All posts by Lateral Link

7 Stress Management Tips For Busy Biglaw Attorneys

A personal life is important to balance out the stress of long days and the forced hyper-efficiency of the billable hour. Hours have not changed much in 20 years with the typical day for a Biglaw attorney spanning from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you factor in a forty-five minute commute for some cities—good luck getting past Market Street at 9 a.m.—and an hour to get ready in the morning, you end up with 10.5 hours of time to split between a personal life and sleep. If you can maintain your faculties on seven hours of sleep then you are finally left with a measly 3.5 hours a day of personal time—which is likely further siphoned by other responsibilities.

Law can be a tremendously rewarding career, but also at times frustrating and incredibly stressful. The evidence is stark; lawyers suffer from depression at 3.6 times the rate of the general population (and likely even higher for Biglaw attorneys), and in a study of several professions, they were the fourth likeliest to commit suicide, twice as likely to be alcoholics and three times as likely to use cocaine. Granted the last two metrics were from a 20 year old study of 1,000 lawyers; nonetheless there is little question that there is a lot of improvement to be made in ameliorating some of the negative aspects of Biglaw.

Besides reforming Biglaw altogether, there are several things associates and partners can do to manage stress within and without of the office. With New Year’s resolutions rapidly approaching, here are a few suggestions I learned from my time working in law.

1) Exercise. Who has time for it, right? But even on a busy schedule, if you can sneak in just twenty minutes at lunch you can greatly improve your mood, focus and energy levels. Even if you can’t in the middle of the day, exercising before or after work can greatly help combat anxiety by releasing serotonin and endorphins and ultimately help you fall asleep at night.

2) Sleep. Obvious, right? While obvious in theory, the epidemic of eye bags among younger associates sustained on energy drinks and the promise of spontaneously growing wings seems to worsen by the year. Some associates delay sleep at night in an attempt to reclaim some personal hours before restarting the daily cycle. Not only is this bad for your mental health, it also undermines your physical health and productivity. Less sleep often equates to more careless mistakes, which in the long run could cost you a partnership. So if you truly value the prospect of making partner one day, or even just springboarding to that highly coveted client, make sure you get as close to seven hours of sleep as you can. I would suggest eight, but let’s be honest, it’s not happening.

3) Transition Your Day. Associates often rush through the day so focused they feel as if they finished a complete marathon by the time they leave their desk. Transition your day by taking a quick minute or two to breathe evenly and reflect. It can help unburden your mind of the often massive amounts of information you have to retain every day and consequently reduce stress levels. If you’re into it, meditate.

4) Keep Work At Work. If you take lunch with your fellow associates, don’t talk about business every day. Your lunch, however brief, is your quick chance to recharge your batteries before finishing the final leg of the day. I learned this one the hard way. Same goes for home: make your home a place of relaxation from work. If you have to work extra hours on the weekend, try to do it in the office.

5) Talk. If you are stressed about something at work, do not internalize it, talk to someone about it. Just be cautious about who you talk with; unbridled venting can have serious repercussions if it bounces back to management’s ears.

6) Balanced Consumption. Succeeding in Biglaw requires the acumen equivalent of a Formula 1-outfitted Ferrari. If you fill that Ferrari with petrol that some guy sold you out of a canister for £1/liter, the car will never reach its full potential. Similarly, when you walk into work in the morning, think twice before reaching for that pastry to help give you an energy boost in the morning. In the short term it feels great, but in the long run, a bad diet can have negative repercussions on your mental and physical health.

Even more importantly, ration your caffeine consumption. If you need a boost in the morning, don’t finish the whole cup, or order a smaller size. Drink enough to cast off the spell of sleepiness but not so much that you want to ricochet off the windows.

7) Music. There’s nothing like a four-minute music break to recharge the mind. No matter what genre you like, music is shown to increase endorphin production and slow the heart rate down.

It is always important to retain perspective. The people who toil at Biglaw and become partners are there because they love it. To many lawyers, it’s not a chore to be at the office for ten hours a day. Nonetheless, 56% of Biglaw attorneys describe themselves as unsatisfied. For some, happiness exists outside of Biglaw, for others it exists at another firm. It is not ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,’ so whether you want to lateral, move in-house, or move outside of law entirely, our team of experts would be glad to help you figure out what would make you the happiest.

Lateral Link's New York Bonus

Bonus Alert!


