We are working with a number of AmLaw firms that are continuing to “meet” with lateral associate and partner candidates virtually by utilizing video conferencing during the Coronavirus crisis. Some of the firms have hired candidates that we represent and have offered to provide their newly added lawyers with a laptop and the ability to work from home to start their careers with their new firms as research, writing and deal work can be handled remotely for the time being.
It has long been the case that the hiring process of lateral attorneys, at all levels, has begun with a telephone call or video conference where the candidate is not based in the same city as the firm’s hiring partners or heads of the group that the candidate will join. Lawyers and recruiting directors that are experienced and skilled with the art of the telephone or video interview are able to discern whether lateral candidates are worthy of further investments of time of their firms and if there are potential synergies between a partner’s practice and clientele and that of their firm.
Should a firm wish to proceed with a partner candidate, a lateral partner questionnaire, business plan (if required), and mandatory conflicts check must continue to be reviewed and processed before an offer can be made, as was the case pre-COVID-19. Associate employment applications and reference checks will proceed as always whether an in-person interview has taken place or not.
Law firms are proceeding with remote new associate orientation in order to acclimate recently hired colleagues and the same can be done for attorneys at all levels via video networks and online tutorials and intra-firm chats. It is clearly important for new attorneys to have specific human resources, peer and partner points of contact to ensure that as smooth a landing as possible takes place with their new firm. Newly added partners and groups will likewise want to continue a relationship with the Head of Lateral Partner Recruiting and, if the hiring firm assigned a “sponsor” partner to them, maintain close touch with that partner via computer and phone to facilitate partner or group integration.
However, since most big law practices continue to be tied to the billable hour, it is incumbent upon the hiring firm to clearly communicate its billable requirements and time recording systems to all newly hired attorneys. In the case of a lateral associate who has joined your firm from another firm with comparable billing systems, once the work is assigned to the new colleague, they should be off and running with virtual collaboration and supervision.
While it would seem obvious that practices such as patent prosecution and M&A are ideal for virtual work, today’s big law litigation cases can also be managed from the home office because discovery and document review are computerized, many federal court conferences have been telephonic and now state courts must utilize phone conferences to keep their dockets moving.
Our sister company, Bridgeline Solutions, continues to provide its clients with top-notch attorneys for large scale document reviews and can report that a number of the projects that Bridgeline is involved with are proceeding on schedule.
Litigators have been conducting video depositions for decades but still need a court reporter to swear witnesses in and create a transcript. While remote depositions are typically utilized to avoid travel expenses, attorneys are now considering this method for local matters as a means of social distancing. Many states are enacting remote notarization legislation prompted by the burgeoning remote notary industry. Due to the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, a remote notarization through their service is admissible in most states. States requiring physical presence may still allow for a remote oath. This new approach to the examination before trial will be critical for litigators with state court practices going forward.
We will continue to be in close contact with our clients that continue to engage us to identify new candidates and remain “open for business” when it comes to conducting video and telephonic interviews. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you are an attorney interested in discussing your career goals with one of our recruiters or a law firm that is pressing on during this stressful time and adapting to this new environment.