- State of the Market
It's Fall again in Orange County, which means the leaves are changing color and folks are picking out pumpkins at their local pumpkin patch. Law firms are also busy during this time of year, as they actively seek out qualified lateral attorneys. In this State of the Market Report for Orange County, I will be discussing 1) the hot and active practice areas, 2) steady practice areas that are experiencing a continual growth in this market, and 3) slow practice areas that are a bit more difficult to break into during this time period. I hope this report is helpful to you if you are contemplating a lateral firm move to Orange County, in the near future.
Strong Practice Areas:
Litigation is currently a booming practice area in Orange County. Although most firms are seeking that coveted 2-5 yr. range associate, other firms are willing to consider both first years and more senior level attorneys for their openings. A majority of the job postings are for positions within general commercial litigation and securities litigation.
Please note that there are a number of available positions for both trial attorneys and insurance coverage associates, although this need is not as great. If litigation candidates are looking to move to Southern California and want a good alternative to Los Angeles, Orange County is a solid option for them. Interested candidates should be aware however, that firms put a strong emphasis on excellent academic credentials and admission into the California State Bar, as the pool of candidates is quite large in this area of law.
Transactional attorneys currently have a lot of opportunity in Orange County, at this time. Firms are actively seeking attorneys with merger and acquisition, securities, and finance experience. In addition, experience with '33 and '34 Act Filings is also a requirement for a small number of listings.
Due to the great demand for corporate attorneys in this market, California Bar Membership is not an absolute requirement for most firms. If candidates have solid experience and a good academic pedigree, many firms will still seriously consider these types of attorneys, even if they don't have the California Bar or do not currently reside in California.
Many of these jobs postings are for attorneys with 2-6 years of experience. Again, due to the large volume of listings in this practice area, many firms will be willing to look at more junior and more senior level candidates, if they retain a stellar background.
3. Patent Prosecution:
Patent prosecutors are heavily sought in most major California markets, and Orange County is no exception. Firms are looking to hire more junior-level associates in the 1-4 year range level, for this particular practice area. Candidates with degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, chemistry, or physics- will likely get the most attention from firms.
If candidates are more senior in their level of experience, these attorneys will generally need to bring a book of business with them to the firm. For all patent candidates, admission into the USPTO is generally a requirement, although being a member of the California Bar is not as important. Furthermore, patent attorneys who are very personable and have stellar communication skills, will also be very well-received by firms located in Orange County.
Steady Practice Areas:
Environmental law remains a steady practice area in Orange County. Firms tend to want to interview more junior-level attorneys for these openings, but will often consider those associates with up to four years or so of experience. Moreover, a lot of firms ask that any potential associates have both environmental and land use experience.
In relation to those rare candidates with a technical background in environmental issues, those job seekers will have a real "leg up" on the competition. In addition, some firms are also requiring relevant experience in subject matters like CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act)- so candidates with this type of experience should definitely present this type of information prominently on their resumes.
2. Intellectual Property Litigation:
Intellectual Property Litigation remains a growing area of law in this market. Many of the current job postings are for those attorneys that have 5 years of experience or less. That being said, the majority of firms are seeking candidates with at least two years of experience in a law firm setting.
Although a technical degree is not always required for these job openings- candidates with a technical degree are often highly preferred. Examples of marketable technical degrees include those that relate to electrical engineering, computer science, and chemistry.
Slow Practice Areas:
Unfortunately there are a couple areas of law that are extremely slow in Orange County, at the moment. Bankruptcy is one of these areas of law. The few firms that are looking for associates for their bankruptcy practices, are seeking attorneys in the 1-5 year range.
Health care law is another practice that is not resonating a lot of activity in this market. In relation to the few job openings that are available in this field, attorneys with mid-level experience will fare the best. In addition, those with experience working with hospitals, physicians, health care centers, and privacy/security requirements, will also be pretty competitive.
Some additional slow practices in Orange County include trusts and estates, as well as energy law. Attorneys seeking entry in these practice areas, may want to hold off their search temporarily, or be flexible in regards to the size of the targeted firms- if their desired geographic region is limited to Orange County.
By Caroline Lee, Esq., Recruiter, BCG Attorney Search
It's almost time to put on your costumes and go trick or treating, as the end of October is fast approaching. Although firms will see a drop in the number of candidates that are actively looking (as the holidays descend upon us), there are still plenty of job openings available for those qualified candidates looking to find a new law firm position in San Diego. In this State of the Market Report, I will be discussing 1) the hot and active practice areas, 2) steady practice areas that are experiencing a continual growth in this market, and 3) slow practice areas that are a bit more difficult to break into during this time period, within the San Diego market.
Strong Practice Areas:
Corporate attorneys continue to have many choices in this market, as the demand for top-notch transactional talent continues to grow in San Diego. Mid-level attorneys continue to be the experience level that is most highly desired by the majority of firms. Relevant securities, mergers and acquisitions, and technology transactional experience are also very coveted by this market.
Due to the fact that there is such a huge need for great corporate talent in San Diego, firms tend to be more flexible in regards to year level and also in regards to bar membership. If a candidate has stellar experience and is a bit more junior or senior then what the firm is looking for, he/she will often still get a chance to interview at the firm (even without active California Bar Membership).
2. Patent Prosecution:
San Diego is really becoming known for its growing intellectual property market. Within intellectual property law, patent prosecutors are the most aggressively recruited by firms in this region. Most openings require about 2-4 years of experience, but firms will often consider a candidate with only 1 year of experience if his/her technical credentials are excellent.
