Expert insight and the latest trends in legal recruitment.
With vaccinations rising and Covid cases falling, we’re hearing of lawyers now focusing on one of two directions: moving up or moving out! Moving out could be the right option for you if it also means moving up, according to Patricia O’Byrne from EP Dine, who sets out a few other reasons why you might consider a move right now.
But first up, Alexis Lamb from Jowers tells us all about moving out… far out. She talks through differences between BigLaw in the USA and some of the major legal markets in Asia – ever wondered how the day-to-day differs? There’s more to it than you might think!
If there are any topics you want to hear more about on the Career Moves blog, get in touch and let us know.
- Sal Morton, assistant editor at Chambers Associate
BigLaw in Asia Versus the USA
If you were to trade in Midtown for the Mid-Levels, the Subway for the Escalator, and SoHo for…well…SoHo: what would that mean for your legal practice?
Asia-minded associates should note that there are three main practice areas most represented in Asia for US-trained associates: (1) capital markets, (2) M&A / private equity (including fund formation), (3) emerging companies / venture capital, and (4) FCPA / government investigations. Offices in Asia are also smaller than offices in major US markets such as New York. In Asia, many law firms (especially the ones with smaller US practices) will expect a first or second-year associate to perform what a fourth-year associate would be asked to do in New York. Junior associates may find themselves working directly with partners and clients at a much earlier stage of their careers. Regional differences will affect your dealflow as much as they’ll affect your lunch options. In New York, you’ve got rainbow bagels, mega LBOs, subway acrobats, and stand clear of the closing doors, please. In Silicon Valley, you have series D financings, hoodie billionaires, software-as-an-everything, and avocado worship.
What about Asia? A cap markets attorney may be advising on US IPOs, high-yield bond offerings under Reg S / 144A, or offerings on regional stock exchanges (such as Hong Kong). Private equity dominates M&A practices, especially as geopolitical factors have chilled somewhat cross-border strategic M&A between China and the US. In Singapore, your practice may take on a more “Silicon Valley” flavor due to the proliferation of Southeast Asian high-growth tech behemoths with a strong foothold in the Lion City. Asian-based litigation practices focus on FCPA / regulatory / government enforcement. Litigators in those practice groups with full business fluency in Mandarin (and occasionally Korean) will have the easiest time landing in Asia.
Depending on the market, you may also be eligible to receive a Cost of Living Adjustment on top of your Cravath-scale base salary and bonus(es). So, for many, Asia BigLaw represents a "pay raise" from US BigLaw! My brief legal career straddled both New York and Asia BigLaw. Asia was an invaluable adventure both professionally and personally, and it’s an experience you will take with you regardless of your final professional destination.
The corporate legal market in NYC is on fire right now. Most firms are trying to hire lateral corporate associates to fill out their ranks and alleviate the burden on their current associates. As an associate you are hearing from several recruiters a day asking you if you would like to switch firms. You are so busy yourself you wonder why in the world you would consider moving to another firm for more of the same in an unknown environment and the added “pain” of starting over. And yet, there are a few reasons why you might want to consider a move.
- Step up. Every so often, the market sees these inflection points where a candidate has the opportunity to “trade up” in terms of the ranking of the firm at which you work. If you were shut out of certain firms because of your law school grades, now may be your chance to gain entry to those firms. Trading up will often (but not always) mean bigger and more complex deal work.
- Compensation. Bigger firms may pay more. And if you are working constantly you might as well be earning as much as you can.
- Client base. A new firm may have clients in industries that are more appealing to you.
- Practice area. By moving firms you may be able to hone or expand upon your practice area, which might be a strategic step in your long term career goals.
But do your research on a new firm. Talk to your peers at different firms and work with a recruiter you trust.
One year into the global pandemic, we’re all well aware of how uncertain the future is. Career planning in this climate can feel daunting, so to clear away some of the fog,Sarah Beck from EP Dine sets out some concrete steps of how you can ‘pay it forward’ to your future career. Also helping to clear the future mist is Sean Burke from Whistler Partners. He says you don’t need a crystal ball to discern when it’s the best time to go in-house – but you do need to be patient. Not want you wanted to hear? See if he can persuade you. And finally, Alexis Lamb at Jowers Vargas tells us about the exciting boom in M&A that’s happening in the Asia market right now, and what that means for lateral recruitment in 2021.
If there are any topics you want to hear more about on the Career Moves blog, do get in touch and let us know.
- Sal Morton, assistant editor at Chambers Associate
Paying It Forward: Investing In Your Future
Sarah Beck, EP Dine
Do you know what you’re working towards, and why? For many young attorneys, career development can be a black box. If you don’t know any lawyers—or have experts in your corner—it’s hard to know where to begin. So, here are a few starting points.
Be intentional. Early in your career, it’s easy to follow the advice of others (hello!). But I encourage you to be proactive and map your own path forward. Start with self-exploration. What do you consider essential, both in the workplace and outside of it? Identify your goals and values, write them out, and then rate how important they are to you. If you know what training, management, and communication styles work best for you, make note of those too. This may seem silly. But knowing what you’re aiming for, and why, helps frame how you get there.
