All posts by Lateral Link

LinkedIn for Lawyers; More Associates Are Using LinkedIn, But Not Well

More than a third of the almost six thousand mid-level associates who responded to The American Lawyer’s most recent survey reported that they use social networking tools for job-related purposes, more than ever. Of that third, 94% said that they use LinkedIn, “the one social network most lawyers feel most comfortable in using,” says Glen Gilmore, a lawyer and social media expert who ranks near the top of the Forbes list of “Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers.”

But many of the attorneys who join LinkedIn do so because they are “supposed” to have an online presence, and they appear reluctant to be fully committed members. Their LinkedIn contacts languish in the double (or even single) digits. Their pages do not have a professional picture (or, often, any picture at all). And their profiles lack enticing headlines that capture who they are and summaries that provide a synopsis of what they do…

Why the reticence? In part, because social media takes time, so the return on investment and the skeptical nature of lawyers make it a hard sell, says Gilmore, who teaches Social Media Law, Digital Marketing, and Crisis Communications at Rutgers University. But “[t]he reality,” he notes, “is that social media is where everyone turns to assess trustworthiness.”

Lawyers who are not online “are missing an important opportunity by not connecting with social media,” says Gilmore. “If lawyers don’t make it a point to become social and understand how to communicate in social media, they will not be able to effectively join the conversation.” And, because it’s a conversation in which most of their clients are engaging, Gilmore says that being active on social media is “the new ‘law’ of marketing success.”

So what should you do if you signed up for LinkedIn but haven’t done anything since? Here’s a step-by-step guide to making sure you have a complete profile. (How attorneys should be engaging with others on LinkedIn will be addressed in my next post.)

NOTE: Worried that the contacts in your network will be notified of the changes that you are making to your LinkedIn profile and get suspicious? Author of the “Ridiculously Awesome LinkedIn Kit” Jenny Foss recommends going into your privacy settings and turning off your activity broadcasts. Here’s how to do it: Hover over your profile picture in the upper right-hand corner to access the pull-down menu. Go to Privacy & Settings, then Privacy Controls towards the bottom/middle of the page. Click on the link for “Turn on/off activity broadcasts” and uncheck the box.


Why did you join LinkedIn (beside the Marketing Department’s instruction that you do so)? To create a powerful brand on LinkedIn, you need to understand your audience. What do you hope to get out of it? A new job? A connection with a potential client? LinkedIn recommends that users, “Ask yourself whose attention you’re trying to get and tailor your LinkedIn profile to speak to them.”


Clicking on the “People You Might Know” link in the top right corner of the home screen brings up snapshots of users with their names and a one-line description underneath. If the user has not customized the headline, it will default to the user’s title and employer (e.g., “Associate at X Law Firm”). A recruiter or client looking for an attorney with specific expertise — say, an associate with specific patent litigation experience — is less likely to click on a generic headline than a descriptive headline that maximizes the 120 characters and uses key words specific to attorney’s expertise to make a “mini elevator pitch,” e.g., “IP litigator with ANDA experience.”

That said, it is possible to be too clever. I pulled up the profile of an attorney who was referred to me; as Gilmore says, I use LinkedIn to initially assess a candidate’s bona fides. I was mortified to find a title more appropriate for a superhero or Silicon Valley start-up than a candidate for a position at a white-shoe law firm. At my urging, he changed it to reflect his real world, non-superhero day job — but a search using his name and LinkedIn still lists the cached version in the results. Hopefully prospective employers will have a sense of humor….

Unfortunately, his is not the only inappropriate attempt at humor on a site designed for professional networking. Among the headlines in use are: “Crime fighter”; “Underpaid, Slave Attorney”; “Legal Slave”; “The Guy in the White Hat”; “Crazy Ass Leader”; “Wage Slave”; and “Slave at The Evil Empire.”


LinkedIn is about as far from online dating as you can get. But if an OKCupid user would not click on a profile without a picture, why would a LinkedIn user? Foss, who also offers career search advice at, points out to her clients, “People will wonder what you’re trying to hide by not having a photo posted.” Not only does not having a photo decrease the likelihood that a recruiter will click on a profile, it also makes it less likely that other users will accept your invitations to connect.

When deciding which picture to post, remember your purpose and choose a photo that is appropriate to that audience. Think about what a potential employer would be looking for and try to present yourself accordingly. Foss recommends that users post a professional picture that is “clear, friendly, invites conversation and aligns with your target industry.” The photo should be a high-quality, current one of the member, not something or someone else (even if only part of the other person is visible). Not grainy. Not a selfie. Not an out-of-date photo of your younger, thinner self. And the pose should not remind its viewers of a mug shot or DMV photo. While it need not be formal or stuffy, it should be professional; no “duck face,” smirks, or inappropriate gestures. If you cannot afford a professional photographer, enlist a friend or family member with a real camera to take a picture in front of a neutral (but not necessarily white) background.


Many users skip the summary, which is a mistake. Foss points out that, “When you bypass the summary section on LinkedIn and, instead, launch right into your experience, you kill your opportunity to share your brand story to your professional audience. In other words, you leave it in the reviewers’ hands to figure out who you are, what you’re great at, and why they should care about you.” LinkedIn management consultant Andy Foote (who trained as a lawyer in Scotland) explains on his blog,, that the summary should be “a short version of why you do what you do, in your own words.” Similarly, LinkedIn advises users to “[u]se the summary area of your profile to provide a snapshot of your professional journey and aspirations.” Write it in first person (third person didn’t work for Bob Dole, and it won’t work for you) and aim for a conversational, but not-too-casual tone. The summary should not simply recap your experience and education sections; consider it a cover letter for the rest of the profile or an old-fashioned resume “objective.” Many conclude the summary with a “call to action” — or at least an invitation to contact the user.


