Summary: Many attorneys think waiting until the new year to start their job search is best. Learn why you shouldn’t wait until the new year to start looking.
Many attorneys think they should wait until the beginning of the new year to start looking for a job. This is crazy. Here’s why November and December are the best times of the year to look for a new job:
No One Else is Looking in November and December
Generally, if everyone else is doing the same thing there will be more competition. In January countless people as qualified as you may be applying for the same positions, causing the firms to be much choosier. This is not good and will hurt you.
Have you tried applying for jobs during January? If so, what happened?
I make more placements in November and December than any other month. While other recruiters are spending time traveling and doing who knows what, I am pounding the pavement and recruiting as hard as I can. Law firms receive fewer applications then, so my candidates stand out and get more offers.
Additionally, most attorneys are working all the time anyway. Some go years without a vacation; they are always around, ready to interview and hire!
You need an edge in any search. For some people it is their education, for others it is the quality of the firm they are coming from and for others it is the demand in the market at a given point in time—and for some it is applying to jobs when no one else is.
Law Firms Have Hiring Budgets They “Use or Lose” Toward the End of the Year
When a law firm is “rushing” to use a hiring budget, it’s less likely to spend time parading a bunch of candidates through the door and critically examining every resume. Instead, the firm is in a rush to hire people, so it does not spend as much time conducting follow-up interviews and debating about you. The firm has a budget to spend and a deadline for doing so!
I have seen law firms do some crazy things in November and December, including the following:
- One of my candidates got hired as a second year associate by one of the 10 largest law firms in the country without the firm even asking for his transcript.
- One candidate got hired by a major American law firm after a 20-minute Skype call.
- Multiple candidates have received offers in screening interviews.
You should get yourself out there to as many potential openings as possible in November and December. Firms act more recklessly with their hiring practices then.
Have you ever applied during November and December? Did you find the hiring process to be more reckless?
Law Firms Are Eager to Fill Positions That Have Been Open a Long Time Before the End of the Year
Recruiting administrators and others are often evaluated based on their ability to fill positions and the speed with which they do so. Their job is to develop good relationships with recruiters and the legal community so they can get the word out about their openings. If they do not fill openings by the end of the year, this is likely to come up in their reviews and could affect their compensation and even their job security. Thus, there is a lot of “invisible” pressure that legal recruiters face at the end of the year. Recruiting personnel may hype you to attorneys as “the perfect fit” and “the best out there” more than any other time of the year. It’s in their own self-interest to do so.
Because law firms may have been too picky or had offers turned down earlier in the year, they are now hungry to fill the position. If you are applying in November and December there’s a good chance many of the positions are older and the law firm needs to fill them now.
Law Firms Are Less Critical of People Interviewing for Jobs in November and December
People are typically a little tired, less critical and in a better mood because of the approaching weekend. In fact, I would estimate the odds of someone getting hired after interviewing on a Friday are at least 30% greater than any other day of the week.
This same logic applies when you are interviewing for jobs in November and December. The people inside the law firms are looking forward to spending time with family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. People are in better spirits and, for the most part, much less critical. They are in a giving mood and more likely to be nicer to others. The focus is less on work and more on upcoming travel to visit family, go skiing, etc. People are in a hurry to “wrap things up” and hire for a position. Being nice to people and helping them feels good during the holidays. This holiday spirit may even make a law firm more open to hiring someone who is currently unemployed.
Additionally, many people in positions to hire have also just received holiday bonuses. These bonuses make people feel good, which may make them more likely to hire you as well.
Law Firms Are Often Eager to Get Hiring Out of the Way Now
Have you ever been part of the interviewing process? Have you felt the same way?
Many attorneys are smart enough to understand that if they make positive remarks about candidates who come through in November and December, they will have fewer people to interview in January and February. Most attorneys like to start the year off strong by billing lots of hours. If they are inconvenienced with having to interview lots of people during these months then it interferes with their billable hours.
