All posts by Sako Adajian

Diversity in Biglaw: Same Old Rhetoric or Reason for Optimism?

Diversity and inclusion are top of mind for law firm marketing departments these days. For Biglaw firms, expressing a commitment to boosting diversity in the profession is expected. But when it comes to executing on that commitment, the results have been uneven.

How are firms doing on diversity?

In a recent episode of Movers, Shakers & Rainmakers, hosts Zach Sandberg and David Lat reviewed the landscape. Citing data from Leopard Solutions, David noted that in 2021, 17% of lawyers in top 200 firms were ethnically diverse, a percentage that was unchanged from 2020. However, at the partnership level the representation of minority lawyers grew from 10% to 11%. As David pointed out, that increase is significant in percentage terms, representing 10% year-over-year growth. But at the same time, it is still far from representative of the broader U.S. population.

Some firms are doing considerably better than most. The ALM Intelligence 2021 Diversity Scorecard lists White & Case as featuring 21.9% minority partners, making it the only AmLaw 50 partnership with greater than 20% ethnically diverse representation. On the other hand, some of the most prestigious and financially secure Biglaw firms are notable laggards: minority representation in the Wachtell and Sullivan & Cromwell partnerships stands at 8.9% and 9%, respectively.

Is there reason for optimism?

As we discussed on the podcast, it’s easy to be cynical about calls for increased diversity in the legal profession. Every year discussion of the problem grows more prominent, but the rate of actual change has been glacial. Nevertheless, we point to the Mansfield Rule as one cause for optimism. Modeled after the National Football League’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview diverse candidates as part of the head coach hiring process, the Mansfield Rule “measures whether law firms have affirmatively considered at least 30 percent women, lawyers of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, formal client pitch opportunities, and senior lateral positions.” Firms that commit to that standard can become Mansfield Certified.

As David noted, an advantage of the Mansfield approach is that it ensures diverse candidates gain interview opportunities without establishing a quota for hiring decisions. That should make it palatable even to some firm leaders who may be skeptical of more aggressive campaigns to increase diversity. Indeed, the number of participating major law firms has grown to exceed 100.

Even so, it is notable how many top firms have not yet chosen to participate. Let’s take Gibson Dunn as a case study. The firm’s diversity performance is mediocre — not the worst in its peer group, but not exactly cause for celebration. Gibson’s partnership features 12.1% minority representation (as reported in the 2021 Diversity Scorecard). For comparison, fellow California-headquartered firm Wilson Sonsini is at 19.2%. Interestingly, Wilson Sonsini is Mansfield Certified, whereas Gibson is not.

Who should take responsibility for increasing diversity?

On another recent Movers, Shakers & Rainmakers episode, guest Monique Burt Williams, CEO of Cadence Counsel, addressed the growing number of law firms and companies hiring Chief Diversity Officers. Creating a position exclusively focused on diversity and inclusion can be an important positive step, but it carries risk that senior management will delegate the whole problem to the new hire. As Monique likes to say, “your Chief Diversity Officer should be your CEO.” In other words, unless law firm leaders are personally committed and engaged in efforts to make meaningful progress, we cannot expect a substantial increase in representation of diverse lawyers in Biglaw. The challenge is too important to be delegated.

How to Get on a Recruiter’s Naughty List (and Why it Matters)

When you’ve been in the recruiting business as long as we have, you notice some behavioral patterns. Some of those patterns are a little, let’s say, irritating. As a public service to the legal recruiting industry, we thought we’d put together a list of what not to do as a law firm or candidate engaging with recruiters.

Assuming you are not yourself a recruiter, why should you care about this? (Other than not wanting to be a terrible person!) Whether you are a law firm leader or a potential lateral candidate, it turns out that treating recruiters respectfully has real benefits for you.