Firms in this market are also actively trying to find candidates that have backgrounds in the following science fields: engineering (especially electrical engineering), biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science. Although California Bar Membership is usually not a requirement, admission into the USPTO generally is a necessary qualification. Candidates with multiple advanced degrees in their respective technical fields (i.e. PhDs), will generally get the most attention from firms.
Steady Practice Areas:
1. Real Estate:
The demand for real estate attorneys in San Diego has remained somewhat steady. A good number of firms are looking for 3rd or 4th year associates with practical experience in commercial leases and purchase and sale agreements. A handful of firms are also recruiting those attorneys with a background in environmental law.
There also seems to be more firms that are seeking attorneys with experience in financing, usually in respect to lender representation. Thus, although potential real estate candidates will not have as many choices as their corporate counter-parts, there are still some viable openings at reputable firms- for these types of lawyers.
2. Intellectual Property Litigation:
Firms in San Diego are also actively recruiting for intellectual property litigators. Although not all firms require that a candidate have a technical background in order to litigate intellectual property issues, most firms do prefer a candidate with a science/technical degree and background. In San Diego, associates with an electrical engineering background are very actively recruited.
For all candidates in this practice area, admission into both the USPTO and California Bar are usually requirements for firms. If candidates have a strong technical background, good academic pedigree and significant firm experience, and are not a member of the California Bar- I would still recommend applying for these positions as firms can sometimes be flexible on this point.
Another component that we are seeing more frequently in these types of job listings, is a language requirement or preference. Thus, well-qualified bilingual attorneys will be at an advantage for these types of positions, within the intellectual property realm. In general, the typical experience range a lot of firms are asking for is in the 2-4 year experience level spectrum. Some firms will however consider an attorney with as little as 1 year of experience, if his/her credentials are very strong.
Slow Practice Areas:
Unlike Los Angeles, San Diego is experiencing a substantial slowing in its litigation attorney recruiting. At this time, there is not a great demand for litigators and many San Diego firms are only seeking attorneys who have specialized skill sets (i.e. securities litigation, environmental litigation). For general litigators, the firms that are looking for these types of candidates, are seeking mid-level attorneys who have complex litigation experience and/or significant trial experience.
Another slow area of law in San Diego is trademark and copyright law. There has been a real drop in demand for these types of attorneys. Although San Diego is known for being an up and coming market for intellectual property attorneys- the focus of this market's growth has been on patent attorneys and not trademark/copyright associates.
By Veronica R. Pawlowski, Esq., Recruiter, BCG Attorney Search
The beginning of 2007 was so hot we could hardly keep up with the daily job orders we were receiving from law firms. As the end of the year nears, however, things have significantly cooled down. Los Angeles law firms (both downtown and Westside) are still busy but we are not seeing the tremendous activity we experienced at the beginning of the year.
To some extent, this slow-down is to be expected. Law firm recruiting professionals are just now winding down the busy on-campus interviewing season and the holidays are quickly approaching. This means people are on vacation and associates are waiting for year-end bonuses before making moves. We definitely expect things to pick up a bit after the New Year.
Having said this, the end of the year is often the best time to start a job search. A candidate who is prepared to move quickly benefits from the fact that many candidates are staying put through the end of the year. Conversely, candidates who do not want to move until the end of the year can take advantage of the slower-paced holiday season to prepare a resume, writing sample, and other materials for their job search so that once the time to move comes and the job orders start ramping up, they are ready to go.
Associates in the following practice areas are in demand: corporate, real estate, litigation, labor and employment, and regulatory healthcare. In addition, firms remain committed to growing their Los Angeles and are therefore interested in partners with portable books of business. As a general rule, a partner must bring at least $500,000.00 in portable business.
In 2006 and the early months of 2007, the demand for corporate attorneys was simply overwhelming. As the end of 2007 nears, the need has slowed ever so slightly. Most notably, whereas firms were previously in such a great need that even candidates not barred in California were attractive, we now see more firms specifying that candidates MUST be admitted to the California Bar. Of course, exceptions are generally made for candidates with exceptional credentials and/or strong experience from large markets, such as New York.
The specific type of experience firms seek remains the same: mergers and acquisitions, private equity, corporate finance, capital markets, securities, structured finance, venture capital, and/or investment management ('40 Act).
As the demand for real estate attorneys traditional goes hand-in-hand with market conditions, the need for real estate attorneys has continued to soften a bit. Having said this, it is an excellent time to be looking if you are candidate with strong academic credentials and real estate finance experience in a sophisticated practice. In addition, there is a continuing need for attorneys with commercial leasing, purchase-and-sale, and development experience.
Historically, litigation is the practice area that never stops going and this winter is no exception. As always, firms demand top-notch academic credentials from their litigators. In addition, recent job orders are calling for litigators with substantial, hands-on experience including taking and defending depositions, arguing motions in court, and trial experience.
Notably, there remains a strong demand for attorneys with securities litigation experience. In most cases, firms are not necessarily receptive to attorneys who are amenable to transitioning into this practice. Rather, firms seek individuals who have experience in this specific area and are comfortable with the relevant laws (i.e., Sarbanes-Oxley and the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act).
