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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 . 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.

Introducing Lateral Link’s Newest Team Members

In a time when many other legal search firms are retrenching, Lateral Link is expanding, adding great new talent to its ranks.

In the world of Biglaw, things are getting better. Many law firms are reversing their Covid cuts, in whole or in part, and are expecting 2020 to be better than they expected (at least during the dark days of March).

As Zeughauser Group consultant Kent Zimmermann predicted to Dan Packel of the American Lawyer, while maybe 20 percent of Am Law 100 firms will see a significant hit to revenue and profits, more than half will be within 5 percent of last year’s numbers (in either direction). And a small group of firms, perhaps those with busy bankruptcy and restructuring practices, could see profits per partner increase.

Besides the reversal of austerity measures, another sign that law firms are faring better than many expected in the spring is the uptick in lateral hiring. Here at Lateral Link, we have been meeting with more and more firms to discuss their return to the talent market — and no, it’s not just all bankruptcy. (For example, if you’re a midlevel capital markets associate interested in joining a thriving, top-tier practice in New York, please drop me a line.)

With fall just around the corner, and with firms getting a better sense of their priorities for both the rest of this year and next year, new lateral searches are opening up. Some of these are publicly posted on firms’ websites, and some are needs that firms have mentioned to select recruiters whom they trust (and here at Lateral Link, we are lucky enough to be trusted by many top Biglaw firms and boutiques).

To take advantage of the lateral hiring that we are already starting to see, which we expect to continue to the end of this year and into next year (knock wood), we have made a number of great additions to our team. Without further ado, we proudly present:

1. Melissa Cohen (Atlanta). Melissa specializes in placing general counsels, other in-house lawyers, and equity partners, domestically and internationally. Like many of Lateral Link’s consultants, she is a former practicing lawyer and a seasoned legal recruiter, with a track record of success in both Australia and the United States. She earned her law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law and lives in Atlanta with her husband, Sam, and mini-Schnauzer, Tory (her true love).

2. Stephen Damato (Washington, D.C.). Before entering recruiting, Stephen practiced 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. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University Law Center, cum laude. He is an avid D.C. sports fan (Washington Capitals above the rest) and is forever working on his golf game. (For more on Stephen, read my earlier interview with him.)

3. Michelle Fassberg-Lush (Los Angeles). A graduate of USC’s Gould School of Law and a member of the California bar, Michelle focuses on partner placements at leading law firms, while also handling in-house and associate placements. A former law firm and in-house lawyer herself, Michelle leverages her knowledge and experience to make successful placements.

4. Jennifer Lemberger (Miami). Jennifer, a South Florida native, earned her law degree from Nova Southeastern University Law, passed the bar, and worked in real estate for several years. She then began her recruiting career in Washington, D.C., placing attorneys, contract managers, and paralegals into law firms and corporate legal departments. She resides with her husband and daughter in Miami, where in her free time she enjoys playing tennis and cheering on her Florida Gators.

5. Megan Penrod (Washington, D.C.). After earning her J.D. from Saint Louis University School of Law, where she received a certificate in health law from the nation’s premier health law program, Megan lived and worked in Washington, Houston, and Austin, before starting her legal recruiting career in 2017. Outside of work, Megan enjoys writing, reading, spending time with her golden retriever, perfecting new recipes, and playing the piano.

6. Karen Wenzel (Minneapolis). Karen is a Midwest-based recruiter with a background as a corporate attorney in both private practice and in-house. She graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School, where she served as a Managing Editor of the University of Minnesota Law Review. Karen practiced at the law firm now known as Lathrop GPM in Minneapolis, then worked in-house with two Fortune 500 companies, also in the Twin Cities. She and her husband are the proud parents to a son and a daughter.

And we are very proud of the newest additions to our team. Please feel free to reach out to Melissa, Stephen, Michelle, Jennifer, Megan, or Karen. They are eager to hear from and work with you, whether you are an employer seeking great talent or a lawyer seeking a new opportunity. Despite all the turmoil in the world, today is actually an excellent time to be in the market — so don’t let it pass you by.

