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5 Hot Practice Areas In A Biden Administration

The replacement of the Trump Administration by the Biden Administration will bring changes to countless areas of American life, including the legal sector. Here are a few practice areas that we at Lateral Link expect to heat up over the next few years. (Thanks to my colleague Gloria Sandrino, who previously shared her thoughts on this topic with Law360, for her help in putting this list together.)

1. White-collar, investigations, and enforcement work. White-collar prosecutions fell to a record low under President Donald Trump. Over the past two years, I’ve spoken to numerous white-collar and investigations lawyers who have had to turn to civil and commercial litigation to keep themselves busy. Law firm hiring out of government also slowed significantly; with firms struggling to keep their current white-collar lawyers busy, their appetite for former prosecutors dropped significantly.

Many industry observers expect this to change under the Biden Administration. We’ve been meeting with firms right now to discuss their talent needs for the year, and many of them expect a significant increase in SEC, DOJ, and congressional investigations. Widely reported fraud related to the Paycheck Protection Program and other pandemic relief efforts is already starting to generate work, and with the change to a Democratic administration, also look for an increase in traditional white-collar work, such as Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigations and prosecutions.

2. Banking and financial regulation. Related to the anticipated uptick in white-collar expect, expect an increase in banking and financial regulatory work as well. In particular, look for the new administration to reinvigorate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) — and create work for lawyers and law firms that specialize in consumer finance regulatory matters.

3. Environmental. Even though he has been in office for just a few weeks, President Biden has already made clear that protecting the environment will be a priority for his administration, with an especially strong focus on addressing the climate change crisis. According to this overview from Hogan Lovells, look for the Biden Administration to “seek to undo many of the deregulatory actions of the Trump administration… [and] to strengthen environmental protections by adopting new standards, revising existing standards, and increasing enforcement.” The upshot: more work for environmental lawyers, especially those who advise companies trying to keep up with the new standards and to respond to investigations and enforcement actions.

4. Labor and employment. As noted in this analysis by Littler Mendelson, the close divide in the House of Representatives will limit President Biden’s ability to enact much of his agenda. But we can still expect significant changes, including changes that can be made through administrative action.

If it’s passed by Congress, President Biden’s proposed COVID-19 stimulus plan includes a number of L&E-related provisions, including extension of unemployment insurance benefits, renewal of emergency paid sick and family medical leave mandates from prior coronavirus relief packages, authorization of OSHA to develop a national COVID-19 protection standard, and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 nationwide. Companies will need legal help to respond to any number of these changes.

5. Private equity and venture capital. On the transactional side, private equity and venture capital should continue to be active areas, but with a shift in emphasis to focus on the healthcare and environmental sectors. Investment in the healthcare and life sciences space should remain robust, as the nation continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and its after effects, and investment in the environmental space could see a boost from President Biden’s plan to invest $2 trillion in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure, which would be a boon for the cleantech startup ecosystem. This will also generate lots of work for project finance lawyers, especially those who focus on cleantech and renewable energy.

These are just some of the sectors that could see significant growth over the next few years. Others include state attorneys general, antitrust, and healthcare practices. A change in administration often means changes in the law, and changes in the law are good news for lawyers and law firms.

If you’re thinking about what you can do with your career to take advantage of these developments, please feel free to reach out to me or any of my colleagues to explore your options. This is an exciting time — not just for the country, but for lawyers and the legal profession — and you don’t want to miss out on any opportunities.

Tips For Finding Your First Legal Job

Legal recruiters don’t work with entry-level candidates; what steps can you take on your own to find a great first legal job?

Are you looking for your first legal job? First legal job in the U.S.? First legal job in a new practice area? Have you been out of the workforce or in a non-legal role for a number of years now and are looking to get back in? Have you been working outside the U.S. for some time?

Legal recruiters do not work with entry-level candidates for the simple reason that most firms have their own procedures for hiring at the entry level that do not involve recruiters. What steps can you take on your own?

