All posts by Lateral Link

Record-High Demand for Environmental Attorneys

The increasing concerns about climate change and the rising prominence of broader Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors have become dominant themes in business. Around the world, both private markets and governments are intensely focused on sustainability. Blackrock CEO Larry Fink captured the mood in his 2022 Annual Letter to CEOs, predicting: “The next 1,000 unicorns won’t be search engines or social media companies, they’ll be sustainable, scalable innovators – startups that help the world decarbonize and make the energy transition affordable for all consumers.”

Growing recognition of a business imperative for ESG has sharply increased demand for environmental attorneys. ESG has been a part of the corporate landscape for years, but until recently, environmental and social issues were largely limited to law firm specialty practices, such as environmental groups. In contrast, today we see a broadening of ESG-related legal matters across numerous practice areas including M&A, litigation, and regulatory.

A “whole of government” approach

With President Biden regularly emphasizing the importance of climate and ESG issues, federal agencies are taking a “whole of government” approach. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) established a Climate and ESG Task Force in March 2021, which has focused both on issuers’ disclosures about ESG and climate matters and on compliance programs for registered investment advisers marketing ESG funds. The SEC is considering new rulemaking in this area, with the aim of ensuring consistency and comparability in public company disclosures and facilitating investment managers’ ability to evaluate potential ESG investments. Speaking in July 2021, SEC Chair Gary Gensler advocated the benefits of corporate disclosure of climate-related risks and stated that he had directed SEC staff to develop a mandatory climate risk disclosure rule proposal.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established an interagency task force on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), noting that “global phasedown of HFCs is expected to avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100.” The taskforce seeks to combat the illegal trade, production, use or sale of HFCs, and is taking measures to support the transition to HFC alternatives, reclamation, and recycling. The Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice has sought to address climate change in part by bringing Clean Air Act cases related to the use of flares to burn off volatile organic compounds, toxics and other pollutants in waste gases.

Growing public demand and awareness

Though the regulatory developments are of central interest to attorneys, it is also important to note the rising support for ESG principles among the broader public. This is reflected in extraordinary growth of investor interest in ESG-focused products. Morningstar data shows that in the first three quarters of 2021, over $54 billion flowed into ESG funds, eclipsing the total for all of 2020. The 2020 flow of $51 billion was itself a record, more than doubling the total flow in 2019. Environmental justice topics are increasingly the subject of media attention, helping to drive greater public awareness. Corporations must be cognizant of this broader trend in the public mood as they formulate their business strategies and anticipate potential risks.

Ideal conditions for environmental attorneys

Now, more than ever, clients and law firms need environmental attorneys who can navigate an expanding and fast-changing maze of environmental laws. The eruption of client demand has created a surge of new positions for environmental attorneys at all levels, from junior environmental associates to senior environmental partners. Firms and clients are seeking lawyers who understand the Clean Air Act, in particular, but can also advise on a wide array of Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance issues.

In the current market, environmental attorneys are uniquely positioned to take their practices to the next level. With more environmental matters to pitch to clients than ever before, the opportunities to expand are everywhere. Robust demand for environmental attorneys is enabling lawyers with experience in this field to make impressive lateral moves, either to more prestigious firms or to higher-ranked environmental practices.

Lateral Link has experience placing environmental attorneys across the top practices in the field. We are happy to offer our advice about your individual circumstances, even if you are not ready to make an immediate move. We welcome you to contact Amy to discuss your options.

Business Planning for Senior Associates: Laying the Groundwork for Revenue Generation

If you’re a mid-level or senior associate with aspirations to remain in private practice long term, you already know that business development will be a factor in your ability to advance in the profession.  The early associate years are primarily about acquiring the core legal skills that enable you to practice competently and with relative independence.  But as you approach the window for promotion to counsel — and, ultimately, partner —  a solid legal toolkit is not enough.  Your firm must have confidence that you can make a material contribution to generating new business.

The good news is that business development doesn’t have to be intimidating.  If you lay the right foundation, it’s something that will start to happen naturally.  But the foundation is critical, and it requires a proactive investment on your part.  Business development planning is an iterative process, so the sooner you give it serious attention, the better placed you will be when your firm is considering you for promotion.  Do not wait until you are up for Counsel or Partner to get started.  To that end, here are some helpful tips.

Write a business plan and update it regularly.

Even as a mid-level associate, you need a business plan.  This is a living document that you should update at least annually.  Don’t wait until you are in the promotion window to do this!

A solid business plan will include details on what you have achieved to date, prospects you are actively working on, and your goals for the future.  List and quantify any matters you have originated, noting which business or client relationships would likely be portable in the event you switched firms.  List your business contacts, distinguishing between those to whom you are actively marketing and others in your broader network.  You should also make a list of attorneys who may be sources of referrals.

If you’re writing a business plan for the first time, you may have little to say about your (still nonexistent) book of business.  That’s totally fine!  Focus instead on spelling out the things you are doing to build your professional profile and lay the groundwork for future business development.  What organizations are you involved in?  Which articles have you published?  What about speaking opportunities?  If you don’t yet have experience in each of these categories, commit to building some in the next six months.

