- Southern California (Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego)
- Northern California (Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Sacramento)
- The Northwest (Portland and Seattle)
- The Northeast (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC)
- The Southeast (Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Miami, South Florida, Orlando, and Tampa)
- The Southwest (Texas, Arizona, Nevada)
- The Midwest (Chicago, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, and Utah)
- International (Europe and Asia)
- Southern California (Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego)
- Northern California (Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Sacramento)
- The Northwest (Portland and Seattle)
- The Northeast (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC)
- The Southeast (Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Miami, South Florida, Orlando, and Tampa)
- The Southwest (Texas, Arizona, Nevada)
- The Midwest (Chicago, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, and Utah)
- International (Europe and Asia)
State of the Market: Los Angeles
The Nation's financial crisis is finally taking its toll on Los Angeles. I say ''finally'' because whereas other markets across the country saw an immediate impact, Los Angeles is just now starting to slow down. And yet, we remain cautiously optimistic about our market because despite the slow down, law firms are absolutely still hiring. The effect we have seen is not necessarily a drop in opportunities; rather, we are seeing the hiring process stretch out over a longer period of time. Law firms are being extremely selective and the time from initial interview to final offer can be quite long.
In addition, we have seen a significant rise in the number of highly qualified attorneys looking to relocate to California. Thus, at this time, while the Los Angeles market remains steady overall, it is definitely a ''buyer's market'' with the ''buyer'' being the law firms. Our contacts within the firms tell us they are getting tremendous responses to the openings they do post and are therefore tightening up their hiring criteria more than ever. In this market, it is helpful to have strong ties to California; admission to the California Bar (or sitting for the exam in the very near future); or an area of specialty in which there is still high demand but low supply.
One area in which we have not seen any slow down at all: partner hires. We are constantly meeting with firms who are interested in continued growth across all practice areas. Even in practice areas that have all but come to a halt (like real estate). Law firm leaders are wise and many see this downturn in the economy as a time to seize top talent in anticipation of better times. For partners that have portable books of business, opportunities are plentiful and this may be the best time to make a strategic career move.
This is one area in which we are pleased to report the demand for mid-level associates remains quite healthy. The specific needs are quite diverse and include: mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, capital markets, securities, and/or private equity. Notably, there still exists a shortage of mid-level associates who have strong corporate experience. Thus, for qualified attorneys coming from AmLaw firms or reputable boutiques, firms are still demonstrating flexibility when it comes to the California Bar.
Labor and Employment
Do you have wage and hour class action experience? Do you have experience in both the litigation and counseling aspects of employment law? If you answer yes to either one of these questions, the Los Angeles market remains a strong option for you. In this particular area, the opportunities we have exist in smaller/boutique firms as well as large, national firms. L&E is definitely one of the hottest practice areas for attorneys who have the requisite experience.
Throughout the year, we have expected a dramatic rise in the need for bankruptcy and restructuring attorneys. Unfortunately, we have not seen the sharp and dramatic rise that all legal experts were expecting. Having said this, what is interesting about the bankruptcy and restructuring market is that with the right advocacy, doors can be opened (probably because everyone has plenty of work waiting in the wings until our credit market starts to show signs of life again). The bottom line: there are opportunities for those who knock on doors but you can't sit and wait for the openings to come to you. With proper guidance from a recruiter who knows the Los Angeles market, qualified candidates will get interview and job offers.
Litigation is the other counter-cyclical practice area in which we expect to see a dramatic rise when the economy takes a downturn. For a while, we weren't sure this uptake in litigation would occur this time around. Fortunately, the tide appears to be changing and in recent weeks, we have definitely seen an increase in litigation opportunities. As mentioned above, hiring criteria are extremely tight overall. In litigation, the fierceness of the competition is even more pronounced. Litigators—you must ensure that your resume and writing sample are top-notch. General descriptions will not suffice—be specific and be detailed. As for writing samples, not a single error will be tolerated and they will be read from start to finish. Finally, admission to the California Bar is overwhelmingly mandatory.
Real estate and real estate finance positions are scarce. The exception, of course, is for partners and/or senior attorneys who have portable books of business. Otherwise, if you are a real estate associate and you need to make a lateral move in this market, the best course of action is to have your resume and representative transactions list ready to go so that the minute an opening does come up, you are in the door ahead of the crowd. Also, you want to start your job search with as much time ahead of you as possible. In other words, if you start to get the sense that your group may be letting people go, start your search. This is one practice area in which you do not want to be hunting for a new position with any sense of urgency.
Other practice areas that continue to offer opportunities for talented and well-credentialed attorneys include IP litigation and prosecution; trademark; environmental and land use; and tax. For IP candidates, the EE remains the most sought-after degree and admission to the USPTO is a definite plus. Trademark positions continue to come up now and then but when they do arise, there is definitely a low supply of qualified candidates. On the environmental/land use front, we have seen an uptake in requests for experienced attorneys (meaning 4-6 years of experience) as well as a demand for attorneys who have experience in litigation and regulatory matters.
With cautious optimism, we continue to believe that the job market in Los Angeles will remain steady until it starts to boom again. The important thing to remember in this market is that a candidate must be ready to ''pounce'' on the opportunities and then have the patience to wait out what can often be a longer-than-expected interview process. Top credentials are an absolute must as is experience at a sophisticated, reputable law firm.
State of the Market Report: Orange County
By Caroline Lee, Esq., Recruiter, BCG Attorney Search
In this time of economic uncertainty, law firms are taking their time in making hiring decisions. We are experiencing extreme delays in getting feedback from firms from the time of initial submission and even after a preliminary or callback interview. Fortunately, firms in Orange County are still hiring. It is now more important than ever though, to allocate ample time to look for and find a new law firm position in this market. In order to identify some of the market trends going on in Orange County, I will be discussing 1) ''healthy'' practice areas, 2) steady practice areas, and 3) slower practice areas in this region.
1. Intellectual Property (Litigation and Patent Prosecution):
Intellectual property remains a healthy practice area in this market. Many firms are looking for attorneys with both IP litigation and patent prosecution experience. Patent prosecution specifically, remains one of the hot areas of law in Orange County. Firms are seeking attorneys with electrical engineering, computer science, and physics backgrounds mainly. There are also a few openings for attorneys with biotech science backgrounds, as well as mechanical engineering backgrounds.
Since hiring has slowed due to the economy, more firms are seeking candidates that are already members of the California Bar and USPTO, even though this wasn't a strict requirement in previous recent hiring periods. Furthermore, candidates with advanced degrees will definitely have an upper hand in this competitive market. Most firms are seeking attorneys in the 2-5 year range for these positions, but more junior level attorneys will also probably be considered. Orange County also has openings for patent agent candidates as well. As always, partners with a book of business are highly desired.
Litigation continues to be an area of law where there are ample openings available. Most firms are seeking commercial or business litigators with a couple of years of experience. Even so, attorneys at most levels will be able to find at least a few openings that will be relevant to them. Trial and deposition experience is still valued, as well as someone who doesn't need a lot of supervision.
Membership into the California Bar is essential as there are a lot of litigators that are interested in joining this Orange County market. Candidates with diverse litigation experience may also fare better. Many firms are seeking candidates that can handle both commercial litigation and other types of litigation, such as real estate, construction, bankruptcy, or product liability litigation.
There are still corporate positions available, but the demand is not as great as it was a year or even six months ago. Candidates must be stellar and should also be admitted into the California Bar. Firms are generally seeking M&A associates, at all levels. Significant experience with securities, private equity, and the 1934 Act is also helpful. Orange County has job openings for very junior level associates and also mid and senior level associates as well. Out of state candidates that are coming from large law firms and top law schools may also want to expand their search to include smaller and mid-size firms too, as it is extremely competitive in Orange County right now (even for well qualified candidates).
2. Labor & Employment:
Labor & Employment remains an area of law where there are still job openings available in Southern California. Like all other practice areas in this market, candidates will definitely want to be licensed in California in order to be competitive. Many firms are seeking mid-level candidates in the 4-5 year range, who can handle a substantial case load on their own, but are still not considered too senior. Class action, wage/hour, and trial experience are assets in applying for these job postings. Employment counseling experience is not actively recruited as much, in comparison to solid employment litigation experience.
There are various areas of law where there is very little hiring (if any) going on in Orange County. Some of these slow areas include health care law, government-related law, and environmental law. Although we are getting a few openings for environmental attorneys, the availability of these types of positions is still pretty limited. Environmental attorneys should have litigation and also land use experience. For heath care and government lawyers, top-notch credentials (school and firm experience) are a must, as is California Bar Membership.
By Caroline Lee, Esq., Recruiter, BCG Newport Beach
Not a lot has changed from our Summer 2008 State of the Market Report for San Diego. This market remains a difficult market to get into at this time. There are fewer positions available in this market and many firms prefer to interview candidates that are already living in the San Diego area. Candidates that are focused strictly on this region should allow themselves extra time to successfully conduct a job search here. Many of the satellite offices here and boutique law firms are simply limiting their hiring needs to the bare minimum. That being said, there is some hiring activity going on in San Diego. In order to identify some of the market trends going on in San Diego, I will be discussing 1) healthy practice areas, 2) steady practice areas, and 3) slower practice areas in this region.
1. Patent Prosecution:
As in Orange County, patent prosecutors remain high in demand in San Diego. Firms are seeking lawyers with scientific degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, and physics. Experience with wireless communications is valuable as well. Attorneys should be members of both the California Bar and USPTO. Although some firms do not require membership into the California or Patent Bar, having this dual membership will greatly increase the marketability of a candidate.
