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Careers Counsel: How do I move from 3rd to 1st tier law firm?

Aunty & Uncle coach in snakes & ladders
Aunty & Uncle coach in snakes & ladders
Dear Aunty & Uncle. I am at the Delhi office of [a third-tier law firm] doing general corporate commercial work. I graduated four years ago from a reputed law school. I know I am good enough to join [a first or second-tier firm] that does more corporate transactional work. Please revert back.


Beta, your ambition is admirable but actually quite common. Many perceive that corporate transactional work is more desirable. But before you make the jump, consider it is not always all it is made out to be.

Corporate commercial law gives you a wider understanding of the law and procedure and can give you solid foundation for most kinds of corporate legal and in-house work.

Corporate transactional work on the other hand can be fairly commoditised with long hours, demanding clients and may not involve a real understanding of the law.

And one or two years of your experience level might get discounted if you move into a new practice area or up a tier. If you are purely moving for money, you might be disappointed.

If you are sure you want to join a corporate transactional firm one tier up, you’ll have to do some work.

Figure out what most of your experience has been in recently. Unless you specialise, it will be difficult to move up to a tier 1 or 2 firm from where you are.

Analyse the deals and the work you’ve been doing recently. If it is all over the place work on specialising into one area – most top tier firms only hire specialists who can prove it.

If your current firm has a specialised practice group and you are inside, that will help.

If you have a few months before you quit, try to do more transactions that fit your niche. Pick the partners you are working with from now on –there may be some in your current firm that have brand equity in the market. Or some may handle most of the transactions. Get close to them so you can mention them in your cover letter.

Also make sure you attend many conferences and interact with partners from other firms there, or interact across the table from deals – most partners will always keep an eye open to poach good opposing counsel.

Good luck and believe in yourself!


Listen. If they have any sense, they’ll never hire you. You said “revert back”.

If you’re my niece or nephew call me.


Is it possible to move from tier 3 to 1 or from generalist to specialist?

What do you think? Please leave a comment below.

In the meantime, Careers Counsel’s Aunty and Uncle are here to answer your legal career questions. Please email your queries anonymously to or or click here.

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