Be informed. Choose a law firm, practice area, and geographic location that match your priorities AND where there is room for growth. How do you find such intel? Chambers Associate does a great job of aggregating industry information. Career services departments are also useful resources, as are reputable recruiters. We know each firm’s strengths and staffing models, which practice areas are growing, which offer the most in-house exit strategies, and which limit you to certain geographic areas. Do your own due diligence, but also be sure to ask for help.
Be forward-looking. In your first few years of practice, you will work hard and learn a lot. Many associates put their heads down and grind, but this is also a key moment to invest in your longer-term success. Have exploratory conversations with people further along in their careers, or whose work you admire. This can be through alumni networks, social circles, or with supportive and discreet colleagues. Pay attention to the market too, before you’re prepared to move—and keep an open mind. That opportunity you didn’t know to look for might be your next great career chapter.
Finally, schedule regular check-ins to track your progress. Make them a habit. Whether by yourself, or with friends or professionals, the best way to prepare for the future you want is to start investing today.
The Big 'When Should I Go In-House?' Q
Sean Burke, Whistler Partners
“Around the fifth year when you've got about 10,000 hours of experience under your belt.”
That’s what we call the Ryan Murr rule (he’s the partner and life sciences co-chair at Gibson Dunn who gave us this gem in our Life Sciences article, as a nod to Malcolm Gladwell’s similar rule). And given how catchy and easy it is to follow, we probably repeat it to associates once a day.
Look, we get it. Third to fourth year BigLaw burn-out is real and we can empathize. But going in-house too early often stalls out careers. In BigLaw, a raise is all but guaranteed every year. There are clear benchmarks. But the business world is far more opaque, and if you start as a low level counsel, you can easily be pigeon holed into doing the same kind of contract over and over again for years (and, even worse, at the same salary for years, eek).
But there is a catch-22. Many in-house hiring managers only want to hire attorneys who have already been in-house. At Whistler Partners we often try to dissuade our in-house clients from having this bias, but unfortunately not every in-house job you apply to will be through us. So if you are, let’s say a seventh year who wants to go in-house for the first time, we recommend first considering which of your clients might hire you. Your clients already know that you’re capable and that you’re a good after work drinking buddy.
Finding that sweet spot of enough BigLaw experience but not too much is tough, but having a plan, and being flexible about changing it as needed should help.
M&A 'Explosion' in Asia
Alexis Lamb, Jowers Vargas
BigLaw China M&A has been running at a record pace since the start of the new year, which has translated into a hiring bonanza at many of Greater China’s top M&A / PE BigLaw practices. The frenzy in M&A and investments started in the second half of 2020, with some firms experiencing record-level dealflow (and associates, in turn, hitting eye-poppingly large billable numbers). However, global hiring freezes prevented most of greater China’s top M&A teams from making necessary hires in 2020. Let us usher in 2021, and with a new year comes new optimism.
What’s trending on both the dealmaking and BigLaw hiring fronts? Private equity, specifically buyouts into the e-commerce and logistics spaces. Unfortunately, cross-border strategic M&A is on the decline. For those looking to cultivate a more strategic M&A practice in Asia, focusing on domestic (read: China) M&A is going to be key. COVID-19, coupled with 2020’s geopolitical concerns, served to chill cross-border M&A - and free up capital to deploy toward domestic investment initiatives.
2020’s “SPAC Attack” that started in the U.S. is starting to reach Asian shores. SPACs - short for special purpose acquisition companies - have been seen as compelling alternatives to a traditional IPO, especially since raising capital via SPAC is cheaper and less regulation-heavy, thus making them particularly attractive to efficiency-minded tech startups.
Southeast Asia dealmaking has taken on more of a Silicon Valley sheen, especially as the VC scene in the region has grown exponentially in recent years. Global VC funds hunting for the next Grab or Go-Jek are pouring investments into promising regional startups. While Singapore’s BigLaw market is smaller than Hong Kong’s, we are seeing a number of venture tech-focused law firms expanding their ranks in the Lion City.
Sal Morton here, assistant editor here at Chambers Associate and curator of this Career Moves blog, bringing you insightful articles from lateral legal recruitment experts every month. This month we’ve got some wonderful nuggets of wisdom from our contributors – and I’m not just saying that because one of them is my boss. Kicking things off is our very own Antony Cooke, editor of Chambers Associate, with an overview of how Covid-19 has influenced which practices are taking in junior associates.
Next up, Sarah Beck of EP Dine implores us to be patient in making giant career moves – you may be keen to jump from your stormy ship as soon as possible, but will that be the best move in the long run? For those who do have to make a move during this remote, digital age, Dareth Finn from VOYLegal sets out the practicalities of traversing interviews and onboarding from your home desk. The reality of Covid-19 is that virtual working is here to stay, so last but certainly not least, Sean Burke of Whistler Partners sheds some light on the positive effects of working in isolation from home – let’s cling to those silver linings!
The Zoom Boom
By Antony Cooke, Chambers Associate
Watching how law firms shuffle their associates between practice areas offers a window on the industry’s response to economic change. Back in June 2020, we observed firms putting all their eggs in the bankruptcy basket, and draining staff from transactional and financial areas. IP lost more staff than any area – if you consider IP is the result of R&D expenditure, companies will halt this work while they look after cashflow in a crisis. 2020 was the year bankruptcy became cool, sort of.
