State of the Market: Orange County by Sabrina Eisenbrei, Esq., Recruiter, BCG Attorney Search
While 2010 has not picked up as much as anyone would like there is steady hiring in Orange County. The market is heavily litigation-focused and Labor and Employment continue to blow all other areas out of the water in terms of hiring (this is true across CA). Litigators with real trial experience continue to be in demand and we expect the upward trend in hiring to continue. Patent prosecution is also making its comeback and hopefully intellectual property litigation will follow suit.
Healthy Practice Areas:
Labor & Employment
Strong employment law candidates will do well in Orange County market. Most firms are seeking candidates who are licensed in California, and have both class action and single plaintiff experience. Junior and mid-level candidates will garner the most interviews in this area of law. For mid-level associate candidates, firms are seeking candidates with steady work histories (meaning the candidate has not yet moved firms in his/her career).
Employment law candidates should have focused labor and employment experience at either a large firm or a reputable employment law firm. This is a recession-proof practice area for the most part.
Litigation remains a steady practice area in Orange County. Trial and deposition experience are valued, as firms want to hire self-sufficient candidates that can handle cases on their own. Junior to mid-level associates will do the best in this market. Senior associates need to have portable business or significant trial experience to be marketable. Candidates should have impeccable credentials (e.g. large firm experience, minimal job movement, top law school graduate).
2010 has seen a continued demand for patent prosecutors and agents. Presently, our firm clients are seeking patent attorneys at all levels, although most seek an attorney with at least 2 years of prior firm experience. In Orange County, the ''hot'' scientific backgrounds remain electrical engineering, computer science, and physics. The life sciences degrees (biology and chemistry) remain much harder to market. Candidates should have USPTO membership, and ideally California Bar membership. Abundant prosecution experience will be very marketable, along with prior engineering experience.
Growing Practice Areas:
2010 is seeing a small need for environmental and energy attorneys. Stellar mid-level candidates with excellent law firm experience, minimal job movement, and degrees from well-respected law schools (or who did very well at a local school) should get interviews. Experience in transactional energy deals or the Clean Air and Water Act, CEQA, land use, etc must be demonstrated.
Slow Practice Areas:
Transactional areas of law like corporate, real estate, tax, executive compensation/ERISA, and health care have seen virtually no activity. Trademark and trusts and estates are very slow as well. That being said, candidates who have outstanding academic and professional credentials, 3-5 years of experience in their field, and membership to the California Bar will definitely get interviews. We anticipate the market for transactional practices to pick up a little in the first two quarters of 2010.
In 2009, Bankruptcy had intermittent spikes of ''hotness.'' In 2010 that practice has slowed significantly. Firms are generally seeking those candidates with solid bankruptcy experience and a portable book. Those without a book must have stellar credentials from a top NYC firm. Firms place an emphasis on mid to senior level associates. Senior associates with at least $250,000 in portable business will receive a lot of attention.
State of the Market: San Diego by Sabrina Eisenbrei, Esq., Recruiter, BCG Attorney Search
2010 has been a tough year for San Diego Firms. To be competitive in the San Diego market you must have top credentials as well as strong ties to the area. The California Bar is a must, as is longevity at your current firm (2+ years). Be ready to explain your reasons for leaving your current firm, as well as any other moves on your resume.
Healthy Practice Areas:
Labor & Employment
Well-credentialed mid- and senior- level employment law candidates will do very well in the current San Diego market. In 2010, we are already seeing an immediate need for attorneys with trial and deposition experience who can take a case and run with it. Single plaintiff and class action experience is preferred.
In 2009, major firms regretted pushing out this lower-rate work, because despite being of lower rate, it is steady enough to yield a constant profit. In 2010, demand for people with experience in this sector has increased. While Senior-level attorneys are those most highly recruited, at this time within tax law practice, there is room for mid-levels. Candidates who have experience in areas like employee benefits or charitable organizations will be attractive to potential employers and have better chances. In order to be competitive in San Diego, attorneys should be licensed in California, and they should also have both state and federal tax law experience.
Steady Practice Areas:
The openings for patent prosecutors have increased but the competition for those spots is high. San Diego. Firms continue to seek junior and mid-level associates with at least one year of experience. There is an increase in the need for candidates with a biology background. Candidates need to have top credentials though law school grades can be less important, if the candidates B.S. grades/institution are impressive.
Litigation remains a steady practice area in San Diego. Firms are generally seeking mid-level and senior-level attorneys who can handle their own cases, and have ample deposition and trial experience. General litigation candidates without the California Bar should really wait until they are licensed in the state, or have at least taken the bar to successfully apply for openings in San Diego.
Slow Practice Areas:
Surprisingly, intellectual property litigation remains slow in 2010. We do not believe this will continue throughout the year, so look for a pickup in the final quarter. There are other slow practice areas, where we are not currently seeing a lot of hiring activity. These include real estate, corporate, trusts and estates, health care, bankruptcy, and trademark. Anyone in these practice areas should seriously consider looking into the Orange County and Los Angeles markets.
State of the Market: Los Angeles by Sabrina Eisenbrei, Esq., Recruiter, BCG Attorney Search
In 2010, the Los Angeles market has seen a slow and spotty turnaround. However as the year goes on, hiring is picking up considerably and an east coast “big firm” corporate associate will find a very responsive market in Los Angeles. Additionally, California Bar enrolled Labor and Employment attorneys have continued to be in high demand throughout 2009, and even more so in 2010. While general litigation has picked up, hiring is still very slow in this area. Still, as associates continue to report being swamped, hiring is bound to follow. To be competitive in the Los Angeles market you must have top credentials as well as strong ties to the area. The California Bar is a must, as the period of service at your current firm (2+ years). Be ready to explain your reasons for leaving your current firm, as well as any other moves on your resume.
