Bankruptcy has been a hot topic in the legal market ever since the dot-com bubble burst in the late 1990s. Although many of the dot-coms disappeared with nary a whimper (because many of these firms did not have significant assets), the quick and public demise of huge international companies such as Enron Corp., WorldCom, and Global Crossing increased the amount of bankruptcy work at many firms around the United States.
In addition to the increase in activity in the bankruptcy and restructuring markets, the United States capital markets have been quiet as the economy has slowly recovered. In the recent depressed market, many corporate attorneys who were not billing enough hours were approached by their firms to "retool" and work with the firm's bankruptcy or restructuring group.
Consequently, I am frequently asked by mid-level, junior, and summer associates how they should approach the current economic recession from the perspective of their practice areas and whether they should consider a short stint in other busier areas of law such as bankruptcy or even litigation. The answer for any individual is case by case; however, there are some common threads that all candidates will have to consider before accepting a temporary or permanent change.
An important distinction should be made between experienced and newly minted attorneys. That distinction is driven, in my opinion, by the concept of an attorney's brand. What is an attorney's brand, you may ask? Practicing attorneys have a brand that is a combination of their expertise and education. Do you realize that every task performed by an attorney develops (or hinders) his/her brand? Therefore, choosing and changing practice areas affect your brand, and any such arrangement should be considered carefully. In my experience, well-branded attorneys get the best work and consistent recognition, and managing your brand correctly will help your success at your firm.