Labor and Employment
There is always a healthy demand for labor and employment attorneys in California. In this practice area, the California Bar is a definite pre-requisite. The continuing demand is for attorneys who have wage and hour and class action experience. A couple of interesting notes about labor and employment: 1) firms are often open to considering attorneys with a business/commercial litigation background who are interested in transitioning to labor and employment and 2) this practice area, more than many others, is found in various settings (i.e., large firms, small firms, and boutiques). Thus, for a highly qualified individual looking for a change, this may be the perfect practice area to consider.
There is a steady demand for top-notch healthcare attorneys with two to five years of solid experience. This winter, the strongest need is for individuals who have transactional/regulatory experience.
For some time now, the need for bankruptcy attorneys has been quite slow. This winter, we have already started to see bankruptcy come back to life. Current openings are at firms with very sophisticated Chapter 11 practices representing debtors, secured lenders, ad hoc committees and/or official creditors committees. Thus, if you have strong Chapter 11 experience at a well-respected bankruptcy practice and solid academic credentials, you should be able to get interviews and offers.
Even in slower economic times, Los Angeles is a vibrant market and a good option for well-credentialed attorneys who have 2-5 years of experience in their given field. Similarly, partners with portable books of business will fair well in Los Angeles. The key is to be aligned with a diligent and hard-working recruiter who will work hard to open doors; rather than simply relying on the market conditions. Thus, for all the practice areas mentioned above and other busy areas, such as intellectual property, tax, and environmental, Los Angeles is a great legal market and worthy of consideration for strong candidates.
By Deborah J. Acker, Esq., Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
We are in the midst of the fall lateral recruiting season. Law firms are evaluating their staffing, now that most of the new first year attorneys have arrived. In addition, both law firms and attorneys are gearing up for possible lateral movement after bonuses are distributed and partnership decision made. The practice areas with the most openings include corporate, employee benefits, labor and employment, IP litigation, patent prosecution, litigation and tax. Listings within these practice groups have been relatively stable in the last six months with the exception of litigation and tax. The demand for litigators and tax attorneys has increased significantly of late.
For all these positions, there is rigorous competition and the major law firms remain selective. In this environment, the successful candidate will usually come from a top tier school, have good grades, and some longevity (2 years) with a big name firm. Firms looking for IP litigators or prosecutors with strong tech backgrounds will often consider just one year of experience at a big firm and/or junior status. Multi-lingual capabilities, especially within the Asian languages, are a definite plus. More than a few major firms are looking for senior attorneys but almost all require a significant book of business. Any of these requirements may be flexible if you have unique strengths in a particular technology, unique litigation experience, or a history of significant longevity with a good firm.
If your credentials are not quite up to these standards, strong local and regional firms continue to seek candidates and will work with "softer" credentials. Not only are we able to help you get interviews at the "smaller and medium-sized" firms, we also can help you strategize your career development in your current position to build a resume that will get you where you want to go.
Try to speak with a recruiter as soon as possible in the fall. Once the holiday season arrives, the pace of hiring decisions slows down significantly.
The corporate practice continues to seek top attorneys, most at the junior and mid level. A variety of corporate skills are sought after for both the public and emerging growth sectors. International experience in mergers and acquisitions is a major asset. Securities work, venture capital, private equity and fund experience all will get you in the door. Most positions require 2-5 years of experience. For some firms, just one year and an out of state Bar is sufficient. Even candidates with minimal big firm experience but significant in-house experience are receiving interviews. More than a few major national firms setting up new offices here are looking for lateral partners. Asian language skills are particularly valued in this sector.
BCG has assisted a number of classic "Silicon Valley corporate practices" with their hiring needs in recent months. After each placement, the majority of the firms say, "keep them coming." At this point, there is no end in sight to the hot corporate market.
Smaller firms are also looking for associates with broad experience in corporate governance and business transactions. Solid experience with good longevity will open doors, even without sterling grades and top 20 schools.
California bar admission is a common requirement but not an absolute.
Junior and mid-level IP litigators remain one of the most sought after commodities in the Silicon Valley. No changes in the last six months. It is a vibrant market that remains vibrant. Laterals with IP litigation experience in a big firm, appropriate for your level, are nearly always guaranteed an interview. The firms with the big players handling the big cases are looking for associates. A background in electrical engineering, computer science or physics is your ticket to the top firms. Even without a technical background, if you can demonstrate strong litigation skills, experience in IP, and the ability to get up to speed on the technology at issue, you are sought after. A few firms that emphasize trial work are specifically looking for top-notch attorneys with significant time in court. Specific experience in patent litigation is a must for some firms. But, firms are also looking for litigators with experience in "soft IP," trade secrets, trademark, copyright, media, etc.
The demand for patent prosecutors has remained steady. Associates with a physics, EE or computer science background and 1-7 years of experience have a number of opportunities. Firms are begging for you. Other desired backgrounds include mechanical engineering, biotechnology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, pharmaceuticals, chemical engineering, and medical devices. Those in bio fields are usually expected to have a PhD or Masters Degree at the minimum. Registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is nearly always a must. A steady demand for patent agents and technical specialists, primarily in the electrical and computer arts, also exists, but they should have some big firm experience with patent law. In the last few weeks, we have seen an increased need in the life sciences and firms that will consider patent agents for these positions.
Junior associate positions in trademark are starting to appear again. Growing trademark practices are accompanying the recovery of the technology sector. Trademark associates with big firm experience should give us a call.
Most of the major national firms in the valley would like to speak with senior IP attorneys with portable business in any IP practice area.
