Tag Archives: Biglaw

Revolutionizing Legal Talent Acquisition with AI: The haistack.ai Advantage

Gone are the days when legal recruitment was bogged down by inefficiency and bias. Enter haistack.ai: a beacon of innovation that leverages artificial intelligence to redefine how law firms identify and engage with top legal talent. This platform, powered by the latest in AI technology, complements traditional methods by offering unparalleled precision and speed, enhancing the capabilities of human recruiters and setting a new standard in legal recruitment efficiency.

A New Era of Recruitment: Efficiency Meets Accuracy

The traditional landscape of legal recruitment, characterized by manual sorting and inherent biases, is undergoing a profound transformation. AI technologies, particularly those specialized in recruitment, are setting new standards for identifying candidates. These advanced algorithms are not just tools but game-changers, capable of analyzing vast datasets to find the perfect match between law firms and potential hires.

haistack.ai leads this charge by leveraging its unique, data-driven approach. Thanks to its parent company, Lateral Link’s, deep industry insights, haistack.ai is not just another recruitment tool but a revolutionary platform that ensures optimal alignment between candidates and law firms, thus streamlining the recruitment pipeline like never before.

The haistack.ai Methodology: Intelligence in Action

At the core of haistack.ai‘s success is its methodical, four-step process that harnesses the power of AI at every turn. Starting with an extensive data collection phase, the platform compiles an unmatched database of attorney profiles, firm requirements, and open positions, laying the groundwork for a comprehensive recruitment network.

The real magic happens when haistack.ai applies its advanced algorithms during the data analysis phase. By uncovering deep connections between potential hires and firms, it facilitates targeted communications and strategic connections that were previously unimaginable.

What sets haistack.ai apart is its reliance on machine learning technologies. These aren’t your standard matching algorithms; they’re dynamic, learning from each placement to refine and enhance future recommendations. This continuous improvement cycle ensures that haistack.ai remains at the forefront of recruitment technology, delivering unmatched accuracy in candidate selection.

In its final phase, haistack.ai doesn’t just list candidates; it provides a detailed justification for each recommendation, backed by solid data analysis. This transparency and insight into the decision-making process add an extra layer of trust and reliability to its services.

Embracing the Future with haistack.ai

As haistack.ai demonstrates, the future of legal recruitment lies in embracing AI’s potential to transform traditional practices. This platform exemplifies the shift towards a more efficient, accurate, and unbiased recruitment process, setting a new standard for how law firms approach talent acquisition.

By integrating haistack.ai into their recruitment strategy, law firms can not only expedite the hiring process but also ensure they are connecting with the most compatible candidates. It’s an invitation to be at the forefront of recruitment innovation, where data-driven decisions lead to better hires and a more dynamic legal workforce.

Are you ready to experience the unparalleled efficiency and precision that haistack.ai brings to legal recruitment? Why wait to transform your talent acquisition strategy? Contact us today to schedule your demo and see firsthand how our AI-driven platform can revolutionize your recruitment process.

Lateral Link Announces 2024 Promotions

Lateral Link is pleased to announce the promotion of several outstanding members of our team this year. These professionals have exemplified unparalleled expertise in legal recruiting, demonstrated exceptional leadership skills, and contributed greatly to helping maintain Lateral Link’s collegial and collaborative culture.

Jon Kahn: Managing Principal, New York

Jon Kahn, one of the co-leaders of Lateral Link’s partner practice group, is now a Managing Principal in Lateral Link’s New York office. With over 25 years of legal industry experience, Jon brings a unique understanding of lateral hiring, having been a partner at major law firms in New York and founding his own executive legal search firm, JEK Partners. His background in capital markets transactions, high-yield offerings, IPOs, and M&A transactions enriches our team’s capabilities. Jon holds a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.

Amy Savage: Senior Principal, Washington, D.C.

Amy Savage, the leader of our Government Transitions Group, is promoted to Senior Principal in our Washington, D.C. office. A recognized expert on legal career issues, Amy has made significant contributions to the D.C. legal market over 15 years, particularly in placing associates and partners with top Am Law firms. Amy earned her J.D. cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center.

