As any associate will profess, the life of a relatively-new attorney certainly has its ups and its downs. In many cases, billing is up and bonuses are down. However, there are many things associates can be thankful for this Thanksgiving. For the first time in two years, associates can look at the positive road ahead and the struggles behind them.
- Things are finally, finally looking up in the legal market. In 2011, we saw an increase in legal jobs across a variety of practice areas. It’s possible/probable that many associates noticed these increases in their firms. This is fantastic news even for those associates who already have a job. Now they have the option of making a lateral move much more easily. Partners are more willing to hire and more willing than ever to look at associates with 1-3 years of experience. Associates with more experience will also benefit by being able to negotiate a higher starting salary than one year ago.
- The market is on the other side of the worst legal market in decades. It wasn’t easy, and it most likely brought doubt into the minds of many an associate, but it appears that the market has taken an up-turn. Although we see the legal market move cyclically (the beginning of each decade seems to have a down cycle), this was certainly one of the worst we’ve seen in decades – and associates can take pride in the fact that they survived. The upside to this struggle is employability. Although associates may not be aware of their flexibility and adaptability, employers are. They know that associates who worked and thrived in this market have the stamina, the tenacity and the sheer willpower to keep going. These traits make for excellent attorneys, and the best hiring partners know this.
- Mergers have, in some ways, helped. Associates working in a firm that acquired or was acquired this year should definitely give thanks. California was a hotbed of activity when it came to mergers and acquisitions this year. As a result, many of the acquired firms actually grew in numbers. Numerous acquisitions were made by larger firms without a strong West Coast presence. Now that these larger firms have the “California office,” they will likely be expanding their presence. This means more jobs and more opportunities for associates throughout California.
- Experience has increased among associates. The last two years have been learning experiences for many attorneys – both personally and professionally. Many associates learned more about the law than they would have two years ago because of cuts in staff and resources. As a result, the associates’ resumes likely show much more experience and expertise now than associate resumes a mere five years ago. This makes today’s associates more desirable.
You know you’re ready for a new legal opportunity. The firm you’re currently in just isn’t working, and you need to think strategically about a lateral move. Congratulations! We’re happy that you’ve made the decision, but now comes the hard part: creating the strategy. In order to make a successful and fulfilling move, you must get a few things together before you officially start the “job search.”
- Make sure you know what you want. Do you want to stay in the same practice area or switch? What type of law firm environment are you looking for? Do you want to try for a position at biglaw, a firm with only a few attorneys or something in the middle? This step is absolutely crucial when thinking about making a move. Once you’re focused on the practice area and the type of firm, things will start moving in the right direction.
- Sell yourself. What can you offer a firm? To make a successful lateral move, you’ve got to start thinking like a law firm. Why would they want to hire you? What can you provide for the firm that is above and beyond other lawyers? Write down your “unique selling proposition” and really edit it into one succinct, but powerful, sentence. Make sure to include this in your cover letter or interview.
- Start taking steps before you talk to a firm. Once you know what you’re looking for and what you can offer, start moving in that direction on your own. Don’t wait for a firm to come in and sweep you off of your feet. Take proactive steps and good things will come! Email your family, friends, ex-classmates, former co-workers and anyone else who will read your message, and let them know exactly what you’re looking for and what makes you perfect for that position. Get active on LinkedIn and connect with people. Remember, getting a job (particularly at the partner level) is primarily about relationships. The more people with whom you have a relationship, the better your odds of landing your dream position.
- Network. It’s a dirty word for most attorneys, but it’s the way that most people hear about new opportunities. Get out there and speak with fellow attorneys. Let them know what you’re looking for and what you can offer a firm. Chances are, you’ll hear about a few positions that may work out for you!
- Get all of your successes on paper. A resume is great, but even more impressive to a law firm is having a list of your successes. Do you have a book of business, any published cases, particularly interesting “wins”? All of these things speak volumes about your ability, and your successes let a law firm know what they can expect from you.
Now that you’ve got everything together, it’s time for the job hunt. Of course, that’s where we can help! Please contact us today to hear about job opportunities and how we can help connect you with the right firm.