After a cooling period, the need for litigators is coming back. National and international firms are looking for litigators with 2-6 years of experience, often requiring top pedigrees, and big law firm experience or a judicial clerkship. The greatest need is in the 2-4 year range. In the Silicon Valley, many firms value IP litigation experience, even if that is not the primary focus of the practice group. Experience with unfair competition, trademarks, and copyright will add value to the resume of any potential Silicon Valley litigator, no matter what their specialty. An increased need for litigators in the areas of securities and white collar crime is a recent change. Openings in general commercial, antitrust, complex class actions, and product liability litigation remain stable. Litigation practices look for associates whose experience is appropriate for their level. If you want to be a top-notch litigator, appropriate professional development for your level and increasing independence is critical for success. A few top firms that emphasize trial work are actively recruiting. Top schools, law review and hands-on experience are a must for these "big firm" positions.
Smaller regional and local firms are also looking for litigators. These positions require "in the trenches" experience and some familiarity with the local legal landscape. Smaller firms are more willing to "think out of the box" when considering schools and academic records. They also will value a resume with mixed litigation practices in more than one area.
The market for real estate attorneys in Silicon Valley is holding its own. The major real estate practices are in San Francisco but unique opportunities arise regularly in Silicon Valley. Firms seek transactional attorneys that can hit the ground running. Opportunities exist in both national and regional firms. Please contact us if you have an interest and fit the profile. For senior people, significant portable business is required. Specifically, expertise in the areas of general transactional work, acquisitions, construction, funding, and commercial leasing is sought.
The demand for labor and/or employment attorneys at major firms in Silicon Valley is steady. Many of these positions require a combination of transactional and litigation work. International experience is a plus. Most require 2-5 years of experience specifically related to employment matters. The smaller firms also have a need for employment attorneys, but this practice are is often packaged with business transactions expertise or commercial litigation expertise. There are limited but high quality opportunities in the area of ERISA and executive compensation.
A few large international firms and large firms serving the technology sector recently have posted needs for tax associates at the junior to mid level. Senior associates in tax are also sought by a few top-notch firms. Most firms appreciate (or require) an LL.M. in tax; international experience; big firm experience or time at a major accounting firm; a background in accounting, economics, or finance; and often, the California Bar.
We are in the middle of the fall lateral recruiting season and law firms are speaking to a number of candidates coming from the hot practice areas described above. There will be a brief lull from late November to early January and then, in 2008, the height of the recruitment season will take off with a roar. This is a great time to speak with a BCG recruiter about your professional goals. He or she can submit you to firms while there is still time for consideration this year or help you formulate a sophisticated plan to pursue the inevitable new opportunities that will present in January of 2008.
By Peter L. Smith, Esq., Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
San Francisco as Sanctuary: The Region's Diversity Buoys Fall-out from Questions in the Corporate Market.
Some pundits relate a perceptible slow-down in corporate hiring and the traditional fleshing out in the litigation ranks. As far as the validity of this observation in the Bay Area, I have to say it is more nascent than fully realized, but the following are telling:
1. Firms at all levels are still SEEKING corporate candidates. This is an important point. It belies the fact that the economy is still fundamentally strong, which is to say that there is as-yet-untapped demand for legal services. The drivers here? Globalization, and a relatively stable and functioning global financial and transport/trade infrastructures. As long as these fundamental stay in play-and they have and will in spite of (or as a result of, depending on your politics) the current "pax Americana" wars
2. Actual "trigger-pulling" has slowed perceptively in terms of corporate hires, however. While the process has continued unabated through the Summer and early Fall, I have noticed that some firms are slower on the draw than they otherwise have been in the past 24 months. The slow-down has been nearly perfectly contemporaneous with the credit debacle. Yet, after Citibank and other wrote off their 10-figure losses, the market rebounded and firms started hiring again.
3. Litigation needs have always been strong, if unremarkable, but there are rumblings about further needs. Standards for interview invitations have relaxed by a small, yet perceptible degree. It is not as bad as it was during early summer where Circuit Court of Appeals clerks could barely get a blink out of the top-tier firms.
4. The main-line "niche" practices are stronger, and ever more so. Labor & employment, real estate, estate planning, ERISA, energy, and even tax are growing. This is the result of the echo-effect of globalization. While the largest firms globally consolidate, those same firms, while unable to eschew the "all things to all people" paradigm, are unable to sustain the relatively depressed rates of these practices. Thus, they are fleeing rather precipitately to well-known boutiques. There are many, many opportunities here.
5. All IP-related practices are of course still untouched by any wobbles in the credit crunch. Even the still faint but perceptible visceral (and inaccurate) prognostications of world-wide recession cannot stop this juggernaut. Intellectual property is the "new" real property, folks. Gotta get some. Trouble is, they keep "making more." Oh yeah, I forgot, that's why it is the legal services side of the house that is so strong!
6. Population trends favor sustained growth in this market. I won't quote you the numbers, but suffice it to say that the Bay Area's population is continuing to grow unchecked. The need for legal talent continues to increase, and the pool of the 'right kind' of candidates continues to shrink as a percentage of the available pool of talent. Thus, these are, and will continue to be, salad days for attorneys. Even better for all of us are the continual seismic threats. That keeps away the merely idle on-lookers and attracts just that many fewer to flesh out the ranks.