Healthy Practice Areas:
Labor & Employment
Mid - and senior - level employment law candidates with good credentials will do well in the current Los Angeles market. Historically, firms have sought candidates who are already members of the California Bar and have experience with California labor and employment codes. This practice area is recession-proof for the most part. Any general litigator who has some experience in this area should seriously consider applying for positions in this practice area. If you are a litigator who has spent at least 30% of your time on labor and employment matters, it would be wise to market yourself as an employment attorney who is flexible on class year. For instance, if you are a 5th year litigation associate, then tell firms you will come in at a lower level (leave it up to the firm to decide where they should place you) if you can become a full-time employment attorney.
There appears to be a need for experienced litigators with at least 3 years of experience, and preferably more. We are seeing more openings that require solid hands-on experience, including trial and deposition work. Firms are not looking forward to train laterals. They want someone who can hit the ground running and help train the more junior associates.
Traditionally Los Angeles is a litigation market and this practice area remains steady, as opposed to hot, because though there is an increase in hiring, the number of vacancies is few and the open positions are highly competitive. New York firms with LA offices are leading the hiring in this area, and experience at a big firm (preferably on the east coast) is a must. Banking, Private equity, and strong traditional M&A work are the most marketable practices. You have to have experience on big deals and cannot look to re-tool small firm corporate experience. That said, East Coast transplants with the right credentials and experience in the mid to early senior associate range will get a few interviews.
A couple of Los Angeles firms are seeking experienced trusts and estate associates who have at least 4 years of experience. This practice area is unusual in that many firms will hire laterally only if an attorney has a lot of experience (at least 5 years).
2010 has seen a slowdown in Bankruptcy work and for the little work that was available, we believe most firms transitioned their corporate and real estate attorneys into their bankruptcy practices. Bankruptcy associates with an impeccable pedigree (Top 50 law school and/or currently work at a boutique or large firm) in most class years should be able to get an interview or two. If you are a well-credentialed candidate with 2-5 years of solid bankruptcy experience, you will likely get several interviews.
In Los Angeles, patent prosecution continues to falter. However, law firms continue to seek well-qualified patent prosecutors. Firms that are hiring are extremely particular about what they want and are not flexible - they are happy to wait patiently for the right person. The major focus is on candidates with 2-4 years solid prosecution experience with backgrounds in electrical engineering (#1 preference), computer science (#2), or physics. Those with biology or chemistry backgrounds, generally need to have a Ph.D. or at the very least, or a M.A. in their discipline. Those with mechanical engineering degrees are in much less demand. You must have membership to the USPTO, and there is a strong preference for candidates who are admitted to the California Bar. You may also have better luck in Orange County or San Diego.
Many firms seek partners with an established patent prosecution portfolio.
Generally speaking, the patent litigation market is much softer than in recent years. But it is considered ''steady,'' since firms are truly looking for patent litigators. Firms are very specific about what they want and are willing to take their time in finding the right match. There is no rush to hire anyone. Like patent prosecutors, litigation candidates who also possess an electrical, computer science or physics degree will do very well. Patent litigators should also be a member of the USPTO, and if possible, the California Bar - although firms are more flexible with bar membership requirements if you have the right science degree. Ideal candidates should have 2-5 years of experience. But, anyone who has solid patent litigation experience with a technical degree should have several interviews.
The following practice areas have very little activity: Real Estate, Environmental, Health Care, Employee Benefits/ERISA, and Tax. However, firms are willing to look at stellar candidates (top law school/law firm) with 2-5 years of experience in these areas.
State of the Market: San Francisco by Claudia Barnes, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
As we predicted, the need for general litigators and those with securities experience increased over the year. The demand is for mid-level candidates with experience in commercial/general and securities. San Francisco firms require top academic credentials, big law firm experience, and/or a judicial clerkship on the resume..
Labor and Employment
The need for employment (and less commonly labor) attorneys remains healthy. There are opportunities with firms of all sizes, particularly with the boutiques. The focus is on mid- and senior level attorneys, and there is a real push to gain partners in this area of law. Candidates with some trial and deposition experience will do well.
Even though a great deal of IP work is out there in Silicon Valley, there is a strong emphasis on patent prosecution in San Francisco. Firms are targeting junior and mid-level (1-5 years) prosecution candidates. Employment parameters are not very flexible, and require a strong technical background. There is a healthy demand for those with biotech and chemistry backgrounds, and candidates with Ph.D.s will have preference. Candidates with electrical engineering, computer science, and physics backgrounds too, should do quite well.
Steady Practice Areas:
Intellectual Property Litigation
The need for intellectual property/patent litigators has not picked up as we had hoped. That being said, firms continue to look for candidates with 2-5 years of patent litigation experience from well-regarded law firms. A technical background is not required, but certainly preferred. Admission to the USPTO and California Bar is preferred as well.
There has been a steady need for candidates with ERISA and/or Executive Compensation over the course of 2010. Currently, there is a particular need for those with ERISA experience. Ideal candidates would have 5 years of experience.
We are happy to see a need for energy attorneys in San Francisco. Currently, there is a need for mid-levels with regulatory experience in water, environmental, energy, and/or renewable energy matters. The candidate must have experience with matters related to state and federal regulations and administrative proceedings regarding water, energy, environmental issues, and/or renewable energy.
There has been a slow but constant need for real estate attorneys in 2010. Those with finance, joint venture, private equity, and general real estate will do incredibly well in the market. The focus is on mid-level candidates with stellar academic and professional backgrounds.
Slow Practice Areas:
There are few to no active job openings in the following areas: corporate, tax, trusts & estates, environmental, bankruptcy, health care, technology transactions and trademark. However, we believe there will be an increase for the need of corporate and tax attorneys over the next 6 months. Tax candidates should have an LL.M in Taxation. We anticipate an immediate need in bankruptcy as well.
Lastly, firms will likely consider any mid-level candidate with a stable work history and solid pedigree from a well-regarded law firm. There is a strong preference to hire candidates who already reside in the Bay Area.
State of the Market: Silicon Valley by Claudia Barnes, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
Like San Francisco, 2009 was a difficult year for the Silicon Valley market. To be competitive in the current market, the successful lateral associate candidate will have graduated from a top tier law school; be admitted to the California Bar; and possess sustained association (at least 2 years) with a big name law firm - the preference is on hiring candidates who already work in Silicon Valley.