Law Firms Are More Disorganized in November and December, Which Works in Your Favor
It is not easy getting a job in the Justice Department and I got lucky because they were disorganized.
In November and December, many law firms are disorganized because various people may be out of the office. This disorganization can work in your favor because you may be interviewing with people that do not know what sorts of questions to ask you or what to look for. They may therefore be less critical of you and turn in better reviews. This may work in your favor.
Disorganization can take many forms. The law firm may not look as deeply into your background as it normally would. I had one candidate get hired years ago who had a social networking page seemingly dedicated to talking about how much she hated working in a law firm. She was hired in December.
Normally, law firms look at this sort of thing very carefully before hiring someone, but they missed it here. I learned about this later when the firm found out about it, as she and some partners were getting ready to move to another firm. The new firm took everyone but her. If the law firm that hired her had done its homework and found this social networking page it never would have hired her.
The point is disorganization can work in your favor quite often in November and December. Law firms are not as careful, move faster and have fewer people around to find fault with you.
- See Order and Disorder and Your Career for more information.
Many Law Firms Have a Lot of Work That is Not Getting Done During November and December and Are More Eager to Hire
Traditionally, many law firms realize they need more people this time of year because during the holidays support staff (secretaries, word processors, copy room people, paralegals, contract attorneys and other temp workers) kick up their level of unreliability to new heights! The same goes for attorneys who may be contemplating leaving after they get their bonuses at the end of December. These attorneys may begin using their built-up vacation days.
People in support roles take their family time, travel time and personal time much more seriously than the average attorney does—and they use these months to spend time out of the office. The same goes for attorneys who are on their way out the door. Sick days and vacation days start to be used en masse!
Attorneys look around and see there is no one to do a lot of the work. This makes attorneys more eager to hire than they normally would be—and they are much less likely to be critical of your candidacy because they need help now.
Law Firms Can Move Faster Because They Are Less Busy and Have More Time for Hiring
I notice that law firms often respond to my candidates in minutes when I am recruiting in November and December. In contrast, during busier times of the year it can often take law firms weeks before they can review all of the candidates who are applying for a position.
Putting yourself in a position where the law firm is moving faster and you are more likely to get a job is the smartest thing you can do.
What other things can you suggest a person do to increase their chances of getting a job?
Many Firms Ask People to Look for New Jobs at Their End of Year Reviews in November and December
With attrition in the pipeline, law firms start interviewing candidates almost contemporaneously with their review season. The best time to apply to law firms is right when they realize they have a need. This fact is somehow lost on the “January” job seekers. Moreover, if you are the only applicant this time of year (as discussed above), when the law firm realizes it has a need you will have almost zero competition. Finally, the law firm may consider you for an opening it has not even gotten around to creating or publicly announcing yet.
If You Are The First Person the Law Firm Sees for a New Position You Have a Much Better Chance of Getting Hired
Law firms are composed of human beings. As humans we generally like to bond with the first people we meet, and then forget about the ones who come later. That said, once a law firm starts interviewing someone and considering them seriously they are more likely to not pay attention to the people who come later. The law firm generally bonds with the first people and ignores the subsequent applicants.
I know this from experience. I often have an outstanding candidate who I send in for a given position and the law firm calls me back. “We are already interviewing a few people we like,” they say all the time.
“I know. But this guy was one of the top two students in his graduating class at Columbia Law School and is at Cravath. How can you possibly do any better?”
“He’s certainly much better than our other candidates, but like I said, we are already interviewing a few people.”
This is simply human nature. There is early bonding with the initial applicants and those who come later are essentially ignored. Getting in first is easier in November and December.
Do not believe the hype that January is the best time of year to look for a new position. The best time is during November and December, when law firms are eager to hire and their guard is down. I work seven days a week in November and December—as any good recruiter should. It is the absolute best time of year to get a position!
- See When to Move to a New Firm? for more information.
About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter. His most recent contribution to the legal community is Outplacement Attorney Resources (OAR.com), which directly teaches attorneys and law students the best ways to find legal jobs. Harrison 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.