Lauren Smith: Senior Principal, Washington D.C.

Lauren Smith, now a Senior Principal in our Washington, D.C., office, specializes in partner and group placements nationwide. Her diverse legal experience as both an Am Law 100 law firm litigation associate and in-house counsel provides a broad perspective beneficial to her recruiting expertise. Lauren graduated with a double major from Cornell University and later obtained her J.D. from William & Mary.

Christine Berger: Senior Director, New Orleans

Christine Berger is promoted to Senior Director, focusing on attorney placements in Texas and Louisiana. Her in-house, law firm, human resources, and resume writing experience offer unique insights into the recruiting process. Based in New Orleans, Christine’s outstanding dedication and drive has played a pivotal role in our expansion in the region.

Lateral Link continues to uphold our commitment to excellence in legal recruiting. These promotions highlight our dedication to valuing leadership and expertise within our team. We pride ourselves on understanding the complexities of the legal market, ensuring tailored and strategic solutions for both our clients and candidates.

We invite talented individuals who share our vision of excellence and collaboration to consider joining our dynamic and forward-thinking team. For those seeking opportunities in a highly-regarded recruiting firm with access to unmatched resources, a collaborative and collegial culture, and above-market compensation, Lateral Link is the ideal destination.

Law Firm Mergers: Analyzing the 2023 Trends and 2024 Forecasts

The landscape of law firm mergers in 2023 revealed significant developments, characterized by a series of strategic consolidations. These trends not only reshape the current legal market but also set the stage for further transformations in 2024.

2023 Merger Landscape: A Quantitative Overview
In 2023, the legal industry saw 48 law firm mergers, a slight increase from 44 in the preceding year. This uptick underscores a growing interest in strategic growth and market diversification, particularly among large firms and in cross-border consolidations. For instance, the year witnessed notable cross-border mergers, doubling from two in 2022 to four, and mergers involving large firms (with over 100 lawyers each) increased from two to five, as reported by Fairfax Associates.

Notable Mergers and Strategic Expansions
High-profile mergers, such as the combination of Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling, highlighted a trend towards global expansion, particularly for UK firms eyeing the U.S. market. Regional mergers also made headlines, with the largest domestic merger being between Cleveland-based Ulmer & Berne (175 lawyers) and St. Louis-based Greensfelder Hemker & Gale (140 lawyers), signaling a strategic move towards creating ‘super-regional’ entities.

Challenges and Considerations in Large-Firm Mergers
Executing mergers among large law firms presented its challenges. Aligning firm cultures, client portfolios, and operational strategies are crucial for a successful integration. Such complexities are indicative of the nuanced approach required in larger consolidations.

Shift in Focus: Boutique and Regional Firms
Smaller and mid-sized firms showed an increased propensity for mergers as a strategy for combating slow growth and rising operational costs. This shift indicates a broader recognition of mergers as a key strategic tool for sustaining competitiveness in a challenging market.

2024 Projections: Continuing Trends with New Dynamics
The legal sector in 2024 is anticipated to continue witnessing mergers, albeit with a nuanced shift. Larger firms are showing a preference for organic growth through internal development, suggesting a more balanced approach to expansion.

Economic Factors Influencing Mergers
Economic conditions, such as market fluctuations and inflation, continue to influence the merger landscape. Firms are increasingly using mergers as strategic responses to these economic challenges, showcasing the importance of adaptive strategies in the legal sector.

Regional Dynamics
The regional distribution of mergers in 2023 also offers valuable insights. States like California, Chicago, and Pennsylvania emerged as hotspots for merger activities, underlining the importance of understanding local market dynamics in strategic planning.

The 2023 law firm merger trends and the 2024 outlook reflect a dynamic approach to growth and adaptation within the legal industry. As firms navigate the global market, mergers remain a pivotal strategy, especially for smaller and regional firms. Concurrently, larger firms are diversifying their growth strategies to include both mergers and organic development.

