We are hearing this very story several times a week. Even in a flourishing economy, we find that senior level attorneys, especially general litigators, have a difficult time finding a new position after being let go from their firm. Without a substantial amount of portable business (at least $300,000-$500,000), many firms are unable to support the salary of a senior level attorney.
Some attorneys believe if they lower their salary expectations and apply to jobs for junior level attorneys they will have more success. This is not true. Firms who want to hire an associate in the 2-5 year range are not willing to consider someone who is significantly more senior - even if the attorney's experience is exactly what the firm is looking for. (In a few rare cases it can be done, but the general norm is that it cannot).
While a firm may technically get a "deal" by hiring a more experienced attorney for the price of a less experienced one, firms target a certain class year for many reasons besides experience level. There may already be a number of senior attorneys at the firm who are on partnership track and adding another person at their level (even to come at a junior level) would disrupt the politics within the firm. Firms also hire within a certain range because they simply do not want someone who has too much experience. Firms like to train their associates to do things their way. A senior level attorney will likely have learned to do things in a way that is not conducive to the firm's practice.
Many of these senior level attorneys have the necessary skills to start their own law practice. Sometimes a bad situation, such as getting laid off from your job, is exactly what you need to set you in the right direction and propel you to do something you have always wanted to do! I recently spoke with a senior attorney who believed if he began a firm with several other senior level attorneys who had a few clients then perhaps each attorney could support the other and build upon their business. For instance, if one attorney has $50,000, another has $75,000, and another has $100,000 perhaps they could all work together and support each other and market their skills as a group. This is a very good solution to the Senior Associate's predicament. Now, how do you find these fellow attorneys?
I have several ideas on this one. The most obvious option would be to become more vocal and active in your local bar association. Do not simply attend functions related to your practice area alone. On the contrary, you will likely find people who can offer services and skills different than your own in unrelated practice areas! This is also true with CLE classes. Assuming you have not yet met your CLE requirements for the year (or even if you have), you could sign up for a class that is unrelated to your practice, and use it as an opportunity to meet new attorneys who are in the same situation as yourself.
Another thought is to use www.lawcrossing.com. Think of yourself as an employer! Be honest in your description of what you are trying to achieve. An example of such a job posting: "Solo practitioner with business litigation practice from the Class of 1999 is trying to start a firm. Looking for talented senior level attorneys with a minimum of $50,000 in portable business to join forces and build upon our talents and grow a business."
Lastly, once you have decided to start a firm, make sure everyone you have ever met knows about this decision! Make sure to get in touch with old colleagues you had worked with who had since left the firm, law school friends, family, business friends, family friends, old firm clients, etc. etc. You could go as far back as a law school internship or externship or even a high school or college summer job. It is also important to get in touch with your old firm (even if it hurts your pride a little). Firms often have to turn away work for a number of reasons (e.g., case is too small, client conflict, requires too low of billing rate), and may want to recommend you. Before you know you will have developed more clients and built upon our business. It will take years to double your business but be patient and consistent.
About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.
With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.
Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.
Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.
One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.
One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.
Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.
In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.
Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.
In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.
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.
Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays
You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts
You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives
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.
To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.