Mid-level corporate attorneys with training from well-regarded law firms (especially those in the Bay Area) will do very well in Silicon Valley. The greatest needs are in mergers & acquisitions, emerging companies, venture capital, finance, and capital markets. Due to the healthy corporate practices of Silicon Valley law firms, we are also seeing an increase in need for attorneys with experience in executive compensation/employee benefits and ERISA.
Intellectual Property (Litigation and Prosecution)
Junior and mid-level intellectual property litigators and patent prosecutors are among the most sought-after candidates in Silicon Valley, but you must have experience in a big firm appropriate for your level, and a strong technical background. Ideal candidates will have a background in electrical engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, biotechnology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, pharmaceuticals, chemical engineering, and/or medical devices. Those in bio fields are usually expected to have a Ph.D. or Masters degree. Registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is a must.
The job listings in the Silicon Valley for patent prosecution, intellectual property litigation, and intellectual property transactions remain very healthy. There is a real focus on junior to mid-level candidates.
Labor & Employment
Unlike 2009, there is a growing need for employment attorneys at both mid- and senior level.
We believe the demand for general litigators and those with securities experience will increase over the year – reaching the peak by second and third quarters of 2010. The need is steady at the moment, with a preference for mid-level candidates. Silicon Valley firms often require top academic credentials, big law firm experience, and/or a judicial clerkship.
While it is a ''steady'' practice area at present, we believe there will be a growing need for tax attorneys in 2010. The corporate market is sure to grow, and often this spins off more tax work. 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, enrolment at the California Bar.
Slow Practice Areas:
There is currently no activity in bankruptcy, environmental, health care, trademark, real estate and trusts and estates.
State of the Market: Seattle by Sabrina Eisenbrei, Esq., Recruiter, BCG Attorney Search
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. That has never been truer than in this economy. Like every other market across the country, Seattle has taken a big hit. However, while the real estate market is gone, traditional Seattle practices like IP and Venture Capital work are starting to pick up. To succeed in this market, you need top credentials as well as the right fit, which means a tie to the area, a friendly demeanor, and excellent credentials and experience.
Hot Practice Areas (Intellectual Property):
Patent Prosecution & Litigation
2010 has seen a continued demand for patent prosecutors and litigators. Presently, our firm clients are seeking patent attorneys at all levels, although most seek an attorney with at least 2 years of prior firm experience. In Seattle, the ''hot'' scientific backgrounds remain electrical engineering, computer science, and physics. The life sciences degrees, biology, and chemistry remain in demand but to a lesser degree. Candidates should have USPTO membership, and ideally Washington Bar membership. Abundant prosecution experience will be very marketable, along with prior engineering experience
Corporate associates remain in demand. Experience with some of the following areas is necessary to get an interview: private equity, venture capital, initial public offerings, mergers and acquisitions, and securities. Mid-level corporate attorneys with training from well-regarded law firms (especially those regarded for their emerging company practices) will do very well in Seattle. The health of this practice is helping to create a small need for TAX and ERISA associates.
We believe that demand for general litigators and those with securities experience will increase over the year. This need is driven by Seattle law firms’ corporate representation of tech companies for their venture capital and initial public offering work. The need is steady at the moment with focus on mid-level candidates. Seattle firms prefer big law firm experience and/or a judicial clerkship.
The need for labor and employment attorneys remain steady. There are good opportunities, but they are limited. Most firms seek attorneys in the two- to seven-year range. Employers tend to want a mix of class action and single plaintiff work with less of a counseling focus. 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.
Slow to Dead
Bankruptcy, Real Estate, &Trust and Estates remain incredibly slow areas. Real estate should start to see an upswing by the end of the year but expect to wait until late 2011 for real hiring in this area.
State of the Market: Oregon by Claudia Barnes, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
Litigators with at least 3 years of experience are in demand. Areas of emphasis are civil litigation and products liability. Candidates should have experience in all phases of litigation, including drafting pleadings and discovery, managing files, and attending hearings, depositions, arbitrations, and trials. Candidates must be admitted to practice in Oregon. Because many firms have offices in Washington State, the admittance to the Washington Bar is a plus.
Patent prosecutors with at least 2 years of experience will garner interviews in Portland. Candidates who possess a degree and background in computer science are in particular demand. Candidates should have superior academic credentials and experience in drafting patent applications, opinions, and/or reexamination requests. Candidates must also be registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is not necessary to be admitted already to the Oregon bar.
There is a small need in Portland for employment litigators with 2-4 years of experience. Those with advice experience will have an advantage. Portland firms prefer to hire candidates already admitted to the Oregon Bar, but they will hire candidates coming from out-of-state.
There is a particular need for candidates with 5-6 years experience with FDA law, federal and state regulation of clinical research and IRBs, HIPAA as applied to research, conflicts of interest in research, research misconduct, genetic research, healthcare fraud and abuse and reimbursement. Transactional experience in drafting and negotiating research agreements and subcontracts is desirable. It is not necessary to be admitted already to the Oregon Bar for these positions.
Intellectual Property Litigation
Intellectual Property litigators are not in as much demand as patent prosecutors. However, there is a need for litigators with at least 2 years of experience. Candidates with computer science backgrounds should get interviews.
Slow Practice Areas:
There are few to no active job openings in the following areas: corporate, environmental, real estate, executive compensation/ERISA, energy, tax, trusts & estates, environmental, bankruptcy, health care, technology transactions and trademark. We do not foresee any change for the rest of 2010.
State of the Market: Washington, DC by Dan Binstock, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
Over the past six months, we have seen a significant and noticeable increase in the D.C. law firm associate market in several different aspects. Here are the most noticeable changes, juxtaposing last year with this year:
Increased Number of Searches:
Last Year: Even if a firm had an isolated practice group that was extremely busy, they often wouldn’t look to hire laterally. All the layoffs had pretty much frozen the lateral hiring market for associates, and some firms had blanket rules that if practices were busy, they needed to try their best to utilize existing associates, even if they were in other practice groups and didn’t have the most relevant experience.
