Gary Weiss covers the appointment of Partners, Associates and Counsels within international and boutique law firms across North America and abroad. Gary Weiss is based in New York City and is part of the specialist international legal recruitment consultancy, Laurence Simons.
While everyone associated with the legal profession is aware of the devastation which occurred following the financial crisis of 2008, they may not be aware that there were some law firms that saw the new landscape as an opportunity for growth. As a result of the massive cuts and layoffs which were attendant to the larger law firms, boutiques and mid sized firms now had the chance to add great talent.
During the time that all of the major international law firms were downsizing in early 2009, the stagnant job market was being flooded with the highest calibre of attorney candidates, lawyers who attended the top law schools and were well trained by some of the greatest legal minds in the country and in some instances, the world.
However, only the shrewdest, best informed and most financially sustainable partners and owners of mid sized and smaller firms were able to take advantage of the trickle down effect which was occurring then. Many of the best and the brightest who had graduated at or near the top of their class were suddenly breaking down the doors to their law firms for jobs. Not only did these partners find top talent suddenly available for the picking, they also found that talent was willing to work for a salary which was far less than the lockstep salary that associates had previously become accustomed to earning in larger firms.
As the legal job market has been improving incrementally over the past few years, international law firms have slowly begun to hire again, although at a much less frantic pace than before. However, the mind set of the associates who had worked at those firms changed substantially.
In short, associates who had previously bought into the Horatio Algier work ethic of the legal world; got into the best law schools, worked hard, took on massive debt with student loans, for the opportunity to work for a Top 100 law firm and move up the ladder to partnership; learned to look beyond the very top of the AmLaw 100. With fewer opportunities available, the large law firms where associates had previously billed countless hours prior to the downturn became less attractive. Many associates began to question the logic of billing 3,000 hours+ per year if it was going to result in them being laid off and in effect, scurrying to find a new job or in some cases, a new career.
As a recruiter, I cannot begin to tell you how many intelligent, well educated and accomplished attorneys came to my door begging for me to find them any type of legal job at any salary. Some of these attorneys were able to find satisfying work, but the majority of them did not and in some instances, some of these brilliant people were forced to find new careers.
I would represent to you that it was not only attorneys that changed their strategy following 2008, as recruiters were also forced to move outside the paradigm of working only with larger law firms. As a result, I began to enhance and grow relationships with many middle market and boutique law firms in the New York Metropolitan area, some of whom I had never worked with before. In some instances, I had never heard of these firms. However, once I was able to educate myself as to the culture and practices of these firms, as well as meet some of the Partners and decision makers on a personal level, I developed many relationships which I would hope and expect to continue over the next decade....
.....to be continued....