There are a few positions for those attorneys with a biotech background. The most common openings for these types of positions are for attorneys with a chemistry degree. As in the other Southern California markets, advanced degrees will create more interest for IP candidates in this tight market. Now more than ever, firms are seeking impressive pedigrees in regards to a candidate's academic background (at all levels, including undergraduate). Attorneys with both solid firm experience and a degree in electrical engineering, computer science or physics- should be able to get interviews without a lot of hardship.
As in our last report, corporate law remains a healthy area of practice in San Diego. California Bar Membership is increasingly becoming a mandatory requirement for a lot of firms. Stellar M&A experience in addition to a corporate finance background will likely get you a lot of attention from the firms. San Diego firms are seeking candidates at both the junior and mid-levels. Attorneys with a background in business and/or finance will also be more competitive in this market. Diverse transactional experience is also valued, as more firms seek attorneys with traditional corporate experience coupled with a licensing background (generally within the realm of IP). There is also a small demand for corporate attorneys with sophisticated fund experience.
1. Labor & Employment:
Labor and employment attorneys still have some openings to choose from in San Diego. The California Bar is a requirement in virtually all of the active job postings in this region, for this area of law. Mid-level associates will be the most popular candidates in regards to L&E openings. Attorneys who have both counseling and litigation experience will also be valued. Candidates also need to have litigation experience to be competitive, as most firms are seeking employment litigators. Those with specialized and specific labor experience will also fare better in this market, as we have seen a need for lawyers with true labor backgrounds.
The need for litigators doesn't seem to be growing in this market, but the demand remains at a steady pace. Candidates with around 3 to 5 years of experience are often sought. Attorneys with commercial or civil litigation backgrounds will do well in this market. There has been a recent increase in the need for construction litigators and also those specializing in asbestos issues. Being a member of the California Bar is a must. Most firms also do not want to see a lot of movement on a candidate's resume in this practice area, and are looking for big firm experience and an impressive academic background.
There are a couple of different practice areas in which we are seeing virtually no hiring activity in San Diego. These include tax, energy, trusts and estates, and intellectual property litigation law. Any lawyer who specializes in one of these areas of law and is seeking a new position in San Diego, should be licensed in California and have a strong academic and firm pedigree. Advanced degrees in the various related fields will also be helpful in being a competitive candidate. Environmental law is also currently a slow practice area in San Diego. The few openings that are active seek mid to senior-level associates with asbestos or toxic tort experience.
State of the Market: Silicon Valley
By Deborah J. Acker, Esq.
The legal job market in the Silicon Valley is has taken a significant downturn with the current national economic spiral. There are about 1/3 fewer listings for legal opportunities than 5-6 months ago. And most recruiters know that the firms are moving very slowly to consider candidates for their current listings. The tone is caution and very deliberate, strategic decisions in the hiring arena.
Despite this slowdown, most are optimistic that this dip is temporary given the vibrancy of the region, the inherent optimism here, and the irrepressible technology sector. Large national firms continue to move into the Valley and set up regional offices with hopes of getting a piece of the action. Firms continue to seek top attorneys with the right corporate, intellectual property, and IP transactional experience. Firms also continue to seek IP and commercial litigators. However, competition is fierce and invitations for interviews and follow-up offers are difficult to obtain. Competition has become intense given a large number of strong resumes coming from the East Coast and the recent dissolution of Heller Ehrman. The need is focused at the 3-5 year level. If you are coming from out of state and have the California Bar, you have a distinct advantage. In fact, without the California Bar in this market, it is extremely difficult to obtain an interview unless you have very specialized skills and stellar academics and experience.
To be competitive in the current market, the successful lateral associate candidate will come from a top tier school, have very good grades, be admitted to the California Bar and longevity (at least 2 years) with a big name firm. Firms looking for IP litigators or prosecutors with strong tech backgrounds will often consider just one year of experience at a big firm. Strong legal credentials AND strong technical credentials in electronic engineering, computer science, physics, or the life sciences will continue to open doors. Life science candidates nearly always need to have a PhD. Multi-lingual capabilities, especially within the Asian languages, are also a definite plus.
The market for lateral partners with a significant book of business continues to be strong. There has been a lot of movement in the lateral partner ranks among top firms and discussions are ongoing.
If your credentials are not quite up to these standards, strong local and regional firms continue to seek candidates and will work with "softer" credentials. Even in a slow market we continue to see new opportunities in a variety of practice areas, including employment, immigration, certain areas of litigation, and Attorneys with strong "niche" experience can be matched with unique opportunities. Although the opportunity may not exist today, it pays to have your recruiter poised to move on an opportunity when it arises. Timing can be everything.
The recruiters at BCG enjoy placing candidates with stellar traditional pedigrees, but we also enjoy those candidates who may be considered "non-traditional" recruiter candidates. Don't hesitate to inquire about smaller firms or less vibrant geographical markets. The perfect match may be out there, even in these market conditions.
In the current competitive environment, your best strategy is to have a strong ongoing relationship with your recruiter who will be poised to move quickly when an opportunity appears. If you wait to see an opening listed, by the time you organize your materials and make the submission, it may be too late. And there are things you can be doing now to make yourself more marketable. A good legal recruiter is happy to give advice now with a goal for the long-term.
The corporate practices in the valley continue to seek a few top attorneys, primarily at the 4-6 year level. A variety of corporate skills are sought after for both the public and emerging growth sectors. International experience in mergers and acquisitions is a major asset. Securities work, venture capital, private equity and fund experience are common requirements. More than a few major national firms setting up new offices here continue to look for lateral partners. Asian language skills are particularly valued in this sector.
A few smaller firms are also looking for associates with broad experience in corporate governance and business transactions. Solid experience with good longevity will open doors, even without sterling grades and top 20 schools.
Junior and mid-level intellectual property litigators remain among the most sought-after commodities in the Junior and mid-level IP litigators remain one of the most sought after commodities in the Silicon Valley. Laterals with IP litigation experience in a big firm, appropriate for your level, and a background in electronics, computer science, or physics, are nearly always guaranteed an interview. Even without a technical background, if you can demonstrate strong litigation skills, experience in IP, and the ability to get up to speed on the technology at issue, you may be a viable candidate. Specific experience in patent litigation is a must for some firms. Firms are also looking for litigators with experience in "soft IP," trade secrets, trademark, copyright, media, etc.
The demand for patent prosecutors has remained steady. Associates with a physics, EE or computer science background and 1-7 years of experience have a number of opportunities. Other desired backgrounds include mechanical engineering, biotechnology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, pharmaceuticals, chemical engineering, and medical devices. Those in bio fields are usually expected to have a PhD or Masters degree at the minimum. Registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is nearly always a must.
A steady demand for patent agents and technical specialists, primarily in the electrical and computer arts, also exists, but they should have some big firm experience with patent law, or strong in-house "hands-on" experience drafting applications. Recent listings have offered positions where the firm will "train" the right patent agent. These opportunities are incredibly selective and some extremely strong resumes have been passed for junior positions. Don't count on getting trained by a firm.
Most of the major national firms in the valley welcome speaking with senior IP attorneys with portable business in any IP practice area.
The job listings in the Silicon Valley for IP prosecution, IP litigation, and IP transactions remain amazingly steady given the current economic instability. As always, a strong IP legal background and strong technical experience remains a relatively safe harbor in this market for now.
The need for litigators is sporadic and declining. Only the strongest resumes are netting interviews. Some national and international firms are looking for litigators with 2-6 years of experience, often requiring top pedigrees, and big law firm experience or a judicial clerkship. In the Silicon Valley, many firms value IP litigation experience, even if that is not the primary focus of the practice group. Experience with unfair competition, trademarks, and copyright will add value to the resume of any potential Silicon Valley litigator, no matter what their specialty. Securities and white collar litigation has cooled a bit. In general, commercial, antitrust, complex class actions, and product liability litigation opportunities are few and far between. Litigation practices look for associates whose experience is appropriate for their level. If you want to be a top-notch litigator, appropriate professional development for your level and increasing independence is critical for success.
Litigation listings have declined dramatically in the last five months. Be patient, we all know the need for litigators will continue and grow, perhaps in slightly different practice areas, as the work flow adjusts to the economy. This is a time of watchful patience for litigators.
The market for real estate attorneys in Silicon Valley is cool. The major real estate practices are in San Francisco and occasionally unique opportunities in real estate arise in the Valley.
The demand for labor and/or employment attorneys at major firms in Silicon Valley has slowed dramatically. Many of these positions require a combination of transactional and litigation work. International experience is a plus. Most require 2-5 years of experience specifically related to employment matters.
A few listings for attorneys with ERISA and executive compensation experience remain steady. Successful candidates have the right experience and are at the right level.
A few large international firms and large firms serving the technology sector continue to post needs for tax associates at the junior to mid level. Senior associates in tax are also sought by a few top-notch firms. Most firms appreciate (or require) an LL.M. in tax; international experience; big firm experience or time at a major accounting firm; a background in accounting, economics, or finance; and nearly always, the California Bar.
The Silicon Valley has a slowing job market but continues to offer strong opportunities for attorneys with the right background looking for lateral opportunities. Competition for positions is intense and it is best to have a knowledgeable recruiter poised to make a submission for you when an opportunity presents. BCG Attorney Search is an expert in law firm placement. Not only do we work with the traditional big firm candidate, we also pride ourselves on knowing of unique opportunities for those with less traditional backgrounds. In addition, we are happy to give strategic advice regarding how to manage your aspirations and goals in a changing market.
State of the Market: San Francisco
By Deborah J. Acker, Esq.
San Francisco is a vibrant, dynamic legal market with interesting opportunities. The economy has slowed significantly in terms of pace of hiring and numbers of opportunities. Despite current economic woes, most are optimistic that the medium to long-term outlook for the legal market remains positive. The breadth of market sectors, the historical relationships with public corporate clients, the proximity to the booming technology industry, the real estate development in Northern California, and the geographical/cultural ties to Asia will help to keep the law firms in San Francisco stable.