Foster a strong network, both in person and online.

It’s never too early to get serious about networking.  Relationships compound over time, often in unexpected ways, so there is substantial benefit to putting yourself out there early and maintaining an ongoing presence in the various communities with which you’re affiliated.  The range of opportunities for effective networking is wider than ever, both in person and online.  Remember that networking is about meeting and talking to people, without an immediate expectation of any concrete payoff.  So try to relax and be human about it!

One easy place to network is LinkedIn.  You can do it from anywhere, whenever you have a free moment.  LinkedIn is a great platform for marketing yourself as an expert in your field and making connections with prospective clients.  Low-effort ways to get started include sharing news about your firm and commenting on your connections’ posts.  As you grow more comfortable on the platform, start sharing your own insights relevant to your area of expertise.  In the process, you’ll find yourself staying in better touch with existing contacts, as well as expanding your network with new contacts.

And don’t forget about “internal networking” within your own law firm.  Getting to know attorneys outside of your practice group is key.  By gaining exposure to different practice areas, you lay the groundwork for future cross-selling.  A colleague who knows and trusts you is more likely to introduce you to clients and invite you on pitches.

If the concept of networking gives you anxiety, set yourself some small, achievable goals to help get more comfortable.  For example, if you go to a happy hour event, commit to making three new contacts and to making one LinkedIn post about the event.  And then vow to follow up with them.  The most important thing is to get started!

Leverage your mentors and learn from their experience.

If you’re a mid-level or senior associate, you likely have at least one or two mentors whom you trust to provide career advice.  (If you don’t, you should consider a lateral move to a firm more committed to mentorship!)  Business development is a great topic to explore with your mentors.  Ask about their experience generating revenue and the strategies that have worked best for them.  Share your business plan and ask for feedback.  Ask your mentors to include you in business development activities and pitches, where possible.  If you show that you’re committed to the business side of the firm, most partners will be happy to help you build the skills needed to become a revenue generator.

In addition to a mentor within your firm, assembling a group of other advisors who know the legal market and the profession is never a bad idea.  Forming a relationship with an experienced recruiter (even if you aren’t looking to lateral at this time), who knows the market, and will check in with you every six months or so to update you and provide advice, can only help you.  A good recruiter can provide you with solid business development tips, a business plan template, and can even offer edits to your plan.

Commit to stepping out of your comfort zone.

Many associates find business development intimidating because it is new and requires you to put yourself out there and risk rejection.  However, please rest assured that these are learnable skills, provided you have the right mindset.  Start by acknowledging that you must step out of your comfort zone to achieve success and move forward.  And keep in mind that building a book of business doesn’t happen overnight.  Good luck and remember that there are many experts eager to help you put yourself out there!

Navigating Multiple Potential Offers: Timing Challenges in the Lateral Market

Annual bonuses have hit the bank accounts of many law firm associates, kicking an already active lateral market into an even higher gear. With demand continuing to outpace supply, many lateral candidates can reasonably expect to receive offers from multiple firms. Unfortunately, the offers probably won’t arrive at the same time. Candidates often must make a decision about an offer in hand before receiving an answer from one or more other firms where they interview. This scenario begs the question: what should you do if you have received an offer from a less-preferred firm but have yet to hear from your preferred firm?

Each situation requires a case-by-case assessment, and a trusted recruiter can offer helpful individualized guidance. However, there are a few general principles that any lateral candidate should keep in mind.

Don’t underestimate the value of joining a firm that truly wants you

The clearest indication that a firm truly wants you is a decisive offer extended shortly after interviews. This is a strong signal that the firm will go above and beyond to integrate you into the practice, setting you up for success in your new role. It should also give you confidence that bumps along the road will be more easily manageable. For example, in the event your first performance review is less than perfect, you will be in a better headspace to receive criticism as genuinely constructive, rather than wondering if they even wanted you there in the first place. Given the sometimes cut-throat nature of law firm life, knowing that the team was thrilled to hire you can be critically important in helping you stay positive and confident through the inevitable ups and downs.

If the firm really wants you and also knows that you are considering other firms, you (or your recruiter) may be in a position to negotiate a signing bonus or, in the case of non-lockstep firms, a higher salary. Obviously, this will be valuable if you accept the offer. If you have doubts about your willingness to accept, even with an added financial incentive, you should be careful about potential damage to your reputation. It’s a bad look for a candidate to negotiate a robust signing bonus (either alone or through a recruiter), only to then decline the offer.

A full pipeline of work alleviates job security concerns

A prompt offer is a strong indication that the firm has immediate work for you to take on. This can mitigate concerns about failing to meet hours in a new group where you lack established relationships. Conversely, if a firm is slow to give you a decision, there is less certainty of an immediate need. If the practice group is not currently operating at full capacity, there is some risk that the firm will ultimately decide not to approve a hire — even if your interviewers judge you to be a great candidate.