This Year:Given the pick-up in the economy (and the overall tendency for firms to revert to their most common practices), a much larger number of firms in D.C. are more comfortable looking outside their firms for the best candidates they can find. This fact, along with the overall pick-up in work from clients, has increased the number of searches.
Sample Searches:Right now we have searches in a number of areas, but the firms are looking for candidates with very specific profiles. For example, present openings include riders like: environmental (must have natural resources experience), government contracts (must have cost-accounting experience), corporate (must have superstar credentials), patent litigation (must have computer science background and experience as a software engineer), bankruptcy (must have a bankruptcy clerkship), antitrust (must have superstar credentials and both mergers and litigation experience), project finance (must be a senior associate with Latin America and/or energy experience); tax (must have transactional-based experience, preferably from a larger NY firm), and FDA compliance.
Increased Number of Firms Actually Interviewing Candidates:
Last Year:Some firms had openings posted on their websites, but they were not “active” openings. What does that mean? For any number of reasons certain firms wanted to opportunistically collect resumes in the event a “superstar” happened to come through the door. Very often, none of these job postings actually led to more than sporadic interviews.
This Year:Firms with openings are genuinely looking to fill the positions and are actively interviewing candidates.
Last Year:Firms would interview candidates and then decide to put the search on hold, because they were concerned about whether they truly had enough work to keep a new associate busy.
This Year:If a firm has a need and finds the right candidate, they are much more likely to actually go through with the hiring, because they are less concerned about volatility or a sudden drop-off in work.
Voluntary Attrition is Increasing:
Last Year:Associates either couldn’t leave their current jobs (there were no other jobs they could move to) or didn’t want to leave their current jobs (they were thankful to have a job and didn’t dream of leaving, even if there was a better opportunity), so the normal level of attrition was not present. As a result, there was an oversupply at certain levels.
This Year:More associates are voluntarily leaving for either other firms, in-house, or the government. As a result, if a busy practice group loses somebody, a need for a lateral opens up.
But ... (there's always a but) ...
Despite the positive direction and more openings, the D.C. associate market is still tight and competitive with a glut of candidates. Additionally, there is an increased sense among firms that they have the luxury of being very selective and “trading up” their ranks of associates. Some firms—even if they themselves had layoffs and acknowledged that the laid off associates were for purely economic reasons and did not reflect performance issues—still have a bias against candidates that were laid off, but that (fortunately) is continuing to diminish.
Some firms are also taking advantage of this slowdown to “cherry pick” superstar associates from firms that are less stable. However, we have noticed that some firms have a slightly unrealistic and over-inflated sense of their own market value and believe they can easily recruit non-laid-off superstars regardless of how appealing their own opportunity is. There is a sense of “We know the market is flooded with candidates so we can get whoever we want.” Sometimes this is true, but often it is not.
This imbalance reminds me of what one of my friends in high school used to constantly struggle with. He was a good guy but, frankly, not particularly handsome or suave. For some inexplicable reason (which I’m sure a psychologist could nail pretty quickly) he would only try to date the most beautiful and popular girls; he would never think of dating a girl that was, heaven forbid, comparable to him in terms of attractiveness. Unfortunately for him, none of these beautiful girls would give him a chance or take him seriously. He would only consider dating as what he considered a “step up,” but those girls considered him a “step down.” Despite our protestations that he should adjust his expectations a bit and be more realistic, he would never listen. And he never had relationships. While this is admittedly a superficial analogy, this imbalance of expectations and perceived attractiveness is one that frequently reminds me of the lateral associate market right now.
We are also noticing some firms experiencing a rude awakening when they take too much time to search for the “perfect” candidate and the one candidate they were seriously considering—who would have been a good fit—ends up accepting another position or loses interest and decides not to make a move. It is obviously important for firms to take their time to find the right person, but we have seen this backfire for some firms who held out for too long, because they had a fear of somehow missing out on that elusive perfect candidate (that may or may not have existed).
Our partner practice continues to have the highest level of demand, with the caveat that partners without self-sustaining portable business are finding it very difficult to move to other firms.
Right now, we are working on a number of retained, exclusive, and contingency partner-level searches. Here are a few samples:
The D.C. office of a national firm seeks an energy/FERC partner with either an electric (independent power producer), gas (natural gas shipper and/or pipeline), and/or utilities practice. This is a unique, financially healthy firm, with a progressive approach to practicing law.
International firm seeks an FDA partner for its D.C. office. This firm has an outstanding health care/life sciences platform and infrastructure with “low-hanging fruit” in the life sciences/pharma and medical devices areas.
A real estate boutique in D.C. seeks a commercial real estate partner with $500+ in portable business.
International firm searching for an international trade partner(remedies side and/or export/import side).
IP practice seeks an IP appellate litigator to be the ''IP appeals'' specialist.
National firm seeks a transfer-pricing tax partner
National firm seeks a trademark prosecution partner in D.C.
International powerhouse seeks an energy partner with an exclusively gas-focused practice.
National firm (with reasonable rates) is looking to acquire a labor and employment practice in D.C. or Northern Virginia.
National firm is seeking an M&A/corporate finance partner to help run practice in D.C.
These searches are just a sampling of the many partner searches in the entire DC market right now. Pretty much every firm in D.C. is open to partners with healthy portable practices. The minimum requirements for some firms are as low as $500,000 to $750,000 and some other firms require a minimum of at least $3 to $5 million.
So the question for our law firm clients is this: What are you doing to stand out from your competitors—with similar reputations to your firm—who are targeting the same candidates? Is your recruiting message merely a thin ''We are looking for partners in X practice area with Y in portable business … and we are very collegial''? If so, here's a warning: You are not maximizing your chances at attracting lateral partners because your recruiting message will sound very similar to that of your competitors. (See the following Legal Times article entitled ''Everybody Loves Rainmakers'': https://www.bcgsearch.com/pdf/everybody-loves-rainmakers.pdf.)
Over the past year, we have been spending a lot of time helping our law firm clients craft and develop cutting-edge lateral partner recruiting strategies that enable them to stand out from the clutter of other firms. In this market, law firms must think outside the box when it comes to lateral partner recruiting and not just continue to do things the way they have always been done. Those firms who are creative and bold in their approach to lateral partner recruiting will have a distinct advantage.
