Tag Archives: Lateral Link

The Great (Law Firm) Resignation: Why You Shouldn’t Take a Counter-Offer (Part II)

This year, as the Great Resignation takes its toll on law firms, the volume of departures has been especially high. But for lawyers who haven’t been through it before, the process of resigning can be daunting. At Lateral Link, we routinely advise candidates on their resignation timing and process, so we think now is an opportune time to share that knowledge more broadly.

On Tuesday, in Part I of this two-part series, we discussed how to resign properly, while managing the emotions that the resignation decision may trigger. Today, our topic is counter-offers and the promises that accompany them. What should you do if your employer responds to your resignation announcement with a seemingly attractive offer to stay at your current firm?

The logic of counter-offers

Employee turnover is expensive. Searching for a replacement and training the new hire to succeed in the role are both costly. In the interim, the firm may have to turn away work due to being short-staffed (or in most cases, push it on their current associates, causing severe burn out). Change is also risky: whereas a new employee has no easily observable track record, the employer knows the capabilities of its current staff.

These factors are doubly significant in a robust lateral market like the one we’re in now. Replacing you will not be easy, and it will probably take a long time. With that context, it’s no surprise that your employer would seek to talk you out of resigning. Pushback often comes in the form of questions like, “Can’t we persuade you to stay?” or “Can you think this over for a few days?”

The emotional appeal of a request to stay

Assuming you don’t hate your current job, an appeal to change your mind might cause you to think twice. We tend to view loyalty as an honorable quality, and it’s always nice to know that you’re wanted. Even on this dimension, however, it’s important to recognize that the consequences of declaring your intention to leave will linger. Once you announce your resignation, trust between you and your employer is broken. If you stay, your employer and co-workers may focus less on the sacrifice you’ve made in declining the new opportunity and more on the “lack of loyalty” you showed in submitting your resignation.

It’s also important to balance feeling flattered by the gesture of a counter-offer against the reality that it was only prompted by your threat to leave. If you were seen as such a valuable member of the team, why didn’t your employer proactively offer you better terms to remove the incentive to look elsewhere? If your employer is willing to offer a compensation increase or a promotion only after you announce your resignation, then the firm has been knowingly underpaying and undervaluing you, which demonstrates a clear lack of appreciation for your contributions.

Trust yourself

If you’ve thought the process through, chances are you would’ve already addressed your grievances with your current employer and for whatever reason, your employer failed to deliver. The fact that you decided to resign is a clear indication that you aren’t fully happy in your current role. True, a counter-offer could bring an attractive pay increase. But the work conditions that prompted your job search in the first place — poor partnership prospects, long hours, toxic culture, insufficient access to interesting work, and so forth — are unlikely to permanently change if you stay. You are an intelligent adult. You made your decision for a reason. The wisest course is to trust yourself.

Consider your future prospects

When you accept a counter-offer, it buys time for your employer to find your replacement. Sure, it’s possible the firm will let bygones be bygones and allow you to resume your prior career trajectory. But, with your loyalty now in question, it’s probable that your employer will look out for candidates to replace you and may terminate you once a suitable replacement is found. Even if your employer is not in a rush to get rid of you, the aborted resignation and residual doubt it creates are likely to factor in future promotion or lay-off decisions.

Don’t set yourself up for regret

Most employees who display momentary weakness and withdraw their resignation in the face of a counter-offer realize quickly that they have made a mistake. Promises made to keep them often turn out to be empty ones — a firm’s culture doesn’t change overnight. Worse, when a candidate realizes she should have followed through on her decision to leave, she may find that the firm she intended to join has filled its vacancies and moved on. Don’t let that happen to you.

A new year oftentimes means a new job for many people. If you need help navigating this “unprecedented” (yes, I said it) lateral hiring market, please feel free to contact me or any of my Lateral Link colleagues. In the meantime, here’s wishing that 2022 brings you new happiness, new goals, and new achievements. Cheers to the New Year!

The Great (Law Firm) Resignation – How to Resign (Part I)

We’ve all heard a lot this year about “The Great Resignation.” As is the case in many industries, law firms are contending with an unusual volume of resignations. In our role as recruiters, we at Lateral Link have a front row seat into both the mechanics of the resignation process and also the emotional angst that it sometimes entails. From uncertainty over the decision to resign to a lack of knowledge of how to give notice in a professional manner to anxiety over how to respond to a counter-offer, lawyers who are considering leaving their jobs have a lot on their mind.