  • Make a list of your concrete skills. Think about which roles your concrete skills best lend themselves to. Remember firms/companies may not be in a position to train you on the basics.
  • NETWORKING. NETWORKING. You have a much better shot at landing your next job through personal connections. And keep up the networking once you land your next job. Networking should be authentic and ongoing, not just something you do during a job search.
  • LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn. Connect with people, but be sure they are meaningful connections. And be sure your LinkedIn profile is in tip-top shape before starting your reach-outs.
  • Work your alumni networks — undergrad, law school, and former law firm colleagues. Ask for warm intros to others in their networks.
  • Remember that Career Services isn’t just for current students. Call your law school Career Services office anytime! Again, ask for warm intros.
  • More and more law firms are creating alumni affairs offices. Call your former firm!
  • Consider joining a city or state bar association and getting involved with one of the committees.
  • Team up with a more senior lawyer to write an article or engage in a business development–type activity. Even if you’re unemployed, you can still be working towards your career and resume-building.
  • Set up online alerts for job openings. Ask me for a list of online in-house job search resources.
  • Start by requesting informational interviews, especially of those with whom you already have some connection. Do your homework before making the request and certainly before the interview. Structure the conversation to be sure you’re not wasting the other person’s time. Specify the time frame and offer to email questions in advance. Be sure to offer something in return (sharing an article with them they may find interesting, etc.) and show appreciation for the person’s time.
  • Keep an open mind. You don’t want to sell yourself short, but put yourself in the employer’s shoes. They are taking a big chance on you. You know you’re awesome, but they don’t know that yet. Be hesitant to pass up a good opportunity just because it isn’t perfect. You don’t have to stay at this next job forever. Especially if you’re looking to move geographically, it may be best to land a job that checks two-thirds of the boxes; think of it as an 18- to 24-month stop with feet on the ground, and aim to be in your true dream job within a couple of years.
  • Consider enlisting a third party’s help. Reach out to me directly and I’ll be happy to share some recommendations for career coaches with experience in the legal field.
  • If you’re looking to re-enter the workforce after time outside the workforce, you may want to consider PE funds, consulting firms, or other employers who tend to value “smarts” over specific experience. They often prefer to mold someone to the job. The catch: many of them will not even consider candidates from below the Top 6 law schools. You could also look at banks and some other larger employers who may have specific workforce re-entry programs (e.g., JPMorgan Chase).

Of course, feel free to reach out to me or any of my colleagues at Lateral Link if you aren’t sure if a recruiter might be able to assist. We can always help point you in the right direction.


Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by Abby Gordon, Senior Director at Lateral Link, who works with attorney candidates on law firm and in-house searches, primarily in Boston, New York, and Europe. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Abby spent seven years as a corporate associate with Cleary Gottlieb, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York and for the last five years for European clients in Paris. A native of Boston, Abby holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in government and romance languages, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College. Abby also worked with the International Rescue Committee as a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain. She is a member of the New York, Massachusetts and Maine Bars and is fluent in French and Spanish (and dabbles in Portuguese and Italian). You can view additional articles by Abby here.

The Importance Of Authentic Networking

You should always have a reason to connect with someone beyond ‘What can they do for me?’

I was recently asked to share my “#1 career tip” with a group of young lawyers. Here is what I told them.

Everyone talks about networking…about starting early, and the importance of networking when looking for a new job.

But the real key is to practice authentic networking.

What does this mean?

It means networking to learn from others and to open your horizons, not just to advance your career.

It means that you should not be looking to build a network of superficial connections. Do not just connect with people you think can help you. Connect with people you think you can help as well.

You should always have a reason to connect with someone beyond “What can they do for me?”

You don’t need a deep relationship with everyone in your network, but it must be a relationship of give and take, a two-way street.

Perhaps you can’t offer a lot. But perhaps you can forward an article you think would interest them. Perhaps you can offer the chance to reminisce about your time at your shared alma mater. Perhaps as a younger alum, you can give an older alum a glimpse into what the school community is like today.

What does authentic networking mean in a time when we cannot meet people in person?

Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date. Connect systematically and in a timely manner with people you engage with virtually.

And remember connecting with someone in an authentic way is not a one-off. Use that time when you would have been at in-person networking events to keep up existing relationships. Check in with your contacts from time to time—because you care about them as human beings, not just when you are looking for a job.

Another lawyer suggested to me recently that by dropping the buzzword “networking” altogether and replacing it with “relationship building,” we will put ourselves in the right mindset. Perhaps she is right.

Remember that developing authentic relationships also means you don’t just look for the people at the top. It’s great if you can network with law firm partners and company executives, but you should also look for connections with peer lawyers, with administrative staff and janitorial staff. And with people outside the legal industry altogether.

Treat everyone with equal respect and positivity, and you’ll do well — in your career, and in your life.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by Abby Gordon, Senior Director at Lateral Link, who works with attorney candidates on law firm and in-house searches, primarily in Boston, New York, and Europe. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Abby spent seven years as a corporate associate with Cleary Gottlieb, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York and for the last five years for European clients in Paris. A native of Boston, Abby holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in government and romance languages, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College. Abby also worked with the International Rescue Committee as a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain. She is a member of the New York, Massachusetts and Maine Bars and is fluent in French and Spanish (and dabbles in Portuguese and Italian). You can view additional articles by Abby here.

EC/VC And The Biglaw Tech Firm — An Overview By A Former Gunderson Associate

Tech-focused firms have extremely cool work, clients, and cultures, and the sector in which they operate has been experiencing tremendous and consistent growth.