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.

An Open Letter To Incoming First-Year Associates

Biglaw: it may be a sprint at times, but it’s also a marathon.

Dear Class of 2020 Associates,

After three years — actually 25+ years — of hard work, you’re finally beginning your legal career. Some of you will start in a new office, and some of you will be starting remotely. These are weird times, and no one can fully prepare you for the months to come within this new paradigm. But certain themes will hold true no matter what the physical set-up may be.

Fifteen years ago, I was in your shoes, starting out as a first-year associate at Cleary Gottlieb in New York City. Here are 10 of the most important takeaways I can share from my seven-plus years as a Biglaw associate and seven-plus years (and counting) as a legal recruiter:

  1. Pick your practice area intentionally and wisely, thinking ahead about where you see yourself in terms of industry, lifestyle, and geography, five, 10, and 20 years down the road.
  2. Trust that the little stuff counts more than you now know. Be responsive and organized, meet deadlines, and pay attention to detail, appreciating that no job is too menial.
  3. Take extra time — no matter how busy you are or late it is — to understand the bigger picture. Force yourself to answer the underlying “why?”s and “how?”s on every matter you work on.
  4. Request, appreciate, and work with constructive feedback.
  5. Keep up on the latest law firm and industry news, and make an effort to learn your clients’ businesses.
  6. Keep your eyes open and be the ardent guardian of your professional development.
  7. Start developing your own business plan from Day 1.
  8. Be proactive in your career planning. Don’t trust the firm and your supervisors blindly. Recognize that career planning is a continuous and thoughtful process, not a one-and-done crisis management tool.
  9. Develop a relationship with a recruiter you trust so that you understand the legal market and your options at all times.
  10. Develop authentic relationships — with partners, peer lawyers, administrative staff and janitorial staff, and in your networking efforts. Treat everyone with equal respect and positivity.

For additional tips for getting your legal career off to the best possible start, see my articles on 25 Things All Young Lawyers Should Know In Order To Not Screw Up Their Legal Careers and Lessons For Success From A Former Biglaw Associate.

I urge you to reach out to me — not just when you’re planning an imminent move, but as you’re navigating your first year, deciding on a practice area, grappling with any other professional development questions, or seeking to just open a dialogue.

I wish you all the very best of luck in your new careers. Work hard, all the while learning and taking care of yourselves, mentally and physically. It may be a sprint at times, but it’s also a marathon.

Yours sincerely,

Abby Gordon

Cadence Counsel Presents: A Series on Change Management

What do lawyers, especially in-house counsel, need to know about change management in these rapidly changing times?

If you’ve been feeling stressed out, anxious, or depressed over these past few months, you are not alone. When the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), a leading organization for in-house lawyers, surveyed its members in June, it found that almost 20 percent are experiencing depression, more than 40 percent suffer anxiety, and almost 75 percent have moderate to severe burnout.

It’s not hard to understand why, given that our nation is suffering through a pandemic and a recession at the same time. Our country, our economy, and our legal profession are going through a huge amount of turmoil and change — much of the change bad, but not all of it — and dealing with change is difficult, even during good times.

If you are a lawyer looking for guidance and support as you help your organization navigate all this change, consider looking to the principles of change management. For those of you who are not familiar with it, change management consists of “the process, tools, and techniques used to manage the human side of change for the achievement and sustainment of a desired business outcome.” Change management has revolutionized the business world — and it’s now being adopted in the legal world as well.

Part 1: Change Management for In-House Counsel

Part 2: Change Management & Corporate Culture

Part 3: Change Management & Technology

Some Cautious Optimism About Biglaw — And A Prediction On 2020 Biglaw Bonuses

Bonuses will be down this year — but in these trying times, that’s no cause for complaint.

Over my years as a commentator on the legal profession, I have made many predictions. And many of my predictions have turned out to be wrong.