This week we’re taking a look at some of these issues, in two parts. Today we address how to prepare for and execute a smooth resignation, while managing the emotions accompanying this process. On Thursday, we will discuss counter-offers.

Managing doubts about the decision to leave

For some people, the decision to resign is an easy one, but others really struggle with it. Perhaps it’s fear of the unknown, fear of burning bridges or disappointing people, or self-doubt about one’s ability to succeed elsewhere. If you experience this anxiety, keep in mind that it’s normal, and it doesn’t mean you’re making a bad decision. At the end of the day, you have to trust your gut. You’ve weighed the pros and cons and made a thoughtful determination about what’s best for you and your career. Be confident and comfortable in this choice and know that you are doing the right thing, even if the process isn’t a fun one.

Resigning is like ripping off a band aid — the fear is generally worse than the act itself. Nine times out of ten, your manager is an experienced professional and will have been in this situation before, so it will only be awkward if you make it that way. If you commit to leaving in the most professional and ethical way possible, the knowledge that you’re going about the process in the right way should help to calm your nerves.

Timing your resignation

Start by getting your ducks in a row prior to resigning. Do your best to tie up loose ends and stay on top of your workload to avoid a scramble when your last day comes.

Try to arrange it so that immediately before resigning, you have time to do whatever it is that helps you de-stress: meditation, deep breaths, exercise, or yoga can set you in the right frame of mind. Give notice first thing in the morning when your mind is clear, stress level is lower, and your boss is more likely to be around. If you wait until the end of the day, you may find your boss is distracted or busy with other matters.

Give at least two-weeks’ notice. Not offering any notice at all is completely unprofessional. Even if you think your employer will want you to leave immediately, it is customary to at least offer to stay on for two weeks to help transition your matters. Once you resign, leave promptly after your notice period ends. Each of us is fungible, so there is no good reason to stick around for an extra week or two.

Who to tell?

You should resign to just one person, preferably your direct supervisor or department head — even if you don’t like that person. There’s no need to reach out to several members of management, and you shouldn’t tip off your resignation to other colleagues beforehand.

Resign in person (or if necessary, via video). Don’t resign by e-mail, voice mail, or letter (unless a written resignation is also required). You must put your big kid pants on and summon up the courage to resign face-to-face.

What to say?

Keep it simple: “Karen, I want to let you know that I will be leaving Adam & Brown to join Cox & Smith. This was a very difficult decision to make. I’ve had a good experience here but I believe this is the right decision for me at this point in my career. I hope we can stay in touch.” Leave it at that.

You should be prepared for any reaction. Your boss may be supportive and collegial, cool and dismissive, skeptical, angry, or disinterested. Questions may range from “where are you going?” to “why are you leaving?” to “why didn’t you tell me you were unhappy?” Whatever the reaction, don’t take it personally. Be mindful that your boss has other matters to tend to besides your career plans.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to “send a message” with a proverbial mic drop. You can’t control your employer’s reaction, but you can control how you comport yourself. Don’t be petty or childish — keep things mature, professional, and courteous. Realize that you are likely to cross paths with these people again in the future. Passive-aggressive (or in some cases, just plain aggressive) actions may give you short-term satisfaction, but there’s a good chance you will regret them later. There is no upside to criticizing colleagues or the experience you’ve had. Take the high road and be complimentary — even if you don’t mean it.

What to do after you have given notice

Just as you should approach the resignation conversation professionally, you should behave in a professional manner during your notice period. Don’t gossip with colleagues who stop by for the blow by blow. Tell them you’d be pleased to stay in touch after you leave. Wind down, transition your matters, and move on.

Be sure to follow your firm’s guidelines on resignation and departure. Don’t be cute about files, forms, hard drive contents or anything else — it’s not worth the risk.

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What if your firm tries to convince you to reconsider and makes you a counter-offer? How should you think through a potential decision to reverse course? We’ll talk about that in Part II of this series.

If you need help navigating this “unprecedented” (yes, I said it) lateral hiring market, please feel free to contact me or any of my Lateral Link colleagues.