If you’re a corporate associate with top credentials, you probably accepted an offer through on-campus interviewing from a prestigious, Chambers-ranked practice. It’s equally likely that nobody told you to take a serious look at elite Emerging Companies/Venture Capital (“EC/VC”) practices at Gunderson, Cooley, Fenwick, Goodwin, and the other top “Tech” firms.

While you may not have heard all of these names or the term “EC/VC” during law school, you almost certainly have now, and there’s a reason why. These growing Tech shops have extremely cool work, clients, and cultures, and the sector in which they operate has been experiencing tremendous and consistent growth. Take it from someone who practiced in Gunderson’s Corporate group and is constantly working with folks trying to enter into or pivot within the EC/VC space. (For a bit more on my background, check out this interview I did with my colleague David Lat.)

For those who want more information on these practices and firms, I strongly encourage you to reach out to me at sdamato@laterallink.com. In the interim, here is a high-level rundown on substance, clients, development, culture, and how/when to get in the door:


  • The typical model of an EC/VC practice is to (1) serve as quasi-in-house counsel to startups and emerging companies throughout their life cycles and (2) advise top VC firms on their formation, operations, and investments.
  • In practice and on the corporate side of the house, this means forming the company, managing the capitalization table (“cap table”), staying on top of governance matters, leading venture financings through which these companies receive funding from institutional and private investors, negotiating commercial agreements, and generally working hand-in-hand with the business principals to steer the company toward an exit (e.g., an IPO or sale).


  • The client base ranges from a cool startup recently founded by young Harvard or Stanford grads to unicorns (i.e., privately held startups valued in excess of $1 billion) to public tech giants.
  • Compared to their colleagues in other practice areas, associates in EC/VC practices can have meaningful business development opportunities. For example, after less than a year at Gunderson, I was able to bring on a friend of a friend’s LA-based startup as a client, then took the lead on their Series Seed financing.


  • These practices enable their associates to work directly with C-Suite executives and other major players on business teams.
  • This often takes the form of explaining material terms of a venture financing to the board and existing stockholders so that they understand their respective rights and obligations.
  • It also involves cluing in the founders on stuff they really care about, like the extent to which they’re being diluted by a financing or equity grants to new hires and highly-valued employees (remember the scene at the end of The Social Network when Eduardo Saverin smashes a laptop on Mark Zuckerberg’s desk?).
  • One of the key and purposeful byproducts of the nature of the work and extremely lean staffing is that associates can get an intimate look under the hood of their clients’ businesses from day one – something that not only makes a lawyer’s role more rewarding, but yields the best quality of work. Associates can witness the bigger picture firsthand and understand the practical implications of changes they’re making in documents.
  • Because EC/VC lawyers work closely with their clients and truly learn their clients’ businesses, they are often the first candidates the client will consider when starting or growing a legal department – so if you want to go in-house eventually, the EC/VC space is one of the best launching pads.


  • Based on my experience, the best way to describe the culture at the top Tech firms is that the vibe feels more like a startup than a law firm.
  • You’ll rarely see people in business formal attire, and both associates and partners actually use the common areas to hang out and have conversations that surpass “what are you working on?”

How/When to Get In

  • These practices have been extremely busy, and many are hiring now with 2020 and 2021 start dates.
  • At the same time, there is a ton of demand in the market for associate positions at the top Tech firms, so you’ll absolutely need to have a good firm and law school on your CV.
  • On timing, if you’re in a corporate group (ideally a deal lawyer) and do not have EC/VC experience, you’ll want to start seriously considering a pivot in the middle or end of your second year – largely because it’s ideal to retool sooner rather than later.
  • If you do have EC/VC experience, the main consideration is whether your firm is feeding you the right development opportunities and a wide enough range of work (e.g., make sure you’re getting some M&A and IPO experience and not just pure venture financings, and vice versa).

If you can’t already tell, I’m a huge advocate for the Tech industry and the top EC/VC practices. In a world where a lateral move on its face may seem like a riskier proposition than usual, it’s smart to think about whether staying the course is in reality a greater risk than pursuing a role in an extremely active and growing space.

If you’re a Biglaw corporate associate with superb credentials and an interest in EC/VC work, please drop me a line at sdamato@laterallink.com. I’d be happy to expand on this overview and give you more specifics, provide you with a market overview and tell you which Tech firms are hiring, and explore specific opportunities with you if you’re interested. Thanks!

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by Stephen Damato, a Director based in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in placing attorneys into law firms across the United States. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Stephen practiced law as a corporate associate in Gunderson Dettmer’s Boston office and an M&A and private equity associate in Jones Day’s New York office. Stephen holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A., magna cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania. He is an avid D.C. sports fan (Washington Capitals above the rest) and is forever working on his golf game.

Just Do Your Damn LPQ — The Dreaded Lateral Partner Questionnaire

Is it really too much to ask? Too much work to fill out a form that will take one hour of your time so you can leave a firm you’re not happy with?

