Can You Have a Meaningful, BigLaw Career Outside of New York City?
If you are a BigLaw associate in New York City thinking about making a lateral move out of the City, you are reading the right post. We are two former New York City BigLaw associates who made the hard decision to move out of New York City and haven’t looked back. Let’s be clear: at the time, this was an agonizing decision for us. We loved the firms we left and loved living in New York City.
There were a lot of sleepless nights thinking about whether we were making the right decisions for our careers and our families. The thought of leaving our co-workers, friends, our favorite bagel spot, our favorite brunch spot, Central Park, the countless sporting events, and all the other things about New York City that are so great was daunting. But in the end, we didn’t see ourselves living long term in New York City, especially with families.
Now that we are on the other side of those decisions, we can report that we could not be happier with the decisions we made.
Since our moves, we have spoken to a number of associates in the same position looking for a sounding board to talk about their own decisions. If you’re in the same boat, here are some questions to consider as you think about whether to pull the trigger on a move:
How’s your quality of life? Do you find life in New York City easy or are you struggling with it like we were? New York City offers an unparalleled number of cultural opportunities, from museums to sporting events to the coolest playgrounds a kid has ever seen, but there’s no getting around the fact that it can be a difficult place to live and work.
Do you have kids? One of the biggest issues attorneys living in New York City face is trying to raise kids in the City. For some, especially those who grew up in the City, the transition from young adults to adults with kids is seamless. For others, the transition is full of hiccups and heartaches, from too little apartment space to not enough easily accessible green space for restless kids.
Are you a New York City person? Are you a New York City person or a person who lives in New York City? The question probably sounds ridiculous to those who don’t live in the City, but for anyone who has lived there you know exactly what we mean. There are plenty of people who can’t imagine ever living anywhere else. There are also plenty of people like us who moved to New York City to work in BigLaw in the most demanding of atmospheres but never pictured staying in New York City long term.
Apartment v. House? Are you someone that likes living in an apartment and having no maintenance concerns, or are you someone who daydreams of living in a house with a yard and rolling up your sleeves and doing work around the house and yard?
Do you have a support system nearby? Does your close family live in or around New York City, or are they states away? New York is fast-paced and exciting, but if you’re like us, you may find that as you get older you’re starting to feel slightly lonely even in the midst of so many people and so much action. If you can cure your occasional homesickness with a quick trip over to Jersey, then staying in the City certainly makes sense. But if your family is states away, you may find that the length of time away from them is making the distance harder to deal with (not easier).
Where are you in your career? Are you a junior associate, or are you a senior associate on the cusp of making partner? It is certainly easier making the move as a more junior associate, but we can say from experience that you can do it as a senior associate as well.
Firm/Office. Are you someone who needs to be in the hub office of a large New York City law firm, or would you be just as content professionally to be at a firm that is not headquartered in the City or in a satellite office of a firm headquartered in New York City?
Seamless v. Home Cooking? Do you love the fact that you can order Seamless from your office or apartment and get any type of food from almost any culture, or are you tired of takeout and pining for the day when you can drive to a grocery store, walk up and down the aisles and pick out your groceries, drive them home and make dinner in a spacious kitchen?
There are no “right” answers here. Each person considering a move out of New York City is going to value the answers to these questions in different ways. What we can tell you is that if the answers to these questions lead you to a move out of the City, it is more than possible to have a fulfilling legal career doing high-level work outside of New York City. We hope this has been helpful, and please feel free to reach out if you are agonizing over a decision and need a sounding board. We’ve been there!
Robert Lindholm is a Litigation Partner in the Charlotte office of Nelson Mullins. Prior to moving to Charlotte in 2017 with his family, Rob was a Litigation Associate at Milbank LLP in New York City for almost 9 years.
Jenaé Moxie is a Corporate Associate in the Atlanta office of Nelson Mullins. Prior to moving to Atlanta with her husband, Jenae was an Insurance Regulatory Associate in the Corporate department of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP in New York City for 2 years.