If you are interested in learning how we help our law firm clients dramatically improve their chances of securing meetings with lateral partner candidates, please contact us and we will be happy to share some of these cutting-edge strategies.
If you are a partner-level candidate interested in learning about other firms, how to best market yourself, or have other questions about the DC market, please contact us for a confidential ''market and marketability'' analysis.
State of the Market: New York by Carey Bertolet, Founding Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
With summer upon us we continue to see incremental improvement in the overall consistent but conservative hiring. Indeed, May marked the first months in employment gains in the legal marketplace, though we still have isolated incidences of firm lay-offs in and around New York. The economy overall still hangs in limbo, with mixed market signals and serious concerns overseas.
Even so, business seems to be pretty clearly picking up in New York law firms. The lawyers we know have been either intermittently busy or completely underwater over the last couple of months—particularly in transactional practice. The most acute needs seem to be in securities compliance, transactions and regulation, for obvious reasons. More and more, firms are interested in seeing a strong securities background from their corporate associates, so a similar background seems to be the most desirable. Notably, we've seen needs for both public mergers and acquisitions as well as private equity work. We have not yet seen meaningful upticks in real estate or real estate finance.
One of the benchmarks of an improving economy is a need for lawyers in those practice groups that rely (at least in part) on busy transactional practices. We are seeing a better market for tax and ERISA transactional lawyers, which reinforces the notion that law firms are on the mend.
Surprisingly, we are not seeing the demand for employment litigation attorneys that we would expect in this sort of economic environment. In fact, the reports from inside labor & employment departments are actually quite mixed—some folks can't keep their heads above water, and some lawyers are still looking for work. Several notable national labor and employment practices are significantly expanding, so we anticipate that this sector of lawyers will do quite well in the coming year.
Other litigation practices are doing rather well. Securities litigators—particularly with securities arbitration and FINRA experience are very highly in demand, and we've seen quite a few general commercial litigation positions. Bankruptcy needs remain constant as well. We are hearing from many of our clients that they are particularly interested in federal clerkship experience.
Intellectual property lawyers have been surprised at how badly the economy hurt their previously immune practices. Patent law is rebounding though, and we've seen needs in the pharmaceutical arena in particular. We anticipate that this area will come back quite quickly. We've already seen a great deal of movement in the transaction IP/IT area, though not as much in the trademark/copyright side of soft intellectual property.
Overall, the situation is one of “incremental improvement.” While there is certainly still a bit of a chill on hiring, the groundwork for a more active hiring environment is there—busier law firms who are increasingly more confident in the market for their services.
State of the Market: New Jersey by Carey Bertolet, Founding Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
Much like its neighbor to the South—Philadelphia—New Jersey’s market seems to be dominated by certain industries. There are certainly needs for lawyers in New Jersey with healthcare backgrounds—and some intellectual property needs. These industries/practices are buoying up the market and representing the first wave of needs. We have also seen bankruptcy and securities litigation needs, though not in the degree that we would say that there is a high demand.
The great thing about the New Jersey market in particular is that it tends to be a market that hires fairly conservatively—but those positions have excellent long term potential. Many of our clients avoid quick hiring and laying off—but wait until the established need exists to help guarantee successful integration.
State of the Market: Connecticut by Carey Bertolet, Founding Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
We haven’t seen any real change of trends emerge from the Connecticut markets yet. The needs from law firms in both Southern and Northern Connecticut have been quite firm-specific, though they have tended to be on the controversy side rather than the transactional. With an increasingly regulated corporate market, we expect significant future needs for compliance, securities and insurance regulatory lawyers in Connecticut
State of the Market: Philadelphia by Carey Bertolet, Founding Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
Philadelphia has gotten a lot of praise as a city, which fared better than others during the recession. While I suspect that’s a fairly bitter pill for those lawyers who lost their law firm jobs in the last couple of years, we are certainly seeing a great deal of life in the Philadelphia market.
The largest hiring pushes have been for those firms who service the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. This has lifted the needs in corporate transactional practices, intellectual property patent departments, and regulatory practices. Particularly with respect to the transactional side, this doesn’t mean the overall corporate market is back to 2007 levels, but it does mean that some industry sectors are really ramping up.
State of the Market: Las Vegas by Claudia Barnes, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
What’s Hot/What’s Not:
Labor and Employment
Litigation (including construction)
Bankruptcy (hot for the moment)
Real Estate (mildly lukewarm)
General transactional/corporate work
Trusts & Estates
Intellectual Property Litigation
Specific Lateral Hiring Needs:
As can be expected in a down economy, the need for bankruptcy associates growing. Specifically, firms are seeking mid-level (3-5 years) and senior-level (5-8 years) bankruptcy attorneys with experience in sophisticated bankruptcy matters, including creditor and debtor representation in court. Candidates with significant experience representing creditors in Bankruptcy Court will fare well. Nevada bar membership is strongly preferred for these positions.
There is a steady need for litigation associates at the junior, mid, and senior levels. In particular, mid-level (3-6 years) litigators who have a strong background in construction defect (knowledge of construction defect statutes), products liability, toxic tort, insurance coverage and defense, or general and complex commercial litigation are in demand. Membership to the Nevada Bar is strongly preferred.
Labor & Employment
There is almost always a need for labor and employment attorneys in Las Vegas. Mid-level and senior-level candidates with stellar academic and professional credentials will almost and always get multiple offers. Presently, there is an immediate need for senior level (at least 5 years) attorneys with significant employment litigation experience on the management/defense-side. Nevada bar membership is preferred, but not required.
Typically, Las Vegas is a Mecca for real estate attorneys. However, the value of real property in Las Vegas has dropped dramatically even in the last 9 months. Nonetheless, development has continued on a small scale and there is a need for attorneys with experience in the following: real estate acquisition, disposition, development, financing, leasing, and other real property transactions for major commercial, residential, hotel/casino and resort development, investment and lending clients.