Below “Experience” on the profile, is a section where users can identify key skills for which contacts can endorse them. And the number of endorsement that a LinkedIn user accumulates for each skill will impact where the user ranks in searches for that skill, according to Donna Svei of

However, before you hit up your network for every endorsement you can garner, realize that ethics rules prohibit lawyers from claiming that they “specialize” in a particular area of law unless they have some type of state-bar sanctioned certification. Other regulations include prohibitions against statements characterizing skills, experience, reputation, or record unless they are objectively verifiable.

Gilmore cautions that, “Lawyers who do tap into the power of LinkedIn must be attentive to the Rules of Professional Conduct and any guidance governing lawyer advertising. For example, many states have restrictions on the representations a lawyer can make about law specializations or comparisons with other attorneys. Lawyers need to carefully scrutinize LI recommendations before allowing [endorsements and recommendations] to be posted so as not to inadvertently violate those restrictions.” Therefore, before claiming that they have specific skills, lawyers and law firms should review relevant lawyer advertising rules to make sure they comply with the requirements.

(DISCLAIMER: Although the author of this article is an attorney, this discussion of social media law is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. For legal questions, please consult an attorney from your jurisdiction.)

Where Did Dewey & LeBoeuf’s Big-Name Partners Land?

Near the entrance of the Calyon Building, the previous headquarters of Dewey & LeBoeuf, lies Jim Dine’s “Looking Toward the Avenue,” a triumvirate of headless statues inspired by the Venus De Milo. Where lie the visages of this homage to the prototypical form of Venus and furthermore, in the aftermath of Dewey, where have the pieces of this former empire landed?

Since May of 2012, there have been numerous articles inciting gossip and foretelling the troubles of Biglaw, but few have offered a retrospective of the overall trends in lateral moves from Dewey since the closure of the firm. The “largest winner” of the Dewey sweepstakes was Winston & Strawn, which added 23 partners (about 11% of those who moved in the final month), including Jeffrey Kessler, a titan of antitrust law who has represented every players’ union in the “big four” sports in the United States. Approximately seventy lawyers followed Kessler’s group.

Which other firms fared well in picking up Dewey lawyers?

A week earlier, on May 3rd, a former Dewey head, Morton Pierce, joined White & Case. Pierce brought with him seven other partners, a very respectable haul for White & Case. Morton, known by his colleagues for his healthy work ethic, is rumored to bring revenues well into eight figures every year.

O’Melveny & Myers scored a huge coup with the addition of Richard Shutran, Junaid Chida, and Arthur Hazlitt, respectively the chairs of Dewey’s Corporate Department, Renewable and Clean Energy Department, and the Tax Department. The trio left Dewey on May 8th, bringing along with them their illustrious clientele.

One of the more notable Dewey partners, Alexander Dye, along with his extremely lucrative insurance group, left on March 17th to join Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Along with John Schwolsky and Michael Groll, Willkie Farr & Gallagher substantially increased their profits by adding these three rainmakers plus a handful of other talented attorneys.

DLA Piper was another firm that benefited from Dewey’s departures. Around April 3rd, DLA managed to convince four M&A partners — and later nine more partners — to join their ranks, including the intriguing John Altorelli. He joined as the co-chair of the finance practice.

Ralph Ferrara, the prize acquisition of LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & Macrae, who was famous for his work with Shell and Zurich Financial Services, transferred his practice to Proskauer Rose. Famous for arguing several cases in front of the Supreme Court, he is a huge addition to Proskauer’s litigation practice.

The aftermath of a firm closure is not simple for every departing partner. Of the 200 partners who left in the final month, 11% left Biglaw altogether — some went in-house, and some left to start their own firms, including Henry Bunsow and Denise De Mory. Bunsow escaped Howrey’s implosion in 2011 only to witness the swan song of Dewey a year later.

Bruce Bennett was another rainmaker who came to Dewey in early 2011 and was then forced to jump to Jones Day on May 13th of 2012. Bennett, renowned for his work in bankruptcy, greatly bolsters Jones Day’s bankruptcy practice. Bennett was instrumental in guiding Orange County, CA, through bankruptcy in 1994, and has been vital to the current restructuring of Detroit.

Another blow was dealt to Dewey on May 8th when the self-dubbed “Climan Group,” a group of four M&A partners and one IP partner, departed Dewey for Weil Gotshal & Manges. Between them, they have experience representing many high technology companies including Adobe, Dell, and Oracle.

Steven Davis, the former head of Dewey & LeBoeuf, has remained under the radar for the last year, aside from appearing at proceedings involving the bankruptcy of Dewey. The New Yorker reports his former right hand man, Steve DiCarmine, is attempting to engender his own “second act” as a student at Parsons School of Design in New York.

In the final five months of Dewey’s existence, the frequency of defections occurred at peculiar rates whereby the firm would leak several attorneys a month on average, until mid-March, when the rate of lateral movements increased exponentially. The impetus for this increase was partly due to the departure of the Dye, Groll, Schwolsky group who left on March 17th for Willkie Farr & Gallagher. From that point on, attorneys left in waves of usually five every few days.

All these moves demonstrate that the lateral market is robust enough to absorb the collapse of a colossal international firm. Dewey’s former attorneys have escaped from the wreck relatively unscathed, with most partners finding positions comparable to the one they held previously. While the times may be tough for Biglaw, our past research has shown that although the lateral market is not immune from market shocks, it still nonetheless thrives even in times of economic uncertainty.

