Question: Why does litigation hiring seem to take so much longer than hiring for other practice areas? I have a colleague who is a Corporate Associate and he managed to secure a new position in about 4 weeks. I’m a mid-level litigator who has been interviewing for the same position for two, almost three, months. It’s very frustrating! What’s going on?
This has been a common concern of many of our litigation candidates over the years, and even more so since the economic downturn of 2008. There are many reasons litigation hiring is such a protracted process. The first and most obvious reason is the sheer volume of resumes that firms are receiving for each vacancy. The shortage of litigation postings since 2008 has driven up demand considerably in a market with very limited supply-and firms receive hundreds of resumes for one posting, each of which must be reviewed and processed. The second reason is that even in a strong economy, litigation partners are notoriously difficult to pin down to review candidates' resumes, conduct interviews, and make hiring decisions. Contrasted with other practice areas (particularly corporate transactions, where deadlines for deals come and go comparatively quickly), litigation matters (pre-trial and other) can drag on endlessly. Litigation partners are often too busy to stop and take the steps to hire associates who could ease their extensive workloads. Third, since the downturn, firms have become both more cautious about litigation hiring AND more selective. To the first point, firms are watching their litigation dollars very carefully and being very diligent in mapping out anticipated work flow in light of their current client needs. In this environment, litigation hiring has become somewhat tricky-and drawn out. We have seen firms advertise litigation vacancies, go through rounds of interviews with candidates, and then pull the job altogether because they decide they can't take on the financial risk of hiring another associate. Also, given the dearth of litigation vacancies, firms know that many stellar associates have been waiting for years to make a move. Given how few vacancies there are, firms now have their pick of the country's best attorneys. And they often wait long enough to find the perfect fit, even if it means waiting many, many months.
The good news is that we have seen an increase in litigation hiring in 2013 that we have not experienced since 2007. We do believe that litigation hiring will continue to pick up. Hopefully as this happens, the speed at which firms hire litigation associates will also pick up.