Legal Recruiters

Is the grass greener at another law firm?

I had the pleasure of spending much of last week in Seattle, for the 2014 Annual Education Conference of the Association for Legal Career Professionals (aka NALP). On Thursday afternoon, my colleague Brian Dalton and I, along with Guy Alvarez of Good2bSocial, gave a well-attended presentation on new media strategies that work.

I unfortunately had to leave the conference early to speak at another symposium (the Marquette Law conference on law clerks). But while at NALP, I did attend a number of informative panels, centered around two topics: (1) lateral hiring at law firms and (2) federal judicial clerkships.

Here are some themes that emerged from the three lateral hiring panels I attended:

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Welcome to the firm.

There’s evidence to suggest that lateral partner hiring doesn’t always turn out well for the law firms that engage in it. Sometimes firms overpay for talent. Sometimes the talent isn’t as talented as they claimed. Sometimes firms fail to integrate lateral partners well. There are many ways for the process to go wrong.

But what about for the lateral partners themselves? Are they more satisfied with the process and their new professional homes?

Survey says….

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The process of looking for a legal job is not a model of efficiency. The unemployed and underemployed desperately comb through hundreds of Craigslist postings. Meanwhile, the relatively privileged denizens of Biglaw get besieged by cold calls from legal recruiters, whether they’re looking for new jobs or not.

There has to be a better way. And one former Biglaw associate, an alumna of two top firms, believes she has the answer.

Finding a legal job: there’s an app — well, not an app, but a website — for that….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

On the surface, the state of the legal market looks grim; in the third quarter of 2013, lateral moves declined in almost every practice area in comparison to Q1 and Q2 of 2013 and the three previous Q3s. Although the legal sector added 2,700 jobs in August, there has been stagnation within the top 200 firms relative to the last few years. Compared to the last two years, lateral movement has dropped 29% since 2012, after having risen 5.5% from Q3 of 2011 to Q3 of 2012. When compared to the first two quarters of 2013, the drop is less dire. From the first quarter to the third, total lateral moves dropped 6.3% (not nearly as significant), and from quarter two to quarter three, lateral moves decreased by 13%.

Since Q3 is not yet over, we have assumed that the market trends will hold steady over the course of the next few weeks, and we used this inference to fill the gaps in our data. Analysis of past years’ data shows that this is not an unreasonable assumption. Our findings indicate that lateral movement during Q3 is especially weak when comparing these last two years. In 2012, 5,725 attorneys moved laterally (January 1 through September 18th), compared to 4,840 in 2013 — a 15.4% decrease. While the lateral market would be depressed even without Q3, the drop for the year to date would not be as significant. Of the top Am Law 200 firms, nearly 40% either hemorrhaged lateral attorneys or had no net gain. Despite this lateral recession, Lateral Link has increased its market share over the last year, placing even more candidates than the year before despite the otherwise static lateral market….

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Davis Polk: no more Mr. Nice Guy.

Some things haven’t changed at Davis Polk. The genteel, uber-WASPy firm is still a student favorite during on-campus interview season. Perhaps this is because it still puts on a great summer associate program.

At more senior levels, however, Davis Polk is evolving. Under managing partner Tom Reid, the firm is increasingly focused on the bottom line. It’s adding lateral partner talent, which it historically hasn’t done very often, and it’s asking more from its existing partners in terms of business development (and subjecting some less productive partners to, shall we say, heightened scrutiny). It’s offering buyouts — rather generous ones, it should be noted — to reduce the ranks of support staff (and the associated expenses).

The old Davis Polk, prioritizing prettiness and peacefulness over profits, might have quickly and quietly settled a lawsuit with a recruiter, without regard to the legal merits, just to avoid the ugliness. The new Davis Polk, in contrast, won’t go down without a fight….

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* Antonin Scalia thinks the State of the Union is a “childish spectacle.” I mean, if it was so important, the Founders would have put it in the Constitution, right? [New York Daily News]

* Does your son or daughter want to be Barack Obama when they grow up? Here are complete instructions to building your own play drone! [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Snickers bars are not tax deductible? Damn you H&R Block!!! [Tax Prof Blog]

* Yesterday I mused about needing a ranking for the rankings. PrawfsBlawg points out that there is such a ranking. My dreams of glory are dashed yet again. [PrawfsBlawg]

* It turns out recruiters are just as unimpressed with your legal research skills as your non-law friends. [Monster]

* Allegedly, Nestle’s does not play well with others. [Courthouse News Service]

* Is it just me or is giving the Republican response like being named the Madden cover athlete? Now let’s all watch Marco Rubio realize he needs water in super slow motion. [Deadspin]

Lateral Link had a record year in 2012. We promoted eleven recruiters — five new Principals, five new Senior Directors, and one new Managing Director. Given our existing client base, we are hiring Directors for our Partner Group in all major markets to assist with partner level recruiting for Am Law 200 and regional boutiques.