Engage with Our Experts for Strategic Growth
To effectively navigate these trends, consult our industry experts at Lateral Link. Our team offers in-depth knowledge and practical experience to help you understand these market shifts and their implications for your firm.

Connect with Industry Experts: Gain personalized insights and strategic advice tailored to your firm’s needs. Speak to an Expert

Explore Lateral Opportunities: For legal professionals seeking new challenges, discover how lateral moves can enhance your career. Explore Opportunities.

Share Your Insights: We invite you to share your experiences or thoughts on law firm mergers. Connect with us directly through our Company Directory to contribute to our ongoing discussion.

haistack.ai Seeks a Director of Sales to Lead in Legal Recruitment Innovation

At the intersection of technology and talent, haistack.ai is pioneering a new approach to legal recruitment, and we are seeking a Director of Sales who is ready to lead this charge. This pivotal role is designed for a visionary capable of leveraging our data-driven platform to reshape the legal recruitment industry.

Strategic Leadership Role:
The Director of Sales will devise and execute a sales strategy that not only reaches but also resonates with the Am Law 200 law firms. Your strategic vision will guide the team to exceed sales targets and forge strong relationships within the legal sector.

Candidate Profile:
We are seeking a professional with a bachelor’s degree and substantial leadership experience, ideally with a background in legal recruiting or sales within the legal industry. Strategic thinking, superior communication skills, and the ability to lead a remote team are key qualifications for this role.

Incentive:
We recognize the value of a strong network and the power of personal referrals. That’s why haistack.ai is offering a $5,000 referral bonus if your recommendation leads to a successful hire within 90 days.

Our Culture:
haistack.ai, in partnership with our parent company Lateral Link, deeply values a culture of camaraderie. Our annual retreats, exemplified by our recent gathering at C Lazy U Ranch, reflect our commitment to building and sustaining a collaborative, innovative, and supportive team environment.

How to Apply:
If steering the future of legal recruitment appeals to you, we invite you to apply for the Director of Sales position at haistack.ai. You can apply directly through our LinkedIn job posting or send your resume and cover letter to . We are eager to meet the innovative leaders who will join us in elevating the standards of legal recruitment.

Apply Now: Director of Sales – haistack.ai

We invite you to view the video below to witness the haistack.ai and Lateral Link culture in action. Imagine yourself as a part of our collaborative future. We welcome your application today.

C Lazy U Ranch – Lateral Link 2023 Retreat

Biglaw Compensation Trends: Milbank Pioneers with Associate Salary Increase

In a landscape of cautious optimism within Biglaw, Milbank has announced an increase in first-year associate salaries to $225,000, setting a new benchmark in legal compensation. This move reflects a confident outlook for 2024, despite the previous year’s volatility in client demand and transactional work. The adjustment, which represents a $10,000 increment, establishes a precedent in a market that has witnessed only conservative financial growth in recent years.

The upward salary revision, effective from January 2024, spans across the firm’s hierarchy, reaching up to $425,000 for more tenured associates. This decision coincides with the announcement of year-end bonuses that echo the figures from the previous cycle, asserting Milbank’s commitment to maintaining competitive compensation in a changing economic climate.

These developments, indicative of Milbank’s resilience and foresight, may serve as a bellwether for the sector’s financial health and the strategic positioning of legal talent. As firms navigate this evolving terrain, the need for astute career management and market readiness becomes increasingly apparent.

Within this context, Movers, Shakers, and Rainmakers provides a platform for legal professionals to understand the shifts in the compensation landscape and to anticipate future trends. The podcast’s latest episode offers a nuanced discussion on the potential ripple effects of Milbank’s salary structure on Biglaw’s ecosystem.

While the series enlightens on market trends, Lateral Link offers a complementary suite of services that facilitate strategic career moves. The insights gleaned from the podcast, coupled with Lateral Link’s expertise in legal recruitment, can empower attorneys to make informed decisions in a market where advanced knowledge translates to competitive advantage.

Tune into Movers, Shakers, and Rainmakers for a discerning analysis of Biglaw’s current state and future outlook. For those contemplating their next career phase, Lateral Link provides the market intelligence and strategic support essential for navigating the intricate legal landscape.