But sometimes I am happy to be wrong. And this is one of those times.

Back in April, when law firms were truly reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn, I predicted that we were only at the beginning of the bad times. I predicted that the list of law firms enacting COVID-19 austerity measures would continue to grow for quite some time.

And for a while, I was correct. In April and May, more firms continued to tighten their belts, engaging in salary cuts, layoffs, furloughs, and other money-saving steps.

But then we got a pleasant summer surprise. Finding that things weren’t as dire as they expected, firms started to reverse some of their salary cuts and other cost-cutting measures, at least in part. As reported yesterday by Christine Simmons and Dan Packel at Law.com, about a dozen Am Law 100 firms have reversed, at least partially, their compensation cuts for lawyers and staff. Just this week, three firms joined that happy club. (You can track developments by following ATL’s coverage of salary cuts, which includes their reversal.)

Of course, we aren’t out of the woods just yet. I have written before about the significant perils posed by the pandemic to the world of Biglaw. If the economy gets worse, if the (seemingly unstoppable) stock market takes a tumble, or if we get the second spike in COVID-19 cases that many fear, we could see a reversal of the reversals — or worse.

But right now — based not just on the publicly reported news, but also on the many conversations I have each week as a legal recruiter with partners and associates around the country, in many different practice areas — I’m cautiously optimistic. In the past few weeks, I’ve spoken to a partner whose firm is down in revenue year to date by just low single digits, another partner whose firm isn’t down at all (flat is the new up), and an associate who has hit two of his record months for billables during the pandemic.

Lawyers remain busy — and not just bankruptcy lawyers. Even with many courts closed, in whole or in part, litigators have been doing their thing — and elite litigation boutiques are even busy enough to be in hiring mode.

Transactional lawyers are doing fine too. M&A is a bit slow — the pandemic and downturn complicate many parts of the process, including coming up with valuations and doing due diligence — but other practice areas, including finance and fund formation, are busier than you might think.

Just because times aren’t as terrible as some expected, however, doesn’t mean that they’re good. So associates who are hoping to see bonuses on last year’s Cravath (or should we say Milbank) scale are probably going to be disappointed.

The current bonus scale, starting at $15,000 for first-years and going up to $100,000 for seventh-years, has been with us for six years (during which associates also saw two increases in base salaries, the Cravath-led move to the $180K scale in June 2016, and the Milbank-led move to the $190K scale in June 2018). The current bonus scale dates back to 2014, a very exciting bonus cycle in which Simpson Thacher (not Cravath) led the way, then got beaten by Davis Polk — and the Davis scale then got adopted by pretty much everyone else, including Simpson.

What about this year? As discussed, some firms — including many of the firms at the top of the profitability charts, who tend to set the pay scales — are doing just fine. They could definitely afford to pay the same bonuses as last year. And keeping bonuses at the same level could yield some advantages for them, such as putting the screws to the less profitable firms — and causing the star associates at those firms to seek more prestige and pay by “trading up” (a trend we saw in lateral associate hiring for the past few years, until this year).

But I don’t think we’re going to see that — not because of firm finances, but because of optics. In dark times for the country — COVID-19 deaths closing in on 200,000, millions of Americans out of work, companies filing for bankruptcy left and right — it might strike some as unseemly for Biglaw to take a “business as usual” approach.

General counsels who are seeing their companies suffer — well, at least if their companies aren’t named Apple or Amazon — probably won’t take kindly to seeing associates at their outside law firms taking home the same amount of money as last year. In fact, keeping bonuses the same would mean that many associates at firms that didn’t cut salaries would actually fare better financially in 2020, since many of their expenses — dining out, entertainment, commuting costs, gym memberships — have disappeared or dipped dramatically during the pandemic.

How much lower will bonuses go? It’s anyone’s guess, but if I had to guess — which I suppose I do, since it’s kinda my job — I’d say that 2020 bonuses will clock in at 2013 levels. In that scale, first-years got $10,000 and seventh-years got $50,000, meaning that bonuses were half to two-thirds of the 2014-2019 scale. It’s a significant cut, but not a cataclysmic one — and in these trying times, it’s no cause for complaint.