Lateral Link Announces Principal and Director Level Promotions

We are pleased to announce the following Principal level promotions: Gloria Sandrino to Managing Principal; Jon Kahn and Matt Rosenberg to Senior Principal; and Susan Agopian to Principal as well as the following Director level promotions: Andrew Clyne, Ata Farhadi, Allie Fennell, Zach Sandberg, and Abby Gordon to Managing Director; Steven Damato, Sean Hamrin, Jesse Hyde, Kelly Rizzo, Stephanie Ruiter, and Marion Wilson to Senior Director; and Melissa Martson to Associate Director.

Gloria Sandrino, Managing Principal

Gloria is a Managing Principal and Leader of the Partner Practice based in the Los Angeles office. She focuses exclusively on partner and group placements nationwide. Gloria leverages her vast network of partner and executive contacts to help partner and group candidates make lateral moves. Gloria practiced Corporate M&A for over a decade in Manhattan and Miami before transitioning into legal recruiting. Gloria is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

Jon Kahn, Senior Principal

Jon is a Senior Principal and a Leader of the Partner Practice based in the New York office. He focuses exclusively on partner and group placements nationwide. He practiced law for over twenty-five years in capital markets as a former partner at several major Am Law 100 law firms before transitioning into legal recruiting. Jon is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center.

Matt Rosenberg, Senior Principal

Matt is a Senior Principal based in the New York office and oversees our Washington, D.C. office, as well. He focuses on placing associates in law firms and in-house counsel positions in New York, Washington, D.C., and Canada. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Matt worked as a lawyer and recruiter in Toronto. Matt received his J.D. from the University of Ottawa.

Susan Agopian, Principal

Susan is a Principal based in the Los Angeles office. With over fifteen years of recruiting experience, she specializes in lateral partner placements nationwide. Susan received her Masters in Philosophy from California State University, Los Angeles.

Andrew Clyne, Managing Director

Andrew is a Managing Director based in the New York office. He focuses on recruiting attorneys at all levels, and across all practice areas, for positions in prominent law firms in NYC and Boston. Additionally, he has placed attorneys into law firms in London, and has assisted associates who are practicing abroad (including in London, Tokyo, Singapore, and Bangkok) in relocating back stateside. Andrew is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law.

Ata Farhadi, Managing Director

Ata is a Managing Director based in the Los Angeles office. He focuses on partner and associate placements nationally. Ata received his LLM from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law after attending Oxford University.

Allie Fennell, Managing Director

Allie is a Managing Director based in the Atlanta office. With over a decade of recruiting experience, she focuses on associate and partner placements in law firms throughout the Southeast. Allie received her J.D. from Georgia State University College of Law.

Zach Sandberg, Managing Director

Zach is a Managing Director based in the Los Angeles office. He focuses on working with attorneys to find them positions at premier firms and corporations throughout California and the West Coast. Zach holds an undergraduate degree from Pepperdine University where he graduated summa cum laude.

Abby Gordon, Managing Director

Abby is a Managing Director in the New York office. She focuses on placements of partners, counsel, and associate candidates in all fields of law for law firms and in-house in New York, Boston, and European markets. Prior to recruiting, Abby spent seven years as a corporate associate with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York, and for the last five years for European clients in Paris, France. Abby graduated from Georgetown University Law Center.

Stephen Damato, Senior Director

Stephen is a Senior Director based in the Washington, D.C. office. He specializes in placing attorneys into law firms across the United States. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Stephen practiced law as a corporate associate in Gunderson Dettmer’s Boston office and an M&A and private equity associate in Jones Day’s New York office. Stephen holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center.

Sean Hamrin, Senior Director

Sean is a Senior Director based in the Los Angeles office. He focuses on attorney placements throughout the West Coast, including Northern and Southern California and much of the Pacific Northwest. He holds an undergraduate degree in the arts from Carnegie Mellon University where he graduated with honors.

Jessie Hyde, Senior Director

Jesse is a Senior Director based in the Chicago office. He specializes in placing associates, partners, and in-house counsel with leading Am Law 100 and 200 law firms and premier corporations. Jesse received his J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law where he was on the Dean’s List and a Member of the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal.

