Providing Insight and Strategic Advice about Legal Recruiting
Rifkin Consulting is excited to announce enhancements in their branding and marketing efforts, culminating in the launch of a new website and greater social media engagement! We look forward to connecting with all of our clients and candidates in the months ahead.
As an attorney recruiter, my day always consists of sorting through resumes to discern those that meet my firm clients’ hiring criteria. Several factors come into play – particularly choice of law school, class rank and experience.
This morning I read a fascinating article about how law schools are coping with reduced enrollments. Whereas previously students often graduated with huge loans, typically in the $120K-$200K range, many law schools now are making enormous concessions in order to keep enrollments rising and pre-admitted students committed to attending.
The National Law Journal posted the article, written by Karen Sloan, entitled “It's A Buyers' Market at Law School,” offering examples of these concessions. For example, students who are suffering from the challenging economy sometimes want to defer attendance for one year. Previously, when law school classes were jammed, the schools might have asked for a deferral. Today various laws schools of all tiers are finding that it’s not business as usual.
“Law schools experienced a 25 percent decline in applicants nationwide during the past two years, due in part to the tight job market for new lawyers and a more widespread understanding of the high costs of attending. Many have responded by accepting a larger percentage of applicants and sweetening their scholarship packages, in hopes of locking in prospective students… With law classes undersubscribed and applicant commitments coming later in the game, scholarship money has come into play more than ever before.”
The competition is fierce. When a student tried to withdraw from one law school to attend University of Michigan Law School [ranked No. 10 by U.S. News & World Report], the first school sweetened the pot. “We'll double your scholarship or give you a free ride.” Reports Sarah Zearfoss, Assistant Dean for Admissions, University of Michigan Law School.
Additionally, lower-performing students are being enticed with scholarships and/or access to higher ranking schools than were ever possible for them to consider before.
"They don't shine as much and they're getting 50-, 75-, and 100 percent scholarships," Uradnik said. "It's essentially a free-for-all. It's almost like selling yourself to the highest bidder. Everybody is competing." Kathy Uradnik, a political science professor and prelaw adviser at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota
It wasn’t too long ago that many people seemed to think that there were too many lawyers graduating each year. The tables have turned, but it is unlikely that this trend will last long. Law Schools require huge endowments to stay in business. Certainly, it appears this is a golden opportunity for aspiring attorneys to obtain a law degree at an accredited school without breaking the bank.
You’ve made good grades in college, scored high marks on the LSATs, gotten your JD from a top tier law school, and landed a job at the law firm of Big, Bigger & Best. Congratulations!
Two or three years later - after billing more hours than you knew there were in a year –and putting up with a nail chewing partner who seems intent on making your life a living hell - you’re staring glassy-eyed out the window wondering how to get off this merry-go-round.
You think about some of the attorneys who work as corporate counsel to the firm’s clients. It seems like those guys are always taking vacations and leaving early and playing golf – they’re actually enjoying their lives. If only you could get an in-house job and tell Big, Bigger & Best to shove it...
Do you ever feel that way? It’s probably crossed your mind. However, have you really given serious thought to what the differences really are between a corporate counsel position and an associate or partner at a law firm?
Consider these “pros” for an in-house position –
Work less hours – it’s no secret that in-house jobs don’t on average require the time commitment of a law firm.
There is only one client to report to.
No billable hour requirement.
Opportunity to be an integral part of the organization’s internal strategizing.
Integral part of transaction(s) as they take place – from start to finish.
Have a better and more intimate understanding of client’s operations.
Part of the organization’s team rather than a “hired gun.”
Sounds pretty promising, right? But these must be balanced against the following “cons” –
Lower salary – in addition, raises are discretionary and bonuses are usually lower than at law firms.
Fewer in-house opportunities - organizations realize this and it directly influences all the economic factors.
Lack of work diversity – working for one client, doing the same type of work – can lead to dissatisfaction.
As in-house counsel, you’re no longer a “profit center”, you’re viewed as a “cost center.”
Until recently, law firms could boast of greater job security. While the economic upheaval has called this into question, overall, due to having many clients as opposed to a single client, law firms may still offer greater job security.
Less autonomy in-house – making schedules, engaging in marketing and client/business developing, incurring expenses, etc. - than in a law firm.