Historically, the primary areas of opportunity for lateral moves include: corporate practice, employment and labor, environment and land use, intellectual property (litigation and prosecution), litigation, real estate, and tax. There has been significant slowing in the last six months, with approximately 1/3 fewer jobs, but opportunities still exist. As described for the Silicon Valley Market Report, firms can be incredibly picky. As an attorney you have a lot of competition here. Schools, grades, experience, and portable business are the key factors in getting an interview.
But, there are unique opportunities outside the common practice niches, and for those with unique experience, and there may be a fit for you. Your recruiter can help you explore these opportunities.
Here are the details:
The traditional corporate practices have slowed down their hiring processes dramatically. The dust is still settling from the recent Heller Ehrman dissolution and the flood of strong corporate resumes on the market is still having an effect. The open listings at present are seeking attorneys with experience in one or more of the following: finance, securities, M&A, corporate governance, public offerings, venture capital, private equity, hedge funds, and other areas. Often, experience with public companies is more of a requisite in San Francisco than in Silicon Valley. Attorneys from out of state with in-depth fund experience are sought for specific opportunities.
More than a few of these positions are targeting the energy sector; experience with projects and clients in standard and alternative forms of energy can help your resume stand out.
Employment and Labor
The need for employment (and less commonly labor) attorneys remains steady. There are good opportunities but they are limited. Most firms seek attorneys in the 2-7 year range. Employers tend to want a more transactions/counseling background but many want a mix of transactional/litigation work. A few want a sole emphasis on employment litigation. This is a practice area where you need to have strong "hands-on" experience. The big firms will want good schools and grades, but overall, having a good fit in terms of experience is the primary factor. Class action experience is nearly always required for litigation practices. Jumping into this area from a strong litigation background in other areas is occasionally possible but these opportunities are rare. Some of the firms seeking laterals fall into the category of smaller, niche practices and will not offer big firm compensation. But they do provide interesting practices, positive working environments and colleagues dedicated to their area of the law.
ERISA opportunities are a bit fewer and far between. The competition is intense for these positions.
A few firms specialize in public sector representation. If that is your interest and your experience is strong, you may have opportunities.
Environment and Land Use
This area is very slow at the moment. Firms were interviewing last spring but there are very few opportunities currently. If you are interested in smaller firms and would consider an East Bay location, you may have some options. Most environmental and land use attorneys are focused on keeping their current position stable and keeping a watchful eye on the market.
Despite what many think, not all IP practices are in Silicon Valley. Many SF offices of strong national and international firms have put great emphasis on IP. Most firms will want a technical background, often with an emphasis in Electronic Engineering, Computer Science or Physics for both litigation and prosecution. Some firms seek life science experience. Most would like 2-6 years of experience. Specific experience with patent litigation is often a requirement. Asian language skills are sought in this area also.
IP transactional positions arise from time to time but this area is slow at present or it may be bundled into a corporate position.
The litigation market is slow and the opportunities few and far between.
The major types of litigation include: torts (often toxic torts), products liability, commercial/general, securities, white collar, fraud, antitrust, and construction among others. Occasionally there is a need for appellate work.
Senior attorneys must have portable business unless they have acquired a very unique skill or specialty.
Many of the major real estate practices in the Bay Area reside in San Francisco offices. Of late, real estate attorneys are nervous about the viability of their positions. We have seen some layoffs and hiring is significantly down. This is a practice area where being senior may not hurt you as much, if you have the right experience and would like to come in at a lower level. A few firms are often looking in the 3-6 years of experience range.
The types of skills sought are leasing, financing (lending), purchase and sale, partnerships and joint ventures, construction contracts, zoning and land use among others
Tax positions open up sporadically. The market continues to be a bit slow in this area now. When there is an opportunity, the skills desired frequently include international tax, broad based federal transactional tax, partnership tax, corporate tax, LLC's, and tax aspects of M&A, among other areas.
Positions in estates and trust open up even more sporadically. To be competitive in the big firms, you need hard core experience in this area.
Nearly all candidates will be expected to hold an LL.M. from one of the top tax programs in the U.S.
In normal times San Francisco is a vibrant legal community. Compared to the East Coast, we have weathered the economic downturn more gracefully, but the last 3-4 months have been challenging. Attorneys in the job market have learned not to take rejection personally. Their strategy for a job search is quite fluid and their time frame is flexible.
The wise move is to have your submission materials prepared and ready to go when an opportunity arises. Your BCG recruiter can be a tremendous source of advice and information regarding market conditions. BCG stays on the cutting edge of new opportunities in the legal market and can help you position yourself to come out on top in a very competitive market.
State of the Market: Sacramento
By Erin L. Curran, Esq.
The Sacramento legal market is one of great variety. Top regional firms compete with local offices of large international firms and smaller, high-quality boutiques. The need for lateral attorneys remains steady. Firms are looking for attorneys in a variety of practice areas as well as for groups of senior attorneys in established practice groups.
Even now with the uncertainty of the economy, Sacramento firms continue to post openings and interview qualified candidates. Because many Sacramento firms have a large number of public entities for clients, there continues to be a demand for work, particularly in the areas of public law, environmental, and even, to some degree, real estate.
Salaries on the whole tend to be significantly lower than their Bay Area counterparts. Many attorneys seek this market in exchange for a potentially improved work/life balance and more favorable housing costs. The numbers of well-qualified attorneys who seek this compromise creates a competitive market in Sacramento, where top firms can demand sterling academic pedigrees.
Nevertheless, many firms in this market appreciate broad experience rather than a narrow practice focus. Practical experience with clients, hands-on skills, and an ability to get up to speed quickly will be highly valued.
Those practice areas with current openings include:
- land use,
- water law,
- environmental and natural resources,
- intellectual property (to include a need for patent agents),
- public law,
- health care,
- real estate,
- tax, and
- trusts and estates.
Sacramento is also a good city for those wishing to practice land use, environmental, and water law. Given that it is home to California's capital, there are many public sector clients in need of environmental representation.
Finally, because Sacramento competes with the Bay Area for talent, it is a strong market in which to send out anonymous inquiries for those well-credentialed candidates looking to make that transition to a work-life balance. Often firms will interview such candidates even where they have not listed any active openings.
State of the Market: Portland
Portland remains a very appealing choice for attorneys who are seeking to relocate to a region with the possibility of a change in lifestyle and pace. Unfortunately, the market for lateral associates remains relatively flat and very regionally-based. Thus, candidates seeking to make the move to Portland should start their job search as soon as possible and be prepared to be patient and persistent. Successful candidates will have significant ties to the area and be able to demonstrate a long-term commitment to Portland as firms are very hesitant to hire relocation candidates who lack strong reasons for moving to Portland. In addition, candidates who are already admitted to the Oregon Bar will have a definite advantage over the competition.
As reported last quarter, the strongest demand is for associates with two to five years of experience in the following practice areas: corporate, intellectual property, and litigation. There are also opportunities for attorneys whose practice areas include ERISA, employment and real estate.
There is a steady demand at both regional and international law firms for corporate associates with two to five years of experience in mergers and acquisitions, public finance, securities and general corporate matters.
There is still a strong demand for patent prosecutors who are registered with the USPTO and have strong technical backgrounds in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering or computer science. There is also a need for associates with strong backgrounds in organic/physical chemistry, biotechnology and applied physics. There are also openings for associates with at least two years of experience in intellectual property litigation, trademark, copyright and licensing matters.
Firms continue to seek junior to mid-level litigation associates with outstanding academic credentials and solid hand-on litigation experience. In particular, firms are seeking associates with experience in commercial, construction, business, products liability, personal and catastrophic injury, and labor and employment matters.
By Erin L. Curran, Esq.
Like Portland, Seattle continues to draw attorneys because of the lifestyle in the region, educational opportunities for spouses, and the area's natural beauty. In short, supply often outweighs demand. Many attorneys want what Seattle has to offer. Unfortunately, there is not enough to go around.
A successful search in Seattle depends on finding a perfect fit, having the right chemistry with the firm and the group, and being in the right place at the right time. It requires patience and focus. And, working with a good recruiter who can keep their finger on the market for you. The successful candidates are also those that start looking early. Having the Washington bar is also a demonstrated plus.
Nevertheless, firms continue a steady but low-volume approach to hiring. They are looking for the perfect candidates at the perfect moments. Demand for intellectual property, and patent work in particular, has continued at a steady rate. And, unlike California, there is an increased need for real estate attorneys. Whether the potential recession will have great impact on this market remains to be seen.
Those practice areas with current openings include: intellectual property (including both patent attorneys and patent agents), trademark/copyright, internet/e-commerce, real estate, corporate, ERISA/employee benefits, employment, environmental, energy, litigation, and tax. The practice areas most in demand are described in further detail below.
Intellectual property continues to steadily thrive in this region and attorneys with specialized skills are sought. Patent prosecutors with a variety of backgrounds are desired. Attorneys with experience in IP transactions are also needed. There is also a steady demand for patent litigators and patent agents.
Those candidates with degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, physics, biochemistry, and life sciences, as well as experience with either law firms or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, should certainly consider Seattle in their job search.
Employment and Labor:
The need for employment (and less commonly labor) attorneys remains steady. There are good opportunities but they are limited. Most firms seek attorneys in the 2-7 year range. Employers tend to want a more transactions/counseling background but many want a mix of transactional/litigation work. A few want a sole emphasis on employment litigation.
This is a practice area where you need to have strong ''hands-on'' experience. The big firms will want good schools and grades, but overall, having a good fit in terms of experience is the primary factor.