Kelly Rizzo, Senior Director

Kelly is a Senior Director based in the Houston office. She focuses on associate placements with premier law firms in the Texas market. Prior to joining Lateral Link, she was a family law litigator for over five years. Kelly received her J.D. from the University of Houston.

Stephanie Ruiter, Senior Director

Stephanie is a Senior Director based in the New York office. After practicing as a litigator at two small Washington, D.C. area firms, Stephanie moved to New York and began her recruiting career, where she focuses on attorney placements for prominent New York law firms. Stephanie received her law degree from the University of Georgia.

Marion Wilson, Senior Director

Marion is a Senior Director based in the Atlanta office. He focuses on placing associates and partners at Am Law 200 law firms, prominent regional firms, and elite boutiques throughout the Southeast, and in-house positions with companies nationwide. Before becoming a recruiter, he spent eleven years as a litigator with an Atlanta based, Am Law 200 firm. Marion received his law degree from Emory University School of Law with honors.

Melissa Martson, Associate Director

Melissa is an Associate Director based in the Los Angeles office. She has over twelve years of recruiting experience and works closely with the entire team at Lateral Link to support our associate and partner searches.

“Our overall success is due in part to all of our colleagues at Lateral Link making up a very deep and talented bench of legal recruiters as well as support staff, and for this year, we are recognizing a few of them given their noteworthy contribution not only to our legal recruiting firm but also the industry overall,” said CEO Michael Allen. “We are extremely fortunate to have this talented group of individuals promoted to Principal and Director level positions.”

Along with our entire team at Lateral Link, each of these recruiters played a key role in driving nearly 500 successful placements this year after coming out of an unprecedentedly challenging time for legal recruiting during the pandemic. To sum it up, our team and staff dug in and executed our business with a drive to succeed and diligently serve our clients and candidates. We look forward to the continued contributions of our next generation of leaders and seasoned professionals.

Lateral Interviews: Advice from Seasoned Interviewers

With the end-of-year bonus season upon us and a lateral hiring market that remains exceptionally strong, it’s a safe bet that many law firm associates will soon be preparing for lateral interviews. What can you do to maximize your chance of a successful interview?

To get some pointers, I spoke with Mike Blankenship, managing partner of Winston & Strawn’s Houston office, and Randall Clark, corporate and securities partner in Gunderson Dettmer’s New York office. Both have extensive experience with lateral hiring and were happy to offer their advice.

  1. Be prepared to talk about your representative matters.

The biggest difference between on-campus and lateral interviews is that, as a lateral candidate, you’ll be expected to actually know some law! But before your imposter syndrome intensifies, rest assured that technical questions are almost never asked. The way partners assess your skillset is by probing your resume and, most importantly, your representative matters. “The deal sheet gets more attention from us than the resume,” says Randall, so you must be prepared to discuss any of your listed matters. Take time to reacquaint yourself with the basics of each matter and prepare some talking points about your specific contributions.

  • Assemble an effective deal sheet or representative matters list.

There are three dimensions to bear in mind when preparing a deal sheet: format, substance, and length.

  • Format: Most partners prefer deal sheets organized by type of transaction, not chronologically. Use this to your advantage by placing your most impressive deals at the top of each category.
  • Substance: Include enough detail to convey the essence of the deal. For example, instead of writing “client,” write “a national supplier of widgets.” Emphasize aspects that align with the interviewing firm’s practice strengths. Additionally, indicate your scope of responsibility. This can be as simple as describing your overall role (e.g., “lead associate”) or as detailed as listing your primary contributions.
  • Length: Don’t let the term “representative matters” fool you—it’s important to go beyond a small sampling of matters and submit a deal sheet that reflects a high volume of work. The ideal number of matters will vary by firm, practice, and class year, but it’s generally a good idea to consider including all of your matters, even those in which you played a smaller role.
  • Look professional.

Yes, the world is changing, Goldman Sachs no longer requires a suit and tie, but despite this trend, it’s better to play it safe for law firm interviews. “Most law firm hirers still expect professional attire because their clients still expect professional attire,” says Mike.

  • Do sufficient background research and prepare informed questions.  

“While we’re all large law firms, there are distinguishing factors, areas where a firm is great at something,” Mike observes. Look into both overall firm platform as well as the strengths of the specific office or group.