Of course, a consequence of lowering bonuses for associates by that much could mean that at some firms, we could see partners take less of a financial hit than their associates, thanks to lower compensation costs — the biggest expense of a law firm. And at some firms, especially ones with strong bankruptcy and restructuring practices, we might even see profits per partner increase. But we won’t find out about that until, well, the Am Law 100 numbers come out in spring 2021 — by which point things might be better (or at least improving), meaning that clients might not be as upset.

But spring 2021 is still a long time away, and a lot can happen between now and then. The year 2020 has been full of surprises, many of them quite awful — and it is far from over.

In addition to reversing their cost-cutting measures, some firms have picked up their hiring, at least in select practice areas. Here at Lateral Link, we are quite busy (and even in hiring mode ourselves).

Right now, despite a generally slow market, I have multiple associate and partner candidates interviewing at top Biglaw firms and elite boutiques. If you’re a candidate who might benefit from working with a recruiter — and the best way to tell is if you’re already getting emails and calls from other recruiters — please feel free to reach me by email at . I have extensive knowledge of (and deep connections within) Biglaw, from having worked in and written about this world for some two decades, and I’d be happy to have a confidential conversation with you about your career, the state of the market, and possible new opportunities.

More Firms Are Partially Restoring Pay, but Full Salaries May Wait Until 2021 [Law.com]

Earlier: ATL coverage of salary cuts (and reversals of them)

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.

4 Tips For Navigating The COVID-19 Crisis

Helpful advice for these troubled times from six managing partners.

How are law firms and their leaders navigating the COVID-19 crisis?

Last week, in a webinar for the New York State Bar Association moderated by my colleague Craig Brown, Managing Principal of Bridgeline Solutions (Lateral Link’s temporary staffing arm), these six managing partners offered excellent insights and advice:

  • Adam T. Klein, Esq. – Outten & Golden LLP
  • Wayne N. Outten, Esq. – Outten & Golden LLP
  • Gregory S. Katz, Esq. – Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP
  • Lawrence T. Gresser, Esq. – Cohen & Gresser LLP
  • Alan Hoffman, Esq. – Blank Rome LLP
  • Dauna Williams, Esq. – The Williams Group

1. Protect your people.

A law firm’s most valuable assets are its people. The panelists repeatedly emphasized how they put the health and well-being of their own lawyers and staff first.

Doing everything possible to make sure employees don’t contract the coronavirus is just the first and most obvious goal. The social isolation created by remote working can give rise to loneliness, depression, and anxiety. The managing partners talked about measures they took to make sure that their lawyers are staff remained healthy in the most holistic sense, including hosting virtual events like town halls and happy hours to promote community and connectedness.

Many lawyers found themselves taking on additional responsibilities during the pandemic, such as child care, elder care, or care for sick family members. Adam Klein said that at Outten & Golden, he and his partners told their associates and staff to put those priorities first.

2. Connect with your clients.

During times of crisis, lawyers need to let their clients know that they’re there for them. The panelists talked about the myriad ways they tried to remain connected to their clients, including email updates, check-in calls from practice group leaders, and even virtual wine tastings.

At Blank Rome, clients signed up for email updates that would inform them about important developments related to the coronavirus crisis, such as changes to government programs. These updates helped clients navigate the tumultuous times while also keeping Blank Rome top of mind, explained Alan Hoffman.

The wine tastings hosted by Cohen & Gresser have been a huge hit with clients, according to Lawrence Gresser. The firm would have wine shipped to clients ahead of time, followed by online tastings led by professional sommeliers — who in normal times would be very difficult to book, but who are more readily accessible during the current crisis.

3. Leverage technology — thoughtfully and carefully.

Law firms moved online so smoothly and successfully thanks to an array of sophisticated systems and advanced technological tools, such as VPN, Citrix, and Zoom. Lawyers learned how to use numerous new technologies, whether they wanted to or not — and this knowledge will stay with them even after the pandemic is over.

