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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

September 5, 2018

Should I quit my job and move in order to focus solely on my job search?

Julie Q. Brush

The Question: I’m in New York City and have been looking for in house job in Silicon Valley for 2 yrs. My job demands have made a search difficult. What are the risks/rewards of quitting my job & moving to CA to focus solely on my job search? 

The technology industry dominates the San Francisco Bay Area (which includes Silicon Valley) and is home to the most high profile companies on earth. It is a mecca that attracts some of the best and the brightest professionals…including lawyers.

Lawyers outside the Bay Area seeking to join the ranks of the techie elite, find their biggest and most common challenge in achieving this goal is…geography. Why? Because the Bay Area has a deep bench of talent. Lawyers with great experience. Lawyers with great credentials. Lawyers with great personalities. It’s a high quality candidate pool…and hiring managers know it. Consequently, the vast majority of employers turn to the local market first before considering candidates from other parts of the country…or the state. So regardless of your awesome creds, fantastic experience or winning personality, if you aren’t local, you will face an uphill battle in your search effort.

It’s a full time job to look for a job. And not everyone can dedicate the time and effort required to their maximize options. Even if one can manage, the process takes time. Two years of searching without success can be frustrating and demoralizing. So now you’re considering a bold move – which is commendable. But is it smart? When assessing the risks…and rewards of a move, you must first understand the in house market in the geographic region. Below is a summary:

The in house legal market in The Bay Area is active. Probably more active than any other region in the U.S. & perhaps the globe. So corporate legal departments are growing in public and private companies. Mid-senior level tech and commercial transaction lawyers are in high demand, but areas such as patent, privacy, general corporate, litigation and private co. GCs are in demand as well. Academic credentials are important, but less than they used to be. Priorities now are the quality of a person’s experience and their interpersonal fit. In house experience is still preferred, but law firm lawyers receive more consideration as the market grows. Multiple moves are the norm in the Bay Area – as are gaps in employment. This is due to the fluidity of the tech industry and the Darwinian nature of the legal profession. Employers are socialized to both. With this said, it’s not a place with an unlimited number of mulligans. So candidates still need to choose their moves wisely.

In light of this market information, let’s examine the realities of a proposed move:

  • By moving to CA, you will take one of the biggest objections to your candidacy off the table: your non-local status.
  • The Bay Area is one of the most active legal markets. So to the extent that you have some marketable skills, in house employment opportunities will be more robust.
  • It’s preferred to be employed when seeking another job. But if you’ve hit a wall after 2 years of looking, it’s not the end of the world. Bay Area employers won’t be mortified by an employment gap. If you choose this path, I recommend including your reasons on your resume. This will dispel assumptions that you have been fired.
  • If your message regarding your career choices is genuine, succinct and articulate, employers will understand and it won’t hurt your candidacy. You’ll have one year before the time off will more materially affect your marketability.
  • After making the move, finding a new job will still take time. So you’ll have to rely on your savings in the interim. The Bay Area is an expensive place so make sure you’re financially prepared.

The decision to quit a job and move to a foreign land to find career success takes courage in light of some obvious risks. But these risks are mitigated by a thriving Bay Area legal market and many employers who will appreciate your reasons for such a move and won’t penalize you for it. So if this is your dream and you have the family and financial support, then I encourage you to go West, young man, go West.

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