Even if a firm’s top strengths don’t align directly with your practice area, it’s important to demonstrate that you are interested enough to have learned about the firm on your own time. Partners want to be able to quickly identify that you’ve done your homework and start convincing you that you should choose their firm. When conducting screener interviews, Randall “know[s] within a few minutes whether or not [he] like[s] a candidate.”

It’s also advisable to briefly review your interviewers’ biographies. Referring to an interviewer’s background is a great way to avoid awkward silences. And simple questions like “What made you decide to retool into x practice?” or “How is it working for x industry clients?” can surface valuable insights.

  • Speak clearly and concisely.

This is important in any interview, but it is essential at firms like Gunderson where associates are expected to interface early with price-sensitive clients. “I want to see whether we can put you in front of founders,” says Randall, and that means being clear and getting to the point.

  • Prepare a tight answer for why you think the firm is the right fit.

Never tell a firm that you want to lateral in order to work less. Mike explains that, although he understands “a lot of law firms out there ask a lot more of their attorneys than they probably should,” the risk of an interviewer misinterpreting comments about workload is too high. 

Good reasons include wanting to specialize in something not available at your current firm, wanting a change in the type of clients you represent, or simply that you’ve heard great things about the firm and believe you would be a strong match for the culture.

  • Assess whether your interviewers would make good mentors.

Finally, remember that you are also interviewing the firm and its partners and associates. Especially for more junior attorneys, mentorship is an important factor to explore. As Mike observes, “that doesn’t mean a formal mentorship program, because every law firm has that.” Instead, try to determine whether your interviewers are the kind of lawyers who would be gracious in helping junior colleagues expand their toolkits.

Why Winston & Strawn? Why Gunderson?

Of course, I also wanted to give Mike and Randall the opportunity to explain why an associate on the market should consider their firms!

“We’re young, entrepreneurial, and we’re growing,” Mike says in relation to Winston & Strawn’s Texas operations. The firm also prides itself on providing excellent guidance to young attorneys. “You are never left on an island,” Mike promises.

Randall sees Gunderson’s culture and the opportunities it affords associates as major selling points. The culture is shaped by Gunderson’s young tech clients, making it an exciting place to work. Conscious of the importance of preserving that culture, the firm is strongly committed to promoting partners from Gunderson’s associate ranks. And given the tech sector’s growth, Randall projects: “we are going to have to make a tremendous number of partners.”

Beginning the Biglaw Lateral Process: A Guide for Associates

The current Biglaw lateral market is overwhelming.  There are more variables influencing associates’ career planning and strategic decision-making than ever before.  A byproduct is that getting started on a lateral search can be intimidating.  My goal here is to advise you on how to take the first few steps, because the way in which you target and contact firms can hugely influence your ability to make a change.  Below is a list of factors I encourage you to consider, and a quality recruiter will view each as an opportunity to maximize the likelihood of attractive offers.

1. Timing
Take advantage of active markets like this one to at least do your diligence.  It’s frustrating when you’d like to talk to a firm and they’re simply not hiring or unable to give you the kind of attractive offer you’d need to make the jump.  Also realize that offers have expiration dates and if you receive an offer from firm X, but wish you were able to talk to firm Y, it may be too late.  Do what you can up front to minimize the risk that timing negatively influences your options.

2. Who reaches out on your behalf
The best way to maximize options and ensure a successful process is by choosing a recruiter you trust and then leveraging contacts at other firms after your recruiter connects directly with each firm.  Yes, this will take away a friend’s referral bonus, but a good recruiter can effectively manage a comprehensive and targeted search, bump your resume to the top of a pile, and negotiate terms in a way that friends simply can’t.  When evaluating recruiters, pick someone who is an expert with respect to the space in which you operate so that they appreciate your practice and what could make it better in both a micro and macro sense.

3. Which firms you target
This alone depends on a ton of factors and personal preference, but it’s worth taking the time up front to think about what elements of your current practice you want to maintain and where there is room for improvement.  Your recruiter should discuss this with you and in turn provide insight into which platforms will check certain boxes on paper (e.g., bonuses, remote flex, substantive pivot, change in location, elevation of title, etc.).  Cultural fit is crucial, but it’s impossible to get a true sense for the people and environment before starting the dialogue.