Simpson announced… then at last Cravath…. but bonus season is not over yet…Lateral Link’s New York team pays a $10,000 placement bonus, awarded to successfully placed mid- and senior-level candidates moving within the New York market from one AmLaw 200 firm to another AmLaw 200 firm.


Lateral Link has already given out more than $1 million in placement bonuses! 


Reach out to your Lateral Link recruiter now and take charge of your career. But it’s not just about the placement bonus. Work with Lateral Link because:

  • we’re a team of experienced recruiters, all former practicing attorneys
  • we have exceptional client relationships so our résumés get a closer look
  • we offer access to an online job board
  • we can coordinate with our team of recruiters nationwide and overseas to assist you with relocation to a new city
  • we’ll assist you at every step of the process–from career advice to résumé review to interview prep

Register with Lateral Link now or reach out to a Lateral Link recruiter and beat the post-bonus rush to make a move.


Not on the market quite yet? Set up an initial chat with a recruiter to learn how you can maximize your options when the right time comes. And keep in mind Lateral Link also offers referral bonuses for successful placements in most regions.


50 Ways To Leave Your BigLaw Firm (And Keep Your Bonus)

Lateral moves are seasonal. Winter, spring, summer and fall, concepts largely unknown to Los Angeles inhabitants like myself, largely correlate with varying levels of associate movement within the Am Law 200. Maybe it is the frigid winters — another foreign concept — that make most lateral associates wait to move until the first month of the year.

A better explanation is that associates wait to collect their year-end bonuses before moving. Cravath often releases their bonuses first around December 20th and most firms will disburse their bonuses shortly thereafter. This year however, Simpson Thatcher jumped to pole position and released their significantly increased bonuses today.

As an associate, regardless of class year, if you plan on making a move soon after collecting your bonus, the optimal time to start looking for a lateral position is two to three months before you plan on moving. If that length seems daunting, the period is optimal for not only exploring all open jobs, but also pursuing firms without listed needs to place you at your desired firm. Furthermore, firm needs can drastically change over a period of months making what was initially a long shot, a shoo-in.That means, if you are looking to move in the beginning of January, your finger should be pressing the call app in your phone — but not too hard, you don’t want to bend it.

Another reason associates move in January is because, typically, associates are promoted in December or January of a given year. These two months account for 52.6% of all partner promotions in an average year. Partner promotions are largely handled internally, but firms and associates may also look externally for lateral and promotional opportunities. This is the consequence of varying factors: first, firms may feel that their associates within a particular practice area are not senior enough or capable enough to fill a vacant junior partner slot so they will look at associates outside their firm to fill these slots. This allows them to fill a lower leveraged position at substantially lower cost than bringing a more senior partner over laterally. Now these associates may or may not be on track for partner promotion in the future, but most are informed at the end of the year whether or not they will make partner. These two mutualistic factors partly account for why generally 54% of partner-elect associates move in January.

If you are a senior associate and you are unsure if you will make partner, it does not hurt to test the market to find your lateral value. If unprepared, the worst case scenario is that your firm no offers you, and you are left scrambling trying to lateral into a firm that has already filled open positions in January. Regardless of how confident you are in being accepted into partnership, unless the deal is in ink and bears all the necessary signatures, it is vital to have a contingency plan, especially in the make-or-break portion of your Biglaw career.

If you are thinking of a lateral move and want to move in January, there are several firms to keep in mind that are especially robust during the first month of the year compared to their overall lateral hiring. The firms with the most lateral hires in January over the last few years are: Lewis Brisbois, Greenberg Traurig, Hogan Lovells, Goodwin Procter, K&L Gates, Sidley Austin, Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, Akerman and Latham.

If January is too soon and you are looking to move in February, some firms that hire at an above average rate compared to their total lateral hires are: McDermott, WilmerHale, Pillsbury, Bingham, Morgan Lewis, Ogletree, Seyfarth, Paul Hastings and Perkins Coie.

Gauging your market value, whether you’re a partner-elect, a first year associate or anything in between, is a vital form of insurance in the market of Biglaw. Whether you are looking to move immediately or plan on being a ‘lifer,’ gauging your value every once in awhile can also be helpful in negotiating compensation. Lateral Link is the go-to recruiting firm for any Amlaw attorney, and my colleagues and I are happy to chat even if you have no immediate plans to lateral.

Which Biglaw Practices Did Well In The Third Quarter?

