We are in the midst of the busiest legal jobs market that we’ve witnessed in our 20+ years as legal recruiters (10 years as Atticus Recruiting). In January we had four clients start new positions (3 litigators and 1 tax attorney), received two offers for clients (1 partner, 1 associate) and had 10 clients interviewing, most at multiple law firms ranging from Am Law 25s to boutiques. While commercial finance, real estate and litigation remain the busiest legal areas for job opportunities, we are also seeing strategic needs for law associates and income level law partners in Antitrust, Capital Markets, Corporate – General, Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation, Environmental, Family Office, Funds (formation and regulatory), M&A/PE and Technology and IP Transactions.
Law firm, Quinn Emanuel, has announced a full remote work policy while other law firms have indicated a willingness to offer hybrid work accommodations especially for transactional attorneys. Without extenuating circumstances, like relocating for a spouses’/partner’s job, family health concerns, or lack of adequate childcare, law associates who are serious about progressing in the legal profession should think long and hard about working remotely full-time. The practice of law remains a service industry best practiced by people in concert and connection with other more skilled and experienced people. Lawyering skills, legal nuances and interpersonal relationships are developed and learned through observation, instruction and mentoring. At many law firms, associates compete for work and partners give work to those associates they know and trust. Business development, the lifeblood for the vast majority of partners and a critical skill for advancement to partnership is not accomplished remotely. When it comes time to promote new partners, partners are going to vote for those they know best. Finally, when the inevitable downturn comes, and it will come, and hard personnel choices are being made, do you want to be a living, social human being with an office full of pictures of kids and dogs or a 2-dimensional zoom image with a 9+ room rater score?
While remote work sounds comfy, associates interested in making partner and a long and successful legal career should get back in the office as soon and as much as possible.
Recent law associate salary hikes by large law firms like New York firms, Milbank and Cravath, have widen the gap with in-house law department salaries, especially in the coveted 4-year to 6-year range. Under the new salary scale, associates at law firms in their 4th through 6th years are making base salaries between $285,000 and $350,000, while their in-house counterparts’ salaries range from the upper $100,000s to low $200,000s at large legal departments. Further exacerbating the issue, remote and hybrid work schedules at law firms in response to Covid have blurred some of the lifestyle advantages for going in-house.
To lure top legal talent, in-house law departments should continue to focus on the quality and sophistication of their work, the variety of experience in-house roles typically offer and the lifestyle benefits of moving in-house. Furthermore, they should initiate or emphasize programs that differentiate themselves from law firms including increased roles in corporate operations outside law, greater access and mentoring from C-suite professionals and alternative compensation packages including stock options.
A recent article in American Lawyer highlighted the growing trend of Big Law associates seeking the greener pastures of smaller law firms. This is where well connected and knowledgeable local legal recruiters can really add value. Midsized and boutique law firms tend not to broadly advertise their open positions and instead rely on a few local legal recruiters with whom they’ve established strong, longstanding working relationships. In 2021, 62% of our attorney placements were at law boutiques and law firms outside the Am Law 200. In one instance, a relocating Debevoise corporate attorney, who fully intended on lateralling to a similar sized firm, chose the 35 attorney, full-service commercial law boutique firm we introduced to her over the three other Am Law 25 offers she received through our representation. Currently we are working with a relocating litigation associate whose New York law recruiter was unable to place him in the flow of Chicago’s busy legal job market. Through us he has an offer and is interviewing at two other firms. When it comes to your job search, local knowledge and local relationships matter.
CHICAGO – Neal Gerber Eisenberg (NGE) is pleased to announce the election of four new partners to the firm’s partnership effective January 1, 2022: Andrea Stein Fuelleman of the Intellectual Property group, Eric M. McLimore of the Taxation group, David C. Presser of the Corporate & Securities group and Collette A. Woghiren of the Litigation group.
In 2021, we witnessed a frenzied Chicago legal placement market with legal hiring occurring every month of the year. In total, we placed twenty-two attorneys who received $5,221,500 in cumulative compensation. Thirty-eight percent of our law placements were at large law firms (Am Law 200 and larger) with the remaining sixty-two percent of our attorneys going to full-service commercial law and litigation boutiques.
This is a welcomed and much-needed positive development. And this news comes as the current administration is poised to double the number of Black women ever confirmed to federal appellate courts. For 2021, 23% of our legal placements were attorneys of color including a Hispanic woman litigation partner and an African American intellectual property litigation counsel.
Good news for Am Law 100 and top law boutique associates. Milbank and others raises pay scale to $215,000 for first year associates.
Read full article on Above The Law.
September was a busy month in the Chicago Legal Recruiting market. We had two federal law clerks start employment as associates with their respective law firms, a highly acclaimed litigation boutique and a very successful and growing Am Law 200 full-service firm. Both attorneys received salary bumps from their original offers due to the new associate pay scale that went into effect for many firms on September 1st. While most Am Law 100 law firms won’t accept federal clerk submissions from legal recruiters, we work with several exceptional law firms that do.
On an almost daily basis, there are articles on whether large law firms will require attorneys to return to the office in September. Remote work ameliorates the perceived ills of working at large law firms, dampening lateral movement and contributing to the current tightly constrained legal job market. “Return to work” policies will open the flood gates in associate movement. Much like when law firms recently raised associates’ salaries to retain and attract legal talent, law firms will now be forced to offer a variety of remote work benefits to compete for associates. Short term.