All posts by Abby Gordon

So What Do I Do Now? Legal Opportunities in NY & Boston

We cannot pretend the next few months will be business as usual. Hiring at many law firms is now on hold. But there are definite exceptions. A number of New York firms, not surprisingly, are looking to bolster their bankruptcy and financial restructuring practices. I’m also working on mid-level associate searches in health law, trademark & copyright, fund finance, leveraged finance, hedge funds, fund formation, tech trans, labor & employment and T&E searches in New York.

In Boston, a city that has been experiencing a significant boom in the legal markets in recent year, for several firms it’s full steam ahead on the hiring front. I am working on urgent searches for clients who are proceeding with Zoom interviews and even with remote offers and onboarding. Boston firms are currently looking for associates in:

  • Fund finance (mid-level)
  • Borrower-side debt finance (mid-level to senior)
  • Lender-side finance (mid-level)
  • Leveraged finance (mid-level)
  • Bankruptcy (junior or mid-level)
  • Finance & restructuring (all levels)
  • Healthcare law (mid-level to senior)
  • Capital markets (mid-level)
  • Healthcare law (mid-level to senior)
  • Tech transactions (mid-level)
  • Patent prosecution, EE/CS or life sciences (junior)
  • Private equity, M&A and general transactional (mid-level to senior)
  • Real estate (senior)

Candidates must have U.S. JDs, top credentials and BigLaw experience. Boston firms are generally very open to relocators from other major markets. Please reach out to me at to discuss any of the opportunities above.

But what if it’s not the right time for you to make a move? What if firms are not hiring in your practice area? There are still steps you can take during these uncertain times to stay productive from a career advancement perspective.

  • Update your resume and deal sheet. If you find yourself with a bit of extra time these days, get your materials in order. See my articles for Above the Law on resumes and deal sheets and feel free to reach out to me with any questions. I’d be happy to share sample resumes and deal sheets and give you specific suggestions for best presenting yourself to prospective employers.
  • Write a business plan. Too junior? No such thing. Start now, even if it’s for your eyes only. See my post for Above the Law on business plans.
  • Learn more about the legal industry and hiring market. Set up a time to chat with a trusted recruiter. Check out my posts explaining the lateral hiring process, working overseas, and other related topics.
  • Work on your soft skills. Do you wish you were a better communicator? A better public speaker? A better team leader? A better writer? Now is a great time to take that webinar. Yesterday, I attended a webinar on Communicating Clearly & with Confidence. I’ve signed up for several webinars next week through Georgetown’s Alumni Career Services office. Recording yourself in a Zoom meeting and watching yourself present can also offer some of the best feedback. (I learned by watching myself give a Zoom presentation on Monday that I am an “um”-er. Time to work on that!)
  • Start that personal project or hobby. Make this a productive time from a personal fulfillment perspective. If you’re struggling to just hold it all together, that is 100% OK. But if you’re cramming your day full of CNN and social media, consider scheduling in time to add some creativity to your life. Take an online cooking, photography or creative writing class. Try out a new school of yoga or meditation. Train your dog. Plan a strategy for how to keep this diversion as part of your life even when normalcy returns.

I’d love to hear your tips for advancing your career from the land of house arrest. Please reach out to me at to discuss specific lateral opportunities, for resume or business plan advice, or to discuss the lateral hiring market in general, whether it is the right time for you to make a move, or how to best position yourself for a move down the road.

Why Lawyers Need To Have Business Plans, No Matter What

Start early: A persuasive business plan can make or break your next career move.

 

Many lawyers do not think about crafting a business plan until they make partner at a firm. Starting this process sooner, even as a mid-level associate, will at worst be a superfluous intellectual exercise. Having a well-thought-out business plan can mean the difference between landing your dream position and missing the chance to lateral at all. It can also mean the difference between success and lost opportunities at any stage in your career. Here’s why.

A Good Business Plan Takes Time

Designing a solid business plan is not just about putting your ideas on paper. A business plan is a process, it’s an ever-evolving organism, not just an end product. It’s about stretching your brain to the max, being creative, thinking outside the box, connecting dots and engaging in analytic reasoning. It takes time to get it right. You’ll want to seek feedback from multiple trusted advisors and put the plan aside at some stage so you can return to it with fresh eyes. For this reason, I believe it is never too early to start working on your business plan, even if it’s for your eyes only. You want to start the process well before you start thinking about making a move.

Your Business Plan Can Highlight a Key Skill or Specialty

A business plan is not just a summary of your résumé and deal sheet. It goes above and beyond a list of your legal skills and your contacts. Through a business plan, you have the opportunity to convince a prospective employer that you will add value to the new firm as a business generator and not just as a legal practitioner. You should explain how your particular specialties will lead to business the firm is not currently able to secure. The more specific the better.

I recently worked with a counsel-level litigator who was asked by a top firm where he was interviewing to give a presentation to a group of partners on a niche specialty that he proposed to develop at the new firm. The litigator’s niche specialty only came to light through his in-depth business plan.

A Business Plan Is Also a State of Mind

A business plan must have substance. A horribly crafted business plan is worse than none at all. But your only excuse for a bad business plan is not starting the process early enough.

Substance is important, but a business plan is not solely about the substance. The fact that you have a business plan at all shows a firm you are serious about the process of lateraling and that you understand that to be a value to the firm, your business development skills are as important as your legal skills. It is hard enough to lateral as a senior associate without business. Having a business plan helps overcome presumption that you don’t have what it takes to bring in business.

A business plan also puts you in the right mindset to interview well and hit the ground running in a new position. The exercise of compiling and refining a business plan is a fantastic preparation for interviews. You have your recent work, contacts, and historical metrics right at your fingertips.