From the firm perspective, it’s important to understand that recruiters don’t prioritize firms equally. Our job is to move lawyers from one firm to another. The reality is that if we aren’t making placements with your firm, we’re looking to move your people to firms that work constructively with us. So from a talent retention perspective, it helps to have a solid relationship with the recruiting community. How recruiters perceive your firm also has an effect on your broader reputation in the market. When we are placing at your firm, we talk to hundreds of candidates, encouraging them to consider joining you. This is a marketing function — it builds a positive perception in the industry. Naturally, being on the recruiter naughty list will have the opposite effect.

From a candidate perspective, there is a good chance you’ll be back on the market at some point in the future — or at least that you’ll be open to considering an especially great opportunity. Having a relationship with a recruiter you trust is beneficial both for learning what’s happening in the market generally and for getting early notice of specific opportunities. Burning your recruiter bridges squanders those potential benefits.

So with that in mind, here’s what you shouldn’t do:

  1. Refusing to pay: After hiring a candidate, the firm claims it knew of the candidate before the recruiter introduced her, and therefore it doesn’t owe a fee. This tends not to be mentioned until the end of the process, after the recruiter has already shepherded the candidate through.
  2. Dragging it out: The firm gives the same search to multiple recruiters in succession, without hiring anyone, causing the search to be stale by the time we’re asked to drum up candidates.
  3. Cutting us out: The candidate learns of an opportunity from a recruiter, then reaches out to the firm directly or via a friend who works there.
  4. Gaming the clock: After the recruiter submits a candidate, the firm waits exactly six months (when its obligation to pay a fee expires), then reaches out directly to the candidate.
  5. Below-market fee caps: The firm expresses interest in working with a recruiter but insists on paying only half the market rate.
  6. Window shopping: The firm takes a meeting with any candidate the recruiter submits, but it never hires any of them.
  7. Feigned interest: The candidate uses the recruiter to get a competing offer, with the goal of building leverage against their current firm to gain a promotion, a higher salary, or enhanced remote-work flexibility.
  8. Setting false criteria: The candidate declares they won’t move unless it’s for X amount of money. The recruiter convinces the firm to increase its offer by a six-figure sum, exceeding the candidate’s threshold. The candidate still rejects the offer.
  9. Inconsistent feedback: The firm rejects a candidate as too junior, days after hiring a candidate of the same seniority level.
  10. Radio silence: The firm provides zero feedback on a seemingly strong candidate.
  11. Unrealistic expectations: The firm is exceedingly picky about candidate credentials, despite offering nowhere near market compensation.
  12. Confidentiality fails: After the recruiter submits a candidate on a confidential basis, the firm carelessly asks around about the candidate, causing the news to get back to the candidate’s current firm.
  13. Late conflict discovery: Disregarding the best practice of conducting early conflicts checks, the firm discovers an insurmountable conflict near the end of the process.
  14. Hiding the ball: The candidate fails to tell the recruiter about competing interviews or offers, causing the recruiter not to press the firm to speed up its process, and causing the candidate to miss out on what could have been an offer.
  15. Ghosting: Candidates, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Whether in the dating market or the job market, ghosting people is a bad look!

Movers, Shakers & Rainmakers: A New Legal Industry Podcast

Are you a lawyer? Someone who hires lawyers? Do you care about the latest trends in Biglaw? If so, you should be listening to Movers, Shakers & Rainmakers, a new podcast from Lateral Link. Hosted by Zach Sandberg and David Lat, the podcast provides a coast-to-coast view of what is happening in Biglaw. From major lateral partner moves to intriguing office openings to emerging legal industry trends, the podcast fills you in and lets you know what to expect.

So who are Zach and David, and why should you care what they think?

Zach Sandberg is a Senior Director based in Lateral Link’s Los Angeles office. He focuses on placing attorneys at premier firms and corporations throughout California and the West Coast. With about a decade of experience in legal recruiting, Zach draws on his wide network of law firm sources to gain insight into the latest Biglaw trends.

David Lat likely needs no introduction. A renowned legal industry writer best known for founding Above The Law, David is an alum of Yale Law School, Wachtell, the Department of Justice, and Lateral Link. His latest project is Original Jurisdiction, a Substack newsletter that “aspires to be a source of incisive, fair-minded, and occasionally entertaining commentary about law and the legal profession.” David’s connections within the broader legal industry are second to none.

