A few days ago, we asked whether going in-house was still a viable option for Biglaw associates. Today we look at whether those who leave can ever come back.
The National Law Journal did a follow-up piece on Bear Stearns attorneys who weren’t able to move over to JP Morgan after the merger. They report (subscription):
Many refugees from Bear Stearns have landed at law firms, including Bingham McCutchen; Venable; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; K&L Gates; and Katten Muchin Rosenman.
“It’s like a port in the storm right now,” said one former Bear Stearns attorney who has landed at a law firm and asked not to be identified.
But as one commenter points out, moving back into Biglaw isn’t easy:
To get back in to BigLaw from most in-house positions is extremely difficult. If you work in a niche, like government contracts or FDA, it improves your chances significantly. However, if you are just a general corporate attorney at a company and are looking to get back in a firm, there’s little shot.
Going back to the firm will likely get even more difficult as additional attorneys from Lehman and Merrill Lynch flood the midlevel market. But we can expect that displaced in-house counsel will try to get back into Biglaw, because in this market, “job security” is the Holy Grail.
Do law firms actually provide a “safer” alternative? After the jump.
One commenter called law firm security a myth:
[S]ince when do law firms provide any degree of security? As an associate, the clock is always ticking for starters. You have to either qualify for partnership after several years, maybe be appointed as counsel, or otherwise you are out on the street looking for legal employment as a senior associate. Heck, many partners these days are even concerned about security, worrying about their book and billables. No real job security at all there.
With good in-house experience, it is much easier to lateral to other such positions.
Many commenters believed that displaced in-house attorneys could still write their own ticket.
Then again, many of our commenters smoke crack out of a rose colored pipe. The NLJ reports a “success” story of a former Bear counsel who landed on his feet without going back to Biglaw:
Some former Bear Stearns lawyers choose to stay in-house and moved to other financial service companies, including the former Bear Stearns general counsel, Michael Solender, who is now the chief legal officer at Washington Mutual Inc.
Nice. WaMu is exactly where you want to be right now.
Most likely, the top in-house people will be able to find other employment. The rest of the pack will be left to fight it out, “Escape From New York” style.
But instead of thinking about it from a “grass is always greener” perspective, we prefer the post-apocalyptic take of one of our readers:
I’m in house at a largish public company (near the Fortune 500), less than 6 years out of law school, in a top 5 market. I have been approached several times about coming back to private practice, ostensibly because I could bring business with me, and because specialize in a tiny niche that’s about to undergo exponential growth (and I probably know more about it than most BigLaw partners given my complete immersion in it at my company).
That said, my salary is shit. Utter and complete crap. My hours and quality of life suck too. I had more free time and freedom of choice when I billed 2200 hours in 2006. And don’t get me started on corporate bureauacracy and meaningless meetings evidently scripted loyal fans of The Office. Bursting with mindnumbing and largely inconsequential poop, topics range from whether a particular contractual phrase should read “which” or “that” to the new updates on the intranet. Intellectual stimulation is nil.
I’m fatter, more depresed, and less able to control my drinking and recreational drug habits than ever before. I miss beligerent partners, oversexed senior associates, midnight memos, exorbitant salary, and happy hours on the firm tab, because at least the perks suggested that my employer took responsiblity for my misery and, above all, paid me well enough to numb it with the best shit available and afford a shrink on the Harvard faculty roster. There was, to some extent, quid pro quo. In house thinks you’re lucky they hired you, and call the free no-name coffee a “perk.” The dream of in house is just that: a dream.
Now pardon me while I go back to updating my resume.
Cheers to recreational resume updates.
Attorneys seek safe ports from the Wall Street storm: law firms [National Law Journal (subscription)]