Biglaw, In-House Counsel, Job Searches, Wall Street

Bankers Return; Can Lawyers Be Far Behind?

Despite the depressing efforts of Marin County and Michigan Law School, there is a leading indicator that could portend good news for Biglaw lawyers. Wall Street is hiring bankers again. Bloomberg reports:

Firms are adding jobs for the first time in two years, rebuilding businesses cut during the financial crisis and offering guaranteed payouts to lure top bankers. In New York, 6,800 financial-industry positions were added from the end of February through May, the largest three-month increase since 2008, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

If bankers are being hired, they will (a) want to make deals, and (b) screw those deals up. Both realities should make opportunities for lawyers…

The beautiful thing about being a corporate Biglaw attorney is that lawyers have insinuated themselves to the point that business can’t get done without them. And lord knows Wall Street wouldn’t be hiring these guys unless there was business to be done.

Even better for Biglaw lawyers, it’s the biggest banks that are hiring people. These are the clients who have the resources to pay huge fees to outside counsel:

Five of the largest banks on Wall Street — Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley — increased their total headcount in the first quarter, the first three-month jump since the start of 2009, when Bank of America purchased Merrill Lynch & Co. The five banks posted combined net income of $16.2 billion in the first quarter, and three reported record fixed-income trading revenue. It was the highest combined profit for the banks since the second quarter of 2007.

Surely these banks will continue to preach the cost-conscious, no-first-year-associate refrain that we’ve heard so often during this recession. But there’s another way for these banks to keep lawyer costs low: do as much work as possible in-house.

A trend towards in-house legal work still helps Biglaw firm lawyers. Because as Wall Street poaches more people to go in-house, salaries will have to go up if firms want to keep their best talent.

At best, we’re still in the early stages of the Obama recovery. But after the doom-and-gloom of the past 18 months, Wall Street hiring again is some of the best news downtrodden lawyers can hear. Let’s hope that the street is a leading indicator, and Biglaw offers will be lagging just a little bit behind.

Wall Street Hiring Jumps Most Since 2008 as Guarantees Return [Bloomberg]

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