The hosts typically begin with news about notable lateral moves and office openings, then spend the majority of the episode covering a broader industry trend. For example, in the most recent episode (Episode 5), Zach and David discuss Davis Polk’s lateral hire of Cleary Gottlieb tax partner Corey Goodman and reflect on the retention challenge for Cleary’s lockstep model, versus Davis Polk’s newly more flexible compensation system. They also address the move of a highly-pedigreed five-partner litigation group from Munger Tolles to Wilson Sonsini and discuss Wilson Sonsoni’s opening of a Salt Lake City office. The majority of the episode is devoted to the growing trend of virtual law firms. Noting that a virtual firm, FisherBroyles, recently entered the AmLaw 200 for the first time, the hosts compare the economics of virtual firms to the traditional Biglaw model. They discuss the type of partner for whom the virtual firm model might be most advantageous, the extent to which virtual firms will appeal to associates, and the outlook for continued virtual firm growth.

In Episode 4, Zach and David cover former Delaware Chancellor Andre Bouchard’s decision to join Paul, Weiss as a litigation partner in the Wilmington office, as well as Crowell & Moring’s office opening in Denver. They also talk about the notable uptick in 2021 of cross-border lateral hires of international associates by U.S. Biglaw offices. The hosts explain what is driving that trend, which countries are most favored for cross-border lateral hires, and whether the American Biglaw market is likely to remain open to international associates in the longer term.

Movers, Shakers & Rainmakers has already addressed several timely topics, including Biglaw Office Openings, the Attorney Talent War, and the Future of Work. But the podcast remains a work in progress, by design. Zach and David are actively soliciting feedback from listeners about the topics they should cover. The goal is for the podcast to be as useful and informative as possible. The target audience is busy, and that’s why the hosts decided an audio format would be best. With a run-time around 30 minutes, the idea is to produce a product that busy lawyers can consume while on the go.

If you have suggestions for topics that Movers, Shakers & Rainmakers should cover, please reach out to Zach Sandberg or David Lat, and let them know what you’d like to hear discussed!

For now, a new edition of Movers, Shakers & Rainmakers is being released every two weeks. If you’d like to be notified when a new episode is available, please sign up here.

Why Use a Recruiter in a Hot Lateral Market?

Everyone knows by now that the lateral market for law firm associates is unusually hot. Firms are routinely offering associates five-figure signing bonuses, and in some special cases bonuses are as high as $150,000. Firms are also increasing commissions for recruiters assisting with lateral placements in certain practice areas, in some cases doubling the usual rates.

With so many firms looking to hire laterals, a candidate might be tempted to think recruiters are unnecessary in this market. In the narrowest sense, that may be true: many candidates could likely land a lateral offer on their own. But the better question is: will the services of a skilled recruiter make it more likely that you will find the best lateral fit? The answer is unequivocally yes.

Who needs a recruiter?

For some lateral searches, the need for a recruiter is obvious. Partner moves are the best example. Competing offers are the only way to achieve a material compensation boost as a partner, and a recruiter plays an essential role in creating that market.

For associates, the value of a recruiter is less in stoking a bidding war and more in mitigating the asymmetry of information that lateral candidates face. As partner moves have become more frequent, the rankings and assessments available through annually updated sources such as Vault and Chambers are less likely to align with the current reality. In contrast, well-informed recruiters like Lateral Link are in a strong position to explain the market in real time. For example, we frequently know that a firm is about to gain a key partner in advance of the public announcement. We can therefore anticipate that the firm will need lateral associates in the relevant practice area and position our associate candidates accordingly. Candidates who choose not to work with a recruiter inevitably will have less information and will make less informed decisions in this highly fluid and dynamic market.

There is no downside

Candidates sometimes worry that firms will be less enthusiastic about hiring them as a lateral associate if the firm has to pay a placement fee to a recruiter. Although this concern may seem superficially reasonable, it does not reflect the market reality. To understand why, it helps to think through the economics of the law firm business model.