There’s something reassuring about a confirmation that the role and the need are firm priorities. Even junior associates — who have experienced a remarkably strong market for the duration of their legal careers — sometimes fear that they will be “last in, first out” should the market sour and the firm start making cuts. This is rarely a serious risk in the current market, but knowing the practice you will be joining has a robust pipeline of work should put to rest any concerns about job security.

A less-preferred firm can sometimes be a stepping stone

In some cases, a less desirable firm may be a stepping stone to your preferred firm. This is particularly plausible where a candidate is seeking to transition to a new practice or subspecialty. If the less-preferred firm is offering a concrete opportunity to gain relevant experience in the new field, it may be wise to accept the offer and then re-apply to your preferred firm in the future, with a strengthened profile.

When accepting an offer, plan to say for at least a year

With rare exceptions, it is a major red flag to leave a firm after less than a year. Keep this in mind if considering the stepping stone approach. If you cannot see yourself sticking it out for a full year or more, you are better off declining the offer and taking your chances that a more attractive option will materialize soon. Of course, how you feel about your current firm is also an important factor. If you are not desperate to leave, you can be more selective and risk-tolerant in your lateral search.

Working through these issues with a trusted recruiter can be invaluable

There is a lot of upside to working through these timing issues with the help of an experienced recruiter. Candidates often focus on the recruiter’s role in helping secure interviews, but a recruiter with strong relationships can also add value as the candidate’s advocate after interviews have concluded. For example, recruiters are typically in a better position than candidates to exert pressure when a firm is delaying its decision. Your recruiter can have a candid conversation with the firm, conveying the message that you are strongly considering other options and will soon be off the market.

In addition, a trusted recruiter can be a helpful sounding board as you weigh the various factors and come to a decision about how best to proceed. Juggling actual and potential offers is rarely easy, but your recruiter can help you navigate the process as smoothly as possible.

The Great (Law Firm) Resignation: Why You Shouldn’t Take a Counter-Offer (Part II)

This year, as the Great Resignation takes its toll on law firms, the volume of departures has been especially high. But for lawyers who haven’t been through it before, the process of resigning can be daunting. At Lateral Link, we routinely advise candidates on their resignation timing and process, so we think now is an opportune time to share that knowledge more broadly.

On Tuesday, in Part I of this two-part series, we discussed how to resign properly, while managing the emotions that the resignation decision may trigger. Today, our topic is counter-offers and the promises that accompany them. What should you do if your employer responds to your resignation announcement with a seemingly attractive offer to stay at your current firm?

The logic of counter-offers

Employee turnover is expensive. Searching for a replacement and training the new hire to succeed in the role are both costly. In the interim, the firm may have to turn away work due to being short-staffed (or in most cases, push it on their current associates, causing severe burn out). Change is also risky: whereas a new employee has no easily observable track record, the employer knows the capabilities of its current staff.

These factors are doubly significant in a robust lateral market like the one we’re in now. Replacing you will not be easy, and it will probably take a long time. With that context, it’s no surprise that your employer would seek to talk you out of resigning. Pushback often comes in the form of questions like, “Can’t we persuade you to stay?” or “Can you think this over for a few days?”

The emotional appeal of a request to stay

Assuming you don’t hate your current job, an appeal to change your mind might cause you to think twice. We tend to view loyalty as an honorable quality, and it’s always nice to know that you’re wanted. Even on this dimension, however, it’s important to recognize that the consequences of declaring your intention to leave will linger. Once you announce your resignation, trust between you and your employer is broken. If you stay, your employer and co-workers may focus less on the sacrifice you’ve made in declining the new opportunity and more on the “lack of loyalty” you showed in submitting your resignation.

It’s also important to balance feeling flattered by the gesture of a counter-offer against the reality that it was only prompted by your threat to leave. If you were seen as such a valuable member of the team, why didn’t your employer proactively offer you better terms to remove the incentive to look elsewhere? If your employer is willing to offer a compensation increase or a promotion only after you announce your resignation, then the firm has been knowingly underpaying and undervaluing you, which demonstrates a clear lack of appreciation for your contributions.

Trust yourself

If you’ve thought the process through, chances are you would’ve already addressed your grievances with your current employer and for whatever reason, your employer failed to deliver. The fact that you decided to resign is a clear indication that you aren’t fully happy in your current role. True, a counter-offer could bring an attractive pay increase. But the work conditions that prompted your job search in the first place — poor partnership prospects, long hours, toxic culture, insufficient access to interesting work, and so forth — are unlikely to permanently change if you stay. You are an intelligent adult. You made your decision for a reason. The wisest course is to trust yourself.

Consider your future prospects

When you accept a counter-offer, it buys time for your employer to find your replacement. Sure, it’s possible the firm will let bygones be bygones and allow you to resume your prior career trajectory. But, with your loyalty now in question, it’s probable that your employer will look out for candidates to replace you and may terminate you once a suitable replacement is found. Even if your employer is not in a rush to get rid of you, the aborted resignation and residual doubt it creates are likely to factor in future promotion or lay-off decisions.