Evolution of Legal Billing Practices: Navigating Competitive Pricing in Today’s Legal Landscape

The legal industry is at a crossroads, driven by AI, industry consolidation, and evolving client expectations. As we transition from 2023 into 2024, legal professionals wrestle with key pricing concerns: “Am I overcharging? Am I undercharging?” These questions were spotlighted in the recent Twitter vs. Wachtell lawsuit, revealing the intricate dynamics of legal billing practices.

Billing pressures persist in our profession. Achieving a 100% realization rate seems like a distant dream. To navigate these uncertainties, we explore the current trends in legal billing, offering insights for legal professionals grappling with fee structures. A comprehensive understanding of your billing methods can alleviate some pressures of our dynamic profession.

For decades, the hourly rate model has been the bedrock of legal pricing. It assigns monetary value to an attorney’s time and expertise. While it serves complex cases well, it often faces backlash due to cost unpredictability and potential inefficiencies.

In contrast, the flat fee model offers a transparent, predefined cost, eliminating unpredictability. Ideal for routine legal work, it can, however, fall short when dealing with complex cases with unforeseen twists.

To stay competitive, it’s crucial to understand the nuances of industry trends, competitor rates, and client expectations. Regular reassessment of your fee structure ensures you neither overcharge nor undercharge your clients. It also highlights when an overhaul of your billing strategy is due.

The future looks promising for hybrid models that integrate the strengths of both hourly and flat fee billing. These models offer a guaranteed base payment with the option for an hourly rate for additional work. The emergence of value-based billing models shifts the focus from time to perceived value, radically altering our billing perceptions.

The Twitter vs. Wachtell case underscores the importance of understanding and adapting to these evolving trends. Legal professionals must remain current with changing dynamics to ensure fair treatment for clients and appropriate compensation for their work.

Keeping a pulse on competitors’ strategies, regularly evaluating your own billing practices, and adapting as necessary will be essential as we delve into 2024. These shifts will significantly impact the operations of law firms and the value delivered to clients.

Navigating competitive billing practices in this demanding landscape can lighten our professional burdens. By ensuring we’re appropriately compensated, we can stake our claim in the fluctuating terrain of the legal industry while delivering high-quality services to our clients.

Career Advancement in Legal Profession: Exploring Lateral Moves and Reasons Lawyers Switch Firms

Countless attorneys experience satisfaction with their current law firms. However, a perplexing query often surfaces: “Why shoulder the challenge of starting anew or abandon established relationships?” The primary motivation behind such a decision lies in career progression. Progressive lawyers steering their professional journeys recognize the pitfalls of complacency and strive for career evolution that should be accompanied by amplified satisfaction. Though the present conditions might be conducive, they constantly evaluate – can they improve further elsewhere? Delve into these 12 compelling reasons triggering lateral transitions in law firms and assess whether these circumstances echo your professional situation.

  1. Aiming for Improved Partnership Opportunities: Often the driving force behind lateral moves in law firms.
  2. Desiring Less Pressure Towards Partnership: Not everyone aspires to be a partner. An alternate role with reduced up-or-out pressure might be more appealing.
  3. Craving Substantive Work: Are you prematurely categorized into a specific specialty?
  4. Seeking Increased Responsibility: Does your firm’s culture overly value hierarchy?
  5. Yearning for Enhanced Client Interaction and Business Development: Firms have diverse outlooks on associate participation in client development.
  6. Preference for Diverse Industry Exposure: Are you more inclined towards corporate interaction rather than dealing with financial institutions?
  7. Choosing Smaller Boutique Law Firms: Particularly among litigators, boutique firms could offer more sustainable hours and smaller, personalized teams.
  8. Caught in a Demanding Project: Predominantly observed among litigators. Sometimes, a switch to a different firm becomes the only feasible solution!
  9. Relocating to a New City: Are you contemplating a move to a new market for enriched work exposure or client interaction?
  10. Incompatibility with Colleagues: The overarching culture of your firm might not align with your personality or career aspirations.
  11. Eyeing Government or In-House Roles: A lateral transition could pave the way for your dream in-house or government role.
  12. Striving for Better Compensation: A transition to a firm offering industry-standard or even higher remunerations might be possible.

