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Cannabis Law: A Pot of Gold for Lawyers

With more states legalizing the recreational use of marijuana every election, the legal world has a new practice area blazing its way to the top of the industry.

More than half the country has lightened up on its marijuana laws and that has brought forth many new business and investors. What is usually needed when new businesses boom? Lawyers. The states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana have begun facing all sorts of legal issues. To be blunt, cannabis laws are ripening for all the growers, dispensaries and occasional smokers. As legal as it is in states like Colorado, California, Massachusetts, just to name a few, it is still illegal on a Federal level. For those trying to cash in and the uncertainty of what the law truly is, lawyers with standard practices – such as employment, corporate, real estate, and insolvency – will find themselves learning more about cannabis to service a growing clientele.

Competition amongst the lawyers who have begun to make a name for themselves in this area is steadily growing. Soon enough some of the major law firms will build teams to fight the battles that the marijuana industry is facing. The benefit for law firms who add cannabis law to their portfolio is how much it will help their corporate, taxation, health, labor and employment and litigation practices.

Is It Time For You To Move (Cities)?

Those who watched enviously as their friends and coworkers jetted off to escape last winter’s onslaught of sleet, snow, or storms, can attest that wanderlust should qualify as a basic tenant of the human condition. The desire to move is not novel, but it is becoming more feasible and commonplace as technology innovates in tandem. The days of practicing with one firm for your entire career are long gone. The intracity lateral movement that replaced it, laid the foundation for the accelerating intercity lateral movement we see in the lateral market.

The idea of uprooting your life and practice for an untested lifestyle can be daunting. Firms are aware of this, and look at your ties to the region for assurance that you will stay long-term. In general, firms want to see that you have lived in your new potential city before, or that you have family or another compelling reason to be there. The stronger the ties, the better, but tenuous ties can be overcome with the right packaging. It is becoming more and more popular (and completely acceptable) for attorneys to move simply for a lifestyle change.

Firm openings in markets like Austin and Houston are attracting associates from other major markets, who seek relief from their comparatively onerous costs of living. New York associates in particular are having a hard time justifying the seemingly exponential differences in costs relative to most other major cities. For associates not on the partner track, the cost savings alone can be a parachute at that precipitous drop into the unknown “next”.

Using data from the Council For Community and Economic Research, we can see how disparate these differences really are.

Given the near ubiquitous nature of last year’s salary raises at AmLaw 200 firms in major markets, the relative purchasing power of associates across the U.S. wildly varies. The equivalent of $500,000 in New York gives you the same purchasing power as $200,000 in Houston. The differences in locales cannot be compared strictly on a monetary level, as geographic differences also yield other benefits besides, for example, the option to give obscene amounts of money to James Dolan to watch the Knicks tank.

Vaguely generalizing, what money cannot buy you in law – outside of college admissions apparently – is opportunity. Historically, an associate in New York City has had the opportunity to work for some of the largest and most prestigious clients. The potential gains in partnership are massive, but the lifestyle demands can be equally severe in magnitude.

The increasing portability and globalization of business also means that New York is not as dominant a hub of business as it once was. Their corporate hegemony has diminished in light of the rise of powerhouse practices in what were once considered secondary markets. Start-ups and blue-chip tech companies are a large part of the impetus behind the growth of corporate and IP practices in Palo Alto, San Francisco and in particular Silicon Beach in Los Angeles. The opportunity exists in most major markets now to be the top partner in your practice.

As all attorneys know, the process of moving states can be long and arduous. The most significant of these roadblocks is the state bar. Navigating the seemingly convoluted rules that govern the admission process for each state can seem insurmountable, but it is not nearly as bad as it seems.

One of the rationales behind the system, is that it discourages attorneys from cherry picking the easiest bar exam, and then practicing in another state. The implementation of the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) has restored some order to this chaos. Those who have sat for it in the 33 states that have implemented it, know that it is not as uniform as it sounds. States have different criteria for passing rates, supplemental essay questions, and in some cases, additional classes required for admission. Additionally the exam has an expiration date that varies by state. Regardless it is a good step in the right direction for a national standard that increases an attorney’s ability to move or spread their practice to another state.

Navigating a cross-border lateral move can seem difficult. The rules for admission differ greatly by state. For states like California that have no reciprocity with any state, often a shortened bar exam (Attorney’s Examination) is available for attorneys who have practiced for at least four years.

Generally, the requirements for being hired are the same for local and out-of-state attorneys. Practicing in different markets can confer advantages that attorneys in that market do not have access to, like the ability to work on substantial matters or the ability to work with certain partners or within a certain prestigious practice group – similar to how every assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs gets hired as a head coach.