Dull news year in a breathtaking environment:
Seattle continues to draw attorneys; however, attorneys are not drawn there because of the legal market. It must be the rain. In all seriousness, the Northwest in general and Seattle specifically has been in a chronic state of relatively flat growth for quite some time, with no indication of a reversal of fortunes. Thus, while strong candidates can find opportunities, they spend a long time searching. Many candidates come to this market because of the lifestyle in the region, educational opportunities for spouses, and the area's natural beauty. In short, supply outweighs demand. The successful candidates are those that start looking early. Nevertheless, firms continue a steady but low-volume approach to hiring. They are looking for the perfect candidates at the perfect moments. The market is simply not deep enough to allow for any other approach.
Demand for land use attorneys remains strong. Firms are in need of a constant flow of talent to service this niche practice. Furthermore, smaller markets outside the major metropolitan centers of Seattle and Portland may offer opportunities. Firms are aggressively marketing satellite offices devoted to land use in areas such as Bend, OR. Candidates willing to work outside the major markets may have great opportunities to get involved with a growing industry.
Litigation demand seems relatively consistent. Junior- to mid-level associates of a high caliber are finding firms willing to talk. However, be prepared to demonstrate a high level of interest in the particular firm to which you apply. The laid-back style, low levels of turnover, and shallow market mean firms take second and third looks at candidates.
Corporate associates are also getting traction. However, candidates must be prepared for firms to sift very carefully through resumes to find the exact mixes of skills they seek.
Overall, to be successful in this market, candidates need to take the time to articulate with as much specificity as possible what their experience levels are and where their interests and temperaments are leading them. Although this is a market where a top-20 law school education is no guarantee of employment, it is also a market where solid attorneys with the right mixes of skills can practice at the highest levels.
By Deborah Acker, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
At the risk of sounding like a repeating record (or repeating MP3 player), the Northwest continues to draw attorneys; however, attorneys are not drawn there because of the legal market. The Northwest has been in a chronic state of relatively flat growth for quite some time, with no indication of a reversal of fortunes. Thus, while strong candidates can find opportunities, they spend a long time searching. Many candidates come to this market because of the lifestyle in the region, educational opportunities for spouses, and the area's natural beauty. In short, supply outweighs demand. The successful candidates are those that start looking early. Nevertheless, firms continue a steady but low-volume approach to hiring. They are looking for the perfect candidates at the perfect moments.
New listings in Oregon continue at a sluggish pace, with most of the open positions clumping in a few specific practice areas. Given the size of the market, many of the newly-listed positions in Portland get snagged by the locals who have their ear to the ground. Unless you have incredibly strong credentials and a unique skill set that is sought after, coming into Oregon from out of state without admission to the Oregon Bar may be a challenge. The current listings include:
Demand for corporate positions has waned but a few open listings with major firms remain. Midlevel associates are sought and your experience must fit what these firms need. They can afford to be picky and will wait until they have a good match. Corporate work in Portland may also include a broader practice that includes a variety of "business" transactions in addition to the standard corporate tasks.
Firms are looking for a few IP patent prosecutors in both the life sciences and electrical/computer arts. The last quarter witnessed a slight increase in demand for patent prosecutors. You need to be registered with the USPTO. Rare openings also come up for IP litigators, IP transactional work, and trademark work. Senior attorneys that have broad skills in these areas are sought after if you have a reasonable book of business.
Litigation demand remains relatively consistent. Junior- to mid-level associates of a high caliber are in demand in a few litigation practice areas. Firms are seeking associates with experience in commercial, construction, business, products liability, personal and catastrophic injury, and labor and employment matters.
A few additional listings were added this quarter seeking midlevel to senior associates with transactional real estate or land use experience. We also noted an early hint that junior associates in real estate might be more sought after as well. Given the intensity of state statutory issues in this practice area, coming in from out of state can be a major challenge.
Don't rely on only the posted listings for Oregon. The Oregon/Portland legal job market is based upon relationships, not formalities. Your BCG recruiter knows the firms and can ask the hiring attorneys the right questions in uncovering opportunities for an attractive candidate. Hiring attorneys may be willing to speak to qualified job seekers who appear at the right time regardless of whether the firms have a formally published job listing.
Overall, candidates aiming at a position in Oregon need to be patient and persistent. You also need to be willing to accept a decreased salary scale compared to other major West Coast markets. If you know the practice area and potential firms that might be hiring, do your homework. Find out as much as possible about the specific experiences and the skill set required. Work to gain those bullet points on your resume in your current position. Team up with your recruiter to craft a cover letter that demonstrates your understanding of the region, the practice styles, and the salary scales. Successful candidates in the Oregon market need to show they are serious about their desires for a long term commitment to the location. If you are ready to approach your job transition with these things in mind, you may be eventually rewarded with a balanced lifestyle, a beautiful geographic setting, and a long-term position with colleagues you enjoy.
Fall of this year brings more transition in the legal market than we've seen in some time. The credit crunch has changed the landscape of law firm hiring, but the question remains, to what extent? The third quarter of 2007 brought with it some dramatic activity in the credit market, commonly attributed to the proliferation of sub-prime mortgages. With mortgage companies having written a larger spectrum of mortgages, the population of home buyers expanded—which in turn inflated real estate values. Because the sub-prime mortgages were often written with 'teaser' interest rates for the beginning of the loan, many homeowners face default or foreclosure once these teaser rates increase, and they are facing mortgage payments far out of line with what they can afford to pay. Recently, the credit market has stopped writing many sub-prime mortgages, and it is just generally becoming more difficult to borrow money. Many domestic regions are facing record numbers of foreclosure and declining real estate values.