Class action experience is nearly always required for litigation practices. Experience with wage and hour is also a big plus. Jumping into this area from a strong litigation background in other areas is occasionally possible but these opportunities are rare.
Seattle's need for real estate attorneys, like California's, has noticeably cooled in the last six months. Whereas in May there were nearly a dozen opportunities for candidates with 2-6 years of experience with transactional commercial real estate matters, now there is less. Given the volatile markets, this trend may continue.
Environmental and Land Use:
Their remains a need for attorneys with a range of land use, environmental, natural resources and energy practice experience. The level of experience ranges from 2 years to the junior partner level. Seattle remains a dynamic area to practice environmental law yet given the competitive nature of this practice area, only the strongest candidates will be considered.
Unlike the East Coast, corporate associates in the West remain in demand and this is certainly true for Seattle. Experience with M&A, private equity, venture capital and general corporate transactions are needed to get an interview. Both international and regional firms have increased their needs in this area of late. There is also a growing demand for attorneys who are bilingual, particularly those who speak Mandarin or Korean.
State of the Market: New York
By Carey Bertolet
Fall of this year brings more transition in the legal market than we've seen in some time. The credit crunch has changed the landscape of law firm hiring, but the question remains, to what extent? The third quarter of 2007 brought with it some dramatic activity in the credit market, commonly attributed to the proliferation of sub-prime mortgages. With mortgage companies having written a larger spectrum of mortgages, the population of home buyers expanded--which in turn inflated real estate values. Because the sub-prime mortgages were often written with 'teaser' interest rates for the beginning of the loan, many homeowners face default or foreclosure once these teaser rates increase, and they are facing mortgage payments far out of line with what they can afford to pay. Recently, the credit market has stopped writing many sub-prime mortgages, and it is just generally becoming more difficult to borrow money. Many domestic regions are facing record numbers of foreclosure and declining real estate values.
How does this affect the law firm market? In the world of the large corporate oriented firm, the most directly hit are those firms with real estate finance practices; specifically those who handle real estate mortgage securitization work. One of the financial products in the real estate finance world is the bundling of residential mortgage loan and selling them on the market. Law firms may represent issuers, underwriters, or other players in the life cycle of the transaction. Since the credit crunch, however, the value of these products has plummeted, and the market for these products has dwindled.
Thus, there is at least some uncertainty in the real estate finance market. I don't believe that anyone can accurately predict how the economy will react long term to the credit crunch. On the one hand, there are those predicting that the feds will keep the interest rates low to encourage investment and stabilize the real estate market. Others predict that the increase in foreclosures is but the first domino in a series of market indicators on the way to a recession.
We are now knee deep in layoffs rumors, as well. While we haven't heard any convincing evidence of economically driven associate layoffs, there have been a handful of firms that have had staff layoffs or partner de-equitization. I can't say that I'm at all surprised by this, and I think that associates in particular need to understand that when salaries are significantly increased (as they were earlier this year), that the significantly greater expense in salaries will require some downward adjustment on spending or upward adjustment in revenue. Sure, that may mean more pressure to bill more hours. But it also means that law firm managers take a much closer look at productivity. The results aren't always pretty.
In any event, though, the combination of salaries going up and the recent credit crunch does cast a shadow over the lateral market in general. What long term effect will happen, the short term market is still quite vibrant, although there has been a shift in what practice areas are the most in demand.
The best news is for the litigators, a fairly dormant practice area that is starting to pick up some speed. Conventional wisdom dictates that litigators thrive in a wavering economy, and we've certainly seen an up-tick in the hiring of excellent litigation candidates. White collar and securities litigation specialties seem to be the most attractive right now.
As it concerns the quasi-litigation practices, we haven't seen too much change in demand in either direction. Interestingly, the bankruptcy market is still trying to figure out whether to hire aggressively or lay dormant. It seems that until there is more certainly with respect to whether the economic indicators are going to point up or down, many firms are not focusing on their bankruptcy staffing needs. Employment litigation needs are consistent, and antitrust litigation is also fairly static. (We have seen a slight increase in demand for antitrust lawyers who handle the regulatory aspects of M&A).
For New York, even a faltering market is still an active one of corporate and finance. Many of the corporate practices we work with are still asking for mergers and acquisitions and securities lawyers. There is a great gap at many of these firms for talented fourth and fifth years, which may create some interesting partnership opportunities for the right associate. Investment management and hedge fund practices still actively seek associates, especially at the mid-to-senior level. Among the finance practices, project finance seems to be one of the most interesting. For obvious (and previously stated) reasons, the real estate finance market has really leveled off. We continue to see a healthy need for derivatives and high yield debt and equity practices of every variety thrive.
One of the most active practice areas in terms of lateral hiring of late has been in the tax arena. Certainly, the corporate tax lawyers are necessary for law firms, whether they emphasize M&A, financial products, or hedge funds. International backgrounds are being very specially sought by corporate firms, and we've found that there are a great many opportunities for tax lawyers moving within or to the New York market. ERISA backgrounds continue to be highly marketable. Trusts & estates remains a stable hiring market.
The patent litigation area is not as active this Fall as it had been all year, but we anticipate a great deal of activity starting early next year. We are seeing a return to patent lawyers with strong and specific scientific or technical backgrounds. Intellectual property transactional associates who have licensing and outsourcing backgrounds are strongly in demand, and we anticipate that firms will seek out greater levels of specialization even within this field. There has been a slight increase in the demand for trademark lawyers.
Although time will tell for the hiring market as a whole, the economic conditions as we approach the end of 2007 have really only affected one discrete practice group substantially. There may be some additional chilling effect from the salary hikes and continued trouble in the credit market, but that is still conjecture in what remains an overall vibrant hiring platform.
By Carey Bertolet
More than the other regions in the Northeast, New Jersey continues to be dominated by corporate opportunities for associates. Although the corporate groups tend to be less specialized, there are still fairly sophisticated practices looking for associates. A corporate generalist with a broad corporate, mergers & acquisitions and securities background will likely do the best, although finance, private equity and venture capital groups continue to actively seek out new talent. Despite the market crunch, we have certain had our clients seeking corporate lawyers.
Although we usually do not see litigation and corporate markets active at the same time, that is exactly what is currently happening in the New Jersey market. We have very recently gotten urgent searches for litigators in the New Jersey market, both in the Princeton area and through Northern New Jersey. Although not as strong, we also continue to see demand for employment litigation and products liability litigation.
One of the areas in which the New Jersey market excels is the representation of life sciences clients and health care providers. Thus, a background and interest in health care (regulatory, transactional and litigation) are marketable in New Jersey. Moreover, intellectual property practices that service the life sciences area do very well in New Jersey, from patent prosecution on the pharmaceutical side to ANDA litigation to transactions on behalf of and involving life sciences clients.
We have not seen the demand for ERISA, but the other tax related practices have a steady demand, both corporate transactional tax as well as trusts & estates.
Some of the larger New Jersey firms have also responded to market pressures to increase salaries, and as such, offer some attractive opportunities for relocation to this stable market.
By Tricia McGrath, Esq., BCG Attorney Search
As we head into Q4, the market in Connecticut continues to be very slow.
Connecticut firms have work and have been keeping their associates moderately busy. In contrast to its neighbor, New York, Connecticut firms tend to focus predominately on company representation. They have not historically been a big player in the banking market – and that has kept many of its associates safe from the layoffs affecting NYC.
Historically, intellectual property has been the most sought after expertise in the Connecticut market. We expect that, when the economy stabilizes, Connecticut firms will continue to look for IP attorneys of all kinds - from patent prosecution to litigation to intellectual property transactional work. Your search for an IP position will be much smoother if you are admitted to the USPTO and have an undergraduate degree in engineering. A suggestion for an IP attorney considering a move to Connecticut: if you are not yet admitted to the USPTO, use this slow period to do so.
One significant development in the Connecticut market over the past year had been the growth in corporate jobs in southern Connecticut as hedge funds and private equity funds have entrenched themselves in the Greenwich and Stamford area. As hedge funds and private equity funds have struggled with the ability to secure capital, these practices have slowed down a bit. We expect, however, that the burgeoning corporate practices in southern Connecticut will be one of the areas that will rebound in 2009.
The legal market in Hartford continues to be very quiet. For the past three quarters, we haven't seen as much activity in that area as usual. It is unclear when the Hartford market will be back in the ''associate acquisition'' business.
By Stephen Seckler, Managing Director, Boston Office
Lateral hiring has slowed considerably at many of the major law firms in Boston and firms continue to be very selective in adding talent to their ranks. While Boston firms have not experienced the layoffs that have begun in New York, in the coming months, we expect to see more associates being asked to move on for performance reasons.
As of this writing, the big unknown is how the credit markets will react to the interventions that are taking place in the international banking system. If businesses are able to continue to borrow, then law firms will continue to have transactional work. In all likelihood, corporate law departments at most major firms will see less activity in the last quarter of 2008 than they did a year ago. Most corporate departments in Boston are already reporting that they were busier in 2007 than they have been in 2008.
While the whole economy is tied to the financial system, Boston does have some advantages in the current climate. Life science companies continue to keep many law firms busy and the strength of our hospitals and institutions of higher education also bode well for this region. There are many software and hardware companies in the region and Boston is also home to many venture capital companies which are less tied to the credit markets.
Beyond these basics, there is a continued demand for junior to mid-level corporate laterals with Investment Management experience. Candidates with private equity and M&A experience may still find opportunities if they have great credentials. Attorneys with fund formation experience will find some opportunities.
Real estate hiring has slowed substantially. While there is occasional demand for top real estate candidates, this is not a strong market for associates with real estate credentials.
Overall, lateral hiring continues to be good in IP (patent prosecution, particularly for EE candidates.)