The increased use of videoconferencing has been a highlight, as Wayne Outten of Outten & Golden noted. Depositions, hearings, and arbitrations are all being done remotely during the pandemic — and even after the current crisis is over, expect videoconferencing to be used more often than it was pre-COVID-19, now that lawyers (and clients) have seen the money and time that can be saved.

But technology needs to be implemented with thought and care. For example, as Dauna Williams pointed out, you need to make sure that your tools all play well with each other. Certain applications or platforms don’t interact well with one another — and can even compromise each other’s security. Law firms should work with experienced technologists to make sure they avoid such pitfalls.

4. Have a standard reopening procedure.

Moving to remote operations was no small feat for law firms, and reopening offices will also pose a challenge. This is especially true for large law firms with dozens of offices and hundreds, if not thousands, of employees.

The key to successful reopening — according to Gregory Katz of Lewis Brisbois, which has some 3,000 employees working in 52 offices across 22 states — is to have a standard reopening procedure. Each office will reopen at a different pace, reflecting conditions on the ground, but all offices will pass through the same stages of the same process. That process must be carefully designed to consider such factors as who can return and when, where workers can sit in the reopened offices, when visitors can be allowed, and what signage should be erected.

Law firms closed down and moved online with surprising success, and law firms can and will reopen successfully as well. But reopening can’t be taken for granted or handled haphazardly. Instead, firms much approach reopening with all the intelligence, ingenuity, and innovation that they apply to solve the problems of their clients. If lawyers take reopening seriously, they will reap substantial rewards.

Managing Partner Response To COVID-19 [New York State Bar Association]

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.

Some Reflections On The Importance Of Today, Juneteenth

Why is today, June 19, such a significant day in American history? And how is Biglaw commemorating it?

If you’re finding that some lawyers at Biglaw firms are slow in getting back to you today, there could be a very good reason. It could be that their firms are observing today — June 19, aka Juneteenth — as a holiday. And rightfully so.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Juneteenth, here’s a short explainer, from the New York Times:

On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.

The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”

For lawyers, who put great stock in the power of words, Juneteenth is an important reminder that words must be supported by action. For all too many enslaved African-Americans, freedom didn’t become a reality with the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation; it instead had to wait until the end of the Civil War and the arrival of Juneteenth.

As lawyers, we understand the meaning of equality and freedom from a perspective that is unique because of our legal training. We also understand that we have to keep defending equality and freedom on a daily basis. A day of observance is important for reflecting and planning on a course of action to preserve these values.

To their great credit, numerous Biglaw firms have declared Juneteenth to be a firm-wide holiday. According to Above the Law’s running tally, more than 50 major law firms are observing Juneteenth today, in some form or another. This is a good thing, especially in light of data from Vault and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) showing that black lawyers account for just 4.83 percent of associates and 1.94 percent of equity partners in law firms.

What to make of Biglaw’s embrace of Juneteenth? I agree with Kathryn Rubino:

In the grand scheme of fighting systemic racism in this country, is this a relatively minor step? Yes. Is it an awesome thing? Also, yes.

Celebrating Juneteenth is a good thing. Too many kids grow up never even learning about the holiday.

Kathryn’s point about widespread unfamiliarity with Juneteenth is well-taken. I’ve been around a while, and I only learned about it last year (despite the fact that June 19 is also my birthday).

Our society needs to do a better job of educating people about the significance of today. And hopefully the observance of Juneteenth by law firms, as well as many other major businesses  such as Nike, Twitter, Best Buy, Target, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, and the NFL — will help on this score.

Some 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia, have moved to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. Could it eventually become a national holiday?

Let’s hope so. There have certainly been efforts made on this front, including an online petition (with more than 300,000 signatures), a Senate resolution, and a call for recognition by Senator Bernie Sanders (made last year, well before the horrific killing of George Floyd and the national discussion about racial injustice it has generated).