State of the Market: Phoenix by Sabrina Eisenbrei, Esq., Recruiter, BCG Attorney Search
Phoenix is the largest legal market in Arizona and it is home to a number of national and regional firms. The state was struck hard in this recession and while firms are still recruiting it has slowed significantly. To break into the Phoenix market you need to have a tie to the area or a well thought out reason for moving to Arizona. While top academics are still preferred explaining your interest in the market is equally important. As with other geographic locations, we are cautiously optimistic that demand for associates at all levels will increase as the recession subsides.
What's Hot/What's Not:
Labor and Employment (always hot)
Litigation (generally warm)
Bankruptcy (hot for the moment)
Intellectual property (lukewarm but picking up slowly)
Real Estate (not hot for the moment but it is a cornerstone of the Phoenix market so look for it to pick up again)
General transactional/corporate work (always a bit lukewarm)
Tax (always a bit lukewarm)
Specific Hiring Needs:
A few opportunities for mid-level litigation associates exist in Phoenix. Most such firms seek associates in the 3 to 5 year range with superb academic credentials and experience in general business litigation.
Labor and employment remains a ''hot'' area for associate hiring. Firms tend to focus on associates with stellar experience an superb academic credentials. Firms are not looking to ''re-tool'' so you need to have legitimate experience in the area.
With respect to bankruptcy, we are seeing a demand for 4-6 year experienced bankruptcy attorneys. Firms are entertaining out of state candidates for these positions because Phoenix does not have a historically strong bankruptcy practice.
State of the Market: Chicago by Jamie Bailey, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
The Chicago market has actually showed signs of improvement this quarter. We are seeing a slight increase in activity in the corporate area, particularly in banking and finance; corporate M&A; private equity; securities; capital markets; corporate governance; and broker-dealer and futures work. Additionally, health care and labor and employment requests have increased, and we have been happy to take calls requesting lateral attorneys with specific skills in the IT and e-Discovery areas.
Read on! We hope this increased activity continues into the next quarter and that we will be able to bring you brighter news during the third and fourth quarters.
Partners with Portable Business
In Chicago, we are continuing to focus our attention on partner level searches for firms that are seeking assistance in hiring partners with portable clients to contribute to their bottom line.
Chicago firms have been receptive to income and equity partners with portable books of business. The demand is for those who are highly motivated in continuing to grow their books in law firm environments,have attractive billing rate structures, and are well equipped to service their clients’ increasing demands for diverse services.. We would be interested in speaking with energetic junior partners who have growing books of business.
We would also like to speak with more seasoned partners who have well-established clients seeking financially stable environments and are ready to offer creative fee structures, excellent representation in key practice areas, and have the ability to cross-sell services. Partners who have significant portable business in any of the following areas should contact our Chicago office: healthcare (particularly partners with experience in representing pharmaceuticals, hospitals or healthcare providers), corporate transactions, bankruptcy, employee benefits and executive compensation, real estate finance, litigation, environmental litigation, mass torts litigation, products liability, private equity, labor and employment, immigration, patent prosecution, intellectual property litigation and trademark litigation. Chicago 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.
We continue to receive requests from firms in Chicago for bankruptcy associates with anywhere from 3-5 years of experience in bankruptcy litigation, and specifically, creditors rights experience. Top tier law firm experience and excellent academics are generally required.
As indicated last quarter, firms in Chicago have started to call us for junior and mid-level associates with excellent general commercial litigation skills. Firms are being particularly selective, however, and are demanding excellent academics and large law firm experience.
We would like to speak with junior to mid-level construction associates who bring previous construction experience (both transactional and litigation) and have excellent credentials. (A willingness to travel is required for these construction positions.) We also have openings for senior level litigation candidates (8-12 years of overall experience), at least 2-4 years of e-Discovery experience (with a computer science background or education), and with consulting or large law firm experience. Attorneys interested in pursuing a staff attorney position and have experience in IT and a computer science should also get in touch with us.
We are happy to see a bit of a pick-up in the general corporate and finance areas here in Chicago. Specifically, we are seeking associates with anywhere from 1-6 years of experience in banking and finance (preferably both lender-side and borrower-side) and financial regulatory matters. We would also like to speak with associates who have 2-6 years of experience in private equity, public company, M&A, capital markets and corporate governance matters. Firms are also requesting associates with 3-6 years of experience with broker-dealer matters and/or futures expertise.
Labor and employment associates have been in high demand this quarter and we suspect that this is an area where there will continue to be ever increasing demand in the months ahead, from both general practice and boutique firms. In particular, we are interested in speaking with associates with anywhere from 3-5 years of experience and excellent litigation and case management skills. Associates with traditional labor experience, strong academics, and large law firm backgrounds should call our Chicago office immediately.
As we reported last quarter, firms are reporting that their health care practices are definitely getting busier. We would like to speak with health care associates who have 2-5 years of experience with transactional and/or regulatory compliance matters or associates who have corporate transactional backgrounds and would like to transition to health care.
Intellectual Property - Patent Prosecution
We would be interested in speaking with associates with anywhere from 3-6 years of experience in patent prosecution and a background in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, chemical engineering or chemistry, or biotech (preferably with a Ph.D and molecular biology background). USPTO admission is definitely preferred and in many cases required.
Though we have seen little activity in this area in the past few months, we are seeing some need for mid to senior level associates with anywhere from 4-8 years of experience working with high net worth individuals and closely held businesses. Previous work in the design and drafting of sophisticated estate plans is a must, as well as excellent academic credentials.
State of the Market: Wisconsin by Jamie Bailey, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
Milwaukee and Madison
Partners with Portable Business
Law firms in Wisconsin continue to be focused on increasing their bottom line, and we are seeing a lot of movement among the partner ranks. We would be interested in speaking with partners who have portable business in key practice areas generally found in large general practice firms.
Intellectual Property - Patent Prosecution
Intellectual property associates with 1-5 years of experience in patent prosecution and counseling should contact our Chicago office to discuss openings we have in Milwaukee and Madison. In particular, we are interested in speaking with intellectual property attorneys with 1-4 years of experience in patent prosecution and chemical, biotech and pharmaceutical backgrounds. (For some of our positions, a Ph.D. in chemistry, or organic or medicinal chemistry, or molecular biology is preferred or required.) We would also like to speak with patent prosecution associates with 3-5 years of experience and EE backgrounds. We also have a position for a senior counsel level attorney with 15+ years of experience in patent prosecution matters.
