Nathan Peart of Major Lindsey & Africa set sout a useful framework to help navigate a turbulent time

It happened: the partner you work under has resigned and the announcement has just hit the team. There’s an intensity in the air. Her/his leaving date is announced, assurances are made and you share a drink before wishing him/her well on their new venture. So now what? What’s next for you?

Set goals

With a partner exit, reflect on the past 6-12 months in the practice: how has the work been? Why did the partner leave? Where have they moved from in the past? All of these reflections can help guide your goals and aspirations. Do you want partnership? How are you going to get there? Are you picking up the necessary client exposure and business development skills at your current firm to reach your goals? Goal setting should be done periodically anyway, although it can get put to the bottom of the list with associate workloads. Take this time to decide where you want to go in your career and whether staying or moving would be the logical next step.

Be open minded

If you decide you want to stay and ride the wave of change at your current firm, be open to working with new partners or getting experience in new areas of your practice. Be forthright and speak to partners you do not often get to work with and develop skills in an intelligent way – you can list that experience on your CV and it might give you the edge in a competitive market.

If you are looking to move, be open minded to new opportunities. When you work with a recruiter, you may be presented with opportunities you would have previously never considered. However, reflect on the internal changes that have happened and are making you want to move as well as why that partner left and you may discover that your original motivation for wanting to move, which may have been driven by a higher salary for example, is now really that you are looking for more support and mentorship.

Plan ahead

There's nothing more panicking than not seeing progress when you are desperate for solid ground. It shifts the focus of your true motivations and you could end up settling for something that you are ultimately not happy with. No matter if you are planning on staying or considering going, speak with recruiters well before you get to a stage of panic. This crossroads in your career is an opportunity to explore your options. Coffee is just coffee, and a good recruiter will spend his/her time speaking with you to find out your ambitions so that when the time to move does come, you can call them as your adviser on the market. They can also provide you with updates (by way of a newsletter or web content that they share on social media, for example); see that person as your law firm directory. It never hurts to be aware of what is happening in the market and be prepared for the future when you decide you are in need of a change.

Keep calm and carry on

Change and moving are not quick processes and are often very frustrating, especially if the work is not there for your practice area. Things will always work out, so try to keep moving forward. Your recruiter will handle the stress of finding your new role as you continue doing your day job. Your current firm will ensure you continue to be developed and have enough work that is challenging and interesting and any new firm you join will invest a lot in their new hires, supporting them in their first two years of development at their new firm. So listen to what is happening, keep working hard and keep an open mind about staying—or going.


Nathan Peart
is a Consultant in our Associate Practice Group based in Hong Kong. He works closely with associates to help them make a lateral move into law firms in the Asia-Pacific region as well as internationally.
Tel: +852 3628 4633