Having “chased” lawyers as clients for nearly 30 years I’ve observed something that I find interesting. As a whole, lawyers move around, from firm to firm, with some regularity. Because they stay within their chosen profession of law, their career mobility is primarily among firms. From their own firm, to merging with another firm, starting their own firm, going with a larger firm, going with a smaller firm, going in-house to law departments or as general counsel, becoming judges, taking government jobs, and sometimes, leaving the practice altogether, individuals and whole teams or departments move together from firm to firm. Firms large and small merge. These changes make news, restructure law firms, and change the seniority within firms. I am writing about this just after the publication of our monthly “postcard e-blast.” We used to mail thousands of paper post cards, but now we email these litigation tips/marketing pieces. Every month I receive bounce backs saying “this lawyer retired” or, more to the point of this post, “this lawyer is no longer with the firm…” Sometimes I get the lawyer’s new information, other times, the message is cryptic. It isn’t hard to track most of the lawyers to their new jobs, but the interesting thing, to me, is that I get several of these replies every month. Often, these concern well established lawyers, not younger lawyers who might be climbing the career ladder. And, unlike my non-lawyer friends and family, these changes seem frequent, and changes only of employer, rather than of job type. Relatedly, these types of changes results in what I’ve sometimes thought of as a “family tree” when I become aware of who worked at a firm, that begat another firm, that lead to others joining the different firm. I don’t know that this level of professional job change is common with other professionals, such as physicians or accountants. I don’t have a major point to make about lawyers on the move other than to say keeping up with lawyers is a challenge! The moves are frequent and it has become a serendipitous benefit of our monthly emails that we learn of these changes perhaps sooner, if at all, than if we didn’t engage in the monthly email blasts.
Although, in many professions, people don’t spend their entire career in one workplace, working for one employer, lawyers seem to move from firm to firm more than many other professionals do. I don’t know the reasons for this, but I expect they fall into the usual categories: (1) increased compensation at a new firm; (2) dissatisfaction with the old law firm’s leadership, policies, etc.; (3) personality conflicts necessitating a change; (4) a desire to have more freedom, work more independently, etc.; (5) a change of pace, including a change in practice areas (for example, going to work at a plaintiffs personal injury firm after working as a public defender). Most of my colleagues, all of whom are social psychologists, work in academic settings as college or university professors. The typical employment scenario for my career involves conducting research and teaching at one, sometimes two, and infrequently, more than two, universities until retirement age. In addition, many social psychologists who are employed by a state university system have “forced retirement” when they reach a certain age or have worked a certain number of years. In contrast, lawyers can work until they want to retire. I have known many lawyers who work well into their 80s and some, into their 90s. Why retire when they are doing what they love to do? I’m glad David keeps up with the news on our clients’ comings and goings. It is always interesting to me to see where one of our clients will turn up next. As for me, I’ll be right here for as long as I am enjoying what I do for a living!