Q: I have been working in a small firm in New Jersey practicing labor and employment law since I graduated from Rutgers in 2007. I was in the top third of my class and was on Law Review. I really want to make the jump to a top-tier New York firm, as I feel I have developed my skills to a point where I can excel at a higher level. Is there any chance I can transition to a top labor and employment practice in New York City?
A: Thanks for your question! We often talk to attorneys who are interested in the challenge and sophistication that many Manhattan-based large firms offer. Not surprisingly, those firms are quite picky about the candidates they consider. Certainly, your academic record is very relevant. It sounds like you did well in law school, although where you went to law school and what your transcript looks like may make a difference, depending on the firm. Some of the larger firms in New York don't like to see anything less than a B on transcripts, so we'd have to investigate that a bit further. Moreover, if you went to a top law school, it's likely that top 1/3 of the class is more than sufficient. And congratulations on making Law Review! It's a great academic honor and will be a valuable credential in your job search.
Because you are coming from a small firm in New Jersey, it may be difficult to join a large New York practice; but the truth is, it just depends. What sort of experience have you had? If you've had the opportunity to handle work that is relevant to the New York firm, you may still be quite marketable. For example, you may be with a boutique practice that is normally litigating employment issues against large firms. This may be very attractive to a potential firm because it's likely that you are accustomed to the sophistication of the work and charged with a great deal of responsibility. However, large New York firms, on balance, will favor large law firm experience because a large law firm associate is almost certainly already trained to work well in that environment. Learning how your experience compares to that of your law school classmates in large firms will give you some indication of whether your skill set is marketable.
Finally, you should become admitted to the New York Bar as soon as possible, if you are not already. Because you are in a litigation-oriented practice, admission to the bar is especially important.
I would make sure to stress that you have the best of intentions and that you have a recruiter who can help you articulate those to a potential new employer. You are obviously ambitious and enjoy being challenged. These are great qualities for a mid-level associate. Your potential employer should know that you are ready to work hard and take every opportunity to learn and develop. Best of luck to you!
Harrison Barnes is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter. He is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in job searches and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.
About BCG Attorney Search
BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.
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Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
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