Don’t set yourself up for regret

Most employees who display momentary weakness and withdraw their resignation in the face of a counter-offer realize quickly that they have made a mistake. Promises made to keep them often turn out to be empty ones — a firm’s culture doesn’t change overnight. Worse, when a candidate realizes she should have followed through on her decision to leave, she may find that the firm she intended to join has filled its vacancies and moved on. Don’t let that happen to you.

A new year oftentimes means a new job for many people. If you need help navigating this “unprecedented” (yes, I said it) lateral hiring market, please feel free to contact me or any of my Lateral Link colleagues. In the meantime, here’s wishing that 2022 brings you new happiness, new goals, and new achievements. Cheers to the New Year!

The Great (Law Firm) Resignation – How to Resign (Part I)

We’ve all heard a lot this year about “The Great Resignation.” As is the case in many industries, law firms are contending with an unusual volume of resignations. In our role as recruiters, we at Lateral Link have a front row seat into both the mechanics of the resignation process and also the emotional angst that it sometimes entails. From uncertainty over the decision to resign to a lack of knowledge of how to give notice in a professional manner to anxiety over how to respond to a counter-offer, lawyers who are considering leaving their jobs have a lot on their mind.

This week we’re taking a look at some of these issues, in two parts. Today we address how to prepare for and execute a smooth resignation, while managing the emotions accompanying this process. On Thursday, we will discuss counter-offers.

Managing doubts about the decision to leave

For some people, the decision to resign is an easy one, but others really struggle with it. Perhaps it’s fear of the unknown, fear of burning bridges or disappointing people, or self-doubt about one’s ability to succeed elsewhere. If you experience this anxiety, keep in mind that it’s normal, and it doesn’t mean you’re making a bad decision. At the end of the day, you have to trust your gut. You’ve weighed the pros and cons and made a thoughtful determination about what’s best for you and your career. Be confident and comfortable in this choice and know that you are doing the right thing, even if the process isn’t a fun one.

Resigning is like ripping off a band aid — the fear is generally worse than the act itself. Nine times out of ten, your manager is an experienced professional and will have been in this situation before, so it will only be awkward if you make it that way. If you commit to leaving in the most professional and ethical way possible, the knowledge that you’re going about the process in the right way should help to calm your nerves.

Timing your resignation

Start by getting your ducks in a row prior to resigning. Do your best to tie up loose ends and stay on top of your workload to avoid a scramble when your last day comes.

Try to arrange it so that immediately before resigning, you have time to do whatever it is that helps you de-stress: meditation, deep breaths, exercise, or yoga can set you in the right frame of mind. Give notice first thing in the morning when your mind is clear, stress level is lower, and your boss is more likely to be around. If you wait until the end of the day, you may find your boss is distracted or busy with other matters.

Give at least two-weeks’ notice. Not offering any notice at all is completely unprofessional. Even if you think your employer will want you to leave immediately, it is customary to at least offer to stay on for two weeks to help transition your matters. Once you resign, leave promptly after your notice period ends. Each of us is fungible, so there is no good reason to stick around for an extra week or two.

Who to tell?

You should resign to just one person, preferably your direct supervisor or department head — even if you don’t like that person. There’s no need to reach out to several members of management, and you shouldn’t tip off your resignation to other colleagues beforehand.

Resign in person (or if necessary, via video). Don’t resign by e-mail, voice mail, or letter (unless a written resignation is also required). You must put your big kid pants on and summon up the courage to resign face-to-face.

What to say?

Keep it simple: “Karen, I want to let you know that I will be leaving Adam & Brown to join Cox & Smith. This was a very difficult decision to make. I’ve had a good experience here but I believe this is the right decision for me at this point in my career. I hope we can stay in touch.” Leave it at that.

You should be prepared for any reaction. Your boss may be supportive and collegial, cool and dismissive, skeptical, angry, or disinterested. Questions may range from “where are you going?” to “why are you leaving?” to “why didn’t you tell me you were unhappy?” Whatever the reaction, don’t take it personally. Be mindful that your boss has other matters to tend to besides your career plans.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to “send a message” with a proverbial mic drop. You can’t control your employer’s reaction, but you can control how you comport yourself. Don’t be petty or childish — keep things mature, professional, and courteous. Realize that you are likely to cross paths with these people again in the future. Passive-aggressive (or in some cases, just plain aggressive) actions may give you short-term satisfaction, but there’s a good chance you will regret them later. There is no upside to criticizing colleagues or the experience you’ve had. Take the high road and be complimentary — even if you don’t mean it.

What to do after you have given notice

Just as you should approach the resignation conversation professionally, you should behave in a professional manner during your notice period. Don’t gossip with colleagues who stop by for the blow by blow. Tell them you’d be pleased to stay in touch after you leave. Wind down, transition your matters, and move on.