Regardless of whether your law firm or employer observes Juneteenth, please take time today to reflect upon the legacy of slavery, the progress our nation has made on issues of racial justice, and all the work that remains to be done to combat ongoing racism in our society. And then, after you have done so, take some action — which is, after all, what Juneteenth is all about.

More Big Law Firms Opt to Observe Juneteenth at Offices [Bloomberg Law]

Earlier:

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, Managing Director at Lateral Link.

One Simple Way To Improve Your Recruitment Of Diverse Candidates

Work with diverse legal recruiters to find diverse legal talent.

The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are just the latest manifestation of profound injustice in our society. They have given rise to an urgent conversation about how to address longstanding, systemic inequality in our nation.

Law firms have responded in a forceful manner by donating millions of dollars to support organizations that are battling inequity in the trenches. While we applaud their efforts, we believe that more needs to be done.

Law firms must actively increase their commitment to diversity and inclusion. With COVID-19 threatening the financial health of many law firms and in-house departments, we fear that, as was the case in the last economic downturn, diversity and inclusion initiatives will be the first to go as austerity measures are instituted.

We cannot let that happen.  Equality, the rule of law, and justice are at the core of who we are and the industry that we serve.

We embrace the words of Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Our Commitment

At Lateral Link, we commit to working with our law firm and in-house clients to bring them talented and experienced lawyers of color, women lawyers, and LGBTQ+ lawyers. It is a commitment that we don’t take lightly. Many of us are former practicing lawyers, so we know firsthand the importance of diversity in law firms and in-house departments.

We commit to having difficult conversations with regard to diversity and inclusion, even when it is uncomfortable — especially when it is uncomfortable — and to deal with the issues head-on. For example, we need to know if your lateral partner integration plan takes diversity into account. We need to understand the relationship between your firm’s origination credit and partner compensation system. We need to hear where you may have fallen short on diversity in the past — as well your success stories regarding women and minority partners.

Our commitment to diversity reflects our longstanding commitment to the broader legal community. In 2015, our founder, Michael Allen, established the Lateral Link Scholarship Fund at his alma mater, Harvard Law School. Ten percent of the fees earned from Lateral Link’s placement of HLS alumni go into the fund, which supports scholarships at the Law School for financially disadvantaged students, many of them from diverse backgrounds.

Our Team

In order to help law firms and in-house legal departments recruit the best diverse lawyers, recruiting firms must embrace diversity themselves.

Lateral Link fields one of the most diverse legal recruiting teams in the industry. Almost three-quarters of our recruiters are women, minorities, or LGBTQ+. Women of color hold leadership positions and sit on our Executive Committee. Here are just four of our diverse leaders at Lateral Link (who are black, black and Latina, Asian American, and Asian American and LGBTQ+, respectively):

  • Monique Burt Williams, CEO of Cadence Counsel, a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise, specializing in in-house recruiting;
  • Gloria Sandrino, Global Chair of Partner and Group Recruiting and member of the Executive Committee;
  • Gloria Cannon, Managing Director of the California Legal Recruiting Team and member of the Executive Committee; and
  • David Lat, Managing Director, who will receive the Dan Bradley Award, the highest honor of the National LGBT Bar Association, at the 2020 Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair.

 

 

 

 

Our Call to Action

If you would like to work with a legal recruiting firm that walks the walk as well as talks the talk on diversity and inclusion, please reach out to us. You can contact Monique Burt Williams for in-house searches, Gloria Sandrino for partner searches, and David Lat for associate searches. We are eager to work with you on recruiting superb, diverse attorneys into your law firm or corporate legal department.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by Gloria Sandrino, Global Chair of Partner and Group Recruiting, and David Lat, Managing Director at Lateral Link.

The Weight Of Blackness

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Monique Burt Williams is the CEO of Cadence Counsel, where she helps corporations and other organizations diversify their in-house legal divisions as they strive to reflect a global economy.