Traditionally a counter cyclical practice that does very well in economic downturns, labor and employment is an area in which we have had a few requests at the 2-4 year level from firms in Milwaukee and Madison. In some cases, traditional labor experience in representing management is required and Wisconsin Bar admission is preferred.
Although not generally an area in which we have seen much need in the last quarter of 2009, we do have a Madison firm seeking a trusts and estates associate with 3+ years of experience.
State of the Market: Michigan by Jamie Bailey, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
Partners with Business
We are interested in speaking with partners practicing in Michigan and seeking opportunities in Detroit and/or the surrounding legal markets, including Lansing, Southfield, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Novi or Troy. In particular, we would like to speak with partners with a minimum of $300,000 in portable business. Of particular interest are partners with portable business in the following areas: intellectual property, employee benefits, tax, employment, general commercial litigation, construction, healthcare, and corporate transactional.
The Detroit market continues to be slow in terms of lateral associate hiring, but we are seeing opportunities in a few practice areas.
We have received one real estate position at a major firm for an associate with 3-5 years of experience in commercial finance, representing banks and financial institutions. (The Michigan Bar is required for this position.)
In the litigation area, we are getting requests for more senior, experienced attorneys. Commercial litigators with 10+ years of experience, as well as construction litigators with 8-12 years should contact our Chicago office.
We would also like to speak with candidates with 6+ years of experience in patent prosecution who have backgrounds in EE, ME, CS, chemical or biotech. Firms are also requesting that we send them associates with 4-6 years of experience in trademark law. (An in-depth knowledge of U.S. and international trademark law is required for these trademark positions.)
Healthcare associates with 3+ years of experience (familiar with all aspects of provider representation) should contact our Chicago office. Additionally, we would be interested in speaking with healthcare transactional associates with 3-12 years of experience in IT work and familiarity with HIPPA and security matters.
We have a need at the more senior level for an employee benefits attorney with 10-20 years of experience.
State of the Market: Colorado by Jamie Bailey, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
Partners with Portable Business
As in other regions, overall hiring in Denver has slowed, but we have seen a slight rise in activity in the corporate area. We would be interested in speaking with associates with 2-6 years of experience in corporate M&A and securities matters.
We would also like to speak with junior level associates with 1-3 years of experience in intellectual property transactional work. Patent prosecution associates with 2-5 years of experience in patent prosecution and backgrounds in electrical engineering should contact us. (USPTO is generally preferred or required for these positions.)
We have also seen some need for litigation associates at the 2-5 year level in smaller and mid-size firms and some prestigious boutiques. These positions generally require strong academics, law review experience, and often prefer that candidates have had federal clerkships.
We see a slight increase of interest in healthcare, and we would be interested in speaking with associates with 3+ years of experience in transactional health care matters. Specific areas of need here include regulatory, stark, anti-kickback, and licensing.
Partners with Portable Business
We would be interested in speaking with partners having portable business in litigation, labor and employment, and corporate, M&A and securities. Firms will look at a minimum of $500,000 in portable business.
State of the Market: Minnesota by Laura Rusche, Legal Recruiter, Chicago Office of BCG Attorney Search
Partners with Portable Business
The demand for associate-level attorneys is increasing, but we continue to see many firms focusing their recruiting efforts on partners with portable business. The amount of business required varies from firm to firm, and the largest and most prestigious firms seek a minimum of $1 million. However, the smaller and mid-sized firms will consider less, if the practice area and attorney are a good fit for the firm. Partner-level candidates with a reasonable book of portable business should contact our Chicago office.
Intellectual Property - Patent Prosecution and Litigation and Trademark
Minneapolis is usually a hot bed for intellectual property attorneys, and we are pleased to report that there has been a significant increase in demand for IP associates in the last few months. We have seen openings for both prosecution and litigation associates, and most firms are looking for candidates with strong academics, technical backgrounds, and large law firm experience. Firms are generally seeking associates with technical backgrounds in the areas of electrical or mechanical engineering and biotech
Bankruptcy is not as active as we have seen in previous economic recessions, and we do not expect it to increase as the recession subsides. The few firms that are looking for associates generally want to see strong bankruptcy and litigation experience, so that if/when bankruptcy dies down, they can focus on general litigation. Top quality candidates from Minnesota or with significant connections to the state are encouraged to contact our Chicago office for details about these opportunities.
Corporate - Mergers and Acquisitions; Securities; Finance; Others
We have noticed a slight increase in demand for corporate associates, which we attribute to the improving economy. Because of the large pools of candidates on the market, most firms require top academic credentials (both in terms of the rank of the law school and the grades earned while there) and large law firm experience. The latest corporate positions are focused in M&A and securities experience. In addition, we have noticed an increase in demand for healthcare associates, both on the regulatory and transactional sides. Candidates with expertise in this area are encouraged to contact our Chicago office, if interested in learning more about these opportunities.
The litigation market continues to get hotter. Most firms are looking for talented attorneys with strong experience, preferably from a large law firm. Firms are generally looking for candidates with very strong academics and 3 to 6 years of sophisticated experience.
While certainly not huge, we have seen a slight increase in demand for tax and trust and estates positions for associate-level candidates. Like most other areas, firms like to see strong academics and large law firm experience.
State of the Market: Indiana by Laura Rusche, Legal Recruiter, Chicago Office of BCG Attorney Search
Like our other markets, there is an increased interest among Indiana firms for partners with solid books of portable business. The amount of business required varies from firm to firm, but in general, firms will consider partners with $500,000 or more in business. Partners with a portable book of business who are currently practicing in Indiana, or interested in moving their practice there, should contact our Chicago office.
