I was told by a senior lawyer in one of my rotations that they wanted me to come back to their group post articles. I liked them but wanted to work in the current group I was in. I was dead set on doing a certain type of work and when I was steered in another direction I chafed (privately, thank God). And now I work in a totally unrelated field of law and I like what I do. No regrets. Based on my experience, I say take bird in hand.  

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Thanks for all the great advice everyone! I am happy to take the bird in hand, but I feel I don't have anything guaranteed. The lawyers in the other group are quite notorious for being unable to involve students on files (the senior lawyer involves me a lot because my particular skills are useful to his practice), I feel that getting one or two other lawyers from his group to vouch for me will be hard.

I heard through the grapevine (aka many, many associates) that my current group is hiring this year as there is a shortage of new calls in the group, which is why I am hesitant to leave.

The two groups of lawyers work closely together and a lot of them basically practice in both areas (so I don't understand why they don't do hiring decisions together as well, especially when first or second year associates can work for both groups...sigh politics). 

On 1/17/2021 at 3:19 AM, Realtalk said:

Have you had a midterm review?

 

I will be having it very soon. If they ask me my preference, I fear I will come off as disingenuous if I say: "oh I love working in both groups equally, am 100% okay with being hired into either", but that is actually close to how I feel.

On 1/22/2021 at 9:30 AM, FineCanadianFXs said:

Don't overthink this or read in some completely unmentioned negative purpose. If you're willing to work in that group, take the opportunity that's available. Especially if you like working with that lawyer! No matter how good or aligned with your interests the work is, there's no substitute for working for and with good people. Consider also that it is not a great market right now to be choosy in. As said elsewhere, discuss with your principle first. I imagine you'll get the same advice from them.

Unfortunately my principal is not in the partnership, she is not quite in the loop with the hiring decisions, and I don't think she has ever been.

Edited by webbingalong

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If you like working with the partner, I would take it (unless you have serious prospects elsewhere that you'd prefer)! 

It may well be that once you're back you'll still receive work from the other group. And, after some time, you may be able to switch into the other group if you prefer it. 

I know many lawyers who did just that. They were articling, received an offer to join the employment law group but actually wanted to do family law, accepted the offer and worked for 2 years, and then switched into the family law group. 

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8 hours ago, webbingalong said:

Unfortunately my principal is not in the partnership, she is not quite in the loop with the hiring decisions, and I don't think she has ever been.

Okay but did you discuss it with them?

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On 1/22/2021 at 1:02 PM, healthlaw said:

It’s a pandemic. Take whatever path is most likely to result in a job and switch groups later. If your firm is anything like mine you can switch groups/specialties later on or take work from both groups of interest. It’s easier to move around internally once you’re already hired  

Yeah in my opinion your #1 priority should be to get post-call experience.

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