How does this affect the law firm market? In the world of the large corporate oriented firm, the most directly hit are those firms with real estate finance practices; specifically those who handle real estate mortgage securitization work. One of the financial products in the real estate finance world is the bundling of residential mortgage loan and selling them on the market. Law firms may represent issuers, underwriters, or other players in the life cycle of the transaction. Since the credit crunch, however, the value of these products has plummeted, and the market for these products has dwindled.
Thus, there is at least some uncertainty in the real estate finance market. I don't believe that anyone can accurately predict how the economy will react long term to the credit crunch. On the one hand, there are those predicting that the feds will keep the interest rates low to encourage investment and stabilize the real estate market. Others predict that the increase in foreclosures is but the first domino in a series of market indicators on the way to a recession.
We are now knee deep in layoffs rumors, as well. While we haven't heard any convincing evidence of economically driven associate layoffs, there have been a handful of firms that have had staff layoffs or partner de-equitization. I can't say that I'm at all surprised by this, and I think that associates in particular need to understand that when salaries are significantly increased (as they were earlier this year), that the significantly greater expense in salaries will require some downward adjustment on spending or upward adjustment in revenue. Sure, that may mean more pressure to bill more hours. But it also means that law firm managers take a much closer look at productivity. The results aren't always pretty.
In any event, though, the combination of salaries going up and the recent credit crunch does cast a shadow over the lateral market in general. What long term effect will happen, the short term market is still quite vibrant, although there has been a shift in what practice areas are the most in demand.
The best news is for the litigators, a fairly dormant practice area that is starting to pick up some speed. Conventional wisdom dictates that litigators thrive in a wavering economy, and we've certainly seen an up-tick in the hiring of excellent litigation candidates. White collar and securities litigation specialties seem to be the most attractive right now.
As it concerns the quasi-litigation practices, we haven't seen too much change in demand in either direction. Interestingly, the bankruptcy market is still trying to figure out whether to hire aggressively or lay dormant. It seems that until there is more certainly with respect to whether the economic indicators are going to point up or down, many firms are not focusing on their bankruptcy staffing needs. Employment litigation needs are consistent, and antitrust litigation is also fairly static. (We have seen a slight increase in demand for antitrust lawyers who handle the regulatory aspects of M&A).
For New York, even a faltering market is still an active one of corporate and finance. Many of the corporate practices we work with are still asking for mergers and acquisitions and securities lawyers. There is a great gap at many of these firms for talented fourth and fifth years, which may create some interesting partnership opportunities for the right associate. Investment management and hedge fund practices still actively seek associates, especially at the mid-to-senior level. Among the finance practices, project finance seems to be one of the most interesting. For obvious (and previously stated) reasons, the real estate finance market has really leveled off. We continue to see a healthy need for derivatives and high yield debt and equity practices of every variety thrive.
One of the most active practice areas in terms of lateral hiring of late has been in the tax arena. Certainly, the corporate tax lawyers are necessary for law firms, whether they emphasize M&A, financial products, or hedge funds. International backgrounds are being very specially sought by corporate firms, and we've found that there are a great many opportunities for tax lawyers moving within or to the New York market. ERISA backgrounds continue to be highly marketable. Trusts & estates remains a stable hiring market.
The patent litigation area is not as active this Fall as it had been all year, but we anticipate a great deal of activity starting early next year. We are seeing a return to patent lawyers with strong and specific scientific or technical backgrounds. Intellectual property transactional associates who have licensing and outsourcing backgrounds are strongly in demand, and we anticipate that firms will seek out greater levels of specialization even within this field. There has been a slight increase in the demand for trademark lawyers.
Although time will tell for the hiring market as a whole, the economic conditions as we approach the end of 2007 have really only affected one discrete practice group substantially. There may be some additional chilling effect from the salary hikes and continued trouble in the credit market, but that is still conjecture in what remains an overall vibrant hiring platform.
By Carey Bertolet, Esq., Founding Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
More than the other regions in the Northeast, New Jersey continues to be dominated by corporate opportunities for associates. Although the corporate groups tend to be less specialized, there are still fairly sophisticated practices looking for associates. A corporate generalist with a broad corporate, mergers & acquisitions and securities background will likely do the best, although finance, private equity and venture capital groups continue to actively seek out new talent. Despite the market crunch, we have certain had our clients seeking corporate lawyers.
Although we usually do not see litigation and corporate markets active at the same time, that is exactly what is currently happening in the New Jersey market. We have very recently gotten urgent searches for litigators in the New Jersey market, both in the Princeton area and through Northern New Jersey. Although not as strong, we also continue to see demand for employment litigation and products liability litigation.
One of the areas in which the New Jersey market excels is the representation of life sciences clients and health care providers. Thus, a background and interest in health care (regulatory, transactional and litigation) are marketable in New Jersey. Moreover, intellectual property practices that service the life sciences area do very well in New Jersey, from patent prosecution on the pharmaceutical side to ANDA litigation to transactions on behalf of and involving life sciences clients.
We have not seen the demand for ERISA, but the other tax related practices have a steady demand, both corporate transactional tax as well as trusts & estates.
Some of the larger New Jersey firms have also responded to market pressures to increase salaries, and as such, offer some attractive opportunities for relocation to this stable market.