Now, eight months later, M&A has plummeted even further. Growth areas over the two years continue to reflect an economy in crisis – employment and bankruptcy are still en vogue – and all those unused city centers are creating legal work in real estate. Energy remains buoyant because work there is sufficiently long-term to be somewhat recession-proof. The only core transactional areas thriving are private equity and venture capital. This climate favors the cash-rich funds who can take advantage of lower company valuations.
But the really interesting story here is how corporate has hemorrhaged associates over to technology, the clear winner from this whole debacle. If you think about how we managed to survive 2020, it makes perfect sense to see a tech boom – or Zoom – and it explains part of the strength in venture capital work.
A year on, the pandemic has had the chance to embed permanent change into our lifestyles. Times of crisis encourage ingenuity and invention, accelerating the evolution of our civilization. As we see, lawyers are moving and adapting to help that change happen. This is a resilient industry – whether we have calm or disruption, junior lawyers have a use.
Patient but Practical: Prioritizing Your Professional Needs
By Sarah Beck, EP Dine
BigLaw is booming. 2021 is moving full steam ahead and, for many firms, business has never been better. For associates, this means additional months of high billables and continued blurring of work and home life.
For these or other reasons, you may be unhappy, frustrated, or starting to experience burnout. That’s okay. It’s also okay to consider greener pastures. But before you jump, be sure to think through all angles of a move. Start by identifying the problems. Clearly define the reasons why you’re unhappy, the goals you want to achieve in a move, and what criteria are and aren’t negotiable.
Next, ask the experts. Check in with trusted friends and professional contacts about your situation. What have their own experiences been? Reputable recruiters are also key sources of intel. As part of your network, we will help you assess the broader market: what other employers may or may not offer, and what sort of change will address your specific pain points.
Once you’ve done your soul-searching—and phoned a friend or two—try to address these problems with your firm. Can your seniors, partners, staffing team, or HR resolve the issues you have identified? Will this be done in a concrete, measurable, time-bound way? Explore what systems and people your firm has in place to help. At the same time, be honest with yourself. If you already have one foot out the door, it can be hard to view changes as more than a band-aid. Make sure you are willing to match your firm’s efforts; as with any relationship, there needs to be mutual interest in making it work.
Remember: be patient but practical. Don’t move solely because you are unhappy—and don’t stay put for promises that aren’t being met. And above all, be courteous! The legal (and business) world is small, and you are bound to cross paths with former colleagues again. If you do decide to leave, make sure it’s on the best possible terms.
The start of a new year is often a busy time for lateral activity, and this year is no exception. But like most aspects of our lives, the lateral process looks different now thanks to our new world of working remotely. If joining a new firm is one of your new year’s resolutions, here’s what you can expect when making a lateral move in the virtual age.
Most interviews are taking place over video. Preparation for a video interview isn’t much different from preparing to go in-person, but does take some extra setting up. Test out your background (avoid clutter or distractions), lighting (make sure you’re not backlit), and audio (using headphones is preferable) with a friend or mentor ahead of time. Don’t forget to dress professionally! Video interviews can seem daunting, but many candidates report being able to connect more personally with their interviewers. Expect this format to remain a big part of the lateral process even once offices reopen.
Some firms are opting for in-person interviews when possible. If you’re not comfortable in person or want to ensure certain precautions would be taken, say so. A recruiter can help advocate for you and negotiate an environment you feel safe in. It’s also worth asking about the firm’s plans to return to offices and whether a flexible schedule will be an option. Law firms—historically hesitant to embrace remote work—are realizing that allowing some flexibility will be vital in attracting top talent.
Virtual interviews are the easy part compared to onboarding and integrating into a new team remotely. Many firms have streamlined the virtual onboarding process and plan to make these changes permanent. While you can likely expect some virtual team building activities, getting to know colleagues outside of your specific group may take more work on your part. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for virtual coffee meetings to get to know folks you may not work directly with. As always, picking up the phone rather than relying on digital communications can go a long way in building relationships with new colleagues.
Many aspects of the lateral process will likely remain virtual even once we return to business as usual. Whether you’re preparing for a lateral move now or in the future, learning to get comfortable with video interviewing and building relationships virtually will serve you well.
Times are a-changin
By Sean Burke, Whistler Partners
Times are a-changin! It’s been a tough year, but things are looking up. We thought we would take this moment to take a positive outlook on some cultural trends in legal. First, while BigLaw has always been a liberal bastion (with the exception of a few outliers), BigLaw has stepped up its game even further. 2020 saw more campaign contributions to Democratic and progressive candidates and a greater proportion of pro bono hours and commitment to liberal causes than ever before. Second, while not at the same level as their CEO counterparts, law firm leaders have been more outspoken about the need for greater diversity and inclusion. And it’s not just all lip service, as recruiters we’ve seen real effort by our clients to be more inclusive in their interviewing and hiring practices. Mental health is no longer a bad word or a sign of weakness – firms are openly discussing mental health as a priority and at least trying to address it. Openness to working remotely, flexible work schedules, less facetime in the office, different office floor plans with open floor space and smaller but more egalitarian private offices – there have been a lot of positive changes as we enter 2021, and here’s to hoping the progressive trends continue!