When The Revolving Door Slams Shut

The job seeker had done (almost) everything right: Graduated with honors from a top law school, clerked for an appellate court, practiced at an “A-List” firm, and then went to a government agency to top off his experience and make him partnership material. Imagine his shock when I advised him that landing a general litigation position in Biglaw now that he was 12 years out of law school would be tough without a book of business. After all, he had seen the “revolving door” in Washington; how could it be shut now, he wondered? I conceded that many attorneys in D.C. do move with ease between government and private practice, but that the ones he read about in the Washington Post were high-level officials who firms know will bring in business. “And I’m just a worker bee,” he acknowledged….

Moving to the government after a few years in Biglaw can “round out” a lawyer’s skill set by providing opportunities – like appearing in court – that are harder to come by as a junior associate working in Biglaw. But, although that additional experience can make an attorney more valuable to Biglaw upon return, there are many considerations to be aware of, including the timing of the government stint, the transferability of the skills, and the relative prestige of the position in government. As Laura Hosid, a former Associate Director of the Office of Career Services at Georgetown University Law Center, sagely advised, a government attorney who ultimately wants to return to a firm “should always be mindful of this goal when making professional choices.”


A 10th-year Harvard Law grad once advised me that he planned to remain at DOJ as a general litigator “a while longer” to get more experience. His misconception – that the longer a government attorney remains with the government, the more valuable he or she becomes to a firm – is common. In fact, once an attorney goes into the government, the question of how long to stay and still be attractive to firms is complicated and can vary dramatically depending on the area of law. The decision requires a delicate balance between gaining the desired experience and an associate’s “expiration date.” Someone more than seven years out of law school could find returning difficult, because firms usually require a three-year “look” before considering an attorney for partnership. As Lateral Link senior director Tricia McGrath explained previously on Above the Law, “You want to ensure that you have enough time to become well-known and well-regarded both within your practice group and the firm. You’ll need to demonstrate that you’ll be a positive addition to the business of the law firm, and that you’ll be able to contribute in significantly beneficial ways.”

But coming out of the government as a sixth- or seventh-year is no longer necessarily career ending, Lateral Link principal Larry Latourette noted, because the partnership track is now closer to nine years.

So, what is the model timeline for a Biglaw associate hoping to do a stint with the federal government? In the past, that meant that two or three years at Biglaw, then three or four years in the government, before heading back to Biglaw. But Hosid (who’s now a career coach at Vinik EPS) cautioned, “you can’t wait until you are ready to leave Biglaw to start” applying to the government. The hiring process is even slower than most people expect, and “[b]etween hiring freezes, background checks, and the bureaucratic nature of the government interview process,” she noted, “it could take up to a year or more.”


What’s more, as one DOJ trial attorney who handled immigration litigation and Guantanamo Bay habeas corpus cases learned, not all government experience is valuable to the private sector; the transferability of the skills, experience, and expertise must be considered. Hosid said that trial experience positions have the most universal appeal to firms but that “even some trial attorney positions will be limited to specific non-Article III courts or narrow subject matter, or will focus on criminal matters with little direct Biglaw applicability beyond white collar defense.” That was the case for one Assistant U.S. Attorney, who needed to recast himself as a white-collar litigator after prosecuting hundreds of major felonies and taking dozens of criminal cases to trial. But some niche practices that require specialized knowledge – such as government contracts and certain regulatory work – can be very marketable to Biglaw. For example, one trend among the “aspiring appellate elite,” Above the Law previously reported, is to leave DC for positions elsewhere as state solicitor generals with plans to ultimately return to private practice after accruing experience in front of appellate panels.


An attorney who spends more than eight years in the government “better be really good” to expect to return to Biglaw, Latourette cautioned. But even if a government attorney becomes an expert in a niche area, Hosid warned, they often join a firm as counsel rather than as partner.

A government attorney can take steps to best position himself to return to Biglaw, however, by establishing and maintaining the relationships (within the confines of conflict limitations) that will make developing business possible after rejoining a firm. What can a government attorney do?

  • Join practice-specific ABA and/or D.C. Bar sections.
  • Take advantage of Bar association events that include both private and public sector attorneys.
  • Develop a reputation by writing articles and speaking at conventions.
  • Keep in touch with former colleagues from Biglaw as well as those who leave the government for the private sector. Attorneys frequently return to their former firms, so maintaining those ties is critical.
  • Build relationships in the non-legal community.
  • Participate in social media such as LinkedIn groups.
  • Establish private sector credentials; a government attorney’s resume must also reflect some prior interest in representing the interests of the private sector; otherwise, said Latourette, a firm may question whether the attorney “can wear the non-white hat.”

Of course there have been exceptions… a government attorney who stayed too long but still managed to snag a plum position in private practice. Because, as the saying goes, “Whoever said nothing’s impossible never tried to slam a revolving door.” Still, it’s easier if you know how the door works.

Clouds Parting For Junior Associates

Junior associates who weathered the worst of the recession are seeing a break in the clouds. Although the overall rate of lateral attorney hiring in 2014 is roughly on pace with — if not a little behind — last year, the market for junior associates has skyrocketed. According to some reports, the hiring of associates with between 1-3 years’ experience increased by 180% compared to the same period last year. Curiously, while the market for junior associates grew, the market for more senior associates (4-6 years experience) fell 17.6%.

This is not simply a case of fleet-footed Millennials creating new demand. Using Lateral Link’s state-of-the-art job database (which is free to all members), the search firm has tracked aggregate firm demand (as demonstrated by public job postings as well as non-public exclusive searches) for associates, partners, counsels, and in-house attorneys by experience, practice area, region, and other criteria. The tracking showed that searches for junior associates have increased by 50%…

Given the reported hand-wringing by some clients about training junior associates on their dime, the increased demand for junior associates is surprising but nonetheless consistent with the overall improved demand projected by Citi Private Bank, a leading provider of financial services to leading law firms.