Associates are profit centers for law firms. For every day that a firm has fewer lawyers than necessary to meet the full demand for its services, the firm is losing profit. In a robust market for legal services, firms have a strong incentive to fill empty seats as soon as they can find a qualified candidate—in the context of the profit the firm is forgoing by not having that seat filled, a recruiter fee is basically a rounding error.

We can illustrate more precisely with a stylized example. Let’s assume that a firm seeking to hire a lateral associate expects to collect on 1600 of the associate’s billed hours, at an average rate of $625/hour. That will generate an annual contribution to the firm’s gross revenue of $1 million. Assume the associate’s base salary is $240,000 and that the firm must pay a recruiter 25% of the base, $60,000, as a placement fee. This amounts to a 6% transaction fee on the revenue the associate produces in her first year with the firm.

6% of the year equates to just over three weeks. If relying on a recruiter enables the firm to fill the seat 22 days sooner than it could have otherwise, the firm will come out ahead. Sure, the firm could refuse to work with recruiters, advertise vacancies on its website, wait for candidates to apply directly, then sort through the applications to identify the promising candidates. But in the current hot market that would be a totally irrational strategy. The fact that firms are not just willing to work with recruiters right now but are in many cases increasing the fees that they offer is proof of this basic economic logic.

In summary, there is no downside to using a recruiter and plenty of upside. Firms will not shy away from hiring you due to the placement fee. And you will benefit from non-public information about the market, increasing your likelihood of landing with the firm that best fits your unique selection criteria.

Looking To Be A Legal Recruiter? Lateral Link Is Hiring

Over the past decade, Lateral Link has become the prominent player in the legal recruiting industry. As we continue to grow our global footprint, we are looking to add recruiters to our San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York offices.

Our Success

Lateral Link has made thousands of placements with almost every Am Law 200 law firm in the nation. Not only do we have personal relationships with decision-makers at the biggest and best firms in the nation, but our exclusives with — and insider information about — some of the most desirable law firms separates us from ALL of our competitors in the field.  We are a market mover, not a follower.

Moreover, we only hire the best and almost all of our recruiters are law school graduates with extensive Biglaw experience.

Highest Compensation in Our Industry

We understand that hiring and retaining the best legal recruiters requires spreading the wealth.  Not only do you deserve it, but you should demand it.  Lateral Link’s recruiters earn 50-85 percent ABOVE the market.  Also, our Principals partake in real profit sharing. Our compensation formula also favors hard workers and high earners, and the more you make, the more you keep.

Teamwork & Culture

If you have to define the legal recruiting industry, you would probably say it is a “dog eat dog world.” At Lateral Link, our recruiters find working together and collaborating on searches gives us an edge over our regional or national competition.  If you don’t have access to decision-makers and your brand isn’t opening the door in a meaningful way, why are you bringing more to a platform than what you are giving?  We encourage you to look at the contributions you make.  Is your platform really helping you?

Many Perks

We know the business aspect is important, but we also like to have a bit of fun at Lateral Link. We believe it is important to bring all of our colleagues together, from across the nation, annually at our company retreats.

If you are interested in working for us please email  or click here to apply.

Job of the Week: Complex Litigation Opportunity in D.C.

An elite mid-sized firm in D.C. is looking for two associates for its Complex Litigation practice:

  • One Junior Associate (Class of ‘17 to ‘18) and;
  • One Mid-Level Associate (Class of ‘14 to ’16).

The ideal candidate will have stellar academics and be familiar with bankruptcy and/or creditors’ rights. 

Why should you consider this position?

  • This highly regarded firm is mid-size in structure but has the experience and essence of a boutique;
  • It is ranked by Vault.com among the “Top 150 Under 150 [Attorneys]” and “Best Midsize Law Firms for Hours” and;
  • The firms litigation group recently landed two major cases, the firm is offering a substantial signing bonus to attract the right candidate! 

If interested, please contact Kristina Marlow at .

Job of the Week: General Counsel for Tech Company in Silicon Valley

Company

Confidential – Register here to find out.