What topics do you want to hear about on the Career Moves blog? Get in touch with us on Twitter @ChambersAssoc and let us know.
Technology’s had meteoric transformation over the last decade; the circumstances of the last 12 months have only hastened the pace of change. As we leap into 2021 (how are we three weeks into January already?), the team at Whistler reports seeing unprecedented demand for fintech attorneys in-house. And it’s one area to watch in the Asian legal market in 2021, among others, says the team at Jowers Vargas.
Advances in tech (specifically clever remote solutions) are exactly how events like the NALSC Annual Conference can go ahead this year – get all the event details below. But first, Antony Cooke, editor of Chambers Associate, shares some of the latest findings from our research into trends in BigLaw recruitment…
Bankruptcy is no longer cool
By Antony Cooke
Here’s a sneak preview of the webinar we’re doing for NALSC members tomorrow (Jan 21). Last year we reported that at the junior level, firms were herding their associates away from their crumbling transactional practices to deal with the boom in bankruptcy and disputes. That was a very 2020 problem, and it helped us see how versatile the legal profession can be. We did the same headcount survey in 2021, and now tech is stealing the show: corporate and transactional have plummeted even further and are sending their associates techwards. If you consider how we all managed to continue existing in 2020, to see sudden tech sector growth makes perfect sense.
We also look at BigLaw hiring trends over 11 years, and – so far – we’re not seeing evidence of a crisis play out in legal recruitment. The numbers at entry level remain steady, indicating short-term optimism and resilience. Over this decade we’ve seen the top ten firms continue pulling away: the rest of BigLaw has recruited similar numbers year-on-year, but the likes of Kirkland, Skadden, Latham and Jones Day have driven growth at the top, with some doubling in size. And when firms expand or contract their class sizes, New York recruiters are one year ahead of the rest of the US.
Assessing all our data through the lens of gender, we found women distinctly more attracted to litigation, tech, life sciences and arbitration, while male lawyers are more drawn to transactional and financial practices. And this might explain why women reported being happier than men in 2020-21: their jobs were more secure and they didn’t have to suddenly morph into a bankruptcy lawyer.
Female lawyers’ happiness halted abruptly, however, when we asked about law firms’ D&I initiatives: shockingly, men were more satisfied with their firms on this front. We see how the pressures of the profession see lawyers place a greater premium on quality of life and culture as they progress upwards. Our research in 2020 showed that strong D&I initiatives improve retention generally – not just for diverse lawyers – because it ties in more generally with positive working cultures, such as transparency, mentorship and trust-building.
We asked all associates how achievable partnership was and, no surprises either, New York associates trailed badly behind the rest of the US. And across the US this affects lawyers’ short-term commitment to staying at their firms. Transactional and financial practice areas perform the worst for associate loyalty; IP, real estate, tax and all niche practice areas attract associates for the long-haul. All trends point towards a market where there’s an expectation to move on, and that loyalty is never a guarantee, but the firms that behave like they care about their attorneys are rewarded with their loyalty.
FinTech, FinTech, FinTech
If you’re like us, the New York Times story about the programmer with only two password guesses left to access his $220 million Bitcoin fortune kept you up at night. But if you’re also like us, the idea of paying anyone with cash instead of an app seems barbaric (and unhygienic). Fintech was built to thrive in a pandemic and it’s officially taken over the zeitgeist, with even Walmart getting in on the action as they partner with Ribbit Capital on a new fintech startup.
At Whistler Partners, we’re seeing record numbers of in-house jobs for fintech attorneys. Which is great if you’re already a fintech expert! But if you aren’t, those in-house jobs are out of reach until you have experience, but breaking into a relatively new field may seem daunting.
The good news is, almost any type of attorney can add fintech to their practice. If you’re an M&A associate, actively try to get involved in M&A deals for fintech clients. Same goes for finance, IP, regulatory, and litigation associates. If your firm doesn’t have any fintech work, consider making a move to a firm better known for its fintech deals. Adding fintech to your expertise will open doors down the road, be it for partner opportunities or in-house jobs. Remember, there may be hundreds of M&A or finance associates of your class year in your region, but only a handful will have fintech experience.
2021 Asia BigLaw Hiring Trends – A Prediction
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpectable and plan for the unplannable. Many firms' Asia based offices saw impressive – and some teams even had historically fantastic – numbers of billable hours in various months of 2020, including in Asia. However, this did not automatically translate into openings, due to COVID hiring freezes. While many associates in Asia have been churning out solid billable hours since mid-year 2020, law firms’ global management has yo-yoed between granting – and then turning off – the green light for Asia-based partners to make necessary hires.
Using the patterns and trends of a most unexpected year (and the past few weeks of the new year), let us offer some of our predictions as to where hiring in Asia BigLaw might be more concentrated.
M&A: The first few weeks of 2021 have ushered in a flurry of M&A associate hiring activity across nearly all of Asia’s top M&A and PE practices in both greater China and Southeast Asia (i.e., Singapore). Now that global management is starting to give the green light more liberally to Asia-based partners and practice groups, we predict that law firms in Asia will make as many as 10 or more associate hires across various class years in the M&A / PE space, especially among firms with a strong private equity and venture capital / tech client base.