A Business Plan Is Necessary to Succeed, Not Just to Switch Jobs

Isn’t a business plan a waste of time if you’re not looking to lateral? Absolutely not. As I argue also regarding deal sheets, a business plan is a great way to take stock of your experience and your connections, and to visualize where you have holes in your skills and your network and where you can best build.

Even if you could lateral without a business plan, you’re going to need one eventually to succeed as a counsel or partner. Give yourself the best chance at success by having a roadmap before you make the move so you can hit the ground running. And don’t be afraid to revisit the business plan frequently throughout your career. Remember, it’s not a static document. It’s an adaptable roadmap.

Even if you go in-house, the exercise of crafting a business plan can prove to be useful. In-house, you are not subject to hourly billing requirements. Success is more results-driven. You’ll need to learn to work closely with your business counterparts and understand their mindsets, pressures, and perspectives. Highlighting your strengths and contemplating potential business strategies for your own “brand” can help you rise to the next level.

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You should seek feedback on your advanced draft business plan from as many trusted sources as you can—in and outside of your specific field. If you work with a recruiter, that recruiter can help. A good recruiter can provide you with sample business plans to get you started. I usually share with my candidates a one-page template, as well as some longer examples. I review my candidates’ drafts and give them suggestions as to tone, style, and substance. We often go through multiple drafts of the document before sending it to any prospective employers. Where I do not have the necessary level of expertise in a particular legal field to give detailed substantive suggestions, I may call upon one of my colleagues to help out; this is one benefit of working with a recruiting firm composed of multiple recruiters who are former practicing attorneys in a range of fields. I cannot stress this enough: start early. A persuasive business plan can make or break your next career move.

Please reach out to me at to learn more about the best lateral opportunities for your specific skills and experience, and to give me the green light to start nagging you for your business plan draft.

Why You Should Consider Boston Now

Boston is a growing and dynamic legal market. Lateral hiring—among new offices and the more established Boston offices—is stronger than ever. If you have a background in tech or the life sciences or if you’re a talented corporate lawyer with any background, you will likely find opportunities in Boston you will not find elsewhere: opportunities that combine sophisticated and cutting edge work, market or above-market pay, a collegial culture and clear pathways for advancement.

New players on the Boston scene

In recent years, numerous international firms have opened new offices in Boston, including Kirkland, Sidley, Wilson Sonsini, Morrison & Foerster, Orrick, and White & Case. All of these firms are hoping to carve out a significant share of the market with respect to Boston’s core industries: tech, biotech, health care, and other life sciences-related businesses.

Sophisticated work, top clients

High profile clients offer challenging and cutting edge work. Clients of the Boston offices include Pfizer, Raytheon, Staples, Biogen, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Timberland, Gillette, Dunkin Donuts, General Electric, State Street Bank, New Balance, Liberty Mutual, Bain Capital, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Keurig Green Mountain, HubSpot, and of course the best sports team in the world, the Boston Red Sox.

Top practices

The new Boston offices and the established Boston firms are all looking to expand their corporate practices. Most in demand are private equity lawyers—PE M&A, PE finance, and fund formation. Emerging companies and venture capital work is also booming, as well as technology transactions. For intellectual property lawyers with a hard sciences background, there are numerous opportunities. Real estate lawyers have been consistently in demand in recent years. Even capital markets, a traditionally NY-based practice, is gaining ground in Boston.

Salaries and cost of living

Most of the top Boston offices pay New York market salaries, i.e. 1st years start at $190,000. Some of these firms have bonus schemes that will put you above market pay when you bill over the hours target. Pair that with a 5.05% state income tax and no city tax (compared to a combined state and city tax rate above 10% for most New York associates). Furthermore, every dollar goes further in Boston. NALP statistics from 2018 show that $116,820 will buy you in Boston what $180,000 will buy you in New York City.

Pathways to Partnership

Making partner at a major law firm is always difficult and never guaranteed. However, joining a new office or an established office at the start of a growth phase can often give you a leg up when it comes time for advancement decisions. No matter how impressive your legal skills, firms won’t promote unless there’s a business case. Where practices and client bases are growing as they are now in Boston, that business case is more certain.

Hiring Trends

Needing ties to Boston to find a job in Boston or to succeed in that job is a thing of the past. Of course firms will want some assurance that you won’t just leave after your first winter in Beantown. But they also recognize that bringing in associates with training from other major markets, especially New York, only adds to a firm’s ability to handle the most sophisticated work. They encourage the idea that Boston is no longer just a market for associates “moving home”; Boston has become a destination for lawyers looking to advance their careers.

Despite high standards for hiring, Boston firms are often more flexible than New York firms when it comes to more superficial factors. For example, they will often consider associates outside the traditionally coveted 3-5 years’ experience range, and they will be more willing to relocate associates even without the local bar.

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This is an exciting time to work in Boston. Whether you join a new firm to the Boston market or an established Boston firm, you’ll have the chance to be part of building the firm’s practice at a time of real growth and innovation.

It’s important to work with a recruiter who is knowledgeable about the specific market. Lateral Link is unique in that each recruiter specializes in one or just a few markets where we have practiced ourselves and/or where we are on the ground to build relationships with the firms’ key players. I work closely with a wide range of Boston firms. I can help you navigate the lateral hiring trends and can help answer questions such as:

  • How important is it that I have the Massachusetts before starting my search?
  • When in my career and when in the calendar year is the ideal time to move to or within Boston?
  • Would a particular lateral move bring me closer to my ultimate career goals?
  • Which Boston firms will be most interested in a candidate with a profile and skill set such as mine?
  • Which Boston firms will allow me to broaden/focus my practice?

Please reach out to me at to learn more about the best Boston opportunities for your specific skills and experience.