4. Whom your recruiter contacts
Most firms have generic submission emails and/or online portals.  A quality recruiter should have personal contacts at the firms you’re interested in and the ability to sidestep the normal process to make sure your materials get in front of the right people as opposed to lost in the ether. 

5. Marketing
Success in the recruiting process largely depends on your ability to package and relay a clear and authentic narrative that aligns with what other firms are looking for.  If your materials and initial outreach don’t reflect that approach, you risk squandering opportunities.  Be thoughtful about what differentiates you from other candidates even if it’s not directly related to your practice.  Things like entrepreneurship, interesting work experience, and excelling at a sport or other activity can help endear you to partners.

6. Mental state

Take the process one step at a time.  Making a move is a big deal and you can’t understate the importance of doing so thoughtfully, but it’s important to think of interviews as casual conversations that allow you to explore fit and value.  A Zoom call costs nothing and having an open mind is the only way to truly evaluate the opportunity in front of you.  At the outset of the process, be open to introductions and save the real decisionmaking for when an offer is sitting in front of you.

Top 5 Holiday Gifts to Yourself in Biglaw

With the holidays approaching, now is a great time to reflect. Of course, the holidays are an opportunity to think about the important people in your life. Don’t forget to do that. But as we near the end of a very busy year for most Biglaw attorneys, you may also want to think a bit about yourself. How has this year gone for you? And how can you set yourself up for a strong 2022?

With that in mind, here are the top 5 holiday gifts to give yourself if you work in Biglaw.

Attend lots of holiday parties

Okay, not literally. Holiday parties can sometimes be a lot of fun, but you know what’s better than being hosted at a holiday party? Having firms flatter you, court you, and maybe throw a six-figure signing bonus at you! Just as your inbox will soon be brimming with party invitations, there will be no shortage of firms seeking to host you if you decide to start the lateral interview process. The market remains exceptionally hot, so you’d be wise to accept a few invitations and see how it goes.

Make your shopping list

In case you aren’t sure you want to stick with your current firm, now is as good a time as any to think broadly about your goals and make a list of your ideal employers. Are you drawn to big firms? Boutiques? In-house roles? There’s no wrong answers, but just as with holiday gifts, your list isn’t going to make itself!

Consider whether your firm has been naughty or nice

At a time when attorneys have a lot of options, it’s worth reflecting on how your firm has been treating you lately. Has it paid special bonuses in line with the top of the market? Is it promising a flexible remote work policy in 2022? If your firm hasn’t been showing much appreciation of your efforts, there’s a good chance some other firm is ready to treat you right.

Send your holiday cards

After two years of relative isolation, there’s nothing like a personal touch to let your clients and other professional contacts know you’re thinking of them. So send a card or pick up the phone and give someone a call. They’ll be happy to hear from you. And it’s a good investment in your future. From winning at business development to receiving a heads up about intriguing professional opportunities, a strong network will pay continuing and sometimes unexpected benefits in the years to come.

Ensure you have a happy New Year’s Eve

You know what sets you up for a great New Year’s Eve celebration, besides plenty of champagne? Having secured a fat year-end bonus. If your firm pays at 1950 hours and you’re at 1820, it’s time to hustle! Don’t let yourself fall just short of a $50k or more bonus. The champagne will taste sweeter with an extra five-figure check in the bank!

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We at Lateral Link wish you and your loved ones a joyous and healthy holiday season. If you think a new role could help you have a happier 2022, or even if you’d just like some more information about what’s going on in this crazy lateral market, we invite you to contact us.

Movers, Shakers & Rainmakers: A New Legal Industry Podcast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Let Rumors Guide Your Lateral Job Search

As you surely know by now, the lateral market has been exceptionally hot in 2021. From record signing bonuses to flexible work arrangements, law firms are offering unprecedented carrots in the battle for associate talent. It’s undoubtedly a great year to make a lateral move.

But one side effect of the rapidly shifting market has been a cascade of misleading rumors. Many candidates are entering the process with unrealistic expectations, failing to appreciate that the factors shaping the terms of a lateral offer are multifaceted and individualized. In addition, the focus on flashy inducements like signing bonuses is leading some candidates to pursue opportunities at firms that may be a poor long-term fit.