Capital Markets: Despite the crisis, IPO activity remained robust across greater China and Southeast Asia. We predict Hong Kong IPOs to continue to dominate the equity capital markets landscape on both US-based and Asia-based exchanges. Expect Southeast Asian IPOs – led by Grab – to likewise show strength. DCM offerings slowed somewhat in 2020 as potential issuers waited for a more stable economic landscape, but now that COVID is more of a known variable, we expect issuers to be more willing to test the markets.
Other: Tech will be a practice group to watch, especially as US based and China based tech giants get even more acquisitive in Southeast Asia and Singapore begins to assert itself as a globally prominent tech hub.
The NALSC 2021 Annual Conference
NALSC announces its virtual 2021 Annual Conference scheduled for April 8th and 9th from 12:00-3:30pm ET both days. In a continuous effort to incorporate member suggestions, this event will feature even more audience interaction and practical take-aways. Live sessions will encompass a variety of recruiting-related topics geared towards attendees from legal search firms as well as law firms. Programming will include a Keynote featuring How to Build Better Rapport and Make Better Placements; Navigating Employment Law Risks for Recruiters; Virtual Law Firms and Recruiting; Perspectives from the Candidate Side; Strategic Planning for Talent Acquisition and Retention (based on the NALP Foundation’s latest research and data); Switching Sides Part II– What You Thought You Knew from the Law Firm Side and from the Search Firm Side; and various Interactive Breakout topics.
Combining education with networking, attendees may visit virtual sponsor exhibitor booths, reconnect with colleagues, have virtual client meet-ups, meet newest members, and enjoy friendly camaraderie over Friday Cocktails. The interactive Whova platform amazingly replicates all the best aspects of an in-person event, and more.
NALSC greatly appreciates the generous support of all corporate and law firm sponsors. The full detailed Conference program and registration will be available shortly on www.nalsc.org.
Unpopular opinion: there's plenty to be optimistic about right now. The holiday season is upon us, countries are gearing up for vaccination rollouts, and to top it all off, things are looking up in the world of legal lateral recruitment as well.
For starters, in-house experts at EP Dine say you don't need to postpone your move in-house. Elsewhere in this month's blog, VOYlegal reel off some of the trends they expect to see in recruitment in 2021. And first up from Whistler Partners, it's all kicking off in capital markets...
SPAC Attack! (AKA the reason cap markets attorneys are getting crazy bonuses)
By Taylor Miller, Whistler Partners
If you pay any attention to public markets, you may have noticed that SPACs are hotter than ever. But if you’re a capital markets attorney, you’ve definitely noticed because your desk is on fire with SPACs, a SPAC Attack (™ Whistler Partners) if you will.
While companies have been shunning Traditional IPOs, the ease of SPACs have actually served to grow the public markets pie. As of writing this, there have been +86% more IPOs (Traditional & SPACs) in 2020 compared with the same time last year. SPACs move fast and require less upfront investment from PE funds than their traditional counterparts, so for PE funds they’re a no-brainer.
The result for cap markets attorneys? Their busiest year ever. Which means that partners are eager to hire additional talent... yesterday if possible. In the legal recruiting market, that’s meant that firms have been offering above market starting bonuses to attorneys with 34 Act experience who can start in December. Worried about your end of year bonus? They’ll cover it and more. One cap markets associate we worked with recently was offered their full year end bonus plus $100,000 if they would start immediately.
This trend for SPACs is likely to continue into 2021, but once firms have expanded their cap markets practices will the trend for above market starting bonuses continue? Probably not. So you might as well strike while the iron’s hot.
Thinking about moving in-house? Should you wait until after the pandemic?
Ringing in the New Year has never sounded quite so wonderful as it does this year. I think we will all be happy to put 2020 behind us.
As recruiters we have had an interesting vantage point from which to see the impact quarantining and working remotely has had on our clients and our candidates.
In March, our clients, like all businesses and law firms, were faced with the monumental task of pivoting to a remote work structure, while keeping employee morale positive. In March and April, many of our clients (but not all) paused their in-house searches while they focused on assuring continuity of legal support to their business. But clients were quick to solve these problems and return to hiring because their businesses were thriving. This is great news for associates looking to move in-house.
The most common candidate question we receive is should they wait until after the pandemic is over to make a move in-house. And our answer is no! Our clients have figured out how to interview and onboard new hires in a thoughtful and successful way. Each client approaches this new process a little bit differently, but integration has become fairly seamless. You don’t want to sit on the sidelines while the world moves forward. The right in-house job can take some time to find. Keep exploring and directing your career, rather than letting the world dictate your choices.
We have candidates that are happily switching jobs while never leaving their home office.
With a vaccine on the horizon (hopefully), taking advantage of this busy in-house market could make 2021 the best year for you.
The 2021 legal market
2020 has been (dare we say it?) an unprecedented year. Though law firms took a hit in the initial months of the pandemic’s uncertainty, they have emerged from this weary year relatively unscathed—some even busier than ever—and anticipating an active 2021. While 2020 has taught us we never truly know what the future holds, current trends offer a glimpse into which practice areas firms will be looking to add depth to next year.