As the legal market rebounds, we are seeing an increasing demand for lateral attorneys in most practice areas. Four practices in particular stand out: real estate, corporate M&A, IP litigation, and private equity. These practices are one of the few that have increased their headcount over the least year and/or have been ahead of the pack in lateral reshufflings…

Over the last year, the number of IP attorneys in Biglaw has remained almost identical. At the close of 2013, there were 9,399 IP attorneys in the U.S. at Am Law 200 firms. As of last quarter, there were 9,425, an insignificant .2% increase. At the same time, the number of lateral moves from 2013 to 2014 have increased. This means there is a constant reshuffling of a limited high caliber candidate pool. Even with two months left in the year, the number of IP attorneys lateralling is only one fewer than last year (721 to 722).

According to Lex Machina, 2014 was a record year for ANDA suits, with 139 new cases filed in the second quarter of 2014. This is over twice as many filed as were filed two quarters earlier (67). Overall, the common generic v. branded lawsuit arena is up creating an increased demand for work in that practice. Unsurprisingly, the number of attorneys with a pharmaceutical specialty has risen in all major markets. In Los Angeles, the number of pharmaceutical attorneys is up 25%, in Washington D.C. and Chicago, it’s up nearly 15%, and in New York it’s up 11%.

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In the Bay Area, the M&A market is booming. From the past year, the pool of M&A attorneys in the Am Law 200 has grown by 14%, from 462 to 528. The practice also grew in every other major market highlighted by significant growth in Palo Alto (10%), Minneapolis (27%), Austin (11%), and D.C. (12%). Data from the IMAA corroborates this growth with increased M&A total valuation (and a similar number of mergers) from 2013 to 2014 (expected).

In our proprietary job board, we have over 800 listings for M&A positions that have been offered since January, which is over a 50% increase from the same period last year. All the data concurs in unison that M&A is a thriving practice.

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Similarly, the number of private equity attorneys in Am Law 200 firms is growing in every major market and by more than 10% in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, D.C., and Boston. New York realized a healthy bump in PE attorneys over the last year, growing from 2,076 in 2013, to 2,274 this year.

San Francisco is an interesting counterpoint to the M&A heavy Palo Alto. Google, Cisco, and other former “start ups” have matured into tech behemoths focusing on strategic M&A deals while the private equity money has been increasingly focusing on the SoMa tech market space.

The real estate market is hot again, driving demand for CMBS, RMBS, REIT capital markets, and all those ancillary services dependent on a robust real estate market. The only issue is that many former real estate attorneys re-tooled or left to go in-house, so there is a lack of experienced talent pool to fulfill demand. We have seen several clients looking to re-tool corporate attorneys into real estate attorneys given the scarcity and money left on the table by not being able to leverage up deals. Over the past year the number of real estate attorneys has significantly increased, especially in Chicago (19%), Atlanta (14%), D.C. (15%), New York (11%), and Dallas (10%). Lateral moves by real estate partners have increased 100% (with two months left in the year) from a low of 50 in 2008.

Most practices are on track to eclipse the number of lateral moves from the previous year. IP partners have already matched last year’s total and litigation, real estate and banking partners have already passed last year’s threshold.

With two months left in the year, nearly every practice is up for associate lateral moves as well, especially in corporate (13%), banking (32%), and real estate (14%).

The hardest hit practices are bankruptcy, a typically countercyclical practice (-16%), environmental (-28%), and labor & employment (-21%).

All in all, we should start looking at the market from a lateral reshuffling point of view as opposed to a lateral placement, since the average tenure for associates and partners is around 3.5 years.

Divorce Can Tragically End Your Biglaw Practice

When an Am Law 50 partner filed for divorce in 2010, she had no idea she was ending not only her marriage, but also her tenure as a Biglaw partner. The career she built on three degrees and over thirty years of hard work, ended unceremoniously as a casualty of a rancorous divorce.

What went wrong? It’s no secret that Biglaw firms scarcely differ from large corporations when it comes to employees’ personal matters. They tend to take a laissez-faire approach, unless they are pressured to protect the firm’s image or assets. The managing partner of the local office explained to her that it would be important to the firm that the partner’s productivity or the office atmosphere not be impacted by the divorce, but was otherwise unconcerned with the proceedings.

Jaffe & Clemen’s ace divorce attorney, Frisco Fayer, explicates that “[m]ost modern big firms recognize the need to support their partners and they do so whenever possible. That said, the demands placed on a divorcing partner by his or her career are not going to disappear. The partner’s clients are still going to expect the same level of service and the other partners in the firm are still going to be interested in maintaining billable hours.”