Additionally, when moving cities, the conversation shifts from explaining why you are unsatisfied with your current firm, to why you want to settle in that particular city. It is in essence, a fresh start.

Moving your practice to another state is a difficult process, and one that you need not take alone. My colleagues have worked with hundreds of attorneys relocating not only across state lines, but international borders as well. Partnering with a recruiter lets you focus on the personal aspect of a relocation while we handle the business side – helping you negotiate a relocation package and navigate the cross state complexities that arise during cross-border moves. Firms take our relocation submission seriously, because we stake our reputation and our business on successful lateral moves. If you are interested in relocating, or simply moving your practice to another firm, feel free to reach out to our recruiters at Lateral Link.

Law Firm Madness Results!

The two finalists went down to the wire, but only one came out on top. The 2019 Law Firm Madness National Champion is…

With over 250 partners worldwide, Proskauer showed success in a wide range of practice areas. Proskauer shined in sports, asset management, private equity, technology, media and telecommunications, lodging and gaming, entertainment, and life sciences.

Every law firm that was a part of this tournament had a marvellous season and should hold their head up high going into next season. In 2019, only one team can call themselves National Champions. Congratulations to everyone at Proskauer Rose LLP.

March Madness: Law Firm Edition

This time of year brings forth the buzzer-beaters, Cinderella stories and high-anxiety excitement to college basketball fans throughout the nation. So, why not extend the fun to the legal world? Many law firms made a strong case to qualify for the tournament, but our selection committee of one presents the Sweet 16:

Corporate Law (M&A)

1 – Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP vs. 4 – Simpson Thacher & Barlett LLP

Matchup Breakdown: Cravath represented Yahoo! in a $4.48 billion sale of the Yahoo! operating business to Verizon and led Johnson & Johnson to a $30 billion acquisition of Actelion. While Simpson Thacher guided Invitation Homes in a merger with Starwood Waypoint Homes worth $20 billion and lifted Avantor to its $6.4 billion acquisition of VWR.

Lateral Link Odds: Cravath comes in as a -180 favorite.

2 – Davis Polk & Wardell LLP vs. 3 – Latham & Watkins LLP

Matchup Breakdown: 2-seed Davis Polk had a strong year by guiding Baker Hughes on its $25 billion combination deal with the oil and gas businesses of GE and the acquisition of Pentairs’ Valves and Controls business by Emerson Electric worth $3.1 billion. The 3-seed Latham squad also made massive gains this year by representing FMC Technologies in a $13 billion cross-border merger of equals with Technip and led Siemens on its acquisition of Mentor Graphics worth $4.5 billion.

Lateral Link Odds: Even.

Employment & Labor Law

1 – Jones Day vs. 4 – Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Matchup Breakdown: Jones Day stayed dominate this season by defending McDonald’s in a litigation battle with NLRB Manhattan in a landmark labor case all while claiming victory for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco in a nationwide putative class collective action lawsuit in the Supreme Court. The 4-seed Seyfarth took on the challenges of a discrimination lawsuit against Sterling Jewelers brought forth by 77,000 female retail sales employees and defended Epic Systems in connections with a class and collective action alleging that technical writers were incorrectly classified as exempt from their overtime requirement.

Lateral Link Odds: Jones Day is the overwhelming favorite at -300 in this one.

2 – Morgan Lewis Bockius LLP vs. 3 – Proskauer Rose LLP

Matchup Breakdown: Morgan Lewis led Amazon in a major lawsuit, Busk v. Integrity Staffing Systems and guided Aramark to successfully avoid class certification in a wage and hour putative class action matter. Proskauer made some noise this season by leading Major League Baseball and 29 clubs in a wage and hour putative class action against the minor leagues and protected home-court for Hermes in a class action brought forth by sales associates in regard to pay.

Lateral Link Odds: Likely upset. Proskauer comes in as a -150 favorite.

Banking & Finance

1 – Cahill Gordon & Reindell LLP vs. 4 – Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

Matchup Breakdown: Always consistent Cahill led JPMorgan Chase as the administrative agent and lead arranger in connection with an amended revolving credit facility and new loan facilities for Mondelez International values at $6 billion but did not slow down there. Cahill also took control on advised Wells Fargo and Deutche Bank with regards to a new asset-based revolving credit facility and Term B loan, valued at $4.3 billion, in connection with Envision Healthcare’s merger with AmSung.  Weil did not disappoint. They led Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch as joint lead arrangers and joint bookrunners, in a $13.7 billion committed unsecured bridge facility to finance Amazon.com’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market. Additionally, they aided Morgan Stanley as sole lead arranger and bookrunner for Tyson Foods, to finance its merger with AdvancedPierre Foods Holdings, worth $4.2 billion.

