Tuesday, December 2, 2008

small and mid sized firms

People sometimes ask HP if it is possible to make the move to BigLaw from a small or mid sized firm.  The answer is yes.  As prospects at BigLaw for entering and lateral associates shrink (my recruiter friends tell me hiring is pretty flat and very slow), many of you will need to expand your base of possible employers, as we have discussed.  In the boom days, with good grades, a good law school, and a decent personality, BigLaw is in sight.  However, these are different days and require some further thinking, creativity, and go-getting if you haven't landed through BigLaw recruiting channels -- and I don't believe BigLaw is for everyone anyway.  HP is just saying that the fall on campus recruiting process is a relatively pain fee process of finding a solid job.  It is more difficult to branch out.  But, that is what many will need to do, especially first years.

So, you ask, can I go from a smaller firm to Big Law eventually (assuming that is a goal)?  Yes, you can.  But how?  Well, wherever you are, you want to do great work and build your reputation.  Get involved in bar activities (you can often get involved even as a law student).  Reach out to potential mentors.  Offer to assist with committee work such as newsletters or meeting preparation.  Yes, it is grunt work and takes up time you could be doing other things, but it is a great long term investment.  Get your name out in the community.  Work in an area you love (ok, at least like).  Try to develop sub-specialties in growing areas. When recruiters call you, be polite -- call them back and establish a relationship.  If they don't call, ask friends for recommendations and reach out.  

Where does Big Law come in?  Well, a couple (few?) years down the road, slots will open when associates depart through the normal course or an area picks up and the firm needs additional bodies.  Firms will reach out further to fill these slots.  I have recommended several candidates we interviewed from smaller firms because of the experience in a certain specialty area where we needed help.  

Familiar tune here?  HP hopes I don't sound like a broken record when HP says that you need to push forward even harder during more difficult times to build your reputation, network, and seek opportunities.   

More on connecting with the small and mid sized in a later post.  


Anonymous said...

Very true. I went from a mid-sized firm out of law school to a small firm (branch off from first firm) and I am now at a big law firm. And I know I am not the only one around here who has done it. It happens once you have built up a specialty in a certain area. I never thought I would have been working here when I graduated from law school.

Anonymous said...

I have a somewhat related question. I am a 2006 grad and work as a staff attorney/career associate/non-partner track attorney/etc. at a large firm. While I do get some grunt work, I am lucky enough to get a fair amount of substantive work. Am I hurting my prospects for associate positions by staying in a non-partner track job? The money is good, and frankly, it was the only offer I had, but I worry that I may become pigeon holed.

legalese_retard said...

A recruiter told me that if recent grads don't after 9 months from when they graduated, most law firms deem them "unemployable." He told me that this is the reason why everyone cares about the 9-month graduation rate, since this determines how well a law school does employment wise. He also said that most people who can't get hired after 9 months are pretty much relegated to temp work and might get hired at firms who become desperate for a new attorney. Is there any truth to this? I graduated in the top third of my class from a top tier school and didn't get an offer from my summer firm due to the economy. Is there any truth to this recruiter's theory?

f-3 said...

HP - if a person is comfortable in a small / mid-sized firm, progressing nicely, gaining expertise, building a good reputation and network in that field of law, etc., what would you say are the arguments for switching over to BigLaw after a few years (and assuming we're not considering money as a factor at all)?

After a while, when you have attained a certain level of credibility among industry peers, is the BigLaw name going to make a huge difference one way or another?