Be sure to follow your firm’s guidelines on resignation and departure. Don’t be cute about files, forms, hard drive contents or anything else — it’s not worth the risk.

***

What if your firm tries to convince you to reconsider and makes you a counter-offer? How should you think through a potential decision to reverse course? We’ll talk about that in Part II of this series.

If you need help navigating this “unprecedented” (yes, I said it) lateral hiring market, please feel free to contact me or any of my Lateral Link colleagues.

Lateral Link Announces Principal and Director Level Promotions

We are pleased to announce the following Principal level promotions: Gloria Sandrino to Managing Principal; Jon Kahn and Matt Rosenberg to Senior Principal; and Susan Agopian to Principal as well as the following Director level promotions: Andrew Clyne, Ata Farhadi, Allie Fennell, Zach Sandberg, and Abby Gordon to Managing Director; Steven Damato, Sean Hamrin, Jesse Hyde, Kelly Rizzo, Stephanie Ruiter, and Marion Wilson to Senior Director; and Melissa Martson to Associate Director.

Gloria Sandrino, Managing Principal

Gloria is a Managing Principal and Leader of the Partner Practice based in the Los Angeles office. She focuses exclusively on partner and group placements nationwide. Gloria leverages her vast network of partner and executive contacts to help partner and group candidates make lateral moves. Gloria practiced Corporate M&A for over a decade in Manhattan and Miami before transitioning into legal recruiting. Gloria is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

Jon Kahn, Senior Principal

Jon is a Senior Principal and a Leader of the Partner Practice based in the New York office. He focuses exclusively on partner and group placements nationwide. He practiced law for over twenty-five years in capital markets as a former partner at several major Am Law 100 law firms before transitioning into legal recruiting. Jon is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center.

Matt Rosenberg, Senior Principal

Matt is a Senior Principal based in the New York office and oversees our Washington, D.C. office, as well. He focuses on placing associates in law firms and in-house counsel positions in New York, Washington, D.C., and Canada. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Matt worked as a lawyer and recruiter in Toronto. Matt received his J.D. from the University of Ottawa.

Susan Agopian, Principal

Susan is a Principal based in the Los Angeles office. With over fifteen years of recruiting experience, she specializes in lateral partner placements nationwide. Susan received her Masters in Philosophy from California State University, Los Angeles.

Andrew Clyne, Managing Director

Andrew is a Managing Director based in the New York office. He focuses on recruiting attorneys at all levels, and across all practice areas, for positions in prominent law firms in NYC and Boston. Additionally, he has placed attorneys into law firms in London, and has assisted associates who are practicing abroad (including in London, Tokyo, Singapore, and Bangkok) in relocating back stateside. Andrew is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law.

Ata Farhadi, Managing Director

Ata is a Managing Director based in the Los Angeles office. He focuses on partner and associate placements nationally. Ata received his LLM from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law after attending Oxford University.

Allie Fennell, Managing Director

Allie is a Managing Director based in the Atlanta office. With over a decade of recruiting experience, she focuses on associate and partner placements in law firms throughout the Southeast. Allie received her J.D. from Georgia State University College of Law.

Zach Sandberg, Managing Director

Zach is a Managing Director based in the Los Angeles office. He focuses on working with attorneys to find them positions at premier firms and corporations throughout California and the West Coast. Zach holds an undergraduate degree from Pepperdine University where he graduated summa cum laude.

Abby Gordon, Managing Director

Abby is a Managing Director in the New York office. She focuses on placements of partners, counsel, and associate candidates in all fields of law for law firms and in-house in New York, Boston, and European markets. Prior to recruiting, Abby spent seven years as a corporate associate with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York, and for the last five years for European clients in Paris, France. Abby graduated from Georgetown University Law Center.

Stephen Damato, Senior Director

Stephen is a Senior Director based in the Washington, D.C. office. He specializes in placing attorneys into law firms across the United States. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Stephen practiced law as a corporate associate in Gunderson Dettmer’s Boston office and an M&A and private equity associate in Jones Day’s New York office. Stephen holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center.

Sean Hamrin, Senior Director

Sean is a Senior Director based in the Los Angeles office. He focuses on attorney placements throughout the West Coast, including Northern and Southern California and much of the Pacific Northwest. He holds an undergraduate degree in the arts from Carnegie Mellon University where he graduated with honors.

Jessie Hyde, Senior Director

Jesse is a Senior Director based in the Chicago office. He specializes in placing associates, partners, and in-house counsel with leading Am Law 100 and 200 law firms and premier corporations. Jesse received his J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law where he was on the Dean’s List and a Member of the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal.

Kelly Rizzo, Senior Director

Kelly is a Senior Director based in the Houston office. She focuses on associate placements with premier law firms in the Texas market. Prior to joining Lateral Link, she was a family law litigator for over five years. Kelly received her J.D. from the University of Houston.

Stephanie Ruiter, Senior Director

Stephanie is a Senior Director based in the New York office. After practicing as a litigator at two small Washington, D.C. area firms, Stephanie moved to New York and began her recruiting career, where she focuses on attorney placements for prominent New York law firms. Stephanie received her law degree from the University of Georgia.