According to some reports, 80% of Am Law 200 firms have laterally grown in the last five months through associate hiring alone, some by as much as 5%.

Among the firms hiring in the first five months was Lewis Brisbois, which added 39 net associates in the first five months of the year, including 27 litigation associates. Other firms picking up new associates included Hogan Lovells, (net 28 associates), Wilson Sonsini (net 24 associates), Perkins Coie (net 24 associates), and Littler (net 21 associates).

With respect to region, the legal market has grown in most cities. However, Andrew Godwin, lead analyst of Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group, noted in the Am Law Daily that although the overall results from the first quarter indicated positive momentum for the legal services industry as a whole, a closer look at the results showed that Am Law 1-50 firms drove much of the growth, and they continue to pull away from the rest of the pack. Looking at the industry results by geographic reach, firms with a greater international presence outperformed other segments in revenue, demand, and lawyer rate growth in first-quarter 2014.

Law firm mergers continued in 2014 at a rapid pace. With 22 mergers in the first quarter, 2014 recorded the second highest number of mergers, falling just short of the 25 in 2009 Q1. However, the second quarter appears to have slowed; only eight firms have merged so far, 2.4 mergers behind last year’s second quarter pace. The eight Am Law 200 firms that merged in the second quarter included Dentons, Wilson Elser, Holland & Hart, Sutherland Asbill, and Buchanan Ingersoll. Most of these acquisitions were minor, but Buchanan Ingersoll picked up a strong Florida firm, Fowler White Boggs, whose 90 attorneys should propel them into the top half of the Am Law 200.

The legal market is indeed still a mixed bag, but there are signs that firms are easing their circumspect attitude towards lateral hiring as they push for expansion and as their books recover from the economic downturn. With a limited dataset, the 2014 lateral market will most likely be on par with 2013.

Working Overseas: Asking The Right Questions Before You Move

I recently wrote a post on Planning for a Legal Career Overseas in which I touched on questions such as “Which practice areas are most conducive to working abroad as a U.S. lawyer?” and “What should I look for in a firm, if I would like to work abroad?”

Now let’s assume you have an opportunity to work overseas, either through your current firm or with a new firm. It is important to be sure you have all the information you need before deciding whether or not to accept that offer. You should know exactly what to expect before you make the move. It is also crucial for you and the new office to be on the same page.

What are some of the questions you should be asking before you accept that offer?

Salary & Benefits

  • Will I be paid on the same pay scale as I am currently paid? Generally U.S. associates will be paid on the same pay scale as in New York, but some U.S. and non-U.S.-based firms will pay lower.
  • Will I be paid in local currency, U.S. dollars, or can I choose? Firms will often let you take a percentage in local currency and a percentage in U.S. dollars.
  • Will I still get a U.S. associate’s bonus or a bonus on the scale of a local lawyer? Generally if you are on a U.S. pay scale, you will get a U.S. associate’s bonus as well, but you should find out for sure.
  • Is there a COLA (cost of living adjustment), a housing allowance or a tax gross up? Depending on the cost of living of the new city, there may be a cost of living allowance in the form of a lump sum monthly or yearly payment, or you may be offered a protected (favorable) exchange rate that has the effect of being a cost of living adjustment. Some firms prefer to pay for the associate’s housing. Some give compensation for higher tax rates in the new jurisdiction.
  • Will I need to switch health insurance plans? The answer is likely yes. It’s important to then look at the terms of the new plan and be sure the benefits are roughly equal to what you had in the U.S. Or, you may want to look into whether the new country offers more options or cheaper benefits if you purchase your own health insurance plan.
  • Are there other benefits specific to my U.S. office that I may lose (gym membership reimbursement, local bar dues reimbursement, paternity leave rights)? Are there new benefits under the new office’s policies or local laws that I will gain (lunch or local transport subsidies, additional annual vacation and/or maternity leave days)? Do not expect the benefits package to be exactly the same, but be sure it is a fair trade.
  • If the new country’s local language is not English, will the firm pay for language classes/tutoring for me? For my spouse as well? I would not necessarily expect this benefit, but it may be in the firm’s best interest, as well as yours, so it may be worth asking!
  • Will I receive any additional “expat” benefits, such as an annual flight back to the U.S. (for me and my family) or assistance with tax return preparation? Note that as a U.S. citizen or green card holder, you will have to file taxes in the U.S. as well as in the local jurisdiction.

Moving Expenses

  • What will the firm pay for in terms of relocation costs? Most firms will reimburse actual costs, but some firms will also pay an “intangible” moving allowance to cover expenses such as new electronics if you are moving to a country with different plugs and voltage.
  • Will the firm pay for temporary housing for the first month or so? Will they pay the broker’s fee for my new apartment? If I am required to break a lease early to move, will they reimburse any expenses incurred? The answer to the latter question is probably no, but ultimately everything is up for negotiation.
  • Will the firm pay to relocate my cat or dog? Are there quarantine rules I should be aware of? The latter is a question you should look into on your own, of course. Not an appropriate question to pose of the managing partner.