Our anonymous partner spent around fifteen hours a week after working hours and on weekends on her divorce case. Nonetheless, she contends that there was no correlation between her divorce and productivity, performance or how she interacted with her fellow partners, associates and staff.

The divorce started as amicably as one could reasonably hope for, but as distrust bubbled, the split escalated from a perfunctory proceeding into contentious brawl. Our anonymous partner stated that she took multiple steps to bring about a quick, fair and amicable resolution of the divorce to forestall unnecessary expenses, but that her spouse was not interested in resolution only conflict. She stated that her spouse incurred both legal and accounting fees each in excess of six-figures but she incurred minimal legal expenses due to her election ultimately to represent herself. The firm was supportive of her intention to represent herself so long as her time was not diverted from firm matters.

In Fayer’s experience, this is hardly extraordinary. “A non-contentious matter can be resolved for a relatively minimal amount of money if the parties are able to reach a fair deal and still trust one another. But, once the trust is lost or if the divorce becomes a tool to get even and exact revenge, the costs can quickly move from five to six or even seven figures.”

As the trust disintegrated, so did any remaining civility. As her spouse’s counsel escalated the fight, the firm became embroiled in the fray. Subpoenas were issued, alerting the firm that the partner was going through a divorce. While most fellow partners were initially sympathetic, the spouse’s lawyer petitioned the court to issue an earnings assignment order that was quashed as the court found she had paid all the spousal support on time. Nonetheless, as word of the order spread to several partners, sympathy was quickly replaced with indignation among those who took the order as an indication of a failure to comply with a court order.

Fayer explains that, “[f]irms are often served with subpoenas which demand the production of documents. If the burden on the firm is particularly onerous or if the requests are excessively invasive, we will often seek a protective order from the Court to limit the demands placed on the firm.”

The Am Law 50 firm did issue a protective order, but this did not curtail the steady stream of calls, subpoenas and orders from the spouse.

Eventually, the acrimony manifested as a surprise visit by the partner’s estranged son to the law firm. Slipping through security, the son made his way to the office and started screaming at the partner in full view of all the partners, paralegals, clients and assistants. He eventually left and the partner was pulled aside by the managing partner of the firm’s local office and the HR manager and told that should that happen again, she would be let go. On the positive side, the firm revised their security policy to prevent future breaches.

In a rare move, the partner was eventually let go despite having a formidable practice. She went from a cushy $600,000+ a year compensation to losing clients and countless hours of her life in a three-year divorce that ended right as she began to approach the mandatory retirement age. Without a book of business, she was left with few options but to start anew as a sole practitioner.

Our anonymous partner is but one of many Biglaw lawyers who have gone through a divorce. Some estimates peg the rate of divorce for the general population around 30% and for lawyers in general around 11%, despite the popular claim that 50% of marriages end in divorce. The research on divorce rates for Biglaw partners is virtually nonexistent, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find that the rate is higher given the amount of pressure placed on them.

By treating divorce as a non-issue, firms are likely losing productivity as attorneys go through a time consuming ordeal that can consume firm resources. By recognizing divorce as endemic and not singularly spontaneous, firms could better equip themselves with dedicated attorneys to assist in divorces and other personal matters rather than assigning busy attorneys and thereby losing billable hours.

According to Fayer, who started his legal career as an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, “[d]ivorces are hard and the cost can’t be measured in dollars alone; there is an inevitable cost to the psyche. That said, I’ve never had a client who regretted getting divorced. And, the emotional difficulties can be tempered by taking care of oneself with the usual prescription of sleep, diet, and a little sunshine. Of course, most Biglaw partners were already under huge pressures even before the divorce proceeding, which is why it’s particularly important to find the right divorce lawyer who can shoulder as much of that burden as possible.”

Much To Gain And Little To Lose From Using The Right Recruiter (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I introduced three lawyers — Alpha, Beta, and Gamma — to help explain the value that a partner candidate can gain from working with the right recruiter. Each candidate was relatively junior, each had in the high six figures in business, and each had decided to leave his or her current firm for the right opportunity. When last we left our intrepid trio, I had used no-name profiles at appropriate firms to obtain interviews for each of them.

