As any biglaw attorney knows, "due diligence" is a term used in business transactions. It refers to the purchaser's analysis and evaluation of the value of the property and the assets and liabilities it is assuming in a prospective purchase.
Associates often tell me that they want to do their due diligence on a firm or in-house opportunity that I have brought to their attention before submitting a resume. I have found that, sometimes, this is the attorney's way of rejecting my suggestion without actually saying no. More often, however, I think it is a good lawyer's natural inclination to deliberate before coming to a conclusion. After all, we are trained to analyze all relevant aspects of a situation before coming to a conclusion.
In my experience, when a lawyer tells me that she wants to do her due diligence, she is talking doing one or all of the following:
1. reading the website for information about the firm's practice areas and attorneys;
2. reading firm profiles on NALP or Vault;
4. searching the web for articles about the firm or cases and transactions in which it has been involved; and
5. contacting connections either at the firm or who have had experience with the firm.
This type of due diligence is an important adjunct to considering a lateral move. Yet it is just that, an adjunct. Unlike due diligence in a business transaction, the information a lawyer obtains about a firm such as compensation, practice rankings, profitability, or partnership statistics are no substitute for "kicking the tires" or taking a test drive. Whether for a better work environment, different specialty, better compensation, lifestyle, or partnership track, lateral moves at any level are deeply personal decisions. You cannot make an informed decision until you have sat across the table from your potential colleagues and getting a feel for what it will be like working with them. Relying on "due diligence" alone to decide whether to interview is akin to predicting the final score before playing the game.