If you’re like most people, you’ve probably noticed that 2019 is flying by. Summer seems like a lifetime ago, and Halloween decorations are in full swing. In the blink of an eye, Thanksgiving and Christmas will be upon us and then—BAM!—it will be 2020!

With the New Year looming, if you want to start a new job in 2020, now is the time to start planning your job search. If you have never interviewed as a lateral attorney, here are some important factors to keep in mind:

1. The average job search takes 2-4 months, and sometimes longer.

2. Timing—When do you want to start your new job? If your law firm pays bonuses at the end of December, you won’t be able to give notice—two weeks is customary but sometimes people want to give 3-4 weeks depending on how busy they are—or speak with your references, until after you receive your bonus. Assuming that you want to take a few weeks off in between jobs, in order to start a new job in late January/early February, you need to start your search now. Most firms will do a first-round interview and a callback. Unlike OCI, there is not a “lateral recruiting season.” Laterals are hired year-round.

If your firm pays bonuses in February or March, you should wait until January to start your search. Firms are not going to hold a job open until March or April in order for you to collect your year-end bonus.

3. Are you willing to forego your bonus in order to start a new job sooner? I understand that you’ve worked very hard and no one wants to leave money on the table. However, if you are unhappy in your current job, you need to consider that once a position is filled, it could be a months before that law firm or company is hiring again. If it’s your proverbial “dream job,” or what you anticipate will be your “dream job,” you need to weigh the risks of waiting and missing that job opportunity, with walking away from your bonus. It’s possible that your new employer will offer you a signing bonus, but there is no guarantee. Focus on the big picture. Depending on how long the interviewing process takes, it’s possible that you’ll be so close to your bonus time that your new employer will let you wait to start until after you receive your bonus, if your firm is one of those that pays bonuses in the new year.

4. At this time of the year, firms are moving quickly through the hiring process. Firms want to know that they have a strong team in place in 2020. The sooner that they can fill their positions, the happier they are. Between wrapping up their matters in accordance with their fiscal year, (which may vary from the calendar year), completing the interviewing process lets employers check off a very important item on their “to do" lists.

5. The economy—No one wants to think about another recession. It’s just a matter of when, not if we have another one. The reality is that we’ve had a recession or depression in the United States every 8-10 years since the 1840s. I’ve been through four recessions in my 30-year career as a legal recruiter, and frankly, they suck. No recession is the same. Some recessions hit certain markets harder than others. Some recessions hit certain practices harder than others. NO PRACTICE IS IMMUNE to market conditions; the Great Recession taught us that.

Use this time very wisely.

When you’re being approached by numerous recruiters, it’s easy to get caught up in the belief that the world is your oyster. If you received multiple offers during OCI, you’re probably thinking that you’ll always be able to get a great job. You’d be wrong. None of that matters when work is slow. Outstanding credentials will not protect you from a recession. The only thing that you can do to hedge your bets is to let the market work for you. The market is great now! Take advantage of it.

Barbara Levenson Schweitzer is a Principal with Levenson Schweitzer Attorney Placement. She has been a legal recruiter in California since 1989. Barbara can be reached at: barbara@lsattorneysearch.com.

Barbara Levenson Schweitzer

Barbara Levenson Schweitzer

President, Levenson Schweitzer, Inc.

A California legal recruiter with 31 years of experience.