Marion Wilson, Senior Director

Marion is a Senior Director based in the Atlanta office. He focuses on placing associates and partners at Am Law 200 law firms, prominent regional firms, and elite boutiques throughout the Southeast, and in-house positions with companies nationwide. Before becoming a recruiter, he spent eleven years as a litigator with an Atlanta based, Am Law 200 firm. Marion received his law degree from Emory University School of Law with honors.

Melissa Martson, Associate Director

Melissa is an Associate Director based in the Los Angeles office. She has over twelve years of recruiting experience and works closely with the entire team at Lateral Link to support our associate and partner searches.

“Our overall success is due in part to all of our colleagues at Lateral Link making up a very deep and talented bench of legal recruiters as well as support staff, and for this year, we are recognizing a few of them given their noteworthy contribution not only to our legal recruiting firm but also the industry overall,” said CEO Michael Allen. “We are extremely fortunate to have this talented group of individuals promoted to Principal and Director level positions.”

Along with our entire team at Lateral Link, each of these recruiters played a key role in driving nearly 500 successful placements this year after coming out of an unprecedentedly challenging time for legal recruiting during the pandemic. To sum it up, our team and staff dug in and executed our business with a drive to succeed and diligently serve our clients and candidates. We look forward to the continued contributions of our next generation of leaders and seasoned professionals.

Lateral Interviews: Advice from Seasoned Interviewers

With the end-of-year bonus season upon us and a lateral hiring market that remains exceptionally strong, it’s a safe bet that many law firm associates will soon be preparing for lateral interviews. What can you do to maximize your chance of a successful interview?

To get some pointers, I spoke with Mike Blankenship, managing partner of Winston & Strawn’s Houston office, and Randall Clark, corporate and securities partner in Gunderson Dettmer’s New York office. Both have extensive experience with lateral hiring and were happy to offer their advice.

  1. Be prepared to talk about your representative matters.

The biggest difference between on-campus and lateral interviews is that, as a lateral candidate, you’ll be expected to actually know some law! But before your imposter syndrome intensifies, rest assured that technical questions are almost never asked. The way partners assess your skillset is by probing your resume and, most importantly, your representative matters. “The deal sheet gets more attention from us than the resume,” says Randall, so you must be prepared to discuss any of your listed matters. Take time to reacquaint yourself with the basics of each matter and prepare some talking points about your specific contributions.

  • Assemble an effective deal sheet or representative matters list.

There are three dimensions to bear in mind when preparing a deal sheet: format, substance, and length.

  • Format: Most partners prefer deal sheets organized by type of transaction, not chronologically. Use this to your advantage by placing your most impressive deals at the top of each category.
  • Substance: Include enough detail to convey the essence of the deal. For example, instead of writing “client,” write “a national supplier of widgets.” Emphasize aspects that align with the interviewing firm’s practice strengths. Additionally, indicate your scope of responsibility. This can be as simple as describing your overall role (e.g., “lead associate”) or as detailed as listing your primary contributions.
  • Length: Don’t let the term “representative matters” fool you—it’s important to go beyond a small sampling of matters and submit a deal sheet that reflects a high volume of work. The ideal number of matters will vary by firm, practice, and class year, but it’s generally a good idea to consider including all of your matters, even those in which you played a smaller role.
  • Look professional.

Yes, the world is changing, Goldman Sachs no longer requires a suit and tie, but despite this trend, it’s better to play it safe for law firm interviews. “Most law firm hirers still expect professional attire because their clients still expect professional attire,” says Mike.

  • Do sufficient background research and prepare informed questions.  

“While we’re all large law firms, there are distinguishing factors, areas where a firm is great at something,” Mike observes. Look into both overall firm platform as well as the strengths of the specific office or group.

Even if a firm’s top strengths don’t align directly with your practice area, it’s important to demonstrate that you are interested enough to have learned about the firm on your own time. Partners want to be able to quickly identify that you’ve done your homework and start convincing you that you should choose their firm. When conducting screener interviews, Randall “know[s] within a few minutes whether or not [he] like[s] a candidate.”

It’s also advisable to briefly review your interviewers’ biographies. Referring to an interviewer’s background is a great way to avoid awkward silences. And simple questions like “What made you decide to retool into x practice?” or “How is it working for x industry clients?” can surface valuable insights.

  • Speak clearly and concisely.

This is important in any interview, but it is essential at firms like Gunderson where associates are expected to interface early with price-sensitive clients. “I want to see whether we can put you in front of founders,” says Randall, and that means being clear and getting to the point.

  • Prepare a tight answer for why you think the firm is the right fit.

Never tell a firm that you want to lateral in order to work less. Mike explains that, although he understands “a lot of law firms out there ask a lot more of their attorneys than they probably should,” the risk of an interviewer misinterpreting comments about workload is too high. 

