Why Summer Is The Most Underrated Time To Lateral

June 21, 2024


Albert Tawil, Founder & CEO of Lateral Hub

I always say there is never the perfect time to lateral.  And waiting for the perfect time is a game that is hard to win, especially if you are trying to time it with the economy or legal market picking up (there are way too many factors and nobody can tell the future, you can read more thoughts here and here).  
Many laterals wait to receive their bonuses at the end of the year, which makes sense of course.  But that’s not always worthwhile, as I describe below.
From my experience speaking with firms about lateral needs and seeing the job openings that pop up and down on our platform, here are a few reasons why summer is the most underrated time to lateral.
  • Don’t Compete with First-Years and Clerks: If you are a second-year associate looking to lateral as a junior, that is hard enough as it is – although it happens, it is rare for a firm to be looking to hire a second-year lateral.  Once you get to September or October, it is very hard for the firm to justify hiring a junior lateral.  If the firm had a need for a junior in the spring/summer (for example, the practice is busy and the partners need another associate), now they have a whole bunch of first-year associates in the door.  They committed to hiring these associates over 2 years ago when they were rising 2Ls, and now that are here, they will want to train them up instead of bringing in a second-year who is also still on the learning curve.  If you are a junior litigator, this gets tricky with clerks too, and many firms find out in the spring/summer if their clerks are returning.
  • You May Not Lose Your Bonus:  Many associates automatically just wait for their bonus in order to start looking for a new job.  (You should start the process earlier, since it takes time – see below, and read more here.)  But, many firms will match bonuses for laterals coming in mid-year.  Especially if this is happening in the summer and the firm will have you for a solid 6 months, this is a reasonable ask.  (By contrast, lateraling in November and asking for a full bonus in December is a much tougher ask.)  The further you get in the year, the less likely mathematically the firm will be willing to match your bonus.
Bonus Note: As we’ve mentioned in our blog, one of the main downsides to using a recruiter (and one of the main reasons we launched the Lateral Hub Job Board) is that the recruiter gets paid a hefty fee from the firm if you get hired.  Many firms have told us directly that, when they save on the recruiting fee, they have more leeway to offer signing bonuses or match year-end bonuses.  If you are a junior or mid-level looking to lateral, the recruiter fee alone is significantly more than your bonus — so if you apply directly (there are a lot of other benefits to doing so), you can ask with a straight face to have your bonus matched because you applied directly and saved the firm the fee.  We’ve seen candidates do this successfully.
  • The Process Takes Time and Opportunities Come and Go:  If you are looking to lateral generally this year, ignoring the summer and starting in the fall can be a mistake.  The process takes time, often months, to find a job, apply, hear back, interview, interview again, hear back, maybe interview again, hear back, accept, clear conflicts, and take time off.  Also, the longer you wait, you may miss out on opportunities that come up sooner than you think.  By actively starting your search in the summer, you will be better positioned to find something this year… whether it’s during the summer or later on.
  • Less Competition:  Although more job openings can pop up in Q1 (sometimes the case, but not always), there is also a lot more competition with other candidates, since most candidates just wait for bonus season to start applying.  During the summer, you can take advantage of opportunities that many other people are sleeping on.
  • People Are Happier During the Summer: This sounds silly, but I believe it to have a real impact on the job search.  Interviewing with a partner who just got back from a weekend in the Hamptons and had a slow Friday since the pain in the neck client is finally taking a vacation is a much better experience than interviewing with a partner in early February, who hasn’t seen the sun (or their children) in 6 weeks.  Same with associates who interview you during callbacks.

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