A skilled legal recruiter can provide valuable insights considering your unique experiences, seniority level, prevailing legal market conditions, and anticipated industry trends. After evaluating your options, you might decide to continue with your present firm. The critical point to remember is: take the reins of your career and professional development. Whether you choose a transition or remain with your present firm, ensure it’s a conscious decision, not a mere default option.

Promoting Diversity in Law: A Strategic Guide for Navigating the Post-Affirmative Action Legal Landscape

Impact of the Supreme Court’s Decision on Diversity in the Legal Profession

The Supreme Court’s decision ending race-conscious affirmative action in college and law school admissions has sparked a reevaluation of efforts to promote racial diversity, not just on campuses but also in the workplace more broadly. In the legal profession, as in many industries, the Court’s stand puts in jeopardy the progress that has been made over the last several years. This moment challenges those of us who believe in the value of a diverse profession to think creatively about opportunities to redouble our efforts.

The Role of Legal Recruiters in Upholding Diversity in Law Firms

Legal recruiters have a role to play—consistent with the law—in mitigating the impact of what we expect will be a reduced number of diverse graduates from the nation’s most prestigious law schools. We have an obligation to press ahead on our long-held vision of a profession that better reflects the diversity of our country.

Recent Progress in Racial Diversity Within U.S. Law Firms

In recent years, law firms have made undeniable progress on racial diversity, even if the pace of change has been slower than we would wish.  NALP’s Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms found that in 2022, the representation of Black associates at major U.S. law firms grew by half a percentage point, to 5.8%, and the proportion of Black summer associates rose by 0.7 percentage point, to 11.9%. Moreover, for the first time, women of color achieved representation of greater than 10% among lawyers overall.

The Influence of the Mansfield Rule on Law Firm Diversity

This progress is partly attributable to active efforts like the Mansfield Rule. 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 presses law firms to consider “a broad slate of talent – including at least 30% underrepresented lawyers – for leadership positions.” Firms committed to that standard can become Mansfield Certified. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Mansfield and similar efforts will persist in their current form following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Challenges to Racial Diversification in Law Firm Partnership Ranks

Disappointingly, among the law firm partnership ranks, racial diversification has appeared to be stagnating even without the added burden of the Supreme Court’s new holding. NALP found no statistically significant growth in equity partners of color in 2022. The top echelon of the profession remains its least diverse segment.

Strategic Steps Legal Recruiters Can Take Amid Reduced Law School Diversity

So how can search firms like Lateral Link continue to drive progress, even if law school classes become less racially diverse in the immediate future?

Deepening Partnerships with Law Schools and Alumni Associations

First, we can deepen our partnership with law schools and their alumni associations, curating creative ways to support diverse students in their efforts to navigate the legal recruiting landscape successfully. Our goal should be to equip the diverse students who are admitted—even if the numbers are smaller—with sufficient knowledge and inspiration to make it to elite law firms.

The Power of Personal Interaction and Mentorship Programs

There are countless opportunities to connect with and educate students, according to Amy Langan, Lateral Link Professional Development and Law School Relations Manager. “In our experience, student affinity groups are highly receptive to hosting speakers from the recruiting sector.” Examples of potential presentation topics include interviewing tips, how to choose a practice area, market-specific updates, and how to pursue a non-traditional legal career. As legal recruiters, we have a birds-eye view of the legal industry nationwide, and we can share with law students our insights about job opportunities in the cities that they are targeting for summer and permanent associate positions. Amy notes that “we can visit HBCU law schools, and we can sponsor or attend job fairs known to attract diverse students. Showing up and being visibly supportive makes a real difference.”