In the mid 1990s, the great former New York Jets wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson was frustrated with his lack of touches, knowing full well he was the star of the team. So one day he unloaded to the media and declared, “Just Give Me the Damn Ball.” He knew that his lack of touches was the bottleneck in the whole operation. If they could just get him the ball and let him do the rest, the team would dominate.

In lateral partner recruiting, I feel that way about the LPQ — the lateral partner questionnaire. It’s the proverbial ball we need filled out by the partner candidates because we cannot win without it.

We all know the scenario: You’re interviewing with multiple firms and you’ve narrowed it down to a few, or maybe you already decided on the one. After months of the dance, you know who can pay and who was just window shopping. You know whose bill rates will never be low enough for your clients and which firms grind their partners into mulch. You know which firm’s practice will legitimately help you cross-sell and which ones are more siloed than Trump’s tax returns. You’re excited and on the verge of getting an offer from your dream firm. You feel a big number coming. But wait… they want you to fill out an LPQ?!

For the uninitiated: what is an LPQ? After preliminary meetings to establish that you might actually fit in with the target firm both culturally and from a business standpoint, most law firms will ask you to complete a lateral partner questionnaire (LPQ) to facilitate that process. Due diligence is an essential part of the lateral partner hiring decision. Law firms must verify your book of business, avoid client conflicts, and manage risks as much as possible. Factors taken into account include your reputation, revenue, originations, client relationships, and business portability. The data included is biographical and economic — a three- to five-year year history of originations, collections, billings, client date, realization rates, and projections for your future, etc. Yes, we concede it’s a bit annoying.

So your inner voice takes over: “Why? We were getting along so well! They need to actually verify my business is what I say it is? Isn’t my word good enough to close a potentially seven-figure deal between lawyers? Shockingly, it isn’t? Oh God, just forget it. Just forget the whole thing. It’s too much work.” Step back and ask yourself: is this me?

Look, we get it. Maybe some of you are just lookie loos, and that’s okay, now is the time to gracefully bow out/ghost us completely. But a lot of you have expressed a deep unhappiness and a strong desire to move to a better platform, and we believe you want to do something about it. So ask yourself: does it really make sense to put up such a stink over the LPQ?

Is it really too much to ask? Too much work? Too much work to fill out a form that will take one hour of your time versus the last 10 or 20 thousand hours you’ve burned at a firm you’re not happy with. You already have all the information. You literally just have to type it into a short document. Sort of like what you do every day. Except you get paid much less for that. Literally typing your information into an LPQ may be the most valuable time you ever spend in your career. That one hour that you keep pushing off is an hour some other partner just spent drinking your milkshake and taking that dream job from you. I’ve seen it happen so many times, but during the pandemic it’s especially egregious to delude yourself into thinking you just don’t have the time.

No more BS. You have the time. S**t or get off the pot. We recruiters work hard to try to put our partner candidates in a position to improve their prospects. We cannot do that if you stubbornly refuse to do the most important part. So I implore you, on behalf of all recruiters, and on behalf of all the firms that really want to hire you and welcome you to a better life: In the words of the great Keyshan Johnson, “Just Do your Damn LPQ.”

Or if your football references are all from Jerry Maguire, then let me just scream, “Help ME help YOU!”

A Message For Harvard Law School Alumni

And a warm welcome to Lateral Link’s newest team member — Amanda Mindlin, HLS class of 2014.

Harvard Law School and Lateral Link have a special relationship. Our founder and CEO, Michael Allen, is a proud and active HLS alumnus. The head of our partner practice, Gloria Sandrino, also graduated from Harvard Law. We believe we have worked with more Harvard Law alumni as candidates than practically any other recruiting firm.

Why? One reason so many HLS alums work with us is that by doing so, they are effectively giving back to their alma mater.

In 2015, Mike Allen established the Lateral Link Scholarship Fund at Harvard Law School, with an initial commitment of $250,000. Whenever Lateral Link makes a placement of an HLS alum into a law firm or other legal employer, 10 percent of the placement fee goes into the Fund, which supports financial aid at the Law School.

The ties between HLS and Lateral Link have deepened further with our latest recruiter hire: Amanda Mindlin, HLS class of 2014. She works with lawyers, law firms, and in-house legal departments throughout the East Coast, helping candidates find great wonderful new opportunities and helping employers find superb new talent.

Earlier this week, I spoke by phone with Amanda about her legal career, her move into recruiting, and why she decided to join Lateral Link.

DL: Hello, Amanda, and welcome to Lateral Link! You never know where anyone is working from these days – where am I catching you right now?

AM: Right now, my husband and I are in Babcock Ranch, Florida – America’s first solar-powered town – but we’re moving to Sarasota soon.