While I kept in close contact with each candidate throughout the process (see Anatomy of a Lateral Move for an overview of the steps commonly involved), each candidate had unique issues that required particular attention…

For example, Alpha needed help with his business plan in order to make his candidacy more attractive to his targeted firms, a common issue candidates face. At some point after a firm requests more information based on a no-name profile, and usually before wanting the candidate to fill out a Lateral Partner Questionnaire (“LPQ”), many firms want to see a business plan. This is a key sales document that frequently determines whether a candidate with a lower book than the firm usually considers acceptable is allowed to continue in the intake process. The key here is not to repeat your résumé or reiterate an academic description of your practice area, but to demonstrate your worth in concrete and specific terms to the firm.

In Alpha’s case, I was able to strengthen his business plan by emphasizing that his current client had said they would give him additional matters if he had more rate flexibility than his current firm would allow, and thus there was a very good chance Alpha would be able to grow revenues from that client by providing additional services. It is also critical to differentiate yourself from the countless other lawyers that the firm may be considering by explaining why you are uniquely qualified to help clients with current or future legal problems. For someone coming out of government, this differentiation might come from knowing what new regulatory or enforcement initiatives are coming down the pike, what the government will be looking for, and why you are one of the few people on the planet who understands the issues and can counsel clients on how to navigate these dangerous waters. Most important, however, is to list particular individuals at potential clients that you could now reach out to if you had the resources of the new platform. Alpha and I went through at least five drafts of a business plan before sending it off with his résumé, and I think it was critical in landing the three interviews he had. A good recruiter keeps their finger on the market’s pulse and can help augment an attorney’s pitch with information they may never have realized was pertinent.

With Beta, the fit with the two interviewing firms was clear and she didn’t need to prepare a plan. Instead, the issue was how best to fill out the LPQ. While the business plan is a sales document, filling out the LPQ is more like responding to a discovery request with some wiggle room. The most important sections of the LPQ are your history of revenue production and your estimate of best, probable, and worst-case revenue numbers at the new firm.

Two common problems are how to determine what revenue is attributable to you beyond your own billing attorney numbers, and how aggressive to be in your estimates. Lawyers tend to be either unrealistically optimistic or unrealistically pessimistic. When unrealistically optimistic, partners lose credibility, especially if the estimates for future revenue are significantly higher than historical averages (i.e., “hockey stick” projections). When unrealistically pessimistic, partners are less likely to be hired (and if they are, their comp is penalized). With Beta, it took several iterations to attain the Goldilocks solution of “just right”.

Gamma presented another dilemma. Lawyers seeking a lateral move are subject to a variety of ethical obligations with respect to their clients and their current firms. Rather than counsel potential laterals on such matters, especially after an offer has been extended, and risk liability, some hiring firms affirmatively state that they want nothing to do with the lateral’s transition until he or she has been formally hired. In this case, the hiring firm told Gamma to look to me to provide such guidance. Gamma and I had several telephone conversations and email exchanges on what he should and shouldn’t do with respect to notifying his firm, notifying clients, and soliciting other members of his firm to join him.

At the end of the day, despite our best efforts, Alpha did not receive an offer from any of the three firms, which cited the comp demands and the problem of the single client as the reasons they passed. Alpha now knows what his market value is and is not, that his current firm isn’t treating him so badly, and that if he wants to move, he will need to increase his book and diversify his client base.

Beta, on the other hand, received and accepted an offer that was 40% above what she had been making. When she told her current firm that she was leaving, however, the firm recognized the errors of its ways, counter-offered with a guaranteed 65% increase and the commitment of the firm to build up her practice area in her current office (one of the main reasons she decided to look). The firm that made the original offer couldn’t match the terms and she is still at the same firm, but in a far better position than she otherwise would have been. I should stress that candidates should not go into the process thinking that their current firm will react in a similar fashion. In general, candidates that have accepted counters are gone in a year anyway since the trust going both ways has been irreparably breached; Beta’s situation proved to be the exception to the rule (so far).

Gamma received several offers and accepted one that elevated him to partner from his previous counsel title and increased his comp by 20%. His current firm countered with a matching offer but Gamma told them that he had given his word and it was time to move on.

During the dinners I had with each following the completion of the process, they all expressed their gratitude for my efforts and said they were materially better off than they had been before we started. Thus, I respectfully suggest that if you are seriously interested in exploring other opportunities there is much to gain with little downside working with the right recruiter.

The State Of The Biglaw Job Market

Seven years removed from the financial crisis, the Biglaw market as a whole looks stable with an optimistic future. Through the first three quarters, there has been a modest four percent increase in the amount of partner moves compared to the same period last year. However, the same period is down about 9% from two years ago — but this is largely due to an unexpectedly robust second quarter in 2012.