Tailored Mentorship: Fostering Success for Diverse Students

In addition to giving presentations in larger settings, recruiters can help facilitate more tailored one-on-one mentorship, for example by helping to pair lawyers and legal recruiters with students who are members of diverse affinity groups. The Orange County Korean American Bar Association (OCKABA) offers an example. Lateral Link Senior Director Christina Ahn co-chairs the OCKABA Mentorship & Outreach Committee, which pairs law student mentees with attorney mentors based on the student’s interest and the attorney’s practice area. Attorney mentors regularly offer personalized insight into how to advance successfully in a law firm setting.

Collaborative Partnerships: Supporting Racially Diverse Attorneys

Second, legal recruiters can partner with law firms and State Bar Associations to jointly assist racially diverse attorneys to thrive at all levels of seniority, in a manner that remains compliant with the Court’s ruling. Recruiters bring substantial intelligence to the table, with knowledge both of what law firms are looking for in potential lateral hires and of the individual needs of diverse candidates. An example of a forum where this knowledge can make a major contribution is the Texas Minority Counsel Program—the premier client development, networking, and CLE event for Texas attorneys. Open to everyone, the program’s mission is to increase opportunities for diverse attorneys, and to expose organizations to the legal talent of diverse attorneys in Texas.

Curating Initiatives for Diversity in Law Firm Partnerships

In the particular context of law firm partner opportunities, legal recruiters can work with firms to curate new initiatives that comply with the Supreme Court decision and, at the same time, ensure that partners of color can thrive in the law firm platform. Specifically, legal recruiters can work closely with law firms to help them prioritize diversity in partner recruiting and retention.

The Importance of Intentionality in Diversity Efforts

Now more than ever, legal recruiters have to be intentional about being part of the solution. Just hoping for the best will not create diverse and inclusive legal communities. Being intentional may at times entail discussing sensitive issues that impact diverse partners disproportionately, such as origination credit formulas, lateral partner integration, and diversity, equality, and inclusive initiatives at each of the firms we work with. Sometimes these conversations may generate a measure of discomfort or resistance, but recruiters need to use our access to advance the discussion of these essential matters.

Adapting to Market Shifts: U.S. Law Firms in Hong Kong Rethink COLA Strategy

At least three top-tier US law firms in Hong Kong are currently planning to phase out Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) allowances within the next two years, and others are discussing doing the same. The plan is to reduce the payment by 50% in 2024 and to zero by 2025. At least one firm has announced the change internally office-wide, while two others have apparently made the decision internally but have yet to announce to their associates and counsels in Hong Kong.

Will this work? Time will tell, but history suggests these firms are facing an uphill battle to phase out COLA in Hong Kong. This isn’t the first time firms have made moves to rein in COLA. Similar plans have been deployed during previous down cycles. The problem is that unless every firm in the market ends the practice, associates will simply move from firms that reduce COLA to peer firms that maintain it.

If the current hiring downturn lasts for an additional two full years, it is conceivable that no firm would see an advantage in maintaining COLA, while others are phasing it out over two years, and using that policy to attract lateral talent. But a downturn of that length, with both soft and hard hiring freezes going on for three total years, would be unprecedented. It is more likely that the hiring market will pick up in due course at some point in 2024, reestablishing the tight supply dynamics that led firms to offer significant COLA allowances in Hong Kong in the first place. If that happens, firms will have a strong incentive to use COLA as a recruiting tool. And the firms now planning to stop paying it may find themselves reconsidering, especially when their star associates may consider moves next year as their COLA begins to be phased out.

Around ten years ago, two top US firms in Hong Kong made plans to have a three-year tail on their COLA for their US associates, whereby COLA would only be in effect for an associate’s first three years at those firms’ Hong Kong offices. However, around seven years ago, when the scheduled end to COLA for their star associates was looming, both firms quietly continued providing COLA after the three years. One of these two firms completely abandoned the idea of the three-year tail.

Unsurprisingly, firms would rather not make substantial COLA payments, especially in the current down market. There are presently very few associate openings in Biglaw offices in Asia—a major deviation from the norm. Some firms perceive this rare hiring downturn as an opportunity to implement change.