DL: And you’re a longtime Floridian, as I recall?

AM: Yes. I grew up in Sarasota, went to the University of Florida for college, and am a lifelong Florida Gators fan. Although I studied abroad a few times, I only lived in another state while I was at HLS.

DL: What led you to trade the Florida sunshine for three years in cold and snowy Cambridge?

AM: I never planned on going to law school. I majored in political science, which I loved, and wanted to pursue a Ph.D. to become a professor. But around the time of my graduation in 2010, a number of my professors were getting laid off because of recession-related budget cuts, so they advised me against that.

My roommate at the time was preparing to take the LSAT, so I signed up for a prep class with her and ended up doing surprisingly well. With my grades and LSAT score, going to law school was the path of least resistance.

DL: How did you like law school?

AM: I loved it! It was so much fun. I took great classes and met so many incredibly interesting people. I sang opera growing up, so I participated in Parody, the law school musical, which was a blast. And I saw snow for the first time.

DL: Did you always plan on returning to Florida?

AM: Actually, I considered staying in Boston. I spent my 1L summer working in-house at MassMutual, which was great, and I spent my 2L summer in Boston at Bingham McCutchen.

Bingham was having issues at the time – it ultimately went under in 2014, the year I graduated – so early in my 3L year, I applied for federal clerkships.

Luckily, even though I applied late in the cycle, I got an interview with Judge Middlebrooks of the Southern District of Florida. The interview couldn’t have gone better – we spent much of it chatting about Gator football – and he made me an offer on the spot, which I immediately accepted.

It wound up being an amazing year. I couldn’t have clerked for a better judge. For law students interested in litigation, a federal clerkship is a wonderful experience if you can get it.

DL: And then how did you find your first job post-clerkship?

AM: I met my now-husband during my clerkship. He was based in Miami but was eager to get out and encouraged me to look for opportunities up in West Palm, where I was clerking. There are only so many firms in West Palm, so I interviewed with most of them, including Shutts & Bowen.

The firm has an excellent reputation, and my judge spoke very highly of them. They had a patent trial before my judge at the time (which I was recused from), and I was impressed with them in the courtroom.

I’d long been interested in pursuing IP litigation. Shutts was really the only major firm in West Palm with an IP group, so it was a pretty easy decision!

DL: How did you like your time at Shutts & Bowen?

AM: I couldn’t have been at a better firm. I loved my group – my husband and I still hang out with the partner I worked with most closely. And they really gave me the freedom to pursue the work I was most interested in.

My issue was that I’m a pretty social person, and I found the practice of law to be extremely isolating. Writing is probably my greatest strength, so I wound up doing a lot of brief writing – which by its nature involves spending a lot of time by yourself researching and writing.

It quickly became obvious that I needed a job with more social interaction. My sister-in-law, a successful executive recruiter, suggested I pursue legal recruiting, which sounded like it would be a perfect fit for me.

DL: And has it been?

AM: Absolutely! As a recruiter, I’m constantly talking to other people – associates, partners, recruiting coordinators, colleagues – and I’m constantly meeting interesting people from different backgrounds.

There’s so much diversity in the job; it doesn’t get boring. Every candidate is different, and every search is different. I work across different practice areas and cities – New York, Boston, D.C., Florida – so I’m constantly learning about different fields of law and legal markets.

DL: What do you enjoy the most about recruiting?

AM: The matchmaking aspect. I really get to know my candidates – to the point where sometimes I know what they’re looking for better than they do. For example, sometimes a candidate will tell me that they only want to apply to Biglaw firms, but I suggest that they consider this one boutique – and then they end up going to that boutique over several Biglaw firms, and loving it there.

My candidates have been very happy at the firms I’ve placed them at, which is extremely rewarding. Some of them were miserable and thinking about leaving law before we started working together, but as it turned out, they just weren’t at the right firms.

DL: You came to Lateral Link as an experienced recruiter, having worked at another legal search firm before this. What drew you to Lateral Link?

AM: First, Lateral Link’s excellent reputation within the legal profession. When I was thinking about switching recruiting firms, I spoke to many different people – contacts from my HLS network, lawyers and recruiting professionals at law firms, people at other recruiting firms – and everyone spoke highly of Lateral Link. I wanted to be at a firm with a strong reputation, which makes it easier to connect with candidates and with law firms.

Second, Lateral Link is a welcoming place to recruiters coming from other recruiting shops. I was struck by how many of my colleagues here used to work at other top search firms.

Finally, I was drawn to Lateral Link’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. So many of Lateral Link’s recruiters, especially its leaders, are women and/or diverse, and as a result, many of Lateral Link’s candidates are women and/or diverse as well. I’m very proud to be part of this team.

DL: And we are very proud to have you – a Harvard Law School graduate, former federal law clerk, and former associate at an Am Law 200 law firm – joining us. Welcome again to Lateral Link, Amanda!

