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Summary: What time of year do law firms pay the most attention to their lateral hiring needs? Find out in this article.
Question: I plan to lateral to another firm this year. What is the best time of year in which to conduct my job search?
Answer: In my experience, firms are looking year-round for lateral needs, due to fluctuations in the amount of work firms will experience throughout the year. Further, departures from firms happen regularly and those vacancies will need to be filled. This means there are associate needs year-round. Depending on your practice area, there are often multiple needs in a strong market at any given time.
However, there is ONE time of year when firms pay the most attention to their lateral needs. That generally happens from December to March. Firms wrap up their OCI recruiting efforts in the fall and redirect their efforts toward lateral recruiting at this time, often with a new budget that becomes available around December or January, depending on a firm's fiscal calendar. Firms have the bandwidth to concentrate on hiring experienced associates and will usually call out a slew of needs to recruiters during this season.
Another reason why lateral hiring is heavy during the first quarter of the year is due to the timing of associate bonuses. Many associate bonuses are paid out from December through February. Most associates will not leave a bonus behind and thus, will not give notice until their bonus has come in. Associate departures are heaviest during this period of the year, and consequently the firms will have significant needs to fill.
Should you wait until this time to conduct your job search? I usually advise my candidates to go ahead and dip their toes in the market to see what opportunities are available at present, but prepare to be aggressive starting around October or November.
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