By Carey Bertolet, Esq., Founding Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
Intellectual property is by far the most sought after expertise in the Connecticut market. From patent prosecution to litigation to intellectual property transactional work, there are great positions to be had for the science or technology minded. Some of our intellectual property litigation listings, for example, are with extremely family friendly firms that provide a nice middle ground for the intellectual property lawyer who is looking for the sophistication of a litigation practice without the every weekend at work trapping that sometimes come with that in larger markets.
What is interesting right now about the Connecticut market, whether it's Stamford, New Haven, or Hartford, is that virtually every practice area has some level of activity. Other than the intellectual property market, we don't see one practice area dominating the market. Therefore, it's a really viable market for law firm associates almost without respect to practice area. From traditional corporate to hedge fund work to litigation to ERISA, we are seeing an unusually good amount of activity across the board.
By Carey Bertolet, Esq., Founding Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search
The Philadelphia market has seen a lot of changes this year, not the least of which was an increased in salary for many of the associates at big firms. As with all of the other markets, these increases in salaries may have some effect on associate life, which may become more evident year end. So, associates may see more critical reviews, and it will be interesting to see how hours-dependent the bonuses will be.
In terms of practice, we've seen the intellectual property market thrive in Philadelphia. Although the associate needs tend more towards prosecution than patent litigation, but there are good opportunities across the intellectual property spectrum. While all areas of specialty are in demand, a background in life sciences is particularly desirable. The only area that we haven't seen significant demand is the IP transactional area.
That is somewhat surprising, as many of Philadelphia's top firms have really upped the ante in terms of the sophistication of their corporate transactional practices. The corporate generalist just doesn't cut it in Philadelphia anymore, as firms are looking for specialties from securities to investment management to mergers & acquisitions. Although they are typically more middle-market deals, the Philadelphia market is beginning looking more and more like a microcosm of the New York corporate market. This should come as good news to any associate looking to transfer into Philadelphia from a big city market or who intends to make Philadelphia a permanent home.
In addition to corporate and intellectual property, we see tax as the next best practice area in terms of marketability in the Philadelphia market. Certainly, those tax practices that support the increasingly sophisticated corporate market will do extremely well. We also see a great deal of opportunity in the ERISA (both planning and deal support) and the trusts and estates areas. Outside of tax, we would note that there are interesting opportunities in employment litigation, litigation, and environmental law.
By Stephen Seckler, Managing Director, Boston Office, BCG Attorney Search
The arrival of Cooley Godward in Boston has created a reunion for some of the alumni of Testa Hurwitz & Thibeault (1973-2005). Partners from the Boston offices of McDermott, Will & Emery, Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, Sullivan & Worcester and Goulston & Storrs have reunited to form a branch office of this technology powerhouse. Once again, the wheels of change are in motion in Boston.
At the same time, most of the major firms report that they continue to be busy with corporate deals though deal flow is not quite as robust as it was during the first half of the year. But most firms report that there will continue to be a demand for junior to mid-level corporate laterals. Real estate departments are not quite as busy, though there remains some demand for mid-level real estate associates. IP remains strong.
Starting salaries at just about every major firm are now at , gasp, $160K and senior associates at many of the largest firms may see pay checks that are well into the 200's.
Overall, lateral hiring continues to be strong in Boston in corporate, real estate and IP (patent prosecution, particularly for EE candidates.) Attorneys with LBO experience or fund formation experience will find many opportunities available at single office Boston based firms, multi-office Boston based firms and branch offices of national firms. Associates with sophisticated M&A experience and securities experience will also find opportunities at larger firms and at branch offices. Venture capital deals are also happening with greater frequency which is again, fueling a heavy demand for corporate associates with deal experience.
Associates with experience in investment management (40 Act, etc.) also continue to be in demand, particularly at some of the branch offices of national firms.
Litigation departments report that they are busy with commercial litigation of all types. But lateral hiring in litigation remains soft. Litigation associates with stellar credentials are in the best position to move into the Boston market.
Many firms are still looking for patent attorneys with top credentials. Lawyers with a background in electrical engineering are particularly in demand; but there are also opportunities for lawyers with backgrounds in the life sciences (particularly associates who have Ph.D. credentials) and in chemistry. Software and biotechnology continue to play an important role in the Massachusetts economy and this is generating significant work for IP boutiques as well as general practice firms that have expanded into patent work.
Firms with good real estate practices are finding it very difficult to hire mid-level real estate associates who have strong finance experience. While the overall number of opportunities for real estate associates is smaller than the opportunities in corporate, this is a good time to be looking if you have 3 to 5 years of experience in real estate finance.
Partners in search of a better platform are finding the marketplace to be very receptive. Corporate partners with over $750,000 in portable billings are in particular demand; but there are many opportunities for partners in other practice areas and some willingness to speak with partners with smaller practices (i.e. where there is good evidence of marketing potential.) This is particularly true at branch offices of national firms that are trying to grow or expand into the Boston market. We have been asked by a number of regional firms to identify partners with 400-600K in originations.
Hiring in the bankruptcy, tax and environmental practice areas remains weak in Boston; though firms looking for high caliber tax associates are finding these candidates very difficult to find.