An Excellent Opportunity For New York Litigators

There aren’t a huge number of opportunities out there for senior associates in litigation, but here is an excellent one.

If you’re a litigation associate in Biglaw, I commend to you this excellent essay by Joshua Libling of Validity Finance, Up or Out: Why Litigation Associates Need to Make a Decision by Their Fourth Year.

You should read the whole piece, but here’s the core of Libling’s argument:

The litigation associate track at Big Law firms is badly structured to the detriment of associates…. The key structural problem is the combination of two facts: (1) You will find out if you are going to make partner somewhere in your seventh to 10th year out of law school; and (2) you are at your most marketable somewhere around your fourth or fifth year out of law school.

The problems those two facts create should leap off the page, but here are two big ones. First, you need to make the decision about whether you want to try to make partner before you have a good sense of what that even means or how likely you are to get it. Second, every year beyond the fourth or fifth that you are committing to try to make partner at your firm is a year you are decreasing the ease with which you can transition to another job if you do not make partner. Put differently, as your job security decreases because you get closer to an up-or-out decision, your flexibility in replacing that job also decreases.

This is why, when I recently wrote about what elite litigation boutiques are looking for, I mentioned “[b]etween two and four years of experience at a top Biglaw firm” — i.e., not less than two and not more than four years of experience.

Fifth-year litigation associates are still somewhat marketable, but for litigation associates at large firms, your best window of opportunity for a lateral move is as a third- or fourth-year associate. There are relatively few opportunities for litigators who are more senior than fifth-years (unless they happen to be litigation partners with seven-figure books of business).

But if you happen to be a senior litigation associate (or counsel) with superb credentials, here at Lateral Link we have an opportunity that might be of interest. It’s an unposted opportunity — not on the law firm’s website, not on LinkedIn or any other job site, not on Leopard Solutions — at a firm with whom we have an excellent and longstanding relationship.

This Am Law 200 and NLJ 500 firm seeks a litigator with at least seven years of experience, for a position in its New York office as a senior associate, counsel, or (non-equity) partner, with compensation and title to be determined based on the qualifications and experience of the candidate. It’s a superb firm where litigation is the largest practice group and core to the firm’s success and profitability, i.e., not playing second fiddle to the transactional practices. This means that litigators at the firm have a real chance at partnership — which is unfortunately not the case at many of the top Wall Street firms, where litigators often make up 20 percent or less of new partners.

There’s no shortage of senior litigation associates in New York who are looking for exit options. So a competitive candidate for this rare opportunity will have credentials like the ones sought by elite litigation boutiques:

  • A very good academic record from a top 14 law school, or an excellent academic record from a non-T14 law school (e.g., Latin honors, Order of the Coif, Law Review).
  • One or more clerkships with federal district or circuit judges — the more prominent the court or the judge, the better (e.g., S.D.N.Y. or E.D.N.Y. or D.D.C. for district judges, SCOTUS feeders for appellate judges).
  • Seven or more years of experience at a top Biglaw firm (e.g., a Vault 10 firm).

If you have all of these credentials and would like to learn more about this position, please email me at dlat@laterallink.com.

And if you’re a junior to midlevel litigation associate, read Joshua Libling’s Law.com piece if you haven’t done so already. You have an important choice to make — so choose wisely.

Up or Out: Why Litigation Associates Need to Make a Decision by Their Fourth Year [Law.com]

Earlier: New Opportunities For New York Litigators (Including Outside NYC)

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by David Lat, a Managing Director in the New York office, where he focuses on placing top associates, partners, and partner groups into preeminent law firms around the country.

A New And Interesting Opportunity For Litigators

And no, it’s not at a law firm; instead, it’s a chance to enter an exciting and dynamic new field.

In my work as a legal recruiter, I speak every day with lawyers looking for new opportunities. Because of my background and contacts in litigation, many of the candidates I connect with are litigators.

As law firms continue to roll back their austerity measures and even announce fall bonuses, they are starting to pick up their hiring as well. For litigators with superb credentials — a strong academic record from a top-14 law school, one or more federal clerkships, and experience at a top-10 law firm — opportunities can be found.

And for litigators looking to explore non-firm opportunities, there are options as well. These opportunities are also highly competitive, but the required credentials and background are quite different from those sought by firms.

Here’s an excellent example — and an excellent opportunity.

A rapidly growing litigation finance firm is looking for a director of business development to help the firm find high-quality investment opportunities. The focus of the role is on originations — sourcing new matters to invest in, as well as building long-term relationships with deal sources — and so the successful candidate will have a strong background in both litigation and sales.

