Law firm layoffs have been front-and-center over the past few years. Many firms have cut costs and large chunks of their associate pools, leaving remaining associates clinging tightly to their fragile positions. And what about those associates—the ones spared from the legal layoff slaughter? Their resumes remain in-tact, and their loan payments are met each month. Most would agree that keeping your job and leaving on your own terms trumps being kicked out with a mountain of debt as your only cushion. But employed associates have had their own troubles. Not only have they had to deal with the constant anxiety of additional layoffs, but many law firm associates have also been stuck in a lateral lockdown.
Some may believe associates should just be happy to have jobs. But unhappiness with a law firm job can be particularly difficult since most of associates’ waking and sleeping hours are committed to that job. Well, there may be some good news for lateral hopefuls: according to legal recruiter Sabina Lippman, the lateral market—specifically with regard to partners—is showing signs of improvement.
Lippman, owner of the newly-formed recruiting firm The Lippman Group and former recruiter with Watanabe Nason Schwartz & Lippman, tells The Recorder,
The economy is picking up, although slowly, and because firms retrenched and cut costs in 2009-2010, they are now more able to be opportunistic. Also, many practices that flourish in California are in demand now because of the state and federal regulatory environment -- cleantech, energy, environmental, health care. Midmarket corporate, technology and patent litigation continue to be in demand, and these too are practices whose currency aids California, particularly in tech-heavy areas like Silicon Valley.
Lippman believes that in the upcoming months, lateral partner hiring will grow: “I've heard from over a dozen small or new offices about aggressive plans to build, and have also heard from large, California-based Am Law firms who don't typically recruit laterals aggressively, about specific targeted searches that they wish to prioritize.” In fact, Lippman thinks that many firms are in positions now to pay top dollar for heavy-hitting partners.
Much of Lippman’s interview with The Recorder seems to focus on lateral hiring for partners, and Lippman’s biography indicates a specialty in partner and practice group placement. But some of her observations are more general, including her comments on practice areas. For example, in California, Lippman is seeing a continued focus on IP and a desire for “public company and capital markets work.” And she has noticed “more firms -- instead of just saying they want to grow in a certain practice area -- really customizing their search.” Lippman also shares some of the less-popular practice areas at the moment, including real estate, employment, securitization, tax and appellate work.
So what do Lippman’s comments mean for associates hoping to jump firms? Will associate lateral hiring follow a similar upward trend as partner hiring? Has your law firm brought on more lateral associates lately? Let us know what you think in the comments below or on twitter.
The Lippman Group site
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