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I’m well-regarded at my current law firm, but I’m being pigeon-holed. I work the same type of case, over and over again, and I essentially perform the same function every time. Should I leave my firm to get broader experience elsewhere? Before you consider leaving the firm, know there are a great number of other strategies to pursue within your current firm. Begin by defining exactly what you want. Is it work on other kinds of cases, or more responsibility on the cases you currently handle? Or do you want something else? Be as specific as you can about your goals. Consider discussing them with a mentor or supervisor, to make sure that they are realistic and achievable. Focus on any baby steps in the direction of your goals that you think are particularly practical. Could you “second-chair” some of the more sophisticated aspects of your cases? Might you do some senior-level drafting? Even if these experiences aren’t the sum of what you ultimately seek, the more immediate steps you can think of, the more likely it is that you can create opportunities for such experiences in the future. Be liberal in your definition of what constitutes a valuable new experience. Consider whether taking a pro bono opportunity or even a purely academic exercise (like writing an article with a more senior lawyer) might move you in the right direction, and demonstrate your enthusiasm for new experience. Become a squeaky wheel. Tell as many people as you can, in as many ways as you can, what your goals are, and the kinds of immediate steps you think you’re ready to handle. That includes talking to senior lawyers on your cases, but you could also talk to practice group heads, and anyone who conducts your annual reviews. Ask questions, and listen closely as other lawyers talk about their work (on cases in your area, or otherwise). Your aim should be to get the “lay of the land” for what other kinds of other work and experiences might be available, and to put yourself in a position to pursue any work that seems right for you. Start small. It’s often easier to pick up small assignments outside your immediate area of practice. You’ll also want to avoid offending senior lawyers in your practice area, which you may do if you suddenly refuse to do their work and claim that you have become too busy on other matters. It’s also possible that some of the new experiences you develop won’t be particularly instructive. You don’t want to leap too quickly into another large commitment, if it may not enhance your ability to pursue your goals. As for moving to a new firm: this should be considered a last resort. You already have the benefit of being well-regarded at your current firm. That should mean that senior lawyers at the firm are interested in your training and development. They may require reminders, and specific suggestions (as outlined above), but they’re actually more likely to want to help you than lawyers at an entirely new firm, with whom you are not familiar. Indeed, moving to a new firm can put you in an even more stressful and difficult position. As you strive to make a place for yourself at a new firm, you may have tremendous incentives to develop a reputation as an expert in some particular field. In effect, you may pigeon-hole yourself at the new firm, just as much as (or worse than) you are pigeon-holed today. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should never change firms. It is entirely conceivable that, after realistically assessing your goals and making a full faith effort to achieve them, it appears impossible to achieve them in your current setting. If so, then you can and should look elsewhere. But do so with your eyes wide open. You are the master of your own career, and you must take care that whatever steps you take are calculated to advance your development and reputation, in the most satisfying way possible. The author is a partner in the New York City offices of Jones Day, and a member of the firm’s Training Committee. His publications include: The Path to Partnership: A Guide for Junior Associates (Praeger 2004). The views expressed are solely those of the author, and should not be attributed to the author’s firm or its clients.

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