Going Local

  • Am I expected to stay with this overseas office indefinitely or is the assumption that I am on a rotation of a fixed length? This may largely depend on your ability to maintain work authorization in the local jurisdiction. In some countries it is relatively easy to stay indefinitely, while, in some countries it is hard to obtain a visa to stay longer than 18-24 months.
  • Is there a minimum expected stay in the overseas office? Of course you cannot be forced to stay in a job if you want to quit, but you may be required to reimburse moving expenses if you leave sooner than agreed.
  • Will I be expected to become a member of the local bar? Is there some sort of reciprocity with my current bar membership, or would this be a significant obstacle? For example, every firm in France has its own rules on when you must become a local lawyer, but for reasons relating to a Social Security treaty between France and the U.S., you must become a local lawyer after 5 years maximum. The procedure is easier if you already have the New York bar, but by most accounts it’s still much harder than taking the New York bar itself!
  • If I am required to become a member of the local bar, are there consequences I should be aware of? For example, in France, when you become a local lawyer, you are reassigned from “employee” status to more of an independent contractor status. Some firms will lower your salary to align more with French market pay, while other firms will raise your salary to compensate for now higher taxes (including professional dues). Where employees are not easily fired under French law, independent contractors can be fired with three months’ written notice.

Other Questions

  • Will my tax rate be higher in the new jurisdiction? It may be worth having an initial chat with a tax accountant who specializes in working with expats. Often a COLA is designed to compensate for higher tax rates. Keep in mind, however, that while you may still pay U.S. federal tax, you will no longer need to pay state or city tax if you are an overseas resident. Surprisingly, my effective tax rate was slightly lower when I was working and living in Paris than when I was working and living in Manhattan.
  • What sort of visa will I need? You may want to do some of your own research to find out if your stay in the new country on this visa counts towards permanent residence or citizenship if this is something you would be interested in obtaining one day.
  • Will the firm also assist my spouse in obtaining work authorization? If not, how difficult would it be for him/her to get a visa on his/her own? Whether or not the firm will assist is not always in the firm’s control, but they may have the ability to sponsor your spouse as well.

If you can find the answers to some of the above questions on your own, or by asking other associates who have recently moved, you should. Keep in mind that every office of every firm has a different package for associates working overseas, and sometimes it varies by associate. No firm will give you everything you want. Ultimately, working overseas is an incredibly rewarding opportunity and you should base your decision on much more than just overall comp. Showing up in the new office and already being known as the “high maintenance” or “overly demanding” associate will not make the best impression. Pick and choose your battles wisely.

If you are working with a recruiter, the recruiter may have some of these answers, and he or she can certainly help you determine which are appropriate questions for the law firm and which may not be. When it comes to negotiating your package, a recruiter may be able to assist. However, keep in mind that it’s you and not the recruiter who will be facing your new employers day in and day out once you start the new position. Taking on the negotiation yourself may make you realize which points are deal breakers for you and which are not. Fighting your own battle in the post-offer stage will ultimately make you look more professional in the eyes of your new bosses.

5 Ways To Increase Your BigLaw Salary

If you stood outside the AT&T Center on June 15th at 9:10 p.m. local time, you would have witnessed a steady stream of crestfallen Miami Heat fans bemoaning the performance of anyone other than Lebron James. Ask any of those fans if they thought Chris Bosh was worth a max contract in the off-season and they most likely would have answered “No!” with feverish enthusiasm.

Fast forward to the off-season, teams have now expressed interest in signing Bosh to a max-contract sheet. As it stands on Thursday, July 8, the Rockets are willing to pay him $22 million a year.

So what does this mean for you? It means that just because your law firm tells you that you’re worth a certain amount of dollars does not mean you can’t secure more greenbacks. Salary negotiations are tricky, and it is helpful to get in touch with a recruiter before you attempt to renegotiate with your current firm. Before you start maneuvering, here are five pointers to consider before strategizing…

1. Lateral Moves: A lateral move is usually one of the easiest ways to bump your pay by creating a market or realizing a 10-20% bump in compensation. A large portion of the moves we facilitate are from partners looking for a bigger payday or something that they see is closer to their market value. It is simply the nature of the business that different firms will value you at different levels—much like Bosh means more to Houston as a complement to Dwight Howard than he does to Miami as a stretch center. You should leverage the market to maximize your payday. After twelve years of prep, four years of undergrad (or maybe five to the ire of your parents), three years of law school and possibly eight years as an associate, partnership is your chance for payday. What may seem like a marginal increase in pay can compound immensely after a 20-30 year partnership and any increase in pay can also provide grounds for future increases as well. Don’t simply just chase the next payday, but rather make sure it sets up the subsequent ones as well.

2. Approach Management: Tactfully make your case to firm management. Whatever you do, do not go on a fishing expedition. If you approach management without doing your research, they will not recognize your efforts and most likely you won’t get any offer at all. There are numerous resources available to partners to help them figure out their market worth. You can call me or anyone else at Lateral Link for advice. If you try to negotiate without help, you are negotiating against yourself since you don’t have market information as a starting point. If you do not feel like talking to a recruiter, there are many free resources available to you so you can try to ascertain your maximum market value. But like Yelp and other user-generated-content sites, you probably won’t find the data realistic for your pay grade. That said, sites like Glassdoor may help you compare your salary to those of attorneys at other firms. Recruiters have access to a bevy of tools to help you figure out your potential salary and where you can get it.

Recent laterals are also a good indicator of what you are worth on the market—albeit not always at your firm. If a partner with a similar background laterals to your firm with a significantly higher salary, go to management and show them that this is indicative of an increase in your value as well.

3. Grow Your Business: A lot of the best lawyers feel that cultivating clients is not their strong suit and that their highest and best value is to practice a purely intellectual and unadulterated profession that should be unsullied by anything else. Unless you practice at a firm like Cravath with lots of institutional clients, this idealistic style of legal sanctity will quickly quell your aspirations of moving up the ladder.

Fostering relationships is essential in any facet of life and law is not an exception. In a world of increased transparency with attorney’s information, aptitude and clientele more readily available than ever before, business development has become essential in the face of stickier market rates. You must distinguish yourself from the thousands of other lawyers with similar pedigrees if you wish to increase your salary. You can always hire great help to work on your matters as long as your clients trust your judgment.