Lateral Link Odds: Even.

2 – Kirkland & Ellis LLP vs. 3 – Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates

Matchup Breakdown: Globally recognized veteran, Kirkland, was a key figure for Blackstone with multiple financings, including the $6.1 billion LBO of TeamHealth Holdings and led KKR in a $2 billion acquisition of Optiv. Financing. Skadden guided Morgan Stanley and Bank of America in a $7.1 billion unsecured bridge facility to Crown Castle International for its attainment of LTS Group Holdings and, additionally, directed Becton, Dickinson and Company in the financing aspects of its $24 billion purchase of C R Bard.

Lateral Link Odds: Lower seeded Skadden is the favorite here at -125.

Real Estate

1 – Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP vs. 4 – Sidley Austin LLP

Matchup Breakdown: Gibson helped The Related Companies in obtaining a $1.5 billion loan from a group comprising of HSBC, Deutche Bank, Bank of China and other lender banks. The loan led to financing of 50 Hudson Yards, the project’s flagship property. Additionally, they provided legal guidance to a three-party joint venture consisting of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the Scion Group and Singapore-based GIC. The JV sought to purchase three portfolios of student housing assets in the United States. Sidley showed some resolve in assisting Forest City Ratner Companies in the $1 billion sale of its 51% in a portfolio of 12 shopping centers to Madison International Realty and served Board of Directors of Phillips Edison Grocery Center REIT I in their agreement for the acquisition of the third-party asset management company and real estate portfolio of Phillips Edison, LP, valued at approximately $1 billion.

Lateral Link Odds: Gibson with the slight edge as a -150 favorite.

2 – Greenberg, Traurig LLP vs. 3 – Paul Hastings LLP

Matchup Breakdown: Greenberg had an impressive season in assisting a joint venture of Kushner Companies and RFR Holding to buy out four properties located in Dumbo Heights, Brooklyn, from Invesco worth $600 million all while representing Kayne Anderson Real Estate Advisers through a definitive merger agreement, entailing its affiliates’ acquisition of Sentio Healthcare Properties. Sentio brought with it a 16-state portfolio of 34 assets, such as medical offices and senior living. Perennial juggernaut, Paul Hastings, assisted SoftLayer Technologies with the legal aspects of the development and leasing of several data centers located globally and led Nordstrom in the purchase, improvement and physical integration of several congruent properties, to begin creating its flagship store in New York City.

Lateral Link Odds: Paul Hastings opens as a -175 favorite.

After a few nail-biters, a couple of major upsets and some incredible game-winners, our final for next week is set. Click here to see who will be battling it out next week for the National Championship.

 

 

 

Making Partner: Focus, Dedication & Determination

Making partner has become increasingly difficult over the past fifteen years.

For many young associates, it may take years to make partner, if at all, but the mountain is not insurmountable. Although there is no one “right” path, generally there are five cornerstones that every associate should follow to grow their practice.

Hone Down. You should focus on dominating a specific practice field. Typically, it takes an associate 3-5 years to perfect their legal expertise after law school and your career can either accelerate in that time frame or leave you in lawyer purgatory. It is important to focus in on a specific practice area that interests you and develop your skills so that you can one day dominate the market in your particular field. Your odds of making partner improves if you become an expert in your practice, mostly because your reputation will drive new business and referrals, and we all know, new business and referrals will set you apart.  Attend seminars, communicate with everyone, whether you agree with them or not, in that industry and become a sponge right from the launch of your legal career.

Connections, Connections, Connection. Shake as many hands as it takes, participate in every golf tournament, wine mixers and conferences as physically possible. The people you mingle with, in authentic ways, should become friends, and friends make the difference from turning a “no” into a “yes”, and if that means generating more business from your relationships, you will certainly reap the rewards from your networks. Who you know is as important as anything in climbing the legal ladder.

Mom and Pop. When I think of “mom and pop” my mind immediately drifts to the local pizza shop that my grandpa took me to since the age of 5. Explore the option of working for a boutique firm, building a reputation and establishing yourself as a household name in the area of your expertise. This option does not suit everyone, but it could prove a beneficial direction to those who wish to gain the confidence and knowledge it takes to stand out of the pack. Find a smaller firm that can provide you with a mentor in the early stages of your legal career and build a reputation with that firm.  Propelling your career forward in incremental, measurable steps, is your goal. If your goal is from 1 to 100 without identifying the 99 steps between then you will get lost without a path.

