Is it time for a change?

QUESTION: I’m a six year-PQE corporate associate at a top 10 firm and I’m desperate for some proper time off.

I’ve never had a gap year, having gone straight from school to university to work. Other people in my firm have managed to get some mini-sabbaticals, so there’s some precedent for my request, but I’m worried because, although there’s not much work around at the moment, it might not be a good idea politically to be away during this ‘credit crunch’.

What should I do?

Answer one: Don’t leave it too long to decide. If you’re ambitious for partnership, you should soon be talking with your partners about senior development programmes and your partnership track. Having two or three months off in the middle of that process is not a good idea.

If you want to do it, do it now, but expect there to be potential ramifications for your promotion to the partnership. Find out when candidates are identified and when the track begins, how long it is and what is expected of you during that period. If you can squeeze in a couple of months before that, then go for it.

You will know how busy you currently are and who you are likely to be up against. If you think you’re going to be at a significant disadvantage, then you may have to take a risk.

Nicola Morris is an associate at Shilton Sharpe Quarry

Answer two: Personally, if getting on the partnership track is very important to you, then I would suggest shelving the idea (for now). You are in a top 10 firm, so the standard and level of ambition amongst peers is likely to be very high.

Additionally, in light of the uncertainty ahead, your colleagues of roughly equal experience will realise that they must go the ‘extra mile’ to be considered for partnership.

Please also consider that if work levels remain somewhat depleted, then the amount of senior associates vying for partnership is likely to ‘bottleneck’ over the next few years.

I feel by taking a sabbatical you will be greatly disadvantaging yourself in relation to colleagues. It really boils down to, which is most important to you? Sabbatical or partnership?

Either way, do remember, if you have all the right credentials, the worst case scenario is a delaying of the inevitable (i.e. partnership).

Daniel Smith is a Director at Noble Legal

Answer three: The answer to your question may be for you to wait and see. Of course, at your PQE level, when the corporate market is healthy and robust, you wield a good deal of power within your own firm; partners will not wish to lose an experienced corporate candidate, especially one that is not easily replaceable. So if things improve and if sceptical predictions don’t play out, then you could ask.

The next six months should give you a better indication of the lay of the land as to market confidence. If things don’t improve, then you would need to take a view.

Kristi Edwards is a consultant at Hughes-Castell