Lateral hiring in litigation remains soft, though all signs point to an increase in business litigation in 2009. Litigation associates with stellar credentials are in the best position to move into the Boston market. For the time being, labor and employment also remains a weaker area of lateral hiring, despite the downturn.
Partners in search of a better platform are finding the marketplace to be very receptive. Corporate partners with over $750,000 in portable billings are in particular demand; but there are many opportunities for partners in other practice areas and some willingness to speak with partners with smaller practices (i.e. where there is good evidence of marketing potential.) This is particularly true at branch offices of national firms that are trying to grow or expand into the Boston market. We have been asked by a number of regional firms to identify partners with 400-600K in originations.
There has been some demand for experienced tax associates and tax associates with solid corporate transactional tax experience are in short supply. There has also been a demand for associates with ERISA experience.
While bankruptcy lawyers keep hoping for a field day in bankruptcy, it has not occurred yet and hiring remains weak. Similarly environmental practice remains weak in Boston.
By Tricia McGrath, Esq., BCG Attorney Search
The Philadelphia market is a unique legal market. The firms have resisted the push to over-expand and, as a result, associates in Philadelphia seem secure in their jobs. The firms are not as busy as they had been and hiring is quiet right now. But, overall, all is well in Philadelphia.
For those jobseekers out there, Philadelphia firms are always highly selective in their hiring. Note that Philadelphia firms are selective at all times – in both good and bad markets! These firms expect to see very good grades and strong connections to the Philadelphia area (for all you outsiders!)
Intellectual property tends to be a good market in Philadelphia. Although hiring is slow right now, we expect that this will be a practice that hires in Q1 and Q2. A background in life sciences or pharmaceuticals is particularly desirable in Philadelphia, with its proximity to the pharmaceutical companies in neighboring New Jersey.
Although slow right now, litigation is generally a good sell in Philadelphia. The popular areas of specialty tend to be insurance, general commercial and product liability.
For the past three quarters, hiring in corporate practices has gone from a crawl to an almost dead stop. Of course, this isn't surprising given the current economy.
Dan Binstock (Managing Director) and Lisa Pavia (Senior Recruiter) of BCG Attorney Search's Washington, D.C. office
Right now, our partner practice is much busier than our associate practice. Our partner candidates (with books of business) are in very high demand. If you're a partner in this category, you certainly realize this.
Now is also the time that firms reach out to government lawyers (from the outgoing administration) who may want to now return to private practice. We are noticing, however, that firms are "vetting" government partners a bit more in order to ascertain their business development potential. In the thriving economy, firms could much more easily justify hiring government lawyers. But in these times, firms are taking closer looks to really determine the likelihood that the partners will be able to use their government experience/contacts to develop business.
For partners, a slowdown in the economy can be the absolute best time to build a book of business. It is a time to develop and further hone relationships, build your brand/profile, and connect with new potential clients (who you may not otherwise have had the time to connect with).
If you are a partner with a book of business but aren't sure how to calculate it or how to develop a business plan, we have some excellent resources for you. Just call us at (202) 955-5585.
Despite what you may be reading in the press, there is still associate hiring in DC. Just not much. Firms feel that they have many choices from which to choose, and they are being very selective (if they decide to hire laterally). For firms that are busy in certain areas but slow in others, they are making it difficult for the busy groups to hire laterally. (The thinking being, "If you need help, we have Mr. X who is billing 30 hours a month and he needs work - you can train him, right?"). Often, hiring inexperienced associates from other practice areas to "plug the need" can be disastrous, but some firms are still trying to do this. Also, to make things worse, some firms have had "hiring freezes" until the end of the year. Ok, ok, we don't want to rub salt in wounds because everybody is well aware of the hiring contraction in the associate market (and trust us, we aren't happy about this either … our livelihood as recruiters depends on firm hiring). But I'd like to share a quick story to provide some perspective.
Yesterday, I was feeling particularly anxious about the economy and how long it would adversely affect the legal market. I have been reading all of the news on a daily basis. Like Pavlov's dog, when the Dow goes up (even 20 points), I get a glimmer of (irrational) hope that the "turnaround" has finally arrived. Only to see, the next day, the Dow drop 400 points. POW. Like a punch in the stomach. Some people may not be affected by this market fluctuation, but it sure has taken a toll on me. And I can understand how so many attorneys must be feeling right now - it seems each week another firm is threatening to dissolve, another firm has cut their summer associate hiring class, the frantic emails from career services offices encouraging students to accept offers, and the overall uncertainty. For lawyers who tend to appreciate control and certainty, these are trying times. The fear of downsizing/layoffs, even for superstars, is a constant drumbeat that wears on the psyche of even the most stoic associates.
So, back to my story. I decided that instead of just reading all of the news on random websites, I would talk to an expert. My father had just attended a seminar in Tysons Corner by a company called Bernstein Global Wealth Management (which is one of the largest asset management companies in the world), and he encouraged me to attend one of their seminars. Since the seminar was in Baltimore that evening (and I couldn't make it out in time given the rush hour traffic), I called one of the investors who was nice enough to meet with me (on short notice) to discuss his thoughts on the market. (I think he could sense the panic in my voice.)
After speaking for a few minutes, he showed me numerous charts highlighting historical research and trends. I was shown how dramatically the market usually recovers after a recession, and scores of other data providing much-needed perspective. Things are bad, but not nearly as bad as I had thought they were (from watching the news each day). A cloud was lifted. I immediately felt as if, over the past few months, I had been looking through a window from 1 millimeter away. Each little fleck (in this case, bad news on the economy) seemed like a giant obstacle and catastrophe. But after looking at all the historic data-right in front of me, and presented by an expert who knew far, far more then me-I gained valuable perspective. I stepped back, took a deep breath, and realized that there is a much bigger picture.
How is this relevant to the legal market? Knowledge and perspective regarding historical trends is critical. This will pass. It may feel like there is no end in sight, but there is. For example, during 2002-2004, corporate hiring market was extremely slow. Corporate attorneys from top firms and top law schools could not get recruiters to work with them because the market had no demand. However, when the clouds cleared and the corporate market picked up again in the second-half of 2004, there was a mad rush for corporate attorneys. From 2005 to 2007, there was a very, very strong need for mid-level corporate attorneys. Associates who previously could not get interviews were now getting multiple offers and signing bonuses.
Back to today. If I had a crystal ball and could predict when and to what extent things will turn around, I wouldn't be writing this (well, maybe I would - I do really like my job … on most days). But this depressed state will not be permanent. It's a major mistake to become caught up in the irrational believe that this state of hiring will continue indefinitely.
So what can you do? First off, be thankful that you're working in Washington, D.C. If there is any city that is poised to benefit (relatively, of course) from the state of affairs, it's DC. With the new administration, we are expecting a significant increase in regulation and enforcement. For example, within the past week, three firms have asked us to help them develop their SEC enforcement/white-collar litigation practices. Given the regulatory-focus of DC, along with the anticipated increase in regulation, we predict an uptick in regulatory-related matters (which is a large part of the DC practice).
Second, don't freak out about the news. There will continue to be bad news and if you expect it (and don't constantly hope for an immediate turn-around), you'll probably be much less stressed and more productive. In turn, you will likely perform better at work and have more job security. Partners are never too fond of the associates who are always first to be overly dramatic about potential layoffs. It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Third, if you have been asked to leave, don't lie about it. There are many reasons for this (which I have addressed in prior articles). In this market, many firms assume you are looking for a new job because you have been asked to leave. Likewise, if you are seeking a new position but haven't been asked to leave, be sure to make that clear (e.g., by noting that you are in good standing, etc.).
Lastly, a number of people have asked us about bankruptcy. To date, we haven't seen any increased demand, which is a bit perplexing. Common wisdom has always held that, during a slowdown, bankruptcy increases. We're just not seeing it … yet. The countercyclical point is also made about litigation. We are just not seeing a demand in this area and firms seem to be overleveraged with litigators. The areas that are in the most demand (again, relatively speaking) for associates are patent, FDA, health care, export control, energy, SEC enforcement, banking (in certain areas), and other areas that are regulatory-focused.
Lastly, if you really want to keep things in perspective, take a look at this following: http://www.strategiccoach.com/ideas/stsm_index.shtml. (This is focused on entrepreneurs, which many attorneys are, and shares some very good wisdom.)
State of the Market: Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Miami, South Florida, Orlando, and Tampa
By Jenny Van Veen, Managing Director, BCG Atlanta
Overall, it is slow. We are also seeing some patent/intellectual property associate positions, as well as tax and employee benefits. We hope to see litigation, labor and employment litigation, and bankruptcy pick up, but even so, all firms are being extremely selective and cautious about making hires.
ERISA/employee benefits is steady. We have a few firms looking in this practice area. You will have a couple of options in terms of firm size and culture.
As previously mentioned, intellectual property is steady as well. We have several patent prosecution positions for those with electrical engineering backgrounds. We are also seeing an increase in positions in intellectual property litigation for those associates who are admitted to practice before the USPTO.
Litigation and bankruptcy is picking up. There are more bankruptcy positions today than there have been in years. We expect this trend to continue.
Corporate is extremely slow. We are seeing a shift from many positions to only a few in the Atlanta market. If anything, firms want candidates with three to six years of experience who can hit the ground running.
Finance is dead. Due to the mortgage crisis and layoffs, we are seeing a real slowdown in this area.
Commercial real estate has slowed down a tremendous amount. Firms were looking for real estate associates in early 2008 but have stopped hiring in this area.
The Charlotte market has been hit very hard across the board by the economic meltdown. It has had a ripple effect throughout the entire city. Although there are a few needs in Charlotte, they are not in the traditional finance areas. Rather, we are looking for tax, employee benefits and litigation attorneys. Candidates must have outstanding credentials and solid big law firm experience - competition is fierce!