Jump On. Firms are always looking to add practice areas that are trending upward. It is your responsibility, as a young associate, to see what those trends are and begin applying to firms that are looking to build teams of lawyers in that practice.   Simply put – study the trends or talk to us.   These firms are moving targets.   Partners come and go, practices vanish from one firm and establish in another.   If you aren’t proactive yourself, and not relying on recruiters who know the market, then you are relying on just luck.

Don’t Just Rely on Big Name Cases. Unless your mother is the managing partner, most associates out of law school have to “pay their due” before they are ever given the opportunity to move up in the ranks. Now with the recent news about the academic scandal, I imagine nepotism will continue to lose its benefits.  Associates that are assigned cases where the law firm they work for represents the Apple, Samsung and Facebooks of the world seemingly get forgotten during the litigation process. Offer to take on more personal cases, cases that can allow you to stand out and cases where the client deals with you directly praise you. On the other hand, you can’t hide if that’s your goal, so do your best work.  Building a reputation with clients can go a long way for your career.

Becoming a partner is a strenuous but not insurmountable goal. To achieve it, associates must plan for it from the very start. If you are an associate and need advice on how to make partner, feel free to contact my fellow recruiters at Lateral Link.

12 Resume Tips From A Legal Recruiter

As a legal recruiter, I review numerous resumes each week to assist my candidates with the substance and presentation of their one-page life summaries. Here are twelve tips to avoid common resume mistakes:

1. Make certain the most important information jumps off the page. Assume no one will read your resume word for word. Write your resume for the interviewer who pulls your resume off the printer and skims it on their way back to the office. Use bullet points, boldface, headings, and logical and consistent formatting to highlight and structure the important points.

2. Be concise. This is related to tip #1. You want the most important content to jump off the page, but every word on your resume should serve the purpose of showing that you are the best candidate for the specific Stick to one page.

3. Know your resume. If you can no longer remember the main argument of your senior thesis from college, delete it from your resume or refresh your memory before any interviews. You must be prepared to talk intelligently about anything and everything on your resume. You must be prepared to articulate a deep dive into your legal work experience, including any underlying legal issues your matters unearthed.

4. Tailor your resume to the specific job. Keep in the forefront of your mind that you are applying for a legal job. Do not just “update” your resume by adding to the same document you first created 20 years ago. Delete information that is no longer relevant to a specific job—remember, every wordshould serve the purpose of getting you this job. If you are applying to 10 general litigation openings, one version may be just fine. However, if you are applying to some general litigation spots and some patent litigation openings, you may want to have two versions of your resume.

5. Give concrete details when describing your legal experience. Instead of asserting that you are a capital markets lawyer, write that you have “drafted the underwriting agreement as lead associate, representing the underwriters in the offering of $300 million in floating rate notes by a large U.S. manufacturing company.” Even if you have a separate sheet for representative matters, it may be helpful to include a few bullets points in your resume to showcase this experience. Remember from Tip #2, every word counts. Do not use neutral words, where a more positive word would convey more meaning. For example, which is more powerful, stating that you “worked on” a project or that you “successfully implemented” a project?

6. List only current and accurate information.If you are no longer on a committee, delete it from your resume or indicate the proper date range of your participation. Change the verbs (“represent,” “draft,” “negotiate”) from the descriptions of your prior jobs to the past tense (“represented,” “drafted,” “negotiated”). No longer fluent in French? Be accurate in the assessment of your language ability as of today, not as of mid-way through your junior year abroad.

7. Show your human side. Include a few lines that show you are a human being, not a robot. Include interests so long as they are true passions and not aspirational hobbies. If nothing else, this “fluff” gives interviewers softball question material for breaking the ice. Space is a commodity, so consider lumping interests, language skills, bar admissions, volunteer work and (active) participation in professional, alumni or community organizations into one “Additional Information” section. Remember that this section is fair game for questioning. Do not list membership in a committee where your only participation is contributing to their e-newsletter click rate stats.

8. Make certain the most impressive information jumps off the page. I am often asked if you should list education or work experience first. A corollary to Tip #1, you also want the most impressive content to jump off the page. So, if you went to a top law school, list education first. If your law school was not as highly ranked, but you landed a job at Wachtell, list work experience first. In the case of a prestige tie, I would list work experience first.

9. Apply the squint test. Tape your resume to a wall about ten feet away or you hold it far out in front of you as though you’re taking a selfie. Then squint so the words are out of focus. Does the balance of black and white on the page make your eyes happy? Is there much too much dense text? Is there too much white space?

10. Proofread and proofread again. Read your resume carefully for inconsistent formatting and for typographical, spelling or grammatical errors. Then proofread again. And again. Then find a friend (or a legal recruiter) to review your resume. Nothing screams, “Do not hire me,” like an avoidable mistake on your resume.