Good reasons include wanting to specialize in something not available at your current firm, wanting a change in the type of clients you represent, or simply that you’ve heard great things about the firm and believe you would be a strong match for the culture.

  • Assess whether your interviewers would make good mentors.

Finally, remember that you are also interviewing the firm and its partners and associates. Especially for more junior attorneys, mentorship is an important factor to explore. As Mike observes, “that doesn’t mean a formal mentorship program, because every law firm has that.” Instead, try to determine whether your interviewers are the kind of lawyers who would be gracious in helping junior colleagues expand their toolkits.

Why Winston & Strawn? Why Gunderson?

Of course, I also wanted to give Mike and Randall the opportunity to explain why an associate on the market should consider their firms!

“We’re young, entrepreneurial, and we’re growing,” Mike says in relation to Winston & Strawn’s Texas operations. The firm also prides itself on providing excellent guidance to young attorneys. “You are never left on an island,” Mike promises.

Randall sees Gunderson’s culture and the opportunities it affords associates as major selling points. The culture is shaped by Gunderson’s young tech clients, making it an exciting place to work. Conscious of the importance of preserving that culture, the firm is strongly committed to promoting partners from Gunderson’s associate ranks. And given the tech sector’s growth, Randall projects: “we are going to have to make a tremendous number of partners.”

Beginning the Biglaw Lateral Process: A Guide for Associates

The current Biglaw lateral market is overwhelming.  There are more variables influencing associates’ career planning and strategic decision-making than ever before.  A byproduct is that getting started on a lateral search can be intimidating.  My goal here is to advise you on how to take the first few steps, because the way in which you target and contact firms can hugely influence your ability to make a change.  Below is a list of factors I encourage you to consider, and a quality recruiter will view each as an opportunity to maximize the likelihood of attractive offers.

1. Timing
Take advantage of active markets like this one to at least do your diligence.  It’s frustrating when you’d like to talk to a firm and they’re simply not hiring or unable to give you the kind of attractive offer you’d need to make the jump.  Also realize that offers have expiration dates and if you receive an offer from firm X, but wish you were able to talk to firm Y, it may be too late.  Do what you can up front to minimize the risk that timing negatively influences your options.

2. Who reaches out on your behalf
The best way to maximize options and ensure a successful process is by choosing a recruiter you trust and then leveraging contacts at other firms after your recruiter connects directly with each firm.  Yes, this will take away a friend’s referral bonus, but a good recruiter can effectively manage a comprehensive and targeted search, bump your resume to the top of a pile, and negotiate terms in a way that friends simply can’t.  When evaluating recruiters, pick someone who is an expert with respect to the space in which you operate so that they appreciate your practice and what could make it better in both a micro and macro sense.

3. Which firms you target
This alone depends on a ton of factors and personal preference, but it’s worth taking the time up front to think about what elements of your current practice you want to maintain and where there is room for improvement.  Your recruiter should discuss this with you and in turn provide insight into which platforms will check certain boxes on paper (e.g., bonuses, remote flex, substantive pivot, change in location, elevation of title, etc.).  Cultural fit is crucial, but it’s impossible to get a true sense for the people and environment before starting the dialogue.

4. Whom your recruiter contacts
Most firms have generic submission emails and/or online portals.  A quality recruiter should have personal contacts at the firms you’re interested in and the ability to sidestep the normal process to make sure your materials get in front of the right people as opposed to lost in the ether. 

5. Marketing
Success in the recruiting process largely depends on your ability to package and relay a clear and authentic narrative that aligns with what other firms are looking for.  If your materials and initial outreach don’t reflect that approach, you risk squandering opportunities.  Be thoughtful about what differentiates you from other candidates even if it’s not directly related to your practice.  Things like entrepreneurship, interesting work experience, and excelling at a sport or other activity can help endear you to partners.

6. Mental state

Take the process one step at a time.  Making a move is a big deal and you can’t understate the importance of doing so thoughtfully, but it’s important to think of interviews as casual conversations that allow you to explore fit and value.  A Zoom call costs nothing and having an open mind is the only way to truly evaluate the opportunity in front of you.  At the outset of the process, be open to introductions and save the real decisionmaking for when an offer is sitting in front of you.

Top 5 Holiday Gifts to Yourself in Biglaw

With the holidays approaching, now is a great time to reflect. Of course, the holidays are an opportunity to think about the important people in your life. Don’t forget to do that. But as we near the end of a very busy year for most Biglaw attorneys, you may also want to think a bit about yourself. How has this year gone for you? And how can you set yourself up for a strong 2022?

With that in mind, here are the top 5 holiday gifts to give yourself if you work in Biglaw.

Attend lots of holiday parties

Okay, not literally. Holiday parties can sometimes be a lot of fun, but you know what’s better than being hosted at a holiday party? Having firms flatter you, court you, and maybe throw a six-figure signing bonus at you! Just as your inbox will soon be brimming with party invitations, there will be no shortage of firms seeking to host you if you decide to start the lateral interview process. The market remains exceptionally hot, so you’d be wise to accept a few invitations and see how it goes.

