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.