There is an incredible amount of activity in the antitrust space right now. While antitrust has recently been a hot topic with the heightened focus on Big Tech, mergers across a variety of healthcare sectors are also driving an increase in antitrust activity. As a number of industries—think healthcare, travel, traditional retail, fitness—are ripe for disruption, and innovative new companies emerge (after all, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste), we expect antitrust groups to remain highly active throughout next year.
Covid-19 has upended nearly every aspect of our lives, particularly the way we work. The world’s sudden transition to remote work presented new challenges to employers, forcing companies to adapt personnel policies and protocols. And for industries that couldn’t adopt remote work, companies had to ensure they were compliant with Covid-19 standards issued by many states to protect worker health and safety. Currently, companies are weighing vaccine mandates and planning for workforces to return to offices and other worksites. As employers and workers alike continue to navigate the pandemic, this practice area will stay busy.
The pandemic continues to ravage businesses across all industries, drive more of our everyday activity online, and accelerate trends in industries that are long overdue for change. To that end, we expect bankruptcy, privacy and data security, and renewable energy to be among the busiest practice areas with significant lateral hiring activity in 2021. Stay tuned to Career Moves for more in-depth insight from VOYlegal recruiters and experienced attorneys about what lawyers in these practices can expect in the lateral market next year.
While we’re making progress toward a post-pandemic world, the continued uncertainty and upheaval caused by Covid-19 will drive a great deal of legal activity, and likely a lot of lateral hiring, throughout 2021. Here’s hoping that both a robust lateral market and a return to normal await us in the new year.
In what’s been a weird month in a very weird year, it’s good to have some solid words of advice to fall back on. Below, Peter Alexander - recruitment insider at Latham & Watkins - shares his top tips for making a lateral move.
Life sciences is one practice that just keeps heating up (find out more here), and the team at Whistler Partners is noticing one particular trend in the market - this is essential reading for any life sciences attorney.
Adam Leitman Bailey talks us through some of the most important real estate laws in the era of Covid-19 (we also recently caught up with some of the firm’s associates to find out what it’s like to lateral into a boutique law firm).
But first up, New York, New York! The team at VOYlegal examines the city’s legal market – from the surprising effects of Covid-19 so far to the potential impact of the Biden administration…
The New York market
Covid-19’s spring surge shut down New York, home to nearly a quarter of America’s top 200 law firms. Attorneys fled to other markets and many in the industry have found it hard to imagine when life in the city will get back to normal — if ever.
New York’s been declared dead before. It’s always emerged from the ashes a better version of itself. Smart attorneys should take a long-term view and seize the opportunity that the city presents, before it rises without them.
Ground zero for Covid’s first wave, New York law firms zealously adopted remote work. (Escaping expensive commercial rents surely helped.) As a result, New York attorneys report seismic shifts in their notorious work/life culture and lifestyle. Free from a grinding daily commute, they can trade undersized Manhattan or Brooklyn apartments for the tony suburbs.
For junior attorneys looking to stay in the city, an exodus of families and the elderly has dropped home prices. While the cost of living in Los Angeles and the Bay Area continues to squeeze recent grads, New York is likely to become even more the province of dynamic, entrepreneurial young people, and the businesses they grow, much like Berlin and Toronto.
And as the pandemic continues to rage on, there’s perhaps no safer metropolis in America than New York, which has adopted the strictest norms for mask-wearing, testing and tracing, and other steps to limit the spread. While other locales shut down from runaway infection, New Yorkers are prepared for whatever comes next.
Finally, a new Biden administration is likely to help New York rebuild. The President-elect’s economic plan calls for “necessary fiscal relief to states…especially those on the front lines like New York.” Governor Andrew Cuomo, his personal friend, can appeal directly for the state’s needs as he has before, when the two collaborated to revitalize La Guardia Airport.
And above all, New York’s natural advantages – the incredible diversity, dynamism, and human interaction that has always been its strength – will bring New York back. Attorneys looking to build successful futures would be wise to never rule it out.
Trend: In-house life sciences hiring
By Whistler Partners
There’s something big happening in the world of life sciences and biotechnology. No, it’s not the race for the vaccine (ok, actually yes, that is big)... but we’re talking about the surge of in-house legal hiring at life sciences and biotech startups.
From pharma to digital health platforms to health data, the biotech world has been flush with capital in 2020 as US listed biotech companies raised $9.4 billion in IPOs by August, which means that this year will dwarf the previous record year of 2018, when $6.5 billion was raised. With all of these IPOs and a healthy dose of SPACs too, the legal teams of these startups have needed to expand rapidly.
In the legal recruitment field, that’s meant a few things:
1) More than half of the new in-house jobs we’ve seen at Whistler Partners in the past month have been for life sciences or FDA attorneys.
2) These jobs are being filled fast. We’re talking about interviewing candidates hours after receiving resumes, filling the position within weeks, and having them start (virtually) by the end of the month. These employers are motivated.
3) There’s going to be a drain on some firms’ life sciences practices because there are a finite number of life sciences attorneys. Think about it – you can train any first year to do bankruptcy but a life sciences attorney needs some hard sciences background, if not a PhD. Accordingly, we’ve seen firms put out open ended requests to interview life sciences attorneys at all levels.