Make your shopping list

In case you aren’t sure you want to stick with your current firm, now is as good a time as any to think broadly about your goals and make a list of your ideal employers. Are you drawn to big firms? Boutiques? In-house roles? There’s no wrong answers, but just as with holiday gifts, your list isn’t going to make itself!

Consider whether your firm has been naughty or nice

At a time when attorneys have a lot of options, it’s worth reflecting on how your firm has been treating you lately. Has it paid special bonuses in line with the top of the market? Is it promising a flexible remote work policy in 2022? If your firm hasn’t been showing much appreciation of your efforts, there’s a good chance some other firm is ready to treat you right.

Send your holiday cards

After two years of relative isolation, there’s nothing like a personal touch to let your clients and other professional contacts know you’re thinking of them. So send a card or pick up the phone and give someone a call. They’ll be happy to hear from you. And it’s a good investment in your future. From winning at business development to receiving a heads up about intriguing professional opportunities, a strong network will pay continuing and sometimes unexpected benefits in the years to come.

Ensure you have a happy New Year’s Eve

You know what sets you up for a great New Year’s Eve celebration, besides plenty of champagne? Having secured a fat year-end bonus. If your firm pays at 1950 hours and you’re at 1820, it’s time to hustle! Don’t let yourself fall just short of a $50k or more bonus. The champagne will taste sweeter with an extra five-figure check in the bank!

* * *

We at Lateral Link wish you and your loved ones a joyous and healthy holiday season. If you think a new role could help you have a happier 2022, or even if you’d just like some more information about what’s going on in this crazy lateral market, we invite you to contact us.

Don’t Let Rumors Guide Your Lateral Job Search

As you surely know by now, the lateral market has been exceptionally hot in 2021. From record signing bonuses to flexible work arrangements, law firms are offering unprecedented carrots in the battle for associate talent. It’s undoubtedly a great year to make a lateral move.

But one side effect of the rapidly shifting market has been a cascade of misleading rumors. Many candidates are entering the process with unrealistic expectations, failing to appreciate that the factors shaping the terms of a lateral offer are multifaceted and individualized. In addition, the focus on flashy inducements like signing bonuses is leading some candidates to pursue opportunities at firms that may be a poor long-term fit.

Rumor mill: signing bonuses, practice group retooling, remote work

In our experience at Lateral Link, rumors about signing bonuses, practice group retooling, and remote work opportunities are especially widespread. Let’s address those topics in turn.

When it comes to signing bonuses, everyone has a story about an eye-popping figure that some lateral associate achieved. But even assuming the number being bandied about is accurate, it’s essential to place it in a broader context. The bonus offered to a particular candidate depends on several factors, including practice area, location, and personal compatibility with interviewers. Candidates sometimes interpret a signing bonus as a judgment on their intrinsic worth, but that’s not how firms determine the number. Signing bonuses are driven primarily by the firm’s idiosyncratic needs, not the candidate’s credentials. For example, where a firm is seeking to fill slots in a particular office and needs lateral candidates willing to move from outside the region, there is greater leeway for an outsized signing bonus. The bonus that a firm offers a fourth-year M&A associate to join its Boston office is not necessarily transferable to a fourth-year lateral joining the same practice in New York.

Similarly, you should not presume that a firm’s past decision to hire a particular lateral associate to retool into a new practice area is predictive of future offers. Firms’ willingness to facilitate retooling is driven by specific practice area and location needs. The more liquid the local market in the relevant practice area, the easier it is to hire an associate who already has the skills, and the less likely the firm is to consider a candidate who needs to retool. For that reason, you are more likely to find retooling opportunities in Boston or Austin than in New York or Los Angeles.

Unfounded rumors about remote work opportunities are especially common, driven by the fact that permission to work remotely is often partner-dependent. The fact that one associate succeeded or failed in negotiating a flexible arrangement when joining a firm tells you little about the prospects for a different candidate who would be working with different partners. It’s also worth noting that a candidate’s leverage to negotiate more flexible terms may improve based on strong interview performance.

Don’t lose focus on the long term

The excitement around bonuses and other carrots can cause candidates to lose sight of what should be the primary goal of the lateral process: finding an opportunity that sets you up for long-term professional success. As great as it feels to negotiate a lucrative signing bonus, don’t let a one-time payment dictate your decision. If the firm offering the largest bonus is a poor fit for your culture preferences or career goals, you should turn it down.

At the outset of the lateral process, think carefully about why you are seeking to switch firms and how the next step fits into your broader career plans. Having that clarity of vision upfront will help you make a smarter choice when the numbers are in front of you. As you go through the process, keep an open mind. Don’t talk yourself out of opportunities before you’ve explored them properly — especially if your initial assessment has been shaped by rumors. And assuming you’re working with a good recruiter, trust the information they give you. The market changes from week to week and month to month: you can be assured that a plugged-in recruiter will have more reliable, more current information than the rumor mill.