Here are the requirements for the role:

  • 10-plus years of total work experience
  • a law degree (J.D.)
  • experience with complex litigation
  • at least three years of experience in sales or business development in the legal sector, ideally with the marketing and selling of sophisticated, big-ticket products or services to lawyers or law firms
  • experience with frequent business travel in the past and a willingness to be on the road at least 50 percent of the time
  • integrity, enthusiasm, and a team-oriented approach

Because of the travel involved, a somewhat central location in the United States would make the most sense (e.g., Chicago, Dallas, or Houston). But the fund is flexible on location as long as the candidate is willing to travel to both the East and West Coasts on a regular basis.

This position represents a superb opportunity to join a successful, growing player in an exciting and dynamic new field. It offers geographical flexibility as well as flexibility with one’s schedule; the firm is not particular about where or when the hire works, as long as the individual delivers results. The compensation is excellent: a six-figure base salary, plus the potential to earn multiples of that through incentive-based compensation tied to performance.

If you have both the litigation and sales background to be a competitive candidate for this position, please feel free to reach out to me to learn more. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by David Lat, a managing director in the New York office, where he focuses on placing top associates, partners and partner groups into preeminent law firms around the country.

What Should I Use For A Writing Sample?

There’s no perfect answer — but here are a few guidelines, from veteran recruiter Abby Gordon.

In addition to your resume, representative matters sheet, and J.D. transcript**, as a lateral litigation associate candidate, you will need to include a writing sample with your application materials. Candidates often ask me for guidance on what type of writing to use.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer, as each reader is different. But here are a few guidelines:

  • There must be absolutely, positively NO typos or grammatical errors in the writing.
  • The writing should be very clear and not convoluted. Do not confuse complex writing with good writing. Stay away from overly academic writing.
  • The closer the writing is in terms of style and industry focus to something you’d be writing in your new position, the more helpful it will be in terms of assessing your abilities. That being said, good writing is more important than subject matter.
  • You must be able to say honestly that you were the primary drafter of the work, with limited edits/revisions from others. But everyone understands it’s unrealistic if you’re producing work you did for a firm that NO ONE else has given any input.
  • Most firms are looking for something in the 8-15 page range — give or take. I wouldn’t get hung up on exact length unless the firm specifies. If needed, you may send something longer and direct the reviewer to a specific 8-15 page section.
  • Be sure the writing is redacted for any confidential information, if necessary. In particular, redact the client/parties’ names and any other key identifying items. It’s often best to play it safe by using a brief, motion, or other writing that has been filed publicly — if you don’t have to redact, the writing is likely to flow better. But client memos are just fine if properly redacted.
  • Be sure you can talk about the subject of the writing articulately (after refreshing your memory at least). Be prepared to discuss the writing and the matter in an interview.
  • Some decision-makers will give the writing sample more weight; others will not read it at all. We don’t always know the reason why a candidate is not selected for interviews, but I’d be shocked if the writing sample makes or breaks it. Don’t overthink it!

My best advice? Go with your gut. What do you feel (not think) is the best example of your best writing?

** Generally, when applying to a firm as a lateral associate, you will need to provide a resume, representative matters sheet (a “deal sheet” for corporate associates), a J.D. transcript, and a writing sample for litigation candidates. Very few positions will also require an undergrad transcript. For more senior positions, a business plan might be helpful. Of course, it’s also essential to convey to a firm your reasons for wanting to make the move, but when applying through a recruiter, it’s the recruiter who drafts the cover note; you do not need to draft a formal cover letter.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by Abby Gordon, Senior Director at Lateral Link, who works with attorney candidates on law firm and in-house searches, primarily in Boston, New York, and Europe.

A Deeper Dive Into The Vault 100 Rankings Of The Most Prestigious Law Firms In America

Where does your law firm fall — and is it time for you to upgrade your platform?

Biglaw prestige is what economists (or law-and-econ types) would call “sticky,” i.e., resistant to change.

(Why is this the case, and is it a good or bad thing? For a detailed discussion, see this excellent post by the always insightful Joe Borstein — who will be interviewing me over at Litera.tv at 12 p.m. today.)

If you question the stickiness of Biglaw prestige, just take a look at the new Vault 100 ranking of the most prestigious law firms in America, which Vault issued last week. Let’s start with the top 10:

  1. Cravath, Swaine & Moore (no change)
  2. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (+1)
  3. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (-1)
  4. Sullivan & Cromwell (no change)
  5. Latham & Watkins (no change)
  6. Kirkland & Ellis (no change)
  7. Davis Polk & Wardwell (no change)
  8. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett (no change)
  9. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher (no change)
  10. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison (no change)

Eighty percent of the top 10 firms stayed in exactly the same place as last year — and that’s not unusual. The general rigidity of the Vault rankings, especially near the top, is why Wachtell Lipton and Skadden Arps trading the #2 and #3 spots, to Skadden’s advantage, constituted “historic drama,” to quote Staci Zaretsky.