The Raleigh market has also slowed down some. Firms are always looking for strong biotech and intellectual property lawyers. However, the firms are exercising caution about hiring right now.
Real estate is very slow. The residential mortgage slowdown is having a negative effect on commercial real estate deals. Therefore, real estate in Florida is very slow right now.
Things are starting to pick up for litigation associates in South Florida. However, firms continue to focus on candidates who already are signed up to take the Florida bar exam or members of the Florida Bar. Most firms are looking for associates with at least three years of experience.
We are seeing a few needs for trusts and estates attorneys with at least three years of experience. We expect this trend to continue, especially with so many Baby Boomers moving to Florida. Our clients prefer attorneys with LL.M.s in tax or estate planning.
We have Labor and Employment, environmental and intellectual property needs. However, there simply aren't as many firms in the area as South Florida so, as usual, you won't find as many postings. Despite the major hit taken by the real estate market, we are seeing positions continue to surface for this area. Again, you must have passed the bar or extremely strong ties and a willingness to take the bar.
Litigation is starting to pick up in Central Florida. You still must have great experience and good credentials and be a member of the Florida bar.
State of the Market: Texas
By Suzanne Dupree Howe, Esq., Managing Director of BCG -Texas
It's been an interesting Fall. On the heels of Hurricane Ike (which hit Galveston and Houston last month), I now watch the Dow Jones Industrial Average continue to plummet. This is a period of serious change across the legal landscape. I don't think there's any question that every major legal market across the USA is going to feel some effect. Luckily, Texas is situated to weather the storm much better than most (and we've certainly seen our share of storms this year). The Houston firms rebounded from Hurricane Ike, and have quickly gotten back to business as usual. Unemployment in Texas remains low and the highly diverse corporate base in Texas provides greater insulation from massive economic swings. Furthermore, Texas has not suffered as much from the housing market as many other states.
In keeping with our strong state-wide economy, our Texas offices continue to receive continuous needs from firms in a broad spectrum of practice areas. However, the firms in Texas, taking a cue from their national counterparts, are noticeably more cautious in their hiring. We continue to see firms being highly selective about the candidates they interview and ultimately hire.
Transactional candidates are still in demand, but the firms are less likely to look outside of strict academic standards than they were a year ago and "red flags" are more closely scrutinized. Candidates with Mergers & Acquisitions, Securities, Tax, Transactional Energy, and Employee Benefits/ERISA experience will find the Texas market noticeably more receptive to their resumes than many other markets. We are also beginning to see a greater need for bankruptcy associates in Texas than in years past. Below is a breakdown of various practices areas as they relate to firms' needs in Texas.
Unlike in many major U.S. markets, Corporate attorneys continue to be sought in both Houston and Dallas. However, candidates who lack either M&A or Securities experience are having a much more difficult time securing offers recently. Junior candidates will also have a more difficult time in making a move, unless they have exceedingly strong credentials. We are seeing many firms who are only looking to add mid-level or senior-level associates.
Tax associates are one of our strongest needs in Texas currently, due to the strong economic climate the state continues to enjoy. Candidates with an LL.M from top programs such as NYU, Florida, and Georgetown are most valuable to the firms. The firms continue to seek transactional corporate and international tax candidates, as opposed to tax controversy and litigation candidates.
Attorneys with project finance experience are still being sought in Houston right now, however we haven't seen as many needs in this area as we did in 2007. Houston firms are willing to look at all levels of candidates with project finance experience, including "of counsel." But as always, a book of business makes a candidate more attractive.
Many Houston firms continue to need candidates with upstream and downstream oil and gas experience. Candidates with experience in acquisitions and divestitures of energy assets will find a solid market here. Energy litigation, on the other hand, is much less in demand.
Employee Benefits and ERISA
Candidates with heavy tax-based Employee Benefits and ERISA experience are very much in demand in both Dallas and Houston. While firms do like to see an LL.M in taxation, it is by no means a requirement.
After several years of very few bankruptcy needs, we are expecting this area to increase dramatically in 2008. We are already starting to see firms willing to look at strong candidates with this background.
While we are one of very few markets still seeing occasional real estate needs, this practice area has tapered off a great deal in the latter half of 2008. Mid-level candidates with superb credentials can still garner interviews.
Litigation has been slow for over four years in Texas. We regularly have positions in commercial litigation and appellate practice, but candidates must have terrific academic credentials, strong judicial clerkship experience, and large firm experience in order to garner interviews. We expect this practice area need to increase dramatically in 2009.
In the last few years, many plaintiffs chose to file their cases in the Eastern District of Texas, but the docket, while still appealing, has slowed. IP litigation associates are still highly sought, but without a technical background, these positions are difficult to come by. The firms consistently request candidates with Electrical Engineering degrees, but we have had requests for Computer Science, Physics, Biotech, Chemical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, as well. A Masters in these areas will definitely enhance a candidate's chances.
Patent prosecution needs have slowed somewhat in Texas. While the firms still are actively seeking strong candidates with technical backgrounds, the needs are not as strong as they once were. Many firms are indicating to us that new higher billing rates are changing the landscape of firms doing prosecution practice, because technology clients are usually unwilling to pay the higher rates for their prosecution work. Particularly attractive to firms are those attorneys with a background in Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Physics or Computer Science.
As always, partners with a portable book of business are sought at many firms in the major metropolitan markets in Texas. BCG is a leader in partner placements nationwide, and we can make that transition very smooth for you. If you are interested in confidentially discussing in any of these opportunities, please contact us at 713-270-1199.
There is no doubt: the job market in Arizona (like in many other regions) has slowed. However, there is a silver lining that definitely applies to this market specifically—the supply of candidates does not appear to be a voluminous as it is in other, larger markets. Still, firms in Phoenix remain committed to hiring only exceptional, well-credentialed attorneys who are coming from sophisticated law firms. Thus, for well-qualified attorneys who are looking to make a lateral move, this may definitely be a market to consider.
This quarter, patent prosecution remains the most active practice area within intellectual property. The desired scientific backgrounds are those in the engineering arena, including electrical engineering, chemical engineering, and mechanical engineering.
As always, advanced degrees are highly valued. In addition, many positions are prosecution focused but offer the opportunity to provide litigation support as well. Admission to practice before the USPTO is also valued. On a positive note, there tends to be an increasing flexibility with respect to Arizona state bar membership. In other words, if a candidate has strong credentials and admission to the USPTO, firms are likely to proceed with the candidate so long as the candidate is willing to sit for the next offering of the Arizona State Bar.
This is one practice area in which experienced attorneys are in great demand. Specifically, an attorney who is in his or her fifth or sixth year and has a background in mergers and acquisitions, securities, and general corporate transactions will have wonderful opportunities in the Arizona market. For transactional attorneys with strong backgrounds from nationally recognized law firms, there is flexibility with respect to bar admission. Of special note: demand for corporate attorneys has remained steady despite the financial crisis and other economic woes. Perhaps it is because Arizona firms service a different client base than firms in New York? Whatever the reasons, we may even go so far as to say firms are struggling to fill these positions. Thus, this may be an attractive market for qualified corporate associates.
The demand for litigation attorneys remains steady this quarter. Having said this, so does the demand for top-tier academic and professional qualifications. For litigation candidates it is essential to either already be a member of the Arizona bar or, at the very least, take the exam before approaching firms.
It used to be that exceptions would always be made for top-tier candidates, but such exceptions are quickly becoming rare. Similarly, the quality of one's experience is tremendously important. Candidates should be prepared to submit a stellar writing sample. In addition, candidates should take care to highlight substantive experience (i.e., hearings, depositions, etc.) on their resumes because the quality of one's experience is hugely important in this market.
There are several areas in which we have seen openings start to pick up. For example, in the area of labor and employment, firms seek experienced candidates who offer strong litigation experience and counseling experience. The opportunities within the area of tax call for broad backgrounds that include experience with issues in corporate and partnership tax. As always, an LL.M. in Tax from a highly ranked LL.M. program is a definite plus.
Overall, the Arizona market is definitely slowing but it also appears to be the case that law firms are not seeing the highly qualified candidates they desire. Thus, for attorneys who possess strong academic and professional qualifications, it may be a prime time to consider making a lateral move.
The lateral market typically slows down in the fall due to the traditional focus on law school recruiting at this time of year. In addition, the uncertainty related to the economic crisis makes this market for lateral candidates a very tough one. However, there is still a healthy need throughout Las Vegas in several practice areas, including bankruptcy, litigation, intellectual property (patent prosecution, trademark and copyright) and labor and employment. There are also opportunities for attorneys specializing in corporate, real estate, and tax. However, please note that the competition is stronger than ever before, giving a definite advantage to candidates who are already admitted to the Nevada bar.
In addition, firms continue to focus on overall growth and seek partner candidates with self-sustaining books of business to assist them in that regard.
As can be expected in a down economy, the need for bankruptcy associates is on the rise. Specifically, firms are seeking experienced bankruptcy attorneys with at least four years of experience in sophisticated bankruptcy matters, including creditor and debtor representation. Nevada bar membership is preferred but not required for these positions.
As reported last quarter, there is still a steady need for litigation associates. In particular, mid-level litigators who have a strong background in construction defect, products liability, toxic tort, or general and complex commercial litigation are in demand. Successful candidates will have significant substantive experience in sophisticated litigation cases. As can be expected in a seller's market, membership in the Nevada Bar is generally required. However, a few firms will make exceptions for those truly exceptional attorneys.
Firms still have a need for patent attorneys with strong experience in patent prosecution and/or litigation matters. Attorneys with technical degrees and solid experience in patent prosecution or patent litigation may find a receptive market. The most highly coveted degrees here are in electrical engineering and computer science. Admission to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office is also a definite plus.
