Q. I am an associate attorney and I’m looking to relocate to Chicago next year. What is the best time of year to begin my job search?
A. There is no time like the present to begin your search. While many large firms fill their first-year associate needs in September/October through their law school campus interviewing and summer associate programs, lateral associate hiring is less cyclical and more reactive. It is true that most law firms put together their annual budgets, which include hiring requests from their most active practices, sometime between the end of the calendar year and the beginning of the new year, and that may spur Quarter 1 and early Quarter 2 hiring. However, most lateral legal hiring occurs on a continual basis throughout the year in reaction to the ebb and flow of law firm business outlooks, economic realities and associate attorney migration. An active IPO calendar, an uptick in M&A activity or a large lawsuit can occur at any time and bring about an urgent need for specific, experienced legal talent. Additionally, as corporate law departments continue to grow, associates, typically in the 3- to 7-year range, are increasingly leaving their law firms for in-house opportunities.
The prudent course of action is to seek out an experienced, local legal recruiter who is tapped into the local job market and who can keep you abreast of new openings as they happen. Through a comprehensive and candid conversation, your recruiter should not only be able to determine if there are current suitable associate positions available but should also provide you with the peace of mind that as opportunities develop, that you will be kept in the know. Many law firms don’t post their positions on-line, preferring to work with select recruiters instead to avoid the crush of unqualified resumes. Others will share their upcoming hiring needs sparingly. Choosing the right local recruiter can make all the difference in staying in front of law firm hiring needs.
When to Accept a Law Job Offer
While there is no time like the present to begin your search, timing does come into play as to when to accept an offer. Bonuses, tax year considerations and kid’s school calendars may all come into play. A good recruiter can help you talk through these considerations, including negotiating a signing bonus especially when leaving a pending bonus on the table.