The Mid-Atlantic Region
By Dan Binstock, Esq., Managing Director of BCG Attorney Search's
Washington, D.C. office
(202) 955-5585 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The big news in Washington, D.C. over the past year has been the rise in salaries to the $160,000 scale by a number of Washington, D.C.-based firms. Right after some D.C. firms matched the $160,000, there were immediately mixed responses. Of course, most of the associates were thrilled with these increases, while the partners felt they have no choice but to begrudgingly follow suit so as not to be outdone by competitors.
Now, the D.C. law firm market is somewhat schizophrenic, as observed the Legal Time's Nate Carlile in his October 29, 2007 article, "Hot Hiring, Softer Market." While most firms are hiring lateral attorneys at a high pace and are absorbing the costs of the increased salaries, there is a growing undercurrent about a potential slowdown in legal work. Indeed, this has already hit certain practices that focus on certain aspects of mortgages and the credit market.
So what does this mean in the near future? Given the talk of a potential slowdown, I believe some law firms will feel more comfortable making bonuses lower than anticipated. Some D.C. firms-particularly those who are stretched thin by the new pay scale—will view their salary raises as a "partial front-end bonus" (but they will never admit that) and will likewise feel more justified in paying lower bonuses to help bolster their profits-per-partner figures. For all my friends in law firms, I hope I'm wrong, but it shall be interesting to see what happens….
In addition to money issues, the one additional unique and noteworthy observation in the D.C. market has been the surprising slowdown in litigation (this is discussed below as well). Litigation is usually slower during the fall season, but this year the litigation market has been slower than years past. If you are a litigator looking to move, be patient. There are still numerous positions, but the competition for these positions is even tougher. Because candidates are getting more scrutinized, don't skimp on your writing sample (for some tips, see http://www.bcgsearch.com/newsletter/2005_winter/profile5.html).
In terms of partner movement and practice group movement, it is still at a very frenetic pace. I am also noticing more partners and practice groups interested in moving because the rising billing rates at their existing firms are making it difficult to compete for mid-market clients.
Now let's move on to the practice area report.
Below is an overview of the current Washington, D.C. region legal market, arranged by practice areas in alphabetical order.
As you will see below, we have used the terms Hot, Warm, and Cool to indicate the hiring demand in the area. However, understand that hiring demand alone can be somewhat misleading, since there may be a high demand but also a very large pool of very qualified candidates, which in turn lowers your odds of being able to land a position. Thus, we have also used the terms Large, Medium, and Small to indicate the size of the qualified candidate pool, which gives you an idea of the level of competition for these positions. Therefore, if you are thinking of making a lateral move and the hiring demand is hot in your area but the candidate pool is small, the odds are in your favor.
If you have any questions about your prospects in any of these practice areas, please feel free to contact us directly at 202-955-5585 for a confidential market assessment based on your background.
Hiring Demand: HOT
Candidate Pool Size: MEDIUM
This area remains hot for both litigation and merger-related investigations and counseling. There are a few firms that are looking to recruit solely antitrust litigators, but a larger number of firms are looking for lateral candidates who have experience in both antitrust litigation and merger-related investigations and counseling. For attorneys focusing on merger-related matters, it is no surprise that the current administration at the DOJ is more conservative about blocking mergers.
While there is a high overall demand for strong antitrust candidates, those with experience in HSR (Hart Scott Rodino) filings (and who don't mind working on them) will be in high demand. Right now we are working on several particularly attractive antitrust searches (both litigation and merger-related work) for "jewel" practices. A "jewel" practice is one that is not yet on the tips of everyone's tongues, but is growing quickly and has great attorneys to work with (and is therefore able to attract other solid attorneys). If you want to know about some of these, please give us a call.
Hiring Demand: WARM
Candidate Pool: SMALL
This continues to be a slow area, but there are some substantial indicators showing that bankruptcy will increase.
Hiring Demand: COOL TO WARM
Candidate Pool: SMALL
Even though there are very few active opportunities in this area, if you have relevant experience (such as a background in the construction industry or an architecture degree) and relatively good credentials, you could be quite marketable in D.C. or Northern Virginia.
Hiring Demand: "LESS HOT BUT NOT QUITE WARM"
Candidate Pool: SMALL
Corporate and finance are little "less hot", but there is still strong activity in this area (with the exception of mortgage-backed securitization and lending practices). Again, due to the fact that the corporate market tanked from 2002 to 2004, there is still a shortage of strong mid-level corporate associates, and not too many junior associates as well. The most interesting upswing over the past year has been in the area of project finance, where several of our clients are still desperately searching for junior to mid-level associates (including those with general transactional experience). If you have foreign language skills (especially Spanish), this is even better.
Hiring Demand: HOT
Candidate Pool: SMALL
As always, ERISA and employee benefits are a highly specialized and in-demand area right now with a number of firms seeking associates. If you have relevant experience and good credentials, you will have several very good firms to choose from and little competition from other interviewers.
Hiring Demand: WARM
Candidate Pool: MEDIUM
While the employment/labor market in general has seemed to slow down at large firms, we have still received several very good searches (at strong general practice firms) over the past 6 months. Some of these searches are to replace departing associates, but some are the result of increases in work. Thus, we have upgraded the hiring demand from "cool" to "warm."
Hiring Demand: HOT
Candidate Pool: SMALL
If you have experience (regulatory or litigation), there are still numerous firms looking to hire junior to mid-level associates, particularly those with FERC experience. Also, several firms have expressed that they are open to considering attorneys with corporate or litigation backgrounds who are interested in transitioning into this area. Candidates with prior work experience in