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How to Strategise your Lateral Move in 2023

Lateral moves are becoming increasingly common as attitudes towards lifelong careers at the same law firm continue to shift. There are many reasons for this. Amongst them is the realisation that optimal career satisfaction comes from a balance of personal fulfilment and the interests of the clients. 

Is 2023 the time to consider a lateral move?

There is no doubt that we are in the thick of a rough economic time. However, legal professionals who try to ‘tough it out’ despite experiencing a disconnect between their values and those of their current firm, run the risk of deteriorating relationships, mental health, and poorer performance that do not reflect their true nature. This can lead to a deepening of current issues and a host of others in the long run including burnout, disengagement and career stagnation long after the economy recovers.

If you are recognising the disconnect between where you want to be and where you are, the most important question to ask is not whether this is the year to move. It is HOW you would approach your lateral move strategically towards a great opportunity rather than moving away from a poor fit. 

Aim towards a meeting of minds, rather than any port during a storm

From our experience, the highest performing professionals in the legal sector review their goals and their current firm on at least on an annual basis, honestly and openly with a trusted advisor. This ensures clarity on their current situation, trajectory and evaluation of potential options, both within the existing firm and external factors, allowing them to make more level-headed decisions towards their career trajectory.

Self-reflect, self-assess and speak to a trusted individual

The reason why committing to a regular review of your goals and the values of your current firm is so effective is because it steers you away from ignoring the situation long enough that you are actively disengaged before meeting others. Furthermore, goals may shift depending on the season of your life.

So, what are your short, medium and long term goals? Legal professionals who consistently keep them in view know that they may not all be achievable at the same place. 

Honest assessments, especially with yourself can be challenging because the warning signs of any career dissatisfaction can be subtle when focussed on day-to-day tasks. To help with this, we developed a free-to-use, self-assessment tool to provide an initial view of the state of one’s legal career trajectory in three minutes.

To ensure that your decisions are not made in an echo chamber, it is very beneficial to discuss your findings and feelings with a confidant. This person should be equipped to help you with critical thinking about how this translates into identifying the best fit for you in a new role. 

How to line yourself up towards your vision.

You’ve identified your goals and vision. Through your self-assessment, you are more certain that you are ready to consider other possibilities in your career. What’s the next step?

Engage an expert to research the market for you and to engage confidentially with department and firm leaders. It is important to recognise the difference between dealing directly with the firm leaders in comparison to the HR departments. HR departments are usually measured on filling vacancies and reducing recruitment costs rather than building fee income, firms and profit by making wise investments whereas owners of firms are much more attuned to making investment decisions when excellent lateral hire opportunities come to their attention via a trusted source. 

Strategise with a good advisor on how to approach every aspect of your lateral move. It is a huge advantage to understand the background of all key parties. Different firms are run differently and sometimes, certain characters require bespoke handling. Knowing this prior to negotiations can only smooth the process going forward. 

Minimising the risk of a bad lateral move – the finer details

At its core, a lateral move for any legal professional serves to improve their career and future prospects. It is natural to feel optimistic towards the offer available, but it is important to focus on the fine details too as ignoring them risks morphing a positive change to a fraught one. To avoid this, here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind in the lead up to a potential move: 


  • Have clarity on what you wish to discover from all meetings prior to attending and don’t be afraid to ask. 
  • Be strong willed when it comes to decision time. Extended prevarication is not an attractive trait and you should prefer to appear decisive to the new firm so they have increased confidence in your appointment.


  • Underestimate client priorities in the process of options evaluation. You may not want to discuss this with your key clients from the outset but you must discuss with someone who can help you evaluate this to maximise your client retention.
  • Focus primarily on your own wants and needs, but do not ignore those of your clients or the new firm. A lateral move is a symbiotic opportunity that has to work equally well for all parties for it to have long term success. 

Be careful with money 

There is no question that remuneration is integral to any consideration for a lateral move. Big money is attractive but without due diligence, it can lead to a breakdown in new relationships. 

It is important to be conscious that the more money is set on the table, the greater the expectations will be of your fee creation. If expectations are not adequately managed or met, it can lead to early tensions and even fall out if not considered from all angles. 

Ortus Group: Experts Ready to Help 

Ortus Group is a specialist in executive search, mergers and acquisitions for the UK legal sector. With more than 18 years of experience, the team has completed more than 50 law firm sales/mergers and helped in excess of 300 partners and senior lawyers enhance their career and earnings. Reach out to a member of the Ortus Group team for a complimentary and confidential conversation about taking control of your career via email at or call 0330 100 5420.

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