11. Avoid unwanted social media integration. You know that photo of you in the Bahamas, wearing your bikini? Shirtless? Remember how you uploaded it to your Google profile and now you list your Gmail address on your resume? Did you know that I can see that photo of you in the right-hand sidebar of my screen as I’m emailing you? If I can see it, so can the recruiting coordinator, and so can the partner at the firm where you are interviewing. Some candidates’ Twitter feed also shows up on the right-hand sidebar of my inbox. You don’t have to stop using social media, but if you are indiscriminate or controversial with your tweets, consider setting up a separate e-mail account for the job search.

12. Use but don’t copy resume models. Look over as many model resumes as you can get your hands on. But don’t blindly copy another resume’s format if it doesn’t work for your experience. As a recruiter, I happily provide my candidates with example resumes, but I will not give them a fixed template. Every individual is different; every resume is different.

There is no one right way to design a resume, but there are wrong ways. This singular piece of paper is the key to getting your foot in the door to the next step in your career…or not. Dedicate a few hours to reworking your resume to be sure it’s the best possible representation of you. You owe that to yourself. And remember that a good recruiter is an expert on the legal industry and on the job search process. Perfecting your resume is one place where a trusted recruiter can add great value.

Top 6 Reasons Why Your Partner Compensation Isn’t Higher

If you feel like you are always fighting to make a few more bucks at your current law firm, and you wonder whether other firms would value your practice more, we have a few general rules of thumb that help explain why you are likely hitting a plateau.

1) RPL v. PPP. True to the name, Revenue Per Lawyer is determined by dividing firm revenue by the total number of attorneys (both associate and partner level). Profits Per Partner is derived from dividing firm profits by the number of equity partners. A general rule of thumb is that the closer these two metrics are, the less profits equity partners will earn from the firm’s platform; if associates on average are generating a similar amount of revenue as equity partners are receiving in profit distributions, then partners are more or less not realizing profits from increased leverage or profitable bill rates (or a combination of both). Even worse, if PPP is less than RPL, then partners are actually subsidizing the costs of associates. It is not surprising that K&E has RPL of around $1.6mm and PPP of around $5mm while Steptoe has RPL of around $1mm and PPP of around $1mm. In short, K&E partners are very profitable given the platform while Steptoe partners hit a plateau with their profitability.

2) Leverage. Leverage is the ratio of all lawyers minus equity partners, to equity partners. In essence, it describes how the firm structures its practice around its main profit makers. As long as associates are generating more than they are taking after the firm incurs their direct and associated costs, leverage will increase the profit margin for equity partners. One single partner can only bill so much time regardless of premium bill rates. For example, say a partner bills out at $1,000 an hour and collects on 1,800 hours. That is $1.8mm in top line revenue (i.e., revenue before paying for office, admin, marketing, partner compensation, and the like). Without staffing and keeping busy associates as well, partners cannot expect to earn more than 40% on the very high end from his or her time. However, if the partner keeps four associates busy at premium rates, they greatly increase their and the firm’s earning potential. If four associates bill out at $600 per hour for 2,000 hours, the firm generates $5mm topline from keeping an additional four associates busy. Since associates are compensated at around market, a bigger chunk of their RPL flows through to the equity partners, who receive a higher take on profits. Unsurprisingly, there is a positive correlation between profitability and leverage, with diminishing returns.

3) Contingency. Now we are talking potentially big gains. Many law firms just don’t have the appetite for full blown contingent work. Some firms dabble in hybrid contingent work by receiving partial payment from litigation funding that guarantees some lower billable rate and some sort of success fee kicker. We have seen some game changing wins for certain firms from taking on the right contingent matters and hedging the opportunity cost of a loss in time spent on such matters by accepting confirmed, reduced rates from a litigation fund. That said, many firms have committees that approve these kinds of alternative fee structures, and if the firm doesn’t have the appetite to entertain the risk, a partner with a potentially lucrative contingent matter, coupled with litigation funding just may find him or herself boxed out of big gains.

4) Conflicts. The bigger the firm, the more likely the conflicts. Imagine winning a matter or transaction, and you are gearing up to staff the work, just to find out that the conflict committee has decided to decline the opportunity for either business or legal reasons. For every dollar of work conflicted out, you can expect to miss out in at least twenty-five cents. Unfortunately, we have seen some partners conflicted out of millions of dollars in lost revenue that went to another firm because of conflicts. You may want to ask yourself whether the firm’s office in Abu Dhabi is working for you or against you. Conflicts are sometimes crippling and game changing.