Lateral Link is a leading global legal recruiting firm with twelve (12) offices in the United States and Asia. We have immediate openings in our New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Dallas offices for a Director-level recruiters to focus on partner search. This is a unique opportunity to leverage an existing client base while joining our team of experienced recruiters, including Larry Latourette (HLS ’82), former managing partner of the Preston Gates, DC office and partner recruiter with over a decade of experience, who manages our partner recruiting practice.

Why Lateral Link? Continue reading to learn more….

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It drives me crazy that my kids had “Harvest” parties at school today. Harvest what? It’s Halloween for Chrissakes. Every calendar in the office here says it’s Halloween. It is not Harvest Day, and believe me, with the reduction of old-time husbandry and the growth of corporate farming, it is difficult to envision ConAgra holding a Harvest Festival. Anyway.

I am not in a good mood of late. The hurricane has really put a damper (seriously, no pun intended) on the spirits of a lot of folks in the Northeast. Spare me the “it’s about time New York got its comeuppance” crap; this is serious stuff. Politically savvy or not, when Chris Christie starts praising Obama and FEMA with apparent sincerity, you know that stuff just got real. For us in Western New York we had a crapload of leaves to shovel; first world problem, I know. You almost feel an embarrassment of riches when you have a sore back from yard clean-up and many people have no home to clean. But, Springsteen postponed his show here from last night until tonight which is a blessing, so there’s that. And my kids are going to be done trick or treating and in bed before the first notes of “Badlands” ring out.

But I digress. This is a Halloween post, and I should have some scary stuff to discuss….

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* A U.S. congressional panel has voted to charge Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress. [Thomson Reuters News and Insight]

* Paul Ceglia’s motion to stay discovery, pending the resolution of his motion to disqualify Facebook’s attorneys, was denied. In last night’s ruling, the judge was less than sympathetic to Ceglia. [United States District Court Western District of New York]

* We wrote about Thomas Jefferson Law grad Michael Wallerstein‘s struggles with a quarter million dollars in law school debt last year. But it looks like he may have found an unorthodox, if not somewhat dodgy, escape route. On the other hand, maybe he’s gone out of the frying pan into the fire. [New York Post]

* The McCormick legal recruiting firm sued one of its former account managers for violating a noncompete clause. Fun times were had by all no one. [Blog of the Legal Times]

* The lawyer going after The Oatmeal and the charities benefiting from the “Bear Love Cancer Bad” campaign has now subpoenaed Twitter and ArsTechica. That’s pretty impressive for just about a week of work. [ArsTechica]

* An online knitting community feels the wrath of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s intellectual property enforcement team. [Gawker]

* Businesses have to choose their employees carefully so they don’t get sued down the road. Sometimes, apparently that means you should hire criminals. [New York Times]

As we mentioned earlier today, retired partners of Dewey & LeBoeuf received some potentially good news. These former partners, whose unfunded pensions were supposed to be funded out of firm profits, will have a voice in the firm’s bankruptcy proceedings. As reported by the WSJ Law Blog and Am Law Daily, the U.S. trustee’s office has appointed an official committee of former partners (in addition to the standard official committee of unsecured creditors). The four ex-partners on the committee are David Bicks, Cameron MacRae, John Kinzey, and John Campo.

What prompted the move? As legal consultant Edwin Reeser, whose analysis of the Dewey situation recently appeared in these pages, told the WSJ, “The retired partners have uniquely separate interests which warrant consideration as a special class of creditors.”

It’s nice that they have a seat at the table, but will the ex-partners end up with any money at the end of the process? That’s less clear. As Jerome Kowalski, another law firm consultant, told the Journal, “There has never been a law firm bankruptcy that resulted in any payment being made to the equity partners… They’ll have zero sway other than perhaps some moral imperatives, and moral imperatives don’t have much play in bankruptcy courts.”

The unsecured creditors might have more luck than the former partners. Who’s on the unsecured creditors’ committee?

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