Rumor mill: signing bonuses, practice group retooling, remote work

In our experience at Lateral Link, rumors about signing bonuses, practice group retooling, and remote work opportunities are especially widespread. Let’s address those topics in turn.

When it comes to signing bonuses, everyone has a story about an eye-popping figure that some lateral associate achieved. But even assuming the number being bandied about is accurate, it’s essential to place it in a broader context. The bonus offered to a particular candidate depends on several factors, including practice area, location, and personal compatibility with interviewers. Candidates sometimes interpret a signing bonus as a judgment on their intrinsic worth, but that’s not how firms determine the number. Signing bonuses are driven primarily by the firm’s idiosyncratic needs, not the candidate’s credentials. For example, where a firm is seeking to fill slots in a particular office and needs lateral candidates willing to move from outside the region, there is greater leeway for an outsized signing bonus. The bonus that a firm offers a fourth-year M&A associate to join its Boston office is not necessarily transferable to a fourth-year lateral joining the same practice in New York.

Similarly, you should not presume that a firm’s past decision to hire a particular lateral associate to retool into a new practice area is predictive of future offers. Firms’ willingness to facilitate retooling is driven by specific practice area and location needs. The more liquid the local market in the relevant practice area, the easier it is to hire an associate who already has the skills, and the less likely the firm is to consider a candidate who needs to retool. For that reason, you are more likely to find retooling opportunities in Boston or Austin than in New York or Los Angeles.

Unfounded rumors about remote work opportunities are especially common, driven by the fact that permission to work remotely is often partner-dependent. The fact that one associate succeeded or failed in negotiating a flexible arrangement when joining a firm tells you little about the prospects for a different candidate who would be working with different partners. It’s also worth noting that a candidate’s leverage to negotiate more flexible terms may improve based on strong interview performance.

Don’t lose focus on the long term

The excitement around bonuses and other carrots can cause candidates to lose sight of what should be the primary goal of the lateral process: finding an opportunity that sets you up for long-term professional success. As great as it feels to negotiate a lucrative signing bonus, don’t let a one-time payment dictate your decision. If the firm offering the largest bonus is a poor fit for your culture preferences or career goals, you should turn it down.

At the outset of the lateral process, think carefully about why you are seeking to switch firms and how the next step fits into your broader career plans. Having that clarity of vision upfront will help you make a smarter choice when the numbers are in front of you. As you go through the process, keep an open mind. Don’t talk yourself out of opportunities before you’ve explored them properly — especially if your initial assessment has been shaped by rumors. And assuming you’re working with a good recruiter, trust the information they give you. The market changes from week to week and month to month: you can be assured that a plugged-in recruiter will have more reliable, more current information than the rumor mill.

From In-House to Law Firm: Returning to Private Practice is a Growing Trend

A common career path is to graduate from law school, spend a few years practicing at a firm, and then take a job as an in-house counsel. Biglaw associates are drawn to in-house opportunities to escape the billable hour and to benefit from a less demanding and more predictable schedule. The lawyers who make this transition traditionally have not looked back. That’s partly because they haven’t wanted to return to law firm life and partly because firms have preferred to hire lateral candidates currently working in private practice.

But in 2021 — an exceptional year for the legal industry in many respects — a novel trend is emerging. We at Lateral Link are hearing from a striking number of in-house lawyers who are interested in making a lateral move to a law firm. And firms are displaying an unprecedented openness to hiring such candidates.

The in-house grass is not looking so green

Any lawyer who accepts an in-house role understands that the transition presents certain tradeoffs. A paycut is generally required, and even for those fortunate enough to land an in-house position with similar current compensation, it’s unlikely that the rate of growth in future years will match the financial upside of private practice. Relatedly, upward mobility in the in-house context is constrained: a law firm practice group can support multiple highly compensated partners, but only one member of an in-house legal department can be General Counsel.

In the current environment, some in-house counsel are finding those tradeoffs starker than they bargained for. Most notably, sharply escalating base salaries and special bonuses for law firm associates have widened the pay disparity between firms and in-house legal departments. That disparity is especially painful for in-house counsel who find themselves working long hours. (It turns out the absence of billables doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better lifestyle!)