The beige book concurs with this assessment, noting that in most markets, legal demand rose. Over the next 20 years, the overall job market is expected to grow around 14%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For the legal industry, this number is closer to 10%. With law school applications down 37% from 2010, junior associates will realize their relative attractiveness on the lateral market. For more seasoned mid-levels, their demand has subsided after a sharp peak in 2012. There is an even more pronounced difference in quarter four, where junior associate hiring (1-3) burgeoned. (Note the data collected did not start recording laterals by JD year for junior associates until late 2012, and 2011 for mid-level associates.)

Lateral Link 10-31 1

Over the next few years, we should see an increased demand for mid-level associates as a consequence of decreased law school applications as the current crop of junior associates matures.

You’ll notice also from the graphs that partners generally tend to move during the first two quarters. There are many factors that complicate lateral moves in the fourth quarter, the most conspicuous being bonuses if on a calendar-year bonus system. Every law firm has a method for compensating its partners. Some compensation plans are highly structured, but many others include subjective elements. Distribution plans incorporating percentages or units of participation with a reserve are often-times structured to incentivize an attorney to remain at the firm through the fourth quarter. Simplified, a partner will receive a variable draw, and at the end of the year the balance of profit will be distributed as a bonus. Partners will wait to collect their bonuses before making a lateral move. Though this evidence sounds anecdotal, there is a -.75 correlation between quarters and lateral partner moves, which indicates a strong seasonal trend. Although not all firms are on the calendar year, enough of them are that we can identify the notable exceptions on two hands.

Recently, considerable news has been given to Bingham and how a few select firms are making a play for their partners. In reality, firms build up more through gradual increases rather than peaks and valleys. Over 150 of the AmLaw 200 firms had a standard deviation of fewer than four total partner acquisitions for that year, indicating a gradual buildup. These outliers on the right are largely a consequence of firm liquidations, such as Dewey in 2012 and Heller in 2008, and firm mergers. In 2015, barring any firm collapses or major mergers, it is unlikely that we’ll see any Biglaw firms acquire sizable groups of partners from other peer firms. Most of the action is with hiring one or two partners at a time.

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For Q4 (2014), I expect another strong showing, yet it will inevitably be lower than Q1-Q3. Using an Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average model (ARIMA), I modeled the next year of Biglaw partner moves to project 2015. Based on the model, we should see a Q4 of 2014 with slightly less than 400 lateral moves and a Q1 of 2015 with around 600 lateral moves. Based on the model, we expect to see a high of around 700, which would be the greatest number of lateral partner moves in a quarter, in over seven years. (Note that ARIMA is a time series based on one variable so its results should be treated cautiously as markets are subject to shocks and external pressures.)

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For partners looking to move in the first quarter, the firms with the largest lateral acquisition to size ratio over the last six years are Dickinson Wright, LeClair Ryan, Lewis Roca, Michael Best, Epstein Becker, and Lewis Brisbois. The firms with the largest overall Q1 partner acquisitions are Dentons, Greenberg Traurig, Reed Smith, DLA Piper, and Dickinson Wright.

The top partner destination over the last six years is filled with familiar names. Rounding off the top five are Greenberg Traurig (37/year), DLA Piper (34/year), Jones Day (29/year), Lewis Brisbois (29/year) and Dentons (26.5/year).

The least active lateral partner firms were Wachtell, Fitzpatrick, Williams & Connolly, Munger, Irell and Finnegan Henderson. Each had fewer than two partners lateral to the firm over the past six years.

Practice growth during the first three quarters has been varied compared to Q1-Q3 of 2013. Banking partners have lateraled 25% more this year than last. Environmental partners have been much less active this year; laterals moves are down almost 50% from 2013. Litigation unsurprisingly increased again. Compared to 2012, it was one of the few practice areas whose lateral frequency increased for partners. As the election cycle ramps up, government partners are on the move again. Since last year, there has been a 44% increase in lateral partner moves, and a 77% increase since 2012.

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Should the trend of decreased applicants to law school continue, Biglaw firms will have to address the issue of continued expansion with a smaller pool of associates. If clients feel that firms are diluting their talent, they could push for a reduction in rates. Nonetheless, the lateral market over the next decade looks healthy for both incoming partners and associates as the baby boomers retire and associates become scarcer.

Much To Gain and Little To Lose In Working With The Right Recruiter (Part 1)

As a partner, you may ask, “Why should I work with a recruiter and why should it be you?”