So if you are a life sciences attorney and going in-house does interest you, all we can say is have your resume ready. That once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will probably come out of this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
For more information about lateraling as a life sciences attorney right now, click here.
Recruiter Advice: Top 5 Things to Consider Before Making a Lateral Move
By Peter Alexander, US Attorney Recruiting, Latham & Watkins
While everyone’s career journey is different, here’s my advice for what you should consider before making a lateral jump.
- What’s the firm’s lateral integration program? Does the new firm set you up for success? A smooth onboarding and integration process is as vital to your transition as the work itself. Here at Latham, all new lateral hires are paired with a formal mentor in the practice group, as well as an additional mentor, who is also a lateral hire, and can provide guidance around joining the firm as an experienced associate. After a lateral hire has joined the firm, our staff actively checks in with both the candidate, and the practice group, to make sure the transition is going smoothly. Lastly, new attorneys can build relationships across the firm at one of Latham’s signature multi-day academies, marking key transition points throughout their career. The academies provide tools to facilitate growth and opportunities to network.
- Are there others at the firm who have lateralled successfully? Before you make a move, you should consider your long-term career goals, and whether the new firm can help you get there. If your goal is to make partner, do some digging to see if attorneys are successfully lateraling and progressing. While many of Latham’s partners started as summer associates, many others have started their careers at other firms, companies and government agencies.
- How does your practice area stack up? When you join a practice within a firm, you’re often joining a smaller community that operates in a silo. Beyond the practice area rankings, you should consider how the practice group fits into the grander structure of the firm. Who are their clients? Do they serve industries that are of interest to you? Do they work well with other groups at the firm? Latham is unique in that we are truly a one-firm firm. Our lawyers collaborate across the globe in projects that span offices, time zones, and teams to address cutting-edge, complex legal and business challenges.
- What is the firm culture? It’s no secret that BigLaw attorneys spend a lot of time at work. It’s important that you feel like you belong. Part of Latham’s secret sauce is our collaborative and collegial culture, even at the management level. Our Associates Committee – boasting an equal number of associates and partners – manages associates reviews, bonuses, and promotion to partnership and counsel, which leads to a remarkably transparent environment.
- Is the firm well positioned to help your long-term career goals? Whatever your goals may be, you want to join a firm that’s productive and on a growth trajectory. You can often gauge the health of a firm based on associate satisfaction surveys and Chambers Associate’s Inside View.
Coming soon to Career Moves: Lateraling as a corporate associate, with Latham & Watkins
Podcast: Latham’s Allyship Series: Tune in and listen up as a variety of Latham's lawyers reveal their thoughts on the topic of allyship in the legal profession.
Some of the Most Important Real Estate Laws Businesses Must Know During the Pandemic
There has never been a time like this during our lifetimes. Never before has a pandemic and a government strangled an economy and by effect shaken the very structure of our faith in our business freedoms where we can no longer sign a contract or lease knowing that the government will not interfere.
Despite New York’s Governor’s Executive Orders and the local government’s newly passed laws, many of the standard laws still are intact. A commercial landlord has no obligation to mitigate damages however a residential apartment must try to re-rent the apartment. Personal Guarantees are enforceable except in five categories—1) retail establishments shut down, 2) restaurants and bars banned from on premises food service, 3) gambling facilities, 4) gyms, 5) hairdressers and most likely this law will be deemed unconstitutional based on prior Supreme Court precedence. Courts are enforcing contracts despite COVID-19 and although judges have been equitable they have consistently been enforcing the law and the contents of contracts and leases. Although there is a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until the end of 2020, courts have found that there is no ban on extra-judicial evictions and foreclosures. Self-help evictions have been conducted peacefully and condoned by the courts as well as nonjudicial foreclosures for mezzanine lenders.
In addition, although attempted evictions in landlord-tenant court have proved troublesome, ejectment actions in State Supreme Court have proven fruitful. Some business interruption insurance cases do get paid by the insurance company when they have an infectious disease rider or the civil authority rider which pays when the government forces the closure of businesses—but we are seeing these riders in very few policies and the creative business interruption insurance theories that try to get prove concrete touching by COVID-19 must have the civil authority rider to survive a motion to dismiss. Our clients are also taking advantage of inexpensive money by refinancing their property and many times investing.
Businesses will survive these interferences and thrive with smart lawyers and good business decisions despite having the challenge of a lifetime. The points above cover many of the most asked about and misunderstood queries of the pandemic.
Moving into a Boutique Law Firm: You don’t need to be big to pack a punch in BigLaw. Associates at Adam Leitman Bailey tell us what it’s like to work at a boutique law firm.
As winter approaches in what’s been an ‘interesting’ year, the West Coast could be starting to look real attractive to those based Eastside. Below, the team at Whistler Partners outlines why Southern Cali in particular is pulling in a ton of talent right now.
For a move further afield, our eyes turn to the Asia market with the team at Jowers Vargas, who explain how the region’s key legal hubs and their practices are responding to the global pandemic (spoiler: it’s not as bad as you might first think).
Whether you’re looking to move your career near or far, you should always take steps to protect your best interests. To help you do just that, the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC) have given us a bitesize overview of their code of ethics (and you can read about it in more detail here).