Until this year, the #1 and #2 spots went back and forth between just two firms, Wachtell Lipton and Cravath, this year’s #1. Cravath has occupied the top spot since the 2017 Vault rankings, when it ended Wachtell’s 13-year reign at the top. (June 2016, when those 2017 Vault rankings came out, was also the month in which Cravath announced the $180K pay scale — but Cravath’s taking the #1 spot can’t really be attributed to gratitude from Biglaw associates for the pay raise, since the surveys used for calculating the 2017 rankings were completed much earlier in 2016.)

And it’s not just the top 10. Looking at the entire ranking of 100 firms, only 34 firms moved two or more spots in either direction — meaning that two-thirds of the firms in the Vault 100 either saw no change in ranking or went up or down by just a single spot (at least by my count; please correct me if I’m wrong).

There’s enough gloomy news out there in the world right now, so for purposes of today, let’s look at the positive side of the ledger: the biggest gainers in the 2021 Vault 100 rankings. Here are the 17 firms that moved up by two or more spots this year, ranked by the size of their jump (with the two newcomers listed at the end):

What can we say in general about these firms? The Vault Law Editors made this observation:

The 2021 Vault prestige rankings saw the rise of West Coast firms—more than one-third of firms that moved up two or more spots in the Vault Law 100 were based in either California or Washington state: Cooley LLP (No. 24); Perkins Coie LLP (No. 43); Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP (No. 72); Fenwick & West LLP (No. 73); Davis Wright & Tremaine LLP (No. 87); and Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, LLP (No. 90).

I would expand upon this observation by noting that many of the firms with the most momentum, at least as reflected in the Vault rankings, are forward-looking and future-focused, no matter where they are located. They tend to be strong in growing and vibrant sectors like technology, life sciences, and healthcare. This is true of the West Coast firms mentioned by the Vault editors, but it’s also true of some of the firms on the list that did not originate on the West Coast — like Mintz and Goodwin, both Boston-founded firms, but known across the nation (and beyond) for their expertise in healthcare and life sciences.

The Vault Law Editors gave a special shout-out to Cooley, noting that “[i]n addition to its Top 100 jump, the firm also launched seven spots in the New York regional ranking to settle at No. 33 and moved into the top 30 in the Washington, DC, ranking.” And this isn’t the first year in recent memory that has been good for Cooley. In 2014, for example, Cooley climbed 10 spots, more than any other firm, to break into the top 50. Now, just six short years later, Cooley is a top 25 firm.

And I’d expect Cooley to continue climbing next year. Associates tend to reward compensation leaders when filling out Vault surveys; last year, for example, after leading the way to $190K, Milbank jumped 15 spots and entered the top 25. So Cooley, which just led the way in announcing both “appreciation bonuses” and 2020 year-end bonuses that won’t be lower than 2019 year-end bonuses, should be shown some love by associates filling out Vault surveys next year. (Even if Cooley’s scale was subsequently exceeded by other Biglaw firms, like Davis Polk and Milbank, as well as elite boutiques, like Hueston Hennigan, it’s not clear that any of these other firms would have acted if Cooley hadn’t kicked things off.)

So that’s a look at the Vault 100 rankings from the firms’ perspectives. What do these rankings mean for associates who work at these firms?

In general, the more prestigious firms enjoy higher profits per partner, for those who make partner, and better exit opportunities (including in-house opportunities), for those who don’t make partner. So if you’re a star associate in a busy practice area, working long hours for lower pay at a firm that’s lower down on the prestige totem pole, you might want to consider lateraling to a firm that’s more prestigious and pays top-of-the-market compensation.

If you’re a star associate at a Vault 100 firm who’s interested in an “upgrade” in terms of pay, prestige, and exit options, please feel free to reach out to me by email at dlat@laterallink.com. In a time when some firms are paying mid-year bonuses while other firms are cutting compensation, the difference between the Biglaw haves and have-nots is only growing — and you want to be on the right side of that divide.

P.S. Biglaw prestige might not change much, but it seems that everything else in our world is changing, and quite rapidly at that. To learn about “change management” — defined as “the process, tools, and techniques used to manage the human side of change for the achievement and sustainment of a desired business outcome” — and how it can help you and your organization navigate these tumultuous times, please register for this free webinar I’ll be moderating next week. It will take place this coming Tuesday, September 22, and it features an impressive panel of general counsels, chief executive officers, and other leaders. Hope to see you there!

2021 Vault Law 100 [Vault]
Introducing Vault’s 2021 Top 100 Law Firms! [Vault]

Earlier: Vault 100 Rankings: The Most Prestigious Law Firms In America (2021)

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by David Lat, a managing director in the New York office, where he focuses on placing top associates, partners and partner groups into preeminent law firms around the country.