Cost of Living Adjustments: Why Biglaw Offices in Asia Pay US Associates More Than Any Other Region

The market for US-qualified Biglaw associates in Asia has long been unique. As in other regions, Biglaw firms are looking for candidates with top academic credentials and deal experience. But in addition, they look for local language skills—most commonly, fluent Mandarin. This combination of attributes shrinks the eligible candidate pool, and under normal market conditions, competition for the relatively limited number of associates who check all the boxes is intense.

That’s why firms have for many years paid so-called Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) to US-qualified associates working in Asian offices. Describing these payments as COLA is a misnomer, in that they bear no particular relation to cost of living (which is typically in Biglaw Asian markets roughly the same or slightly lower than in New York). Further, there are substantial tax windfalls for associates who land in tax havens such as Singapore and Hong Kong. This is true for both US taxpayers and non-US taxpayers, although the latter’s tax windfall is much larger than the former’s.

Instead, COLA is more accurately understood as simply an increase in base pay, rather than being tied to any cost of living adjustments or living expenses in general.

How much COLA do firms pay?

Before getting into the numbers, allow me to offer some context about my background. I recently joined Lateral Link, but my close association with Biglaw offices in Asia goes back nearly two decades, and over 500 attorney placements have been made in Asia, mostly at top-tier and second-tier US firms.

The table below presents the typical range of annual COLA (in US Dollars) in Hong Kong. To keep things simple, I have listed a Low, Medium, and High value, along with the number of firms paying at that level, among what we consider to be the top 20 US and UK law firms in Hong Kong. Please note that these COLA numbers are basic and do not include additional COLA allowances paid to associates who have children (a minority of firms in Hong Kong do this). Further, it is likely that by this time next year, there will only be one firm in the “High” range, with one of those firms considering lowering COLA a bit and one of those firms planning to phase out COLA. Outside of the handful of firms considering to phase out COLA, there has been no move to lower the COLA below the current low-end range ($60,000 to $95,000) in the Hong Kong market. This has been the range of COLA for the top 20 firms in Hong Kong for more than ten years.

LocationLow (11 Firms)Medium (6 Firms)High (3 Firms)
Hong Kong$60,000 – $70,000$75,000 to $85,000$90,000 to $95,000

One might assume that COLA is for Americans moving to Asia as expats. In the mid-2000s when the COLA system was more basic and the US law firm offices in Asia were very small, that was basically true. But the picture today is more nuanced, especially in Hong Kong—the most competitive market for associate hiring.

COLA is typically offered to attorneys that are in a “US team” (e.g., US Capital Markets, M&A, FCPA, etc.) usually (but not always) led by US-trained and qualified partners. Keep in mind that members of such teams are not necessarily Americans. Many associates are native to the region but are qualified as US lawyers. So a native Hong Kong citizen with an American JD (and with no obligation to pay US taxes) will earn COLA despite living in his or her home jurisdiction.

There are also numerous UK and Australian qualified associates at US firms in Hong Kong that work on US teams and get COLA, regardless of whether they are admitted in any US state.

Interestingly, a minority of US law firms in Hong Kong provide COLA to all or most of their solely Hong Kong-qualified associates. These lawyers are admitted to practice only in Hong Kong and typically grew up in Hong Kong, or at least have been living in Hong Kong their entire legal career. They work side-by-side with US-qualified colleagues who receive COLA, and their firms want to retain them. Accordingly, at these select offices, COLA has effectively transformed into increased base pay for all associates across the board.

Hybrid Work and Generational Divide: Navigating Differences in Modern Law Firm Practices

More than three years after COVID-19 upended where and how we work, law firm offices in some ways resemble the pre-pandemic normal. Attorneys mingle freely at in-person gatherings. Face masks and hand sanitizer have receded. But one thing is still starkly different: just how many desks are unoccupied on any given day.

