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5 Lateral Hiring Trends in the Legal Profession
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Summary: Harrison Barnes of leading legal placement firm, BCG Attorney Search, shares some insights into the lateral hiring market. 

Whether it’s job dissatisfaction or wanting to relocate, there are many reasons why attorneys seek to move laterally. However, that want may or may not come into fruition depending on the market. The founder of legal placement agency BCG Attorney Search, Harrison Barnes, has helped thousands of attorneys find lateral positions; and from this unique experience, he has some insights into current lateral hiring trends.


Transaction attorneys have a better shot of moving laterally than litigators.

Barnes has noticed that the problem that litigators have is that there are more of them than what the market needs. More attorneys choose to become litigators instead of transaction lawyers, and this results in the bar for litigators to move laterally to be set incredibly high. In contrast, firms have higher demand for transaction attorneys, and thus they have a better chance of switching law firms.

“Transactional practice areas like corporate, real estate and patent prosecution often require a different set of skills and there are fewer people who can do the work, making the few who learn these skills more in demand,” Barnes said. “Firms may have a very difficult time finding attorneys with transactional experience.”

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Law firms continue to use legal placement professionals to find lateral hires.

While law firms do accept resumes directly from attorneys, it is a more common and effective practice for a lawyer who wants to move laterally to work with a legal placement professional (LPP). A LPP is similar to a headhunter except the LPP is a career advisor and not a salesperson looking to make a quick hire.

BCG Attorney Search is one of the leading names in the field, and its roster of LPPS have their eyes and ears to the ground when it comes to the legal market. Since BCG has such an esteemed reputation in the industry, they conduct an initial interview before taking on a new client to determine whether or not the lateral move is right for them.

“If appropriate, we will conclude that it makes sense for a candidate to investigate the market,” Barnes said. “In many cases, we will recommend that a candidate spend more time at his or her current firm to get more experience, or not move at all. Because we are LPPs and not legal recruiters, we recommend attorneys stay right where they are several times in a typical day.”

Attorneys who specialize in real estate have several options when it comes to lateral movement.

In 2015, 12.35% of BCG’s job placements were in the real estate area, and Barnes said that this streak is not likely to end.

“I was able to place numerous real estate attorneys with average qualifications in major American law firms,” Barnes aid. “I was able to place attorneys who wanted to relocate to other areas of the country, attorneys with no business who were relocating and had 40+ years of experience, attorneys from small law firms into large law firms, attorneys who were unemployed and more. In fact, the market for real estate attorneys was so strong that virtually every attorney I worked with was able to get one or more offers.”

Silicon Valley is the place to be for corporate lateral hires.

Areas such as Georgia, North Caroline, South Carolina and Florida had a strong hiring record for corporate attorneys moving laterally in 2015, and the east coast was also active. However, the strongest geographic location for lateral corporate attorney hires was in none other than Silicon Valley.

“The most active market for corporate attorneys was the perennial area famous for booms—Silicon Valley. Well-credentialed attorneys throughout the country with solid corporate experience could generally get multiple jobs there in 2015,” Barnes said.

The Midwest, especially in Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, saw a large need for corporate attorneys moving laterally.

Telecommunications lawyers rarely move laterally.

In 2015, BCG only placed less than 1% of its hires in the areas of telecommunications, white collar crime, and antitrust. Barnes noted that the hiring of telecommunications and antitrust lawyers would remain flat, but that the hiring of white collar crime attorneys should pick up in the future.

For more information about BCG Attorney search, check out their website.



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