The quick answer is because I can provide material value to you that you can’t obtain any other way. Let me explain, using the experiences of three candidates with whom I recently worked. Each were lawyers in their mid-to-upper thirties, had a book of business in the high six-figure range, and had concluded they wanted to explore other options…

Take Candidate Alpha. He has good academic credentials and is a lifer at his firm, having made partner five years ago. He contacted me after receiving no increase in his comp for the year (which was about 50% of his portable book). He had a particular specialty that limited the possible new firms who would be interested in him to about a dozen in town, and one big client that posed some issues with conflicts. When we met, he told me that he was not happy with the way his firm was treating him and wanted to see what else was out there. I told him his comp was actually pretty competitive and that the single client might be an issue, but would be happy to help him test the waters. I then drafted a no-name profile to send to the decision makers at the appropriate firms. It gave them enough information to make the business case (e.g., expertise, size of book) but not enough to “out” the candidate, and asked whether they would like additional information. After vetting the description with Alpha, I sent out 12 such inquiries and received requests for more information from five. Three ended up interviewing him.

Candidate Beta, who had excellent credentials and was already at an elite firm, had a different problem. She was a rising superstar in her lucrative niche, but her firm decided not to invest in that practice area in her particular office and for family reasons she couldn’t move. As a young partner, she had already attracted a number of clients and was clearly on her way up, which made the no-name profile much easier to write. There were a limited number of appropriate firms, and we narrowed it to eight. Two firms asked for interviews. In one case, I had worked at the firm in the time before Time, and in the other, I went to school with the managing partner of the office.

Candidate Gamma faced still another issue. He had been counsel for his international law firm for four years, had done all they asked, but had still not been elevated to partner. He had been called on a Sunday in his office by a recruiting shop based out of Florida, talked for a few minutes, and decided he need to talk to someone local. He Googled D.C. recruiters, and liked the fact that I had been a big firm partner and was from Iowa. We met the next day, mapped out the universe of firms, and I sent inquiries to two dozen firms where I thought there might be an interest. He ended up interviewing with ten firms.

Three similar situations; three very different outcomes, each bringing value to the candidate. Come back next week to find out what happened.

Creating An Effective Lateral Résumé

It seems that there are few more dreaded tasks for junior associates than creating a résumé from scratch, or even updating an outdated version. However unpleasant, it is critical: a résumé is your 30-second “pitch” to a Partner that will make or break your chances to land that coveted interview. Given the ultra-competitive environment that is today’s lateral market, the importance of presenting a clean, effective résumé is paramount. Here are ten guiding principles and tips- they ought to save you some time and make your résumé stand out as truly interview-worthy…

1. Format according to your strengths. There is a bit of a split in thought here as many prefer to start off the résumé with the Education section. The decision lies in the basic tenet of résumé preparation: highlight your most impressive credentials and put your best foot forward. If your academic pedigree sets you apart, place the Education section first (i.e. attending a top ranked school, receiving honors such as Order of the Coif or Cum Laude, serving on the law review and/or simply having finished at the top of your class). If you are currently employed at a top-tier or particularly prestigious firm (especially one that is based in or has a very strong presence in the region), we suggest you lead with Work Experience.

2. Don’t make the reader dig for the gold. It is important not to bury your best, most substantive work deep in a muddled paragraph. Remember- you have a very short time to make a strong impression: don’t make the reader work for it. Are you a litigator? If so, lead with your deposition work or important legal memoranda; leave the document review assignments on the editing room floor. Corporate attorney? Scoot diligence to the rear and lead with the key instruments you have drafted and negotiated.

3. Include a few representative deals. Lead with a couple succinct sentences outlining your responsibilities for each position in the Work Experience section and then insert 2 or 3 bullet points outlining noteworthy deals or cases. Choose according to your particular experience: you may want to mention a very high profile matter in your given industry, a deal or case that you handled almost exclusively or, if you are looking to focus in a specialized sector, a directly applicable example.

4. List your GPA? We have found that a good rule of thumb is the 3.3 cutoff. If you finished above that marker, absolutely list your GPA. Otherwise, no need to draw attention to less than stellar grades. You should also consider your first-year performance. It is no secret that firms weigh your grade in contracts heavier than that four-person seminar you took during your third-year. If you performed very well during your first year, mention it, i.e. GPA- 3.3 (First Year GPA- 3.5).