In addition, there are a few top-notch firms with openings for mid-level associates with at least two years of solid experience in international and domestic trademark and copyright matters, including TTAB proceedings, counseling, enforcement and domain-name matters.
Labor & Employment
As is typically the case in the fall, there is a significant increase in the need for mid-level labor and employment attorneys with top-notch experience in counseling and litigation matters. Nevada bar membership is preferred, but not required. In addition, some firms are flexible and will consider litigation associates with outstanding academic credentials and experience who would like to transition their practice to labor and employment.
By Jamie Bailey, Managing Director, BCG Chicago
In sharp contrast to our report last quarter, we have seen a dramatic downward shift in lateral hiring by firms in Chicago and across the Midwest region. This is primarily due to the lack of liquidity in the credit markets, the failure of a number of investment banks and the economy essentially being frozen by this crisis. Despite the market turmoil, we still see some opportunities in particular practice areas for attorneys with specific expertise at firms in Chicago. We are definitely seeing a surge in requests from law firms for partners with portable business.
Partners with Portable Business
We are interested in speaking with partners with significant portable business in any of the following areas: corporate transactions, bankruptcy, employee benefits and executive compensation, real estate finance, litigation, private equity, labor and employment, immigration, healthcare, patent prosecution, intellectual property litigation, trademark litigation, and tax. Firms are generally looking for a minimum of $1-2 million in portable business, but some smaller and mid-sized firms will consider books starting at $500,000.
General Corporate; Banking and Finance; Mergers and Acquisitions; Securities; Fund Formation; Structured Finance; Securitization; Derivative and Swap transactions
We are still receiving requests from a few top corporate firms in Chicago for transactional associates with anywhere from 3-6 years of experience in general corporate, banking and finance, secured lending, fund formation, private equity, securities, and mergers and acquisitions. We also have a few openings for attorneys with experience working with structured finance, asset securitization and derivative and swap transactions.
Associates with 2-5 years of experience in health care transactional, regulatory and compliance matters should get in touch with us regarding opportunities in Chicago.
ERISA/Employee Benefits — Executive Compensation; Title I and Section 409 Experience
ERISA/Employee Benefits continues to be an area in which some firms are seeking associates and partners. Attorneys with 2-5 years of experience Title I, investment structure and compliance and ERISA fiduciary compliance should contact us. Likewise, partners with a background in executive compensation and Title I will find opportunities in Chicago. We are also seeking ERISA associates with Section 409 experience.
Tax - Transactional; Corporate/Partnership; International; Private Equity; Fund Formation
We have a few opportunities for talented tax associates in Chicago. We are seeking associates with 2-5 years of experience in general tax, federal income tax, partnership structures, private equity fund transactions and international tax issues.
Trusts & Estates
We have openings for trusts and estates associates with 3-6 years of experience in estate planning matters.
Intellectual Property - Patent Prosecution; Litigation
Firms in Chicago continue to request patent prosecutors. Associates with anywhere from 2-7 years in patent prosecution matters and a background in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, computer engineering and chemical engineering should contact our Chicago office. We also have opportunities for attorneys with advanced degrees in biochemistry, molecular biology, virology, immunology, pharmacology or organic chemistry. USPTO admission is definitely preferred and in many cases required. General practice firms and IP boutiques are also seeking patent litigators with 1-5 years of litigation experience. Some of these IP litigation positions also require a technical background in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering or computer science.
Litigation continues to be an area in which we are not seeing high demand and have very few openings. However, the openings we do have are at the junior to mid-level. Some very prestigious boutiques are seeking junior associates with 1-3 years of experience. Excellent academics are required and admission to the Illinois Bar is generally preferred.
There has been no increased need for bankruptcy attorneys in Chicago, except for partners with portable business. This is arguably very unusual in a down market, but as stated last quarter we have yet to see the upswing we have expected to see.
Partners with Portable Business
Wisconsin firms are actively seeking partners with portable business in a variety of areas, including ERISA, trusts and estates, healthcare, employment relations, patent litigation, and real estate land and resources.
Milwaukee and Madison
General Corporate; Corporate Finance; Health Care; Labor and Employment; Intellectual Property - Patent Prosecution; Tax
Lateral activity has also slowed in Wisconsin, but we do have openings for associates with 2-6 years of experience in the following practice areas: corporate transactional, corporate finance, health care (transactional and compliance), patent prosecution (with particular need for electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and chemical engineering, biotech, chemistry, organic chemistry), and tax.
Partners with Portable Business
We are interested in speaking with partners practicing in Michigan who are seeking opportunities in Detroit or the surrounding legal markets, including Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids. In particular, we would like to speak with partners with a minimum of $300,000 in portable business in corporate transactional, private equity, securities and banking, patent or labor and employment matters. We would also be interested in speaking with business transactional partners with portable clients.
Detroit, Birmingham, and Bloomfield Hills
Patent Prosecution; Corporate; Litigation; Trusts and Estates
As we reported last quarter, the negative effects of the declining auto industry and current economic conditions nationwide are continuing to affect Detroit. We are seeing some need, but overall lateral activity has continued to decline. We do have needs for strong patent prosecutors with 2-10 years of experience and electrical or computer backgrounds. Additionally, we also have a few openings in corporate, litigation and trusts and estates for associates with 2-4 years of experience.
Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Troy, and Kalamazoo
Health Care; Patent Prosecution
Firms with offices outside of Detroit are seeking attorneys with 2-5 years of experience in patent prosecution. We would also be interested in speaking with associates with 2-5 years of experience in health care transactional and regulatory matters.
State of the Market: Minnesota, Indiana, and Ohio
Partners with Portable Business
We are interested in speaking with partners with significant portable business in any of the following areas: patent prosecution, intellectual property litigation, copyright/ trademark, corporate, bankruptcy, employee benefits/ERISA, litigation, private equity, labor and employment, immigration, healthcare, and tax. Ideally, candidates would have in excess of $1 million in portables, but many firms will consider books smaller than that.
Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution and Litigation and Trademark
Minneapolis has a solid market for intellectual property associates, both on the transactional and litigation sides. Technical backgrounds in electrical and mechanical engineering, computer science, and biotech are currently in the highest demand, and most positions are seeking candidates in the 2 to 6 year range.
A few of the top law firms in Minneapolis are seeking bankruptcy associates in the two to four year range. While we have not seen a big increase in demand for bankruptcy associates, we are cautiously optimistic that such an increase will occur in the near future.
Corporate: Mergers and Acquisitions, Securities, Finance, Others
There are a couple of active openings for corporate transactional associates in Minnesota. Most firms are looking at the associate level for attorneys with 2 to 6 years of experience in general corporate law, M&A, securities, international transactions, joint ventures, private equity, investment management, banking and/or commercial finance. Firms are also specifically looking for corporate partners with portable business. Attorneys with strong corporate backgrounds should contact our Chicago office to discuss these great opportunities.
Litigation: General, Energy Litigation and IP Litigation
While the demand for general litigation associates has not increased substantially in the last few months as we predicted, there are reasons to believe that firms will be doing more and more litigation in the coming months, which will likely necessitate the hiring of litigation associates. For those firms that are actually looking for litigators at this time, candidates with very strong academics and legal experience should contact our Chicago office.
Tax and Employee Benefits
A number of Minnesota law firms are seeking tax candidates, especially those at the more senior level who can service the current needs of the firm. While portable business is always attractive to a firm, many of these positions do not require any such portables. Additionally, we have a number of employee benefits/ERISA positions available for junior to mid-level associates who have experience handling executive compensation, fiduciary, investment and service-provider issues, and non-qualified deferred compensation issues.
Indianapolis firms are continuing to recruit associates in the areas of intellectual property, employee benefits/ERISA, litigation, healthcare and corporate. With respect to intellectual property, technical backgrounds in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and biotech are highly sought. On the employee benefits side, firms are seeking attorneys at both the junior and senior levels, especially those with ESOP experience. The senior positions do not necessarily require portable business, but such business is always preferred. Indianapolis also has a few corporate positions available for associates with 2 to 6 years of experience in corporate finance, securities, private equity and/or M&A.
Cleveland and Cincinnati
Partners with Portable Business
In both Cleveland and Cincinnati, some of the top-ranked law firms are looking to expand some of their key practice groups by bringing on highly-qualified partners with business. Areas in which these firms are looking to grow include corporate, real estate, labor and employment, intellectual property, trusts and estates, tax, ERISA/employee benefits, litigation and health care. Interested partners with portable business should contact BCG Attorney Search's Chicago office for more information on these opportunities.
Corporate: Securities, Mergers and Acquisitions, Other
Cincinnati and Cleveland continue to provide significant opportunities in the area of corporate law. Many firms are seeking associates in the 1 to 5 year range with experience in one or more of the following: general corporate, M&A, securities, private equity and capital markets. Candidates with experience in one or more of these areas should contact our Chicago office to discuss these opportunities.
Labor and Employment; Litigation
A few opportunities for mid-level litigators exist in Cleveland and Cincinnati. Most such firms are seeking associates in the 3 to 5 year range with experience general business litigation and labor and employment litigators, especially those with experience in OSHA proceedings.
Demand remains steady for intellectual property associates, although the demand is greater for patent prosecutors rather than litigators. Firms generally require a technical background in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, biochemistry, organic chemistry or chemical engineering. In addition to the prosecution positions available, there are a few intellectual property litigation positions as well. Most firms with such positions seek associates with significant experience in the 4 to 6 year range. Interested candidates should contact our Chicago office for more details.