5) Profit Margins. Although profit margin is controlled by a number of factors, the most important two are cost controls and bill rates. Some firms are just not managed efficiently. They have empty offices with long term leases, they are effectively funding pension plans, or possibly they are writing off time and not collecting on work. Either way, conservative firm management in controlling cost is a necessary element of running a lean machine. That said, lean cost controls isn’t sufficient for high profit margins. Premium bills rates, coupled with efficient staffing arrangements, are necessary to generate high profit margins unless you are a firm with one or two offices and are expected to work your own hours and keep half of an associate busy. The firms that compete on price as a measure value are limited in their ability to pay their partners, and partners at these firms will finds themselves actually subsidizing their associates, not vice versa.

6) It’s not the firm, it’s your practice. Some practices are just not all that scalable, albeit important service practices that are necessary in a full-service platform (or maybe more appropriate in boutiques). The reasons are mostly tied to bill rates and leverage. Over time we have seen T&E move to the boutiques, tax is mostly limited to servicing deals, and the like.

Your firm may offer the best platform for your practice, but for most, you likely have hit a plateau in compensation.   If you have questions on how to increase your compensation or how your business projects with other firms, my colleagues and I are happy to help. p

 

5 Diversity Action Items for Law Firms

The perennial debate on diversity within the legal profession emerged again recently when over one 170 general counsels signed an open ultimatum to the Big Law community:  show us statistical progress or prepare for extinction.  Law firms no longer have the luxury of asking why they should propel women, attorneys of color, and LGBTQ+ lawyers toward success.  It is presumed every sophisticated business leader has read the research and understands the underlying business rational and moral imperative.  As a former Big Law associate, minority bar association leader, and diversity professional, I offer here five ideas for law firms that are sincerely ready to improve.  To preface, nothing here is particularly revolutionary. These are just a few common-sense tips to help move your firm beyond its demographic plateaus, and enhance your firm’s prospects for success.

1) Identify a specific diversity narrative.  Just about every law firm website includes boilerplate language about the organization’s commitment to diversity. Discerning candidates know to probe beyond marketing puffery.  What success has your organization enjoyed with women, attorneys of color, or the LGBT legal community? Perhaps your firm goes above and beyond to support mothers on the partnership track.  Or, does your firm encourage associates to become affinity bar association leaders by granting billable credit for those activities?  A personalized narrative (with facts to back it up) tells a much more compelling story than generic platitudes. If, after deep searching, there is nothing unique about your firm’s diversity strategy, it may be time to consider whether your firm’s ideological commitment is translating into measurable positive impact.

2) Broaden your hiring specifications. If you take away anything from this article, let it be this: It is numerically impossible to improve diversity at law firms if hiring partners fail to consider strong candidates from a wide variety of law schools. The Law School Admissions Council bluntly states that the current population of law school students across our country does not yet reflect societal demographics.  We also know that racial minorities are far more likely to incur staggering law school debt, so they quite reasonably consider financial aid just as important as a law school’s rank (if not more so).  If minority students are economically induced to attend second and third tier schools, and we know there are insufficient diverse law students nationwide to start with, law firms cannot bypass all but fourteen schools and realistically improve diversity.  Recruiters who tell you otherwise are either inexperienced in the diversity space, or unwilling to break from antiquated habits.

3) Get serious about employee retention. Imagine a partner reading a client email that says, “I am considering alternative firms that will be more responsive to my particular needs.”  Most partners would immediately jump to address specific problems before that client goes elsewhere.  Now, instead of a client, picture a diverse mid-level associate articulating the identical statement to that same partner.  How many rainmakers and practice group leaders would go to the same lengths to keep that associate? If firms want to keep diverse associates as potential long-term leaders, they must treat them as important assets because that is what they are.  And remember, the savvy diverse candidates you are (or should be) courting will take a hard look at your firm’s mid-level and senior associate ranks as a predictor of their own prospects for success. Retention begets recruitment.

4) Call the bosses to action.  Law firm diversity efforts often fall disproportionately on the shoulders of diverse associates.   How many of your law firm partners (diverse and non-diverse) serve on the board of a national affinity bar association? Are any regularly investing their time (in addition to their checkbook) with the non-profits and law schools devoted to innovative diversity programming?  I know first-hand that groups such as the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Institute for Legal Inclusion in the Legal Profession, and Pipeline to Practice (whose board I recently joined) all welcome sincere attention from law firm leaders.  Not only would such efforts broadcast a genuine interest in diversity within the profession, they have a decent shot at improving cultural competence among leaders within your organization.  