Location

Silicon Valley

Job Description

We are working with a Silicon Valley technology company on a search for a General Counsel level position. The ideal candidate will have a range of experience with a technology transactions background.

Compensation ($$$): Very competitive compensation package that includes top of the market base pay and RSUs!

About the Company

  • This company is focused on SAAS and product lifestyle management in the fashion, luxury goods and consumer goods space.

Requirements

  • 10-25 years experience, including in-house technology transactions experience.
  • Preferred experience includes dealing with corporate governance, insurance and subsidiaries.

Contact

Andrew Ng:

Lateral Link Job of the Week: Boutique in Atlanta

Firm

Confidential – Register here to find out.

Location

Atlanta

Job Description

We are working with an Atlanta-based boutique on a search for a second-to-fourth year litigation associate who focuses his or her practice on employment litigation.

About the Firm

  • This firm is a boutique labor and employment and business litigation law firm with a national client base and scope of practice that they service out of their offices in Atlanta and Los Angeles.
  • The firm represents Fortune 500 companies in class actions, complex commercial disputes of all types, and labor and employment disputes in jurisdictions across the country. The firm also provides consulting services, training, day-to-day advice, and conducts internal investigations in the areas in which they litigate.
  • Over the last few years alone, this firm has handled cases in over 35 states. Many of these cases involved hundreds of millions of dollars in potential exposure and garnered significant media attention.
  • Representative clients include: Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, Georgia-Pacific, Comcast Corporation, Global Payments, Inc., FleetCor Technologies, Cox Communications, Assurant, Turner Broadcasting System, Hyatt Corporation, Johnny Rockets, Allegheny Energy, JPMorgan Chase, Reverse Mortgage Solutions, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, Columbian Chemicals, Cbeyond Communications, and Birch Communications.
  • Compensation is commensurate with BigLaw in Atlanta.

Requirements

  1. A second-to-fourth year litigator who focuses his or her practice on employment litigation.
  2. Outstanding academic credentials from a top tier law school. Preference for candidates who were on their school’s law review.
  3. Strong preference for attorneys who completed a federal clerkship.
  4. Open to local and relocation candidates.

Contact

Marion Wilson – 

Lateral Link Brings in 5 New Recruiters

Lateral Link, along with our sister divisions Cadence Counsel and Bridgeline Solutions, is proud to announce five new hires. Please welcome Jaclyn Genchi, J’lene Mortimer, Susan Agopian, Naomi Kaplan and Stephanie Ruiter to our team!

“We have a simple plan. As we are only as good as our recruiters, we hire the best talent possible. The Lateral Link family is thrilled to welcome Jackie, J’lene, Naomi, Stephanie, and Susan. Collectively, our fabulous new additions speak four languages, have lived abroad for over a lifetime in multiple continents, maneuver with precision both cars and motorcycles, and are some of the brightest, most hardworking, and interesting people in our space. Please join me in welcoming our newest team members to Lateral Link. We are proud to work alongside them in servicing our clients and candidates across the country”, said Michael Allen, founder/CEO of Lateral Link.

Jaclyn Genchi

Jaclyn Genchi is a Director based in South Florida. She focuses on placing associates and partners at AmLaw 100 and 200 law firms, prominent regional firms, and elite boutiques throughout the Southeast, and also on placing in-house attorneys and general counsel in corporate legal departments nationwide.

Prior to joining Lateral Link, Jackie was an associate for ten years at two AmLaw 100 firms, working on bankruptcy matters in New York, litigation matters in Miami, and FCPA/investigation matters in Paris and DC. As she made a lateral move herself, which included a practice group switch and a move from New York to Miami, she well understands the process from the candidate’s perspective.

Jackie received her BA and MA from the University of Florida and her JD from Duke University School of Law. She lives in West Palm Beach, Florida with her rescue pup Winnye and, in her free time, Jackie is a devoted spa junkie with a fondness for French skincare.

Jackie can be reached at .