Career track is not as obvious or as much in the attorney’s control, i.e., opportunities for advancement in-house vs. knowing law firm partnership track and requirements to meet.
There are far more partners at law firm than there are ACG or GC.
These days some corporations are using their in-house counsel as if they were outside counsel – you’ll be doing the same work as outside counsel, for less money and the same hours and requirements as if you were in private practice.
An In house counsel position may in your future, but it’s important to realize that the more experience an attorney has before they make the switch from a law firm, the better their career chances are going to be. The sweet spot is the 5-7th year experience mark, or more – depending on your career goals. If you attempt to jump in the pool too early – even if you do land a job, you may find you’re still a junior attorney long after you get your first gray hair.
Think about it!
By Dan Witt
Sr. Recruiter, Rifkin Consulting
So you're back from vacation... work doesn't seem challenging anymore, you actually want more hands-on experience (imagine that?!?) and you've decided to explore employment opportunities. There's a good chance that you haven't interviewed in awhile, and the thought of facing down several unfamiliar attorneys can be daunting!
Our candidates frequently ask us to work with them not only on basic interviewing skills, but also how to communicate their skill set and strengths to gain a competitive advantage. One way to alleviate some of the tension you might feel and prepare to answer questions is to narrow the list of what you should absolutely make sure to say in an interview. By doing so, it’s easy to fall back on just a few tried and true points, which you can enhance with your individual experience.
DEMONSTRATE FAMILIARITY WITH THE EMPLOYER; Tell the interviewer that you are familiar with this particular practice and the firm in general. Legitimize your interest by researching the firm and know a few tidbits of special information (such as a newly-won court case) and the attorneys with whom you’ll be involved. Segue from what you’ve read about the firm (culture, practice, pro bono work, etc) to explain how your particular background and experience make you a strong fit for this position.
TELL THEM YOU ARE HIGHLY MOTIVATED, DEPENDABLE AND ADAPTABLE; Give examples of your productivity. Quantify where possible. You might offer examples such as how many depositions you’ve taken or motions you’ve won. Adaptability can be demonstrated by showing an understanding that work environments change, and how you’ve adapted previously to situations to meet an employer’s needs.
TELL THE INTERVIEWER THAT YOU ARE RESOURCEFUL: share a professional challenge that you’ve overcome and how you accomplished it. Be prepared with one or two additional examples. Make sure to weave in examples of collaboration (“team player is overused!), such as your organizational or managerial skills and successful speaking engagements. Add that you’d also like to be a valuable resource for others.
DEMONSTRATE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE AND ENERGY: Doing so will help you to project a healthy confidence, as well as encourage others to want to be around you.
ASK QUESTIONS: At least two of these questions should likely focus on the firm, job or a request for clarification (perhaps about the attorneys with whom you will work, or something you learned during the interview). Additionally, ask the interviewer if there are any other questions they have – or information that they need – to help them determine whether your background and experience make you a fit for this position. Their response will provide you with a sense of how they view your chances to obtain this position. Finally, don’t hesitate to ask when you can expect to hear back from them. Don’t neglect this opportunity to gain valuable insight not only about their initial impression, but it also helps you to avoid speculation about a callback.
By Diane Rifkin, Esq.
I am a big fan of Tom Wallerstein’s articles – they are concise, well-written and address the realities of owning a small business.
The latest article discusses when it’s appropriate to turn down business…not an easy thing to do!
The decision to say “no” to business rests on several factors.
Your firm’s bandwidth to handle a particular matter competently
Expertise: it might be better to refer a matter out to a firm with a particular expertise
Saying “no” to clients who have unrealistic expectations
Clients who do not respect reasonable boundaries
Clients who want you to act unethically – or – engage in borderline behaviors
Legal conflicts of interest
Opportunity cost; would working on this matter come at the expense of working on a more profitable and compelling matter?
Your time is valuable and one must be discerning when it comes to business development. Tom wisely concludes that “When you’re selling your time, you have to care who your clients are. Even if a client is willing and able to pay, sometimes you should let her pass by without a look behind. Sometimes, you should just say no.”
Read Tom’s article at http://abovethelaw.com/2012/04/from-biglaw-to-boutique-just-say-no/
By Diane Rifkin, Esq.
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