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Summer Is Here: Time To Pack Your Bags And Lateral?

Justin Flowers

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Justin Flowers is a Principal with Lateral Link. He oversees attorney placements (both partner and associate level) and client relationships with the top international U.S.- and U.K.-based firms in Asia, the Middle East and Emerging Markets. Justin also establishes and maintains relationships with firms new to the international markets in general, or to a specific market, who are in need of attorney placement services on an international level. In addition to his work in international markets, Justin also advises domestic U.S. boutique law firms on their strategic growth and hiring. He practiced law as a litigator for several years before becoming a recruiter. Justin earned a J.D. from NYU School of Law and an undergraduate liberal arts degree, cum laude, from the University of Oklahoma, where he attended the Honors College.

At the halfway point of the year, 2014 so far has been a perfect storm of big ticket corporate work, with the U.S. IPO market on record pace and global M&A activity surging to aggregate value levels not seen since 2007. This year’s torrid deal pace is already turning the normally relaxed summer months into a period of high recruiting activity.

No doubt about it, summer gets a bad rap as lateral seasons go. But whether or not you intend to take advantage of the current deal market driving demand, summer should be a time for action.

If you are considering a lateral move “early next year,” then there’s nothing to be done in the next couple of months other than take advantage of your firm’s renewed enthusiasm for the summer associate class, right? Wrong. Here’s why:

The Recruiting Calendar: Law firm lateral hiring follows a fairly regimented schedule year in and year out. This cycle is most often viewed from a calendar-year perspective — from the gauntlet of post-bonus promotions and moves on New Year’s Day to the calm before the storm on New Year’s Eve. Moving through January, March and much of the second quarter are a frenetic period of reaction as firms look to fill new openings and to upgrade wherever possible.

The groundwork for the majority of those January or February moves, however, was laid weeks, if not months, in advance of the actual move itself. Recent successful processes have taken from six weeks to a couple of months (at a minimum), and even more when relocation is involved.

The Successful Candidate’s Calendar: This first week of July is the beginning of the second half of the calendar year. However, I prefer to look at it as the beginning of a more natural, year-long recruiting cycle whose early summer stages build into an increase in interview activity in the fall. This perspective tweak is one that I find helpful when planning our yearly business, and it is something that I borrowed from a prominent financial services company for whom I do senior-level search work here in Greater China which runs on a July-to-June fiscal year. I find this summer-to-summer fiscal year construct to offer a more useful pace and outlook not only to our recruiters, but also to our candidates. Strategizing a potential move in the summer months allows a candidate to gather information and prepare to make the best case for themselves (on paper and in person) well in advance of the late fall prime interview period, which can be further complicated by the holidays. This provides a longer runway for considering possible options.

The Market’s Agenda: Job searches are elastic in their timing. They will expand or contract in duration (sometimes both in a protracted search) for each individual according to market dynamics and trends.

Due to the residual effects of the recession on their relative numbers, the associates in class years ’10-’11 with the right experience are in extremely high demand now and have been all year. Similarly, because of strong deal flow, firms are beginning to replace associates who leave, when they might not have in the recent past. But these trends will not last forever as the more populous junior classes are getting more experienced every week and as the class of ’14 is ready to jump right in as well. If you are a class of 2011 associate who has major hang-ups about your current position, at the very least you should be listening to and gathering information on potential options. Your value as an associate will likely never be higher than it is this year.

With current interview processes taking anywhere from two to six months, the summer is by no means too early to start working towards an end-of-year or early 2015 move. Even if you are not ready to gear up for a fully-fledged search at this stage, the summer is perfect for information gathering and preparing or revising your materials.

Counter-cyclical Exceptions: If you are looking to make a quick move, there are opportunities to join great practices midyear. Even without the record pace of the current corporate market, every year I have two to three “flash” searches that pop up out of nowhere, start and are filled in July and August. The same is true for most of my colleagues, regardless of regional focus. This summer is proving true to form, even stronger in fact, with a 100% increase in open jobs from the same period last year. There are distinct advantages for those open to contrarian timing for their job search. Primarily, interviewing out of the bigger cycle of hiring ensures less competition for urgent roles, and often more individualized attention and focus from partners and others involved in the hiring process.

While there are very definite areas of need – by both geography and practice – in the current market, the bar for hiring remains high. If Louis Pasteur was correct that luck favors the prepared, those that have done this initial work in the summer prior to testing the market will have a distinct advantage. Ask yourself, are you really going to make more time for game-planning a potential search and putting your materials together in the fall — or even less likely, the November-December holiday stretch — than you can piece together over the summer? There is not a single better month for those small projects than August — take advantage of it!

What’s ahead? Domestic bourses are not the only active ones, as the global IPO market is up 42.4% year-over-year as well. Due to the deep existing pipeline for IPO’s based on current filings and the fact that IPO’s have outperformed the broader market so far, Renaissance Capital expects the frothy pace to continue further into the year. We are placing a double-digit numbers of capital markets associates around the globe in the last two months alone. According to Allen & Overy’s Q1 M&A Global Report, they “sense activity is once again beginning to build… 2014 should, therefore, become increasingly busy for M&A activity.” Q2 has definitely fulfilled expectations so far.

Whether you are considering a position across Lexington Avenue in Midtown, across the U.S. to another town, or in another country, starting the process at the right time can be crucial to your ultimate success. And sometimes there is no better time than the summer.

Lateral Link is one of the top-rated international legal recruiting firms. With over 14 offices world-wide, Lateral Link specializes in placing attorneys at the most prestigious law firms in the world. Managed by former practicing attorneys from top law schools, Lateral Link has a tradition of hiring lawyers to execute the lateral leaps of practicing attorneys. Click ::here:: to find out more about us.

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