J’lene Mortimer

J’lene Mortimer practiced at several law firms including Jones Day, Quinn Emanuel, and McGuireWoods before joining Lateral Link. J’lene completed her undergraduate education at the University of California, Berkeley and received her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Originally from Los Angeles, California, J’lene now lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, three sons, and chocolate Labrador.  When she is not working, J’lene is an avid recreational runner and a devoted hockey and lacrosse mom.  Although with the many geographic allegiances in her house, she is torn whether to root for the Flyers, the Capitals or the Kings!

J’lene can be reached at .

Susan Agopian

Susan Agopian specializes in partner representation in the lateral market in California. Born and raised in Bulgaria, Susan brings a unique and worldly perspective to her current position. She spent her formative years traveling through Europe with her mother, a prima ballerina, before making Los Angeles her permanent home in 1994 and allowing basketball to complement her lifelong love affair with soccer. Susan’s MA in Philosophy enabled her to turn down Virginia law school, instead spending the past decade mastering the headhunting profession. Susan manages to balance her work life with a wide range of culinary and bucket list items. An animal lover, she is a passionate supporter of the ASPCA and the Humane Society. She is also a movie buff, 70s music fan, car enthusiast and an avid follower of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Susan can be reached at .

Naomi Kaplan

Naomi Kaplan is a Director in the Los Angeles office focusing on document review solutions nationwide for law firms and corporations, as well as temporary attorney and support staff placements. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Naomi owned a legal recruiting firm and worked at The Walt Disney Company. Prior to recruiting, Naomi was a litigation associate with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP.

Naomi holds a J.D., cum laude, from Boston College Law School where she was Senior Articles Editor of The Third World Law Journal, and a B.A. in English, cum laude, from Boston University. Between college and law school, Naomi worked as a Litigation Paralegal at Skadden in Boston and then lived and worked in Benin, West Africa with the Peace Corps for two years.

Naomi can be reached at .

Stephanie Ruiter 

Stephanie Ruiter moved to New York and joined Lateral Link as a Director after practicing as a litigator at two small DC area firms. She finds the skills she used in helping her clients as an attorney transfer to her recruiting practice; both careers require truly listening to your clients to best understand the right strategy and approach to achieving their goals. The key to Stephanie’s success as a recruiter is to develop a relationship with clients that extends past their placement.

Stephanie attended the University of Delaware for undergrad and received her law degree from the University of Georgia. Stephanie currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her 3-year-old rescue lab, Trina the Diamond Princess. She loves to do the New York Times crossword puzzle and is hoping to one day compete in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. On weekends, you can catch her exploring the city or cheering on her beloved Dawgs.

Stephanie can be reached at .

Reach out to our new team members today with any questions you might have about your next big career move.

We look forward to seeing Jaclyn, J’lene, Susan, Naomi and Stephanie in Las Vegas for our annual company retreat in mid-October.

September 11, 2019 – Lateral Link Job of the Week: Chambers Ranked LA Firm

Firm

Confidential – Register here to find out.

Location

Los Angeles, CA

Job Description

We are working with a top Am-Law firm on a confidential search for a second to fifth-year patent litigation associate in the LA office. This is a very rare opportunity to get in on the ground floor with some of the best patent litigators in the nation, who also practice soft IP and licensing across the technology and life sciences industries. Individual litigation verdicts in the hundreds of millions of dollars and a small group ensure unparalleled experience and a friendly work environment at a firm well-known for taking care of its associates in LA.

About the Firm

  • Chambers-ranked in California
  • Known for its friendly culture and relaxed atmosphere in LA
  • Compensation is top of the LA market.
  • A growing group investing in patent litigation and therefore offering above-average partnership prospects in the BigLaw space

Requirements

1. A second to fifth-year litigation associate with a technology or life sciences background – patent prosecution and general litigation associates with such backgrounds and an interest in patent litigation are encouraged to apply.

2. Tech backgrounds preferred: electrical engineering, computer science, physics.

3. Life sciences backgrounds preferred: bio, chem, biomedical, and related engineering disciplines.

4. Open to local and relocation candidates – CA bar exam must have been taken in July of 2019 at a minimum for candidates relocating from out of state.

Contact

Ata Farhadi –