When you first look to increase your business, the easiest place to look is at your existing clients. Keep track of your clients’ dealings, anticipate any needs they might have and then meet with your clients to see if you can open a new matter. The relationship has already been built so you will have an easier time capturing new matters from existing clients than you will with another company or person. It may sound banal or obvious, but this is usually the easiest way to bring in new business and the firm will appreciate your initiative and they will certainly appreciate the extra dollars you are generating.

A second method is bringing in new clients. Securing clients is much like dating. You probably won’t have much success if you pick up the phone and cold call your way through the yellow pages (in either scenario really). Capture the attention of a client through a mutual acquaintance. If you have a friend or former colleague that works for a potential client, reach out to them and ask them to make a “warm” introduction. It’s an investment to build a relationship, so once you establish one, make sure to keep it fresh. This is where it helps to keep up your network, so don’t think that you can slack on making connections once you make partner, it’s even more important at this time in your career.

If you do not have any referral sources, make them. Join clubs, groups and associations that your potential clients frequent. These can be trade associations, social clubs, country clubs, gyms etc. Get to know the people there, but do not be forceful, you don’t want to be known as the Annie Wilkes of law. Good places to start are the California Club in Los Angeles and the Union League Club in New York.

4. Success From Within: Connections should not be forged solely outside your firm; your workplace can be a great resource for connections. Seek out lawyers in similar practices and you may be able to source additional work should the client’s needs be more suited towards your expertise. Cross sell! Cross sell! Cross sell! Furthermore align yourself with successful group heads and get to know them. If you consistently show management that you are a hard worker and have a positive presence in the office, they will be more inclined to reward you when the time is right.

Whether you are an associate, partner, or counsel, the firm is (hopefully) benefiting from your services and as you accrue more experience and business, your value grows. This is obvious enough, but many attorneys undervalue their skills or become complacent over time. The reality is if you are a partner and your salary has not changed much over the past 10 years, you are making only 3/4 of what you were back in 2004. Make sure your salary is adjusted not only for inflation, but also for your market value.

5. Don’t Sink The Ship: Look no further than the breakup of Dewey & LeBoeuf for the epitome of this principle. If you negotiate a salary that is disproportionate to your value (or more likely you over promise and under deliver), your bloated salary will stick out and you could find yourself in a worse position than where you started. When you negotiate a salary with your current or prospective firm, make sure you keep your long-term practice in mind. A large salary is enticing, but if you are terminated and lose clients, you will likely wind up with less overall than your previous market value.

If you are having trouble with salary negotiations or feel that your skill set is underappreciated, give me a call and I can help you determine your true market value as a starting point.


What To Do When The Partner Track Closes

For senior associates up for partner, firms have become increasingly focused on business potential and less so on an associate’s ability to outclass others in the courtroom or at the negotiating table.

In the days of yore, the partner track in Biglaw was oftentimes a reward for consistent competence and professionalism. In an era of PPP and RPL, most firms (other than the Cravath, Quinn, or Simpson Thacher types) are less likely to promote associates unless they see real revenue-generating potential.

If you find yourself in your fifth to tenth year and are unsure whether you will make partner, here are four steps to help you steer your career…

1) Evaluate. First evaluate where you stand in terms of making partner. There are several indicators that can tell you if you are on track to make partner.

If you have perfect or nearly perfect reviews, then you are likely on track to make partner. If you have a close relationship with partners within and without your practice group, this also bolsters your candidacy. If you are in a practice group that is busy without too many associates in your class year, you have a better shot than if you were one of many in a deep bench. If you have any business, then you are ahead of the curve. Finally, if you have strong billable hours and are selected to work on firm-wide committees or programs, the firm is probably looking to you as a loyal companion.

The economy has a lot to do with your chances as well. As of today, it is a good time to be up for partner as a real estate associate, while not as good of a time as a pure bankruptcy partner. Your practice and promotion are at the mercy of business cycles, unless you can retool to another practice by predicting economic trends.

Another thing to look at is your firm’s leverage ratio. If your firm has high leverage, you will have a harder time making partner because of the glut of associates. There is no standard measurement for determining your odds of making partner. In New York there are about 444 real estate partners and 517 real estate associates in the Am Law 200. The overall leverage for Biglaw real estate in New York 1.16. This does not mean you have a sure-fire chance of making partner. Some practices are slow growing and with the continual influx of new associates every year and the slow retirement of older partners, leverage by itself can be a misleading predictor of partnership opportunities in an overall practice. If you see your firm has a high leverage ratio for your practice, slow growth and not many outgoing senior partners, it may be helpful to look elsewhere.

Furthermore, if your firm rarely promotes a large partner class or eschews partner promotion for lateral partner hiring, then it may be helpful to consider one that gives you a better shot.

There are many options if you believe that partnership is an unlikely scenario for you.

2) Look In-House. A Biglaw partnership is not the only way to pay off that school debt. Many attorneys prefer the stability and challenge of in-house practice. However, many attorneys mistake stability to mean easy. Working in-house can be just as, if not more challenging, than working at a Biglaw firm. Working in-house may entail working on dozens of deals at once without a team of junior associates or paralegals. In-house hardly deserves its reputation as a stress-free practice. Not to say all in-house positions are this way, which is why it is important to evaluate each company and in-house legal department, before making generalizations.

3) Look To Serve. Another option to consider is public service. Like myself, many attorneys received their undergraduate degree in political science or a related field. Law school may have recalibrated our trajectory, but public service can lead to prestigious jobs, which in turn can lead back to partnership. Every election cycle there are a plethora of senators, representatives and counsels who march down Capitol Hill and up K Street to take up a job as a partner at an Am Law 200 firm. In the legislative branch, 148 representatives and 52 senators listed law as their prior occupation. There are plenty of opportunities in public service ranging from federal prosecutor to counsel.