Indianapolis remained strong during the recession, and we continue to see demand for associate-level attorneys. At the present time, we have open positions in a variety of areas, including health care, labor and employment, employee benefits, litigation and intellectual property. In general, the top law firms continue to look for strong candidates with at least three or more years of law firm experience. Candidates with top credentials should contact our Chicago office for assistance in applying to these positions.
State of the Market: Ohio by Laura Rusche, Legal Recruiter, Chicago Office of BCG Attorney Search
Cleveland and Cincinnati
Partners with Portable Business
Demand is steady for highly qualified partners with portable business. Most firms are looking for partners in all areas of law, including but not limited to corporate, real estate, labor and employment, intellectual property, trusts and estates, tax, ERISA/employee benefits, litigation and health care. The amount of portable business required varies from firm to firm, but in general, there are opportunities for partners with $500,000 or more in portable business.
A few opportunities for litigation associates exist in Cleveland and Cincinnati, and we are confident that we will see more in the coming months. Most of our opportunities are for associates in the 3 to 6 year range with superb academic credentials and experience in general business litigation, and labor and employment. A lot of firms in Ohio focus heavily on candidates with a strong connection to the state (and particular city), with a particular emphasis on those already admitted to the Ohio bar.
We have not seen a recent increase for intellectual property associates in Cleveland and Cincinnati, but we are optimistic that this will change as the market continues to improve. Traditionally, firms in Cleveland and Cincinnati seek associates with technical backgrounds in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, biochemistry, organic chemistry, or chemical engineering. Interested candidates should contact our Chicago office for more details.
These areas of law remain mildly active in Cleveland and Cincinnati. Because there are so many candidates on the market these days, firms tend to focus on associates with superb academic and law firm credentials. Most firms are looking for attorneys with 2 to 6 years of experience and a strong connection to Ohio. If you have such credentials, please contact our Chicago office for details about specific opportunities in this region.
Dayton, Columbus, and Toledo
While Dayton, Columbus, and Toledo are relatively small legal markets, we have a few associate-level positions available, and we continue to see opportunities for partners with portable business. Practice areas of interest include corporate, litigation, bankruptcy, labor and employment, real estate, intellectual property, health care, tax, estate planning and employee benefits. On the associate level, the current needs tend to be in litigation, employee benefits, health care, and corporate transactions. Generally, the demand is for attorneys at the two to four year range, although some firms will consider more senior associates as well. While unusual, we still have a position available for an experienced government contracts associate.
State of the Market: Utah by Laura Rusche, Legal Recruiter, Chicago Office of BCG Attorney Search
Utah, especially Salt Lake City, remained strong during the recession (although it felt the effects to some degree) and fewer associates experienced lay off than the larger, coastal cities. However, firms decreased their lateral hiring on the associate level, and took a “wait and see” approach. In general, we have not seen a recent increase in demand for associates, although we do have a sprinkling of openings, including those in real estate (the first one in a long time), intellectual property, and litigation. If not already in Utah, it is imperative that candidates have a connection to, or compelling reason for, wanting to move to the state.
Firms in Utah are always interested in speaking to partners with significant portable business, especially if currently practicing in Utah or with strong ties to the area. Firms are skeptical of attorneys without connection to Utah who seek to move there, so if you are such an attorney, be clear as to your reasons for moving there. The amount of portable business required varies from firm to firm, so contact our Chicago office for more information.
State of the Market: Europe by Danice Kowalczyk, Esq., Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search (East Coast and International Markets)
Traditionally, the summer months (May through August) are considered the ''slow months'' for hiring. During this time, firms are typically focused on their summer associate programs and, as such, are distracted by many program obligations that render lateral associate hiring into a lower priority. However, with summer associate classes being significantly smaller (or nonexistent) this year, several firms are ''dabbling'' in the lateral hiring market this summer season - much to our surprise and delight!
On the corporate side, we are seeing London looking for ''general corporate'' associates, including M&A (which we, obviously, haven't seen in a while). We are also seeing London-based firms asking for associates with IP transactional backgrounds, including outsourcing and licensing. Traditionally, as M&A picks up, IP transactional practice picks up (as it can be a deal support type of practice), so this is no surprise. We are also observing a number of groups looking for candidates with public international law backgrounds, which often require experience in international investment law; land and maritime boundary disputes; trans-boundary pipeline projects; sovereign immunity, and related matters. Finally, on the litigation side, London has been looking for ADR practitioners, shipping and transport (dry) litigators, and employment litigators.
The only activity we have seen in Paris, as of late, has been litigation driven, and it's mostly on the shipping/transport related practices. For those who are unaware, this type of work usually focuses on charter-parties, bills of lading, cargo claims, S&P disputes, personal injuries, and international trade. Obviously, fluency in French remains essential.
Germany (Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich)
Not surprisingly, most of the work we have seen coming out of Germany has been corporate-directed, and largely driven by Frankfurt. While a number of firms closed their Frankfurt offices last year, we have seen many other firms beefing up their ranks this year, merging and generally kicking into hiring mode. To that end, the following practices are very active: general corporate (capital markets, M&A, finance and private equity), EU Competition, real estate, and tax.
Similar to other regions, there remains a significant reduction in work in the Moscow market, as well as decreased profitability due to the global economic recession. We are still not experiencing a consistent amount of activity coming out of Moscow on the hiring side (at least relative to partnering with recruiters), but we are keeping an eye on this region. As you may recall, we saw a lot of redundancies in December, 2009, so this area may still be in the recovery mode.
State of the Market: Asia by Danice Kowalczyk, Esq., Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search (East Coast and International Markets)
As always, Hong Kong and Beijing are the cities which tend to offer the largest range of opportunities in Asia with Shanghai, Tokyo, and Singapore coming in next. Jobs remain fixated in the corporate sector, primarily M&A, private equity, and capital markets. FDI (foreign direct investment) lawyers are big news in Asia right now. Following hard on the heels of corporate searches have been searches for IP practitioners - typically in the litigation or transactional (licensing, outsourcing, or enforcement) areas. Finally, once again, shipping and transport litigators round out the searches in Asia that we have seen within the last few months - including several opportunities in Dubai. As expected, fluent language skills are required for all respective regions, with firms being less flexible on this point.
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