5) Stop Staring Inward.  I would wager my last paycheck that after last month’s general counsel letter, law firms across the nation began convening internal Diversity Committee meetings to (1) identify which of their clients signed the letter; and (2) formulate a public relations response to anxiously highlight their own progress on the diversity front.  Don Prophete of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete decided to publicly respond, not on behalf of his firm, but to offer his own testimony as the first black lawyer to become a name partner at an AmLaw 250 firm.  He instantly became the most credible voice on this topic by taking a risk and engaging candidly in the national conversation. Creating internal task forces and subcommittees will not yield this type of powerful impact. Diversifying the legal profession literally requires changing the face of your workforce, so looking beyond your firm for advice and expertise is essential.

If your firm is looking for strategic guidance on diversity and inclusion within the legal profession, feel free to contact me at or on LinkedIn. I am also delighted to chat with diverse attorneys about career development and their experiences in the law firm world.

Top 5 Reasons to Move to a Law Firm in Texas

Texas has some stereotypes attached to it, but it’s not all steak, big hair, and cowboy boots. Texas has four major, bustling, and diverse big city centers, is home to many Am Law 100s and Fortune 100s, and has a booming technology hub in Austin. Texas has great associate talent, but the number of associates in Texas has not kept up with the recent growth, which is why we see attorneys flocking here from both coasts. If that’s not enough to wet your whistle for Texas, here are five solid reasons to consider Texas.

1. Flurry of New Office OpeningsTexas has attracted unprecedented growth in the form of Am Law ranked firms planting flags. Over the last five years, over 40 Am Law 200 firms have opened offices in Dallas, Austin or Houston. Some of the newest firms to the Texas market include Womble Bond Dickinson, White & Case, Kirkland & Ellis and Shearman & Sterling (to name a few).

 20142015201620172018
DALLAS-Schiff Hardin

-Phelps Dunbar

-McGuireWoods

-Fox Rothschild

-Barnes & Thornburg

-McDermott

-Kilpatrick Townsend

 

-Spencer Fane-Winston & Strawn

-Dorsey Whitney

-Drinker Biddle

-Foley & Lardner

-Sheppard Mullin

-Katten Muchin

-Kirkland & Ellis

-Stinson Leonard

 

HOUSTON-Willkie Farr

-Quinn Emanuel

-LeClair Ryan

-Kirkland & Ellis

-Arnold & Porter

-Fragomen

Holland & Knight-Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe

-Kelley Drye

-Akerman

-Bradley Arant

-Kilpatrick Townsend

-Gibson Dunn

-White & Case

-Shearman & Sterling

-Foley & Lardner

AUSTIN-Pillsbury -Kelley Drye

-Akerman

-Dickinson Wright

-Michael Best

 -Tulley Rinckey-Shearman & Sterling

-Reed Smith

 

2. Top Compensation and NO State Income TaxesIn an effort to compete with talent on the east and west coasts, most national and international firms in Texas pay “Cravath” salaries (or very close to it). Since the cost of living in Texas is extremely low, you’ll get more bang for your buck. Imagine it with me: muuuuuccch lower mortgage/rent, lower childcare costs, lower energy and food staples, and NO STATE INCOME TAXES. You can funnel all the extra money to paying off your student loans or buying a yacht. It’s your life!

3. Thriving MarketHave I mentioned the Texas legal market is super busy? Dozens of companies have relocated their headquarters to Texas during the past couple years which means more sophisticated legal work for attorneys here. In 2018, firms made approximately 560 associate hires. Firms that did the most hiring included Kirkland & Ellis, DLA Piper, and Vinson & Elkins. The busiest practice areas should come to no surprise – corporate/mergers and acquisitions, finance, and energy.

4. Abundance of Affordable Real EstateYour family can live in a GIGANTIC house or a cool spacious loft in Midtown. You can have a lawn, maybe a dog, perhaps a llama or two. You can have a king-size bed in your guest room. Dream big!

5. People and CommunityTexans are amazing. Well, most of them. Several counties in Texas (around major cities) are some of the most diverse in the country. Texas is full of world-class museums, theatres, art, and festivals. We have AMAZING food from every corner of the world. There are wineries, breweries, state parks, deserts, mountains, hills, oceans. It’s all here!In summary, the Texas legal market is flourishing, with available positions for associates of all practices and seniority levels. Law firms are very open and HAPPY to relocate candidates. If you are interested in hearing more about the Texas market, please feel to reach out to me at .

Chicago Hiring Trends in 2017 and Looking Ahead to 2018

Chicago is the nation’s third largest legal economy with a range of top international firms, prominent regional names, IP specialty firms, and mid-size firms supporting a diverse range of industry sectors, including finance, technology, healthcare, consumer products, insurance, and automotive. With consistent deal-flow and complex litigation matters, the Chicago lateral attorney market remained robust over the past year with key firm and practice area hiring trends lending insight into what to expect in 2018. Whether you are an attorney looking to stay in Chicago or one considering relocating to a Chicago firm, we have analyzed and assessed recent lateral attorney hiring data to assist through the search process.