Return-to-office policies are not uniform

One might have predicted that Biglaw firms would potentially use their return-to-office policies as a recruiting tactic that resulted in uniform policies given the fierce competition for talent and the ensuing (and somewhat uniform) salary increases over the past few years. The competition for talent has cooled as firms have learned to deal with COVID-19, however, and firms are moving towards bringing their attorneys back into the office on at least a hybrid basis. Superficially, it may seem that Biglaw has arrived at something approaching consensus: a survey released in January found that a third of Am Law 100 firms mandate three days per week of in-office presence, with another third encouraging three days in office. But dig a little deeper, and you find a surprising lack of convergence as firms determine what works best for their needs.

For instance, O’Melveny and Myers, like its peer firms, wants attorneys to spend more time in the office. But instead of specifying a set number of days per week, O’Melveny has announced an expectation that lawyers be present in the office for more than half the time over the course of the year. This policy emerged from a series of town halls and surveys, which delivered the clear message that flexibility was important to O’Melveny attorneys.

Even among the firms with a three-day mandate or expectation, there is no consensus on who chooses the days. Some firms have designated “anchor days,” either at an office or practice group level, where the whole team is expected to go in together. Several Morgan Lewis practice groups have recently mandated attendance on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, justifying the decision in part by noting that summer associates will be in the office on those days. Meanwhile, other firms allow lawyers to choose any three days.

And then there is the matter of compliance. Despite supposed “mandates,” noncompliance has been widespread at many firms, with limited attempts at enforcement. Many firms have preferred carrots to sticks, offering incentives such as free lunch to entice lawyers to come in. But some have been more pointed, making payout of annual bonuses contingent upon in-office attendance. Firms taking that stand include: Simpson Thacher, Sidley Austin, Davis Polk, Cahill, and Ropes & Gray.

The generational divide

So why are we seeing a lack of convergence regarding a model for the future of work at law firms? A key factor is generational differences, particularly among seasoned attorneys and junior attorneys.

Firm and practice group leaders entered the profession under very different circumstances from those of today’s junior associates. Two or three decades ago, the notion of a lawyer routinely working from home would have sounded strange. The early-career experiences of today’s senior partners were defined by long hours in the office, yes, but also by substantial in-person mentorship and training.

Given that background, it’s unsurprising that firm leadership is eager for associates to return, both for cultural and developmental reasons. It’s difficult to build culture when attorneys are remote, and effective training in a remote setting is challenging. When law firm leaders consider how they became partners—by creating strong ties with the partnership while they were associates—they struggle to conceive of how a fully remote associate could build comparable relationships and successfully navigate the path to partnership. 

Meanwhile, at the base of the pyramid are Gen Z associates who graduated from law school during the pandemic and began their law firm careers in a fully remote setting. Now that these junior lawyers are (largely) expected to be back in the office, they miss the flexibility. I sometimes receive questions about whether it’s possible to find a fully remote job at a firm. One current Biglaw junior associate recently asked me if he could go to a smaller firm with a lower hours expectation and work remotely. When I brought up the professional development benefits of in-person work for early-career attorneys, he responded that he was not sure if he wanted to practice law long-term, let alone become a law firm partner. He also mentioned that he put a premium on work-life balance and flexibility, which he thought remote work could help him achieve.

This candidate is hardly alone. A recent survey of Gen Z attorneys found that 60% would sacrifice compensation for a flexible work schedule and just 23% aspire to be a law firm partner. Gen Z also prioritizes work-life balance and flexibility.

Having been a judicial law clerk for over a year and a law firm associate for almost five years, I also know that the first five years of practice are critical for skills development, even if partnership is not necessarily in your future. I benefited tremendously from in-person mentorship and training, and I still value my mentorship and training even though I no longer practice law. When candidates ask about fully remote positions, I tell them that some midsize and boutique firms do not have a formal policy for days in the office. But I advise them to consider various types of firms with hybrid schedules, both to keep all their options open and to accelerate their development of transferable skills, for if and when they do leave the law firm track.

Ultimately, the generations are each going to have to give some ground in acknowledgment of the other’s reasonable perspectives. It remains to be seen how firms will treat hybrid or remote work to promote work-life balance and attract (and retain) talent. Whatever the equilibrium is, we haven’t reached it yet.