But first, this is the time of year when partner promotion discussions start to fire up. And if you’re not hearing what you want to hear, E P Dine have some words of wisdom for you…
Fall brings partnership election discussions to the table at many BigLaw firms
An associate who has received positive partnership indications throughout his/her career, and should be up for partner, may be hearing that his/her partnership consideration is being pushed. If you have received this crushing news after working so hard for so long, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you are a skilled attorney with a long career ahead of you – whether it is at the same firm, a different firm or in-house. You have some thinking to do and decisions to make:
1) Analyze the reasons as to why your partnership consideration is being pushed a year. Do they make sense?
2) Examine the firm's politics objectively. Making partner is a meritocracy, but it would be naïve to believe that politics are not involved.
3) Is the firm invested in your practice area or is it moving in another direction?
4) Assess the number of qualified associates who are ahead of you and behind you who will be seeking partnership.
Answering these questions will empower you to make a better and a more informed decision as to what you are going to do. Move forward with a deliberate plan and doors will open.
Why now is the time to move your career to Southern California
This year marked the worst ever fire season in California’s history. Again. So to the average person considering a relocation, Southern California might not top their list right now. But we’ve been seeing attorneys flocking to Los Angeles at a record pace in recent months, as firms rapidly expand their Santa Monica and Century City offices.
The most obvious reason for their moves has been COVID-19, as Biglaw’s previous aversion to remote work has had to go out the window. Suddenly the need to be in Manhattan or San Francisco has waned for attorneys with a few years of experience under their belts, and the allure of having a house with a pool (and an actual home office space that’s not your dining room table) has grown. That house may not be as cheap as a house in the Midwest, but compared to housing in New York or San Francisco, it’s a downright bargain.
But aside from lifestyle reasons, the growth of SoCal’s tech scene has been a major draw for attorneys. While LA is still the best choice for any attorney wanting to break into entertainment, it’s also become a hotspot for attorneys with interests in technology and emerging companies as an increasing number of startups have decided to make SoCal their home. Tech hubs need an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and engineers who can move on to new projects when one startup goes bust, and SoCal’s ecosystem has been steadily growing as talent leaves San Francisco for the aforementioned house with a pool. New York saw a similar influx of tech talent around 2010, and the need for ECVC and tech attorneys followed shortly after.
In addition to firms growing their SoCal offices, we’ve seen a major uptick in in-house jobs in the area. While a year ago more startups had preferences for local candidates for counsel positions, the standardization of virtual interviews has evened the playing field for attorneys considering a relocation.
So if Southern California has been on your mind, and you’re not deterred by the fires, hopefully this has given you the permission you need to start working towards your move. SoCal is no longer a death sentence for your Biglaw career. And did we mention that it’s 70 degrees in San Diego year round?
The Asia Market: an overview
For decades, top international law firms have been drawn to the Asia markets for their strategic financial importance. After all, it was Asia (mainly mainland China) who arguably made the quickest recovery from the 2008 Great Recession, and once again it is Asia – spurred by its tech behemoths – flexing its resiliency during the Coronavirus crisis. As we move into the “next normal”, Asia is a geographic sector to watch. Will Singapore continue to ramp up into Southeast Asia’s Silicon Valley? Will tighter US rules continue to push IPOs from New York to Hong Kong or Shanghai? How long will Asia M&A outpace dealflow in the US and Europe? While only time can answer these questions, they are indicative of the growth and dynamism that continues to attract lawyers to Asia – including our co-founder Alejandro Vargas, who worked as an associate at Skadden and Davis Polk (Hong Kong, Beijing, and Tokyo) for nearly a decade before changing careers four years ago. Co-founder Evan Jowers has specialized in Asia since 2006 and has made over 400 placements of associates, counsels and partners into and around Asia. Each of our Asia team has lived and worked in Asia as recruiters and / or BigLaw lawyers for over a decade. The BigLaw trends and developments in the Asia markets have been fascinating for us to witness and play our small role in.
Find out more about moving into the Asia legal market here.
Six benefits of working with a NALSC member search firm
If you are contacted by recruiters, it is often difficult to determine who is trustworthy or reputable. You may wonder, “If I send this search firm my resume, can I be assured they will keep it confidential?” This is where the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC®) comes in. It was established in 1984 with a primary goal of providing a code of ethics to legal search firms. Below is Article II, from the NALSC Code of Ethics®, which lists the duties of NALSC search firms to candidates:
- Information provided to candidates shall be the most accurate information known to the search firm.
- No search firm shall withhold employer information, which a candidate would reasonably consider essential to his or her hiring decision, subject to the search firm’s duties to the employer.
- Candidates shall be submitted to employers only with the candidates’ express prior consent.
- A search firm shall treat as confidential all information supplied to it in confidence by a candidate, subject to the search firm’s duties to the employer.
- Search firms shall make all submissions which have been authorized by the candidate and shall inform the candidate of the results of those submissions in a timely manner.
- No search firm shall attempt to exert undue influence on the candidate.
For a directory of which firms are members of NALSC, and therefore abide by and are bound to the NALSC Code of Ethics, please visit: https://www.nalsc.org/members/.