Another important factor is work-from-home flexibility. In many industries, employees have already been called back to the office full-time, barring a medical exemption or other special circumstance. The same is true of some law firms, but as a general matter, hybrid arrangements in Biglaw are easy to find. Firms historically have not been known as bastions of flexibility, but the pandemic has forced real change on that front. For in-house lawyers whose companies are insisting on full-time office attendance, the relative flexibility of law firms has become a selling point.

Firms are prepared to hire in-house counsel

In the past, most law firms would have been hesitant to hire lateral candidates from in-house roles — lawyers currently in private practice are considered a safer bet. But in the current war for lateral talent, firms have been forced to cast a wide net. Just as they have become more open to candidates with less prestigious educational and prior firm backgrounds, firms are increasingly willing to extend offers to in-house counsel.

Candidates returning to private practice tend to return to the same type of work that they were doing prior to their in-house transition. We are seeing candidates join practice groups such as M&A, finance, and IP. Litigation is tougher, both because firms are less desperate for lateral litigators and because firms tend to view in-house roles supervising litigation as less directly relevant to their practices.

We advise in-house counsel who may be interested in exploring a return to private practice to start the process soon. The current demand for lateral hires is exceptional, and it won’t last forever. Now is the time to test the market, before the window closes.

In the Market for Cannabis Counsel? Don’t Pay Your Lawyers to Learn on the Job!

Demand for high-end legal services is booming this year, and law firms are competing fiercely for talent across many practice areas. Growth has been particularly strong in some niche practices that barely existed a decade ago, such as cannabis and blockchain. For law firms, the business case for establishing and promoting groups in these emerging fields is becoming ever more compelling. The demand is there, so why not try to get a piece of it?

But there is a big difference between proclaiming expertise in an emerging practice area and actually delivering a top-flight offering. The supply of practitioners with a genuine track record in an emerging field is relatively thin by definition. So from a client’s perspective, it is important to be a skeptical consumer.

Let’s take cannabis as an example. If you found yourself in need of counsel to assist with a cannabis-related matter, you might think the Chambers and Partners ranking of nationwide cannabis practices would be a natural place to start. In Band 1, you’ll find three diversified Am Law 100 firms (Akerman, Duane Morris, Fox Rothschild) and a boutique specialized in cannabis (Vicente Sederberg). So is the right answer to just hire one of those Band 1 firms?

Possibly — but not necessarily. You’ll first want to be clear about the nature of the task and how it aligns with the service offerings of different firms. Cannabis is an especially complicated area for two basic reasons. First, and most obviously, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug at the Federal level. Many elite law firms therefore remain cautious about serving cannabis clients, especially companies whose operations entail direct handling of the product (sometimes called “leaf-touching” entities).

Second, to the extent cannabis cultivation and distribution has been legalized by State legislatures, each market exists wholly within the individual State: there is no legal interstate commerce in cannabis products. This means the regulatory dimension of the industry is deeply fragmented. To the extent counsel may have regulatory experience in one State, the legal knowledge and regulatory relationships will not translate neatly to another jurisdiction.

Given that complexity, it is important to be savvy about what you actually need and whether a firm is properly equipped to provide it. For one thing, the fact that a legal task is connected to a cannabis company doesn’t by itself make the matter distinctive. Much of the legal work in the cannabis field entails bread and butter transactional services that look broadly similar to transactional work in any other industry. For example, if you want to set up a fund to invest in the cannabis space, you should probably hire a highly experienced funds counsel, rather than a lawyer who claims particular expertise in cannabis. If you can find both, that’s great, but in general, industry knowledge is going to matter less than functional experience.

Conversely, if you need advice about cannabis regulatory matters, both industry and geographic experience will be critical. Be careful about hiring a nationwide firm in this situation. A credible locally-based provider who knows the regulators in the relevant State may well be a better choice than a firm that appears on the Chambers ranking.

As a general rule in emerging practice areas, there is a real temptation to rebrand some current partners as experts in the new field. The firm will then try to convince clients to send relevant matters its way, enabling the firm’s lawyers to learn on the fly by working on those initial matters. Essentially, fake it until you make it. One Am Law 100 firm currently has a cannabis group led by a litigation associate. In fields like cannabis or blockchain, you’ll want to be extra skeptical of claims of expertise, to ensure that you aren’t subsidizing the development of lawyers whose depth in the subject matter is questionable. Know what you need, and don’t pay your counsel to learn on the job.