4) Look At Other Firms. If you are looking to stay in Biglaw, but don’t see light at the end of the tunnel at your current firm, then look laterally before it is too late. Contrary to nearly every other job market, the more senior you get as an associate, the less attractive you are to other firms as a lateral. Because your lateral value has diminishing returns the more senior you get, you should start thinking about these issues as a fifth-year, when you are at peak marketability. The nuances among firms and practices even within a firm make it almost impossible for associates to make an educated decision here. That is why you should leverage the information of insiders or good recruiters to guide your decision. For example, when a partner like Jesse Sharf at Gibson Dunn has an opportunity for a fourth-year associate to join his thriving real estate practice, that’s one you need to consider even if you are otherwise not on the market. To find out why, you can ask Josh Lockman.

Just because your firm does not make you partner does not mean you are not partnership material. A good recruiter will be able to tell you the overall trends of the market and will be able to help you find the right fit for you to lateral up. Here at Lateral Link, our recruiters include Larry Latourette, a former managing partner of a major Am Law firm, Ed Wisneski, a former partner at an Am Law 100 firm, and Deanne Ozaki, the former head of trademarks at Universal Music Group. We are happy to help you make an informed decision with your career.

Ethical Considerations For Lateral Moves

There are some common ethical issues every partner should know, or at least be able to identify what they don’t know, when planning for a lateral transition.

Most partners do not give ethical considerations enough attention in the process. Without proper planning, partners may breach fiduciary duties to their prior firms and create unnecessary conflicts between their former and new firms.

I asked Trisha Rich, a professional responsibility attorney who practices with Holland & Knight’s Lawyer Ethics, Risk Management and Regulation team, to respond to some of the most common ethical questions I have come across while moving partners and groups between law firms…

Mike: Partners generally want to reach out to their clients as soon as they know they are going to move, especially clients that have moved with them before. This is a sensitive matter especially because partners want to run their lateral destination by the clients they deem portable. Generally, what do you do when it comes to informing a client of an impending lateral move?

Trisha: Well, a general answer should not be considered legal advice for any particular lawyer in a specific situation. Every lawyer’s situation will be different, and should be evaluated in light of those specific facts involved. Keeping that in mind, most questions in this area involve balancing the duties that lawyers owe to their clients with the duties that lawyers owe to their present firm and its other lawyers.

For clients, the ethics rules tell us that clients have a right to know important information about their matters, and this will generally include issues of staffing and firm choice.

With respect to the firm (and other lawyers), things are more complicated since relationships between lawyers and firms vary — as does state law. Nonetheless, questions pertaining to a lawyer’s duties to the lawyer’s present firm cannot simply be ignored.

It is true that lawyers may want to notify their clients as soon as possible about impending departures and may be tempted to seek client assurances, directly or with a nod and a wink, that the clients will transfer matters to the new firm. In light of what may well be the fiduciary obligations that the lawyer owes to the firm, however, the general practice and rule of thumb is not to confer with any firm clients until — at the very least — the lawyer has notified the firm of the intent to depart. This is true even though the lawyer may have been the one who brought the client into the firm and may in fact be the only one at the firm working for the client.

Once the firm has been notified, the clients are generally entitled to be informed in a manner and with enough time to make an informed decision about the staffing of their legal matters going forward. At that point, the client has a right to make a choice, and neither the lawyer nor the firm can unilaterally prohibit the client from doing so. Exactly how this all plays out will vary depending on particular circumstances and the particular jurisdiction involved. Florida, for example, has gone further to create a set of procedures in its Rules of Professional Conduct than most if not all other states.

The authorities generally provide, however, that a lawyer may prepare to compete while still at the old firm, but may not actually compete. After departure, a lawyer who has left a firm generally has the same rights and faces the same limitations with regard to the solicitation of work from that firm’s present or former clients that any other lawyer would have.

Mike: I have worked with countless partners each with different comfort levels in discussing sensitive matters. Though my counsel is not of legal nature and therefore not privy to attorney client privilege, it is understood that any communication between a partner and myself is confidential unless otherwise noted by the partner. That being said, what is your perspective on how much information attorneys can divulge to recruiters and prospective firms?

Trisha: This is an extraordinarily difficult issue. A lawyer changing firms should expect that the potential acquiring firms may ask for things that are sensitive. Recruiters can be a useful intermediary to protect confidentiality and uphold ethics.

ABA Model Rule 1.6 broadly prohibits disclosure of information related to the representation of clients, but Model Rule 1.6(b)(7), which has been adopted in some (but not all) states, generally allows for sufficient disclosures to allow the potential new firm to run conflicts checks. Even in those states that have not adopted Model Rule 1.6(b)(7), it seems generally to be recognized that conflicts checks must be run at some point. It is also worth bearing in mind that ABA Model Rule 1.6(b)(7) and Official Comment [13] not only limit what information can be shared, but also impose duties on the prospective or recipient firm about what can be done with the information.

We know of no state in which a lawyer cannot share information about the amount of the lawyer’s past or present compensation. We tend to handle questions relating to information about gross client billings and the like on an individual basis.

Mike: Some partners I work with have been with their firm for their entire life and are entering into uncharted waters. It seems fundamentally easy, but if you are a partner you have responsibilities to your firm to notify them in an appropriate way. So since it’s not as easy as emailing your boss with a quick two weeks’ notice, what is your advice on giving notice?