Real Estate and Tax
With the decline in the economy, we have seen a decline in the demand for real estate attorneys, but the demand for tax attorneys remains steady. Tax associates with 1 to 3 years of experience are in demand, as are more senior attorneys with 6+ years of solid tax experience.
Dayton, Columbus, and Toledo
Like the other Ohio cities, we continue to see opportunities for corporate associates in Dayton, Columbus and Toledo. Firms generally seek associates in the 2 to 5 year range with experience in mergers and acquisitions, securities, private equity, joint ventures and general corporate. Additionally, associates with experience in health care law are in demand, both at the mid-level (3 to 5 years) and senior level (7 to 15 years). Other areas in which Dayton, Columbus and/or Toledo firms need associates includes patent litigation (technical background required) and bankruptcy.
State of the Market: Colorado
By Jamie Bailey, Managing Director, BCG Chicago
Partners with Portable Business
Denver firms are actively seeking partners with portable business in a variety of areas, including real estate (limited to resort development; time shares, fractionals, vacation/residence clubs), general commercial litigation, patent litigation, patent prosecution, tax (corporate, partnership and transactional), environmental, oil and gas, and labor and employment.
General Corporate; M&A; Securities; Joint Venture; Finance and Lending; Project Finance (energy and renewable energy)
We have heavy demand in Denver for attorneys with anywhere from 2-8 years of experience in general corporate, M&A, securities, private equity experience and joint venture transactions. We would also be interested in speaking with associates with 3-6 years of project development experience, including energy and renewable energy projects.
Intellectual Property - Patent Prosecution; Litigation
Denver firms continue to seek intellectual property attorneys with 2-6 years of patent prosecution experience. Particularly attractive to these firms are undergraduate degrees in the following areas: electrical engineering, physics, mechanical engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, and computer science. USPTO admittance is required for most of these positions.
We would also like to speak with intellectual property litigators with 2-6 years of experience and electrical engineering backgrounds. Healthcare
We have a few health care openings in very prestigious health care practices requiring between 3-8 years of experience in health care regulatory matters.
State of the Market: Utah
Partners with Portable Business
Like other regions, we are interested in speaking with partners with significant portable business, especially if currently practicing in Utah or with strong ties to the area.
Litigation, Bankruptcy, Corporate and Intellectual Property
Unlike other regions, the demand for litigation and bankruptcy associates has grown in Utah, especially for junior to mid-level attorneys. We have a number of new bankruptcy and general litigation positions available for associates with 1 to 4 years of experience. Other areas in which there is some demand for associates include intellectual property and immigration law. Technical backgrounds are strongly encouraged in the area of IP law. We are not seeing a huge demand for corporate associates, but those with excellent academics and experience, as well as ties to Utah, should contact our Chicago office.
State of the Market Report: EUROPE and NORTH AMERICA
By Danice Kowalczyk, Esq.
Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search (NYC and International Markets)
It is clear that the financial troubles we are facing in New York City (and nationally) have bled across the Atlantic into Europe. As such, they have naturally affected associate hiring by Europe's top firms. As recently as four months ago, hiring remained slow but steady; however, such is no longer the case. A large number of firms are either currently freezing hiring or taking a very conservative and careful approach to hiring additional associates. Moreover, for those firms that are hiring, we are finding that firms are taking their time vetting through resumes, scheduling interviews, and making offers. Instead of the typical time frame of one to four months (from submission to offer), we are finding that three to eight months is more of the norm. Thus, while associate hiring absolutely continues in Europe, it has been colored by a much more cautious approach. Also, remember that this is the final quarter of a rough year financially for many firms; thus, we may see firms slowing up on hiring even more so as not to water down the bonus pot by hiring new associates in the last quarter of the year.
Keep in mind, however, that the above pertains to associates and not partners with business. Partners with portable books remain largely in demand in Europe. In fact, they may be even more in demand than ever as firms look to build up their financial foundations and further their diversification goals by acquiring partner candidates with books in key areas such as litigation, bankruptcy, and restructuring (the typical practice favorites following a recession).
In terms of associate hiring, UK-based firms have been more active than U.S.-based firms this year. Having said this, U.S. law firms remain publicly committed to the notion that they will continue to expand their London offices – even though most are predicting that economic conditions won't improve until 2010. This will happen via individual hires, of course, and a number of U.S. firms have indicated that they are not against merging with UK firms as a way of hitting their growth goals for 2009 and 2010.
Two key things to focus on for this quarter are (i) what practice areas are likely to be the most in demand as we enter the final quarter of 2008? and (ii) what kind of associates seem to be getting offers? Experts predict that the top practices for the fall quarter are: dispute resolution/litigation, corporate and finance; however, I would include restructuring and bankruptcy under the corporate/finance umbrella. To this end, those associates getting offers are likely going to be those who are willing to work across disciplines. In order to combat the tight squeeze on the London market, many firms are espousing their belief in non-compartmentalized offices, meaning training their lawyers to do a broad range of things across a spectrum of practice areas. Thus, a candidate exploring the UK market right now would do well to remain as flexible as possible when it comes to the work they will be doing. A rigid vision of compartmentalization or specialization may not be to your advantage.
The bottom line in London is this: economic conditions may have changed the landscape a bit, but firms' objectives for their London offices remain static. While China and the Middle East offer exciting, new and developing markets, U.S. firms will always need a strong presence in London and, as such, hiring will remain cautious – yet consistent.
As long as you have a French legal degree and speak the language, Paris remains cautiously open for hiring. The most popular practice areas have been banking; tax; corporate (focusing on experience with takeovers, privatization, joint ventures and restructuring), arbitration and litigation.
As always, Frankfurt leads the way in terms of opportunities for experienced associates with German language skills (legalese – not just conversational). Recently, the hot areas have been litigation/arbitration, banking, and capital markets although we are also seeing a number of patent-focused opportunities coming to the forefront. In addition to language skills and expertise, however, a large number of firms have been asking for candidates with two German State exams under their belt. Thus, it is not enough to have studied abroad in Düsseldorf during college. Firms are looking for real German enthusiasts or German lawyers in the U.S. looking to return home.
Banking, finance, and general corporate practitioners are being sought. Typically, U.S., UK, and Russian-qualified lawyers will be considered as well as other common law jurisdictions.
Canadian firms are getting more and more calls from candidates practicing in the U.S. but wishing to return home. Due to the unique structure of Canada's financial system and its strong resource-based economy, it has weathered the storm pretty well and can/will absorb candidates – particularly those with corporate backgrounds from top U.S. firms. Again, there has been less work in M&A, but advisory lawyers – looking at clients' financial assets and helping them to restructure themselves to reduce risk – remain a critical need.
State of the Market: Asia
By Danice Kowalczyk, Esq.
Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search (New York and International Markets)
As we enter the fall 2008 season, we are definitely seeing a slow down when it comes to associate hiring in Asia. As we mentioned in our ''State of the Market Report'' for Europe, however, such slowdown has not affected partner hiring, which remains constant for those with portable books. Moreover, such slow down does not mean a hiring freeze; it simply means that firms are being more cautious and even more selective than ever before.
Per usual, in order to obtain a position in Asia, (i) you must have experience from a U.S. Wall Street or Magic Circle firm; (ii) you must possess stellar academics from a recognizable U.S. or Asia institution with accompanying transcripts proving your standing (note: candidates possessing U.S. LLMs are in hot demand); (iii) you must be fluent in English, and you must (or, ideally, should) be native and/or fluent in Mandarin (with Cantonese, Japanese and Korean speakers also considered depending on the position and firm); and (iv) depending on the firm, you must be admitted in at least one jurisdiction in the U.S. or one common law jurisdiction (such as Australia or New Zealand) – with folks who are also PRC admitted doing exceptionally well. Prior work experience in the Asia region or significant work experience in the U.S. on cross-border matters involving Asia is also a plus. Moreover, if your current firm has an office in Asia — in the same region where you are submitting your application — make sure you have a VERY good reason for not requesting an intra-firm transfer within your current firm. Time and time again this year, we have seen firms reject otherwise stellar candidates because their reason for not seeking an intra-firm transfer within their current firm seemed ''suspect'' and/or their reason for coming to Asia seemed insincere. Before you venture into the Asia waters and certainly before you meet with a firm for an interview, be certain about your reasons for wishing to practice in Asia and your willingness to remain long term.
As for the hot practice areas, we are seeing a resurgence of activity in energy, IP, litigation, antitrust, and real estate. Corporate (banking and finance as well as regulatory work), of course, remains an anchor practice area for Asia, and corporate practitioners tend to get placed faster than any other practice expert. Moreover, while Hong Kong and Beijing have always acted as the lead cities in terms of drawing candidates, Shanghai and Singapore are gaining ground. A large number of firms are handling their India work (project finance, energy, and M&A) from their Singapore offices and focusing on growth accordingly. Others are taking the time in this down market to build up their Shanghai practice so as to better balance their Hong Kong platform. Thus, do not ignore these cities in terms of being regions where one might gain exposure to top-level deals.
I have read a good number of articles over the last two months, and spoken to a fair number of candidates practicing in Asia, so as to keep my finger on the pulse of that region. I have definitely seen conflicting opinions over whether Asia is ''active'' or in a hiring ''slump.'' In response to these arguments, I would safely say that it depends on the firm. A number of our client firms are looking at the global economic downturn as the perfect opportunity to focus on growth and the acquisition of partners and associates to support the influx of new, albeit different, work expected in 2009 and 2010. Other client firms are taking a ''hold the course'' and ''wait and see'' point of view. In response to these differing points of view, all you can be is observant as there is no ruling response. Similar to the stock market, some people are cashing in their stocks; others, like Warren Buffet, are buying more. For those firms that are looking at the downturn in the financial markets as a forest of opportunity, hiring in Asia continues – albeit selectively (just like picking stocks).