Chicago Attorney Job Market Report and Practice Area Hiring Trends

According to reported data, the top Am Law-ranked, regional, and midsize law firms in Chicago hired 742 lateral attorneys between January 1, 2017, and the start of this week (425 associates, 228 partners, and 89 counsels). Over the past five years, we have seen a steady increase in year-over-year lateral attorney hiring in Chicago with the respective number of attorney hires in the same corresponding time period being: 710 lateral attorney hires in 2016, 699 in 2015, 665 in 2014, and 575 in 2013.

The practice areas with the most hiring in 2017 were corporate and finance, litigation, IP, and real estate. Some of the very best Vault and Am Law-ranked corporate practice groups reside in Chicago. In particular, Kirkland, Sidley, Latham, and Skadden lead the way on headline corporate and private equity transactions on an international scale. Corporate and finance had 161 new attorney hires in Chicago. Within these practice areas, corporate hiring has been primarily concentrated in M&A and, especially, in the private equity space. Consistent with the structure of most Chicago finance practice groups, debt-finance including syndicated and leveraged lending was the busiest finance hiring area. Other exceedingly active corporate practice areas are fund formation and investment management. There are numerous global investment fund practice groups handling formation and fund management for a spectrum of fund offerings centered mainly in private equity funds, including: large and middle-market buyout, growth equity, debt, secondary, venture, technology, and real estate funds. Hedge funds and registered investment companies practice groups have also consistently hired attorneys in 2017. Chicago funds practice groups are very receptive to and regularly hire attorneys from top New-York based Am Law 100 funds and investment management groups.

Litigation also saw a significant demand for lateral hiring in 2017 with 215 attorney hires. Chicago is a nerve center for big-ticket commercial, securities, and white-collar litigation with revered institutions, such as Kirkland, Sidley, Jenner & Block, Winston & Strawn, and Mayer Brown. Notably, this year we saw the opening of powerhouse King & Spalding’s Chicago office with leading attorneys in investigations and related commercial litigation. IP also showed considerable lateral attorney hiring gains with 98 lateral attorney hires in 2017. Chicago hosts many top IP teams at both large Am Law-ranked general practice firms and IP specialty firms with major presences in the technology, pharmaceutical, and life sciences industry sectors. Earning the nickname Silicon Prairie, Chicago attorneys have the opportunity to handle cutting-edge IP litigation and patent prosecution matters for an array of top blue-chip and start-up technology companies. We have also seen a consistent demand for technology and IP transactions attorneys with a focus on outsourcing, software development, software, data, trademark, patent and technology licensing, telecommunications, international franchising, commercial agreements, and strategic alliances.

Real estate is another continually prospering Chicago practice area netting 57 lateral attorney hires in 2017. Real estate attorneys in Chicago have the opportunity to work with industry leading partners on sophisticated transactions for a full range of parties, including major REITs, lenders, and private equity investment funds. The diversity of Chicago real estate practice groups, affords attorneys the opportunity to be part of large-scale acquisitions and dispositions, joint ventures, financing, and portfolio-based deals involving all property types, including hotel and resort developments, commercial offices, retail, and national multifamily and mixed-use portfolios. Other notable staple Chicago practice areas where we have seen concerted attorney hiring are healthcare, in both the corporate and regulatory space (21 attorney hires), restructuring (17 attorney hires), and estate planning (31 attorney hires).

Conclusion

Given the increased demand for lateral associates and partners in 2017 and preceding five years, we anticipate continued steady lateral attorney demand across core practice areas in 2018. As you consider lateral opportunities, selecting a recruiter who is knowledgeable and regularly places attorneys in the specific locale is critical to a successful search. With a recruiter who is a market expert, you will have the advantage of knowing about unposted positions and have a more efficient interview process given their strong firm relationships. At Lateral Link, our recruiters are dedicated to specific regions and cities with years of experience working with the best firms and practice groups. We greatly look forward to assisting our attorney candidates in the search process as we head into 2018.

About the Author

Zain Atassi is a Managing Director with Lateral Link, where she recruits and places high-level attorneys with leading Am Law firms, high-end boutiques, and Fortune 500 companies in Chicago and nationally. Zain focuses on the individual needs of her clients and candidates, delivering the utmost personalized attention. Before joining Lateral Link, Zain gained significant experience as a legal recruiter with a national legal search firm. Prior to recruiting, she spent six years as a litigation attorney with Chicago-based law firms. Zain holds a J.D. from Washington University School of Law and a B.A. with Honors from Washington University in St. Louis.