Trisha: First and foremost, a lawyer considering departure should begin by reading the applicable firm documents – partnership agreement, employment contracts, or policies. Many, if not most, include some notice period. We understand that some firms may want a lawyer to leave immediately following the notice of intent to do so. Some firms also have notice periods that may be impermissibly long in light of the ethics rules of the jurisdiction or jurisdictions in question.

If a lawyer who is considering leaving a firm can find out how the firm has treated other departing lawyers in the past that may be helpful. Because some firms do advise lawyers to leave immediately when notice is given, we generally advise lawyers to go into their resignation meetings fully prepared either to do so or to prepare for a reasonable transition period.

Depending upon the specific circumstances, we generally recommend that the lawyer give notice in person and that the lawyer enters that meeting with draft documents in hand, such as a draft withdrawal notice, proposed joint notification letter, and client election document. We generally suggest as well that the lawyer have already prepared a list of clients that the lawyer believes should remain with the firm and a list of clients that the lawyer is interested in pursuing and should therefore receive joint notification. We also generally recommend that the lawyer have a list of any critical upcoming dates on client matters and a plan for how all such dates can be met.

Mike: In my experience, client transfer is a difficult task to execute, but an important one to properly consider. What do you recommend to help ease this transition?

Trisha: The most important consideration must be preventing prejudice to clients. This is reflected in part in ABA Model Rule 1.16 regarding the termination of representations. When the client goes with the lawyer, RPC 1.16 informs the former firms handling of the transition in the same manner it would be obligated to transition a client matter when there is an everyday substitution of counsel. This means that the lawyer will have to work with the old and new firms to assure a smooth transition. As a general proposition, the former firm is entitled to written authorization on behalf of the client prior to file transfer. One other issue that may come up is the costs of transferring those files, and which firm should bear those costs. The rules on this issue are not uniform throughout the country.

Clients that move with a lawyer may also have closed or inactive files at the soon-to-be-former firm. That should be a consideration in the transition process as well. Another issue is to make sure that what is transferred includes not only the physical file, but also any electronic files, emails, docket information, and trust account information.

Mike: A lot of partners I have worked with generally are not aware of the guidelines dictating partner-client relationships with clients that stay with the firm they left. How should lawyers handle the transition of the clients that stay behind?

Trisha: Both the rules regarding termination of an attorney-client relationship and the need for professionalism should inform this process. An attorney is obligated to withdraw in a manner that does not prejudice the client.

For those clients or matters that stay at the former firm, the lawyer will therefore want to make clear that the lawyer will do what is reasonably necessary to assist in any transition. That assistance could include anything from writing a file transfer memorandum to meeting with the subsequent attorneys who will be handling a file. Changes of address and court filings are required and completing those steps remains the obligation of the attorney of record.

Mike: A concern that some partners that I work with have is that the firm will withhold communications addressed to their past firm. What do you think these partners should do to prevent any lag in communication?

Trisha: This is certainly an issue that the lawyer and the firm that the lawyer is leaving should discuss. If nothing else, mismanagement and failures of communication are invitations to see both the lawyer’s and the firm’s name on the wrong side of the “v” in a legal malpractice or breach of fiduciary duty claim. We therefore prefer to see a written agreement about how this process will be handled, although an exchange of emails will suffice. We generally recommend as well that the lawyer test the system to make sure it is working as agreed. Even if a lawyer’s actual departure is unpleasant, both the lawyer and the firm have an interest in making sure that nothing subsequently falls through the cracks due to a failure to forwarding mail, email, or telephone calls.

L.A. Market Heating Up

Home to 80 degree Januaries, the lateral market has been equally hot in L.A. to start the year. The first six weeks of the year showed unmistakable improvement over last year and even bested 2012. The national lateral market is up 43% while the Los Angeles market is up 126% from 2013. Lateral Link alone is currently working with over 200 partners with aggregated practices north of $250,000,000.

The strong Los Angeles trend is highlighted by the recent move of John Shaffer into Quinn Emanuel’s bankruptcy practice. Shaffer, one of the nation’s preeminent restructuring lawyers, should bolster an already stacked Quinn Emmanuel office.  Winston also just picked up two prominent partners, Eva Davis from Kirkland and Dan Passage from Bingham.   Last, but not least, John Gatti left Stroock for Manatt.   I predict a dozen or more significant moves over the next few months in Los Angeles alone.

Of these recent partner moves, nearly half of them practice litigation. Surprisingly only 12% of recent associate moves in the Los Angeles area are from corporate attorneys. The newest Beige Book cites an increased pressure on compensation for corporate associates. Nonetheless, the Beige Book also reveals that firms have seen steady growth over the last six weeks (ending with January 15th). Litigation and corporate practices saw a slight increase in demand while real estate continued to grow at a strong pace.

The Los Angeles market is unique. Most other markets have one or two hegemonic practices. For example, about 60% of Am Law 100 Corporate associates and partners practice in New York. Los Angeles is more of a mélange of top attorneys throughout many disciplines. One of its most prized practices—entertainment—only has a 42% market share in the Am Law 100—though the city is rife with top-notch entertainment boutiques. Furthermore the disparity between the offices of the Am Law 100 firms in New York and Los Angeles is not that great. Los Angeles offices are around 25% smaller than their respective New York offices. However, when corporate practice is excluded, this figure drops to 15%.

Although Los Angeles is the second largest legal market outside of New York measured by the number of attorneys in the market, the market for legal services itself is more middle market practice. This shifts the focus away from book of business (but not entirely) to culture fit and potential.

Los Angeles firms are diligent in their pursuit of partners who not only have the requisite business, but those who also fit in with the firm’s culture. That is why the Los Angeles market requires extra diligence (as do all) because lateral movements are not just a pairing of business, but also a meshing of personalities.