Senior Finance BigLaw Associate Steps Out and Returns as Counsel in a New City |

Senior Finance BigLaw Associate Steps Out and Returns as Counsel in a New City

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This candidate, like many with whom I speak and work, believed that, given his credentials and experience, he could resign from one associate position and return at the very same compensation level whenever he wanted. He actually resigned from his position at one of the very top firms in the world, in New York City, because he felt his career was "stagnating" and he moved to Philadelphia to take care of his ailing father. He was an eighth year associate at the time.

As with any attorney with whom I work who is currently out of work, I asked him to offer up references from his former firm affirmatively to prospective firms to show that he left on excellent standing and that there are/were no issues with him or his work. The candidate kept refusing to offer up any references, even when firms later asked for them, saying that his references were too busy to be contacted by multiple firms. We talked for hours about this, and he kept promising to talk with two references in particular. By this point, he had not been working for about 6 months.

Looking at finance practices in Philadelphia, we applied to about 15 firms. Initially, the candidate wanted to apply to only two or three, and he kept communicating the impression that he would be able to have his pick and that he was also looking in-house. He truly believed that any prospective employer he approached would offer him a job almost immediately, given where he had come from.
It is a delicate matter to acknowledge a candidate's strengths and agree with their reasons for having such confidence but, also, to do my job and point out his "weaknesses": 1) he was unemployed and would not provide references, 2) he was senior (and coupled with 1, it will be assumed that he was not going to make partner at his previous firm and that is why he left or that it was suggested to him to look elsewhere), 3) he had no portable business or client relationships moving with him and even if he did, he was looking in a different, smaller market. In a sense, he was starting over, and at too senior a level to be too choosy. His practice, though, can really only be carried out at a particular level of a firm, so we could not look at too small of firms. I shared with the candidate anecdotes of strategies I had employed with my top candidates, and just how many firms we had to apply to even when there were not great weaknesses in their candidacy. Another challenge I had with this candidate is his expectation that a firm in Philadelphia would bring him on at the same level of compensation at his top-paying firm in New York, even though again, he was senior with no business and, currently unemployed. He had been making $340K as a base with a large bonus. Compensation in New York is not the same as in Philadelphia and I had to keep explaining this to him and I sent him evidence to show this.
One firm initially showed strong interest and asked for references. We sort of held off the references, asking to provide them after interviews. This raised red flags for the firm and, we learned later, ultimately, caused them to not pursue the candidate later. The firm did have an initial meeting with the candidate, and requested a second, but then took their time in scheduling it. Meanwhile, two more firms asked to meet with the candidate, and both proceeded to second rounds. Of the three, two were more highly-ranked firms than the third, and the candidate seemed more focused on those two. At the same time, I learned that the candidate was going to be interviewing with another really strong firm and he had applied to this firm through another recruiter. I went back to all three firms he was interviewing with through me and told them they needed to move quickly. It was at this time that, of the three firms, the first one to show interest, made an oral offer that was considerably lower than what we expected. When we tried to negotiate, the firm said no and pulled their offer and stated that, actually, the partners did not feel comfortable making the offer or bringing him on without having been able to check his references at the outset. The candidate's refusal to provide references did not sit well with them.
So, now it was down to two through me, and this third firm he was interviewing with outside of me. The candidate kept telling me he was very confident in that third firm meeting all his desires in an offer. The two firms I was working with scheduled extra meetings and dinners with the candidate. When each made offers, they were very close, and then the second said they would match the first. The candidate then went back to the third firm and gave them an ultimatum. That firm did not ever come through with an offer. Somewhat surprisingly, the candidate accepted an offer as Counsel with the lesser-ranked firm in which he had initially seemed less interested. His reasoning is that he would be a larger fish in a slightly smaller pond-he thought his growth opportunities there were better, and he was impressed by an appreciated their efforts and willingness to "go all out" to bring him on.

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,, and, 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
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