I was five years old when I first felt the weight of being black in this country.

I was at day care, playing happily with a group of children at a water table. If I close my eyes, I can still hear our screeches as we gleefully plunked toys into the pool. At some point, I mistakenly dropped a toy tugboat onto the ground. A boy glared at me, snatched up the tugboat, hurled it angrily back into the water and yelled, “You’re black!”

There was a venom in his tone that was foreign to me, and I stood there frozen, not quite understanding what his words or this interaction really meant. All that registered in that moment was the negativity that dripped from his accusatory description of me. I could tell that everyone else was contemplating a similar thought because they had all stopped playing to look at me, waiting for my reaction.

Another little girl jumped to my defense and screamed, “No, she’s not black! That’s probably just dirt. We can wash it off.” She proceeded to pat tiny handfuls of water onto my face in her innocent attempt to smear that troublesome melanin away from my skin. Her efforts were futile, and disappointment washed over the group. I remember exactly how it felt when I blinked and hot tears rushed down my cheeks and into the cool droplets of water from the girl’s failed science experiment.

The group’s silent, collective stare made me somehow feel responsible for the moment and therefore obligated to fix it. I felt like it was my responsibility to lighten the mood, or offer up some sort of excuse, or distraction, or smile, or explanation, or apology for my blackness, having interrupted and dispelled the lightness of the occasion.

Finally, mercifully, a teacher walked over to inform us that it was time for lunch, and everyone just dispersed. That was it. The moment had passed. The teacher never saw or acknowledged my tears, and everyone simply went on with their day.

Those same children would go on to play with me year after year, but I carried a soul-soaked heaviness from that day that would rear its familiar head, in some way or another, for the rest of my life. It was the first time that I had experienced the burden of “otherness” – a panicked, gloomy pit in my stomach, like the feeling you get when the phone rings in the middle of the night or that nauseating tug at your insides as you prepare to attend a funeral.

Another funeral.

After days of protests and riots following the senseless death of George Floyd, the nation has witnessed yet another funeral for an unarmed black man who was murdered at the hands of law enforcement officials. Once again, racism has wreaked utter and complete havoc on our already taxed emotional and societal sensibilities, forcing some of us into the recesses of our minds and others onto the pandemic-ridden streets of our cities in search of an answer to that singularly unifying question: what, if anything, can be done in the wake of this chaotic pattern of destruction?

If I close my eyes, I can call up that scene from when I was five years old. I exchange the water table for a conference room. I swap out the kids for co-workers. I turn the toys into projects, and I replace the burden of “otherness” with the opportunity to effectuate real change.

When someone’s differences are called out and used against them if they happen to drop the ball, the aggressor must be pulled aside and addressed accordingly. When someone genuinely tries to defend and stand with the oppressed, but fails to do or say the perfect thing at exactly the right moment, they should be quietly counseled as to what might be more helpful in the future, not openly criticized and alienated. When someone takes on the unwarranted responsibility of smiling through the struggle, discreetly offer them a tissue and the time they need in order to recharge.

The perception of “other” begins with those in positions of power. Those in positions of power are overwhelmingly the owners of privilege. And when the owners of privilege fail to use that power toward meaningful change, they waste an opportunity to increase the widespread perception of the value of others. That is what we are missing: respect for the value of “otherness.”

That is why it is so universally dangerous to neglect the prioritization of a diverse workforce by resting in the comfort of working with homogenous teams. It perpetuates the idea that if you are “other,” you are of lesser value. It matters who you hire. It matters that your leadership teams reflect the customers that you serve. It matters what messages you send to your employees and to their families and to the world about your values and the ways in which you value their lives.

I stand with those CEOs who have committed to reinforce their diversity and inclusion efforts. I stand with the families of those who have lost their lives to senseless acts of hatred and bigotry. I stand with those who seek equality for all. And I stand with every five-year-old at every water table who has ever felt the weight of being black in this country. We will do better by you. We will.