Almost every job listing we see for lateral litigation candidates contains some variation on the words “trial experience a plus,” or “second chair trial experience required, first chair trial experience helpful.”  This is true even for listings seeking more junior-level candidates (i.e., 1-4 years of experience).

Firms also prefer candidates who are coming from top AmLaw firms, which is somewhat ironic considering that it is quite rare for a junior associate to get an opportunity for any type of substantive trial experience within their first few years at the firm.  This scarcity of trial opportunities is generally due to a combination of factors:

1) High-stakes litigation matters typically settle rather than go to trial.

2) High-stakes litigation involves an enormous amount of potential exposure to the firm’s client(s), who will obviously want top partners and senior associates handling the trial work.

3) Trial work is the reason many attorneys become litigators in the first place, and thus partners and more senior associates will often want to keep that work for themselves rather than hand it off to junior associates.

Thus, junior (and even mid-level) litigation candidates coming from top AmLaw firms who *also* have trial experience are somewhat akin to unicorns in the lateral job market.