5. Judicious succinctness and the myth of the one-page rule. If you are sitting at your computer asking yourself whether your résumé is too long and/or cluttered, the odds are that it probably is. Remember that a reviewing partner is not sitting down to read a treatise here but rather a concise and hopefully persuasive summary of your background. That partner will be searching for the four cornerstones of a legal résumé: where you currently are, what you do, where you went to school, and how you did. Those pieces of your background should be readily evident.

With that said, be mindful to include all important and truly relevant information – even if your résumé spills over into a second page. Do not arbitrarily delete potentially crucial information to abide by an outdated rule. Just make sure that a two-page résumé is formatted in an especially neat and tidy manner.

6. Fill in the gaps. Very often chronological gaps are viewed as red flags to partners. Remember to do address any lacunas on the résumé to present a clean timeline.

7. Bar admissions. Remember to always include a listing of the states in which you are admitted. This includes bar examinations that you have passed but for which you are still awaiting a formal interview and bar examinations for which you have registered to sit if you intend to relocate to a new geographical region. We prefer to list these under a separate heading.

8. Languages. Don’t forget to mention those languages in which you possess either fluency (written or spoken) or proficiency. This is especially important if you are considering openings in an international market or in a domestic market known to typically require demonstrable language skills (think: Miami and typical requirements/preferences for Spanish or Portuguese fluency).

9. Interesting tidbits. Some résumés include interesting points of facts in a section entitled Additional Information. These may serve as wonderful starting points for fluid, informal conversation during an interview. Examples include “Member of Olympic Rowing Team” or “Concert-level Pianist”. Please be careful when deciding whether to include this type of information on your résumé: include genuinely interesting and appropriate tidbits but err on the side of excluding borderline unprofessional matters.

10. Writing samples and deal sheets. The question often arises whether a junior associate ought to have a Writing Sample or Deal Sheet ready on hand. Although a junior Corporate associate will rarely need to provide a Deal Sheet, junior Litigation candidates ought to strive to provide a remarkable Writing Sample to make their candidacy stand out even when one is not explicitly required. Public filings are perfectly suitable Writing Samples, as are internal memos (as long as confidential information is redacted).

The State Of The Lateral Hiring Market In Chicago

As we become further and further distanced from the recession of 2008 and 2009, the market seems to be settling into a new equilibrium state that has seen a modest uptick in the demand for legal services and a sharp rise in the volume of lateral moves since 2009.

My own stomping ground, Chicago, is no exception. From 2009 to today, the Windy City has seen a significant increase in lateral moves:

The past five years have seen lateral moves rise from a low of 197 in 2009 to a high of 456 in 2012. If past trends hold steady, we can expect to see between 141 and 160 more lateral moves by the end of the year, bringing Chicago’s total to a five-year high of 498 ± 9 lateral moves.

Interestingly, most lateral acquisitions are being facilitated not by the powerhouse Chicago firms, such as Baker & McKenzie, Mayer Brown or Sidley Austin, but by national firms looking to increase their footing in Chicago. Akerman began bolstering their new Chicago office by bringing in fourteen partners and seven associates.

Proportionately, the fastest-growing firms over the last eight months were Akerman (just opened), Dinsmore (through a merger with Peck Shaffer & Williams), BakerHostetler (opened in 2009), and Clark Hill (by 22%).

Unsurprisingly, the most recent round of lateral moves was dominated by corporate and litigation attorneys. The ratio of corporate attorneys in this subset of lateral moves was higher than the total Chicago proportion by 7%. Litigation was on par with its overall proportion. IP laterals were also proportionally higher than the national average by 3%.

Biglaw “retention” in Chicago (the number of attorneys who stay in Biglaw when they leave a firm) is about on par with the national average, but interestingly, Biglaw associates are having a harder time finding Biglaw work compared to their national counterparts. In Chicago, associate “retention” is 5% lower than the national average. However, partner retention is slightly above the national average, by 3%.

This year’s slight increase in lateral moves is backed by the Beige Book report, which notes an incremental increase in demand for legal services as well as general economic growth for the Chicago region. Commercial real estate activity, for example, rose, which should bode well for Chicago’s healthy real estate practice.

The good news for newly minted graduates of Chicago law schools is that only 11% of them are unemployed, based on Chicago Daily Law Bulletin data. Unsurprisingly, University of Chicago and Northwestern Law graduates fared the best in the market, with Southern Illinois Law School rounding out the top three. Every other Chicago-based law school funneled graduates into jobs at a higher rate than the national average, but all too many remain underemployed.