From the monthly archives:

April 2012

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Myth Versus Reality for In-House Jobs

by A. Harrison Barnes on April 24, 2012

Looking for the perfect in house position? Our database contains every in house legal department in the United States. Get the in-house position you want now! We can cover a city, or the entire nation. Our job at Legalauthority is to ensure that we put your name in front of every company that may need an attorney like you. As everyone knows, getting an in-house position can be one of the hardest things for any attorney to do. Until now, most job seeker relied principally on job search boards, the occasional recruiter job and the hope that they have a contact—somewhere—that has the perfect in house position.

In house positions can mean the lack of a billable hour, stock options and even the possibility of a management position within an important corporation. Many in-house attorneys earn far more per year than their counterparts in major American law firms. If you are interested in an in-house position, we can be the force that helps you get there.

LEGAL MYTH:
There are no in-house positions out there.

LEGALAUTHORITY:
There are thousands and thousands of in house legal departments throughout the United States. These companies are hiring attorneys on an ongoing basis. The fact of the matter is, however, these positions are very difficult to locate and finding them often requires that you simply randomly contact a given company and apprise them of your interest. This is where we come in.

LEGAL MYTH:
A recruiter is the best way to find an in house position.

LEGALAUTHORITY:
Probably less than 5% of all in-house positions are filled through recruiters. In addition, in some cities there may be over 200 recruiting firms. If you are looking for an in-house position in the traditional way you are going to lose your mind tracking down all the recruiters out there. Additionally, many recruiters demand “exclusivity” from their in-house clients meaning that the in-house client is prohibited from advertising the given position. This means that the recruiter is only going to show their in-house client the candidates it wants to have an opportunity to work in the firm. This may be great; however, it is going to make it a lot more difficult for you to get the position you are seeking.

LEGALMYTH:
In house jobs are best gotten through friends.

LEGALAUTHORITY:
In some cases this is true; however, it is true because in-house legal departments rarely have any idea of how to do recruiting. Many in-house legal departments have scarcely an idea of how to promote their legal positions. Remember, you are dealing with corporations—not law firms—and contacting these companies directly is often the only way to get in there.

Confidentiality is a serious concern for any job seeker. That’s why we will provide you with the actual letters, for your signature, for you send out your materials to. Accordingly, you will never be contacting a company you do not want to contact—or worse—one of your own clients. This is the way it should be. We will provide you with the contacts and you can run your job search with the letters, resumes and so forth we prepare on your behalf.

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How to Survive an Unplanned Relocation to Join a Future Spouse

by writer on April 17, 2012

By: Deborah Acker

Many junior attorneys work incredibly hard for four years to get top grades at first-tier law schools, work on law reviews, and get offers from prestigious firms. Then, they face unplanned speed bumps in their careers when their fiancés feel it is time to live in the same city, get serious about their commitment, marry, and settle down. Legal recruiters receive many questions in relation to different versions of this scenario. The following is what I tell attorneys in this position. (Many of these thoughts may apply to same-sex couples as well, where one partner is relocating to meet the needs of the relationship.) You are not alone. This scenario is one of the more common stories that cross my desk. Fortunately, there is some empathy for this situation among hiring partners and recruiting staff, but you should be aware of the pitfalls so that you can handle it with delicacy and finesse.

First, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that I have almost exclusively worked with women making moves to be in the same locations as their future husbands. Rarely have I helped an imminent husband find a good legal position to relocate near his soon-to-be-wife. Often there is a good reason for choosing who is to move. His job may be in a professional field less amenable to transition, they may both want to settle where he is, or they may want to live in a location where their families have settled as well.

However, lacking an obvious reason to choose his location, many times the women still are expected to make the job change. This works if both individuals share that value in terms of their respective professional priorities within a relationship. But not infrequently a woman will throw her professional trajectory into the hopper with smoldering resentment (of which she may or may not be consciously aware) to meet an expectation that may not jibe with her sense of fairness and her definition of mutual support between two committed people.

Therefore, the first step in this situation is to examine the decision-making process. Talk out short, medium, and long-term goals for each person’s respective career both as individuals and as a couple. Map out the pros and cons of location and opportunity for each individual in various locations in light of these goals.

Don’t assume that you will take turns putting individual career goals first. Don’t assume that she is always going to accept that her career will be secondary in light of assumptions about children and gender stereotypes. The current generation is very savvy and evolved when it comes to gender roles and providing mutual support regarding professional issues. But in my experience the couples who are the most successful talk it out.

Be explicit. Make sure each person understands the other’s viewpoint, values, and desires. Ensure that each person feels acknowledged and heard according to the norms of his or her culture and the mode in which he or she wants to merge into a relationship. Then, make the decision and jointly figure out how to best unfold the plan.

We will assume that the couple now living apart in separate cities has decided they are going to get married the summer after they both start working as first-year associates. They also have decided that they will settle in his city for the long run and she will change firms.

Probably the most important tool you have on your side to minimize the negatives of moving to a new firm at this point in your career is timing. If you can stay at a law firm for at least a year, you will minimize the penalty of “leaving too soon.” The prevailing wisdom is to stay at least two to three years before any move. But in the case of leaving to marry, staying for a year, and staying even if it means you may be somewhat inconvenienced for a few months, is often seen as a good-faith effort on your part.

Each situation will be different. If you are a junior litigator and are on a case that is going to be “crazy busy” and you play an important role, try not to leave until your role has been played out. If you think the demands of the case may go on for years, try to give three to six months’ notice. If you are part of a practice group that is slow on work, an early departure may not be a negative at all; it might be the best of both worlds—for you and for the firm.

Try not to be totally self-serving. If the firm has provided expensive continuing education programs, held a luxurious all-firm retreat, or given you financial support above and beyond the norm, figure out some way to show some appreciation and not give them your “two weeks’ notice” the day you return from the retreat. Often you will have at least one relationship with an established member of the firm who is also a mentor and a friend. Speak to this person about your long-range plans and seek his or her advice regarding the politics of leaving the firm early despite having represented that you would probably be there for a much longer period. You may gain some insight regarding what the firm values most in this situation, whether it is staying until a busy case or deal winds up, training someone to do what you were doing, or simply moving on gracefully and expediently so that the firm is no longer making an expensive investment in someone who is not going to be there.

The goal is to not burn bridges, maintain strong collegial relationships, appear savvy and responsible, and ensure a source of references to assist with your search for your next position in your new location. In top-tier practices, it is a small world. Attorneys are moving between firms more than ever before. You may well be meeting the colleagues you worked with in your first firm across the negotiating table, in the courtroom, or as office mates in the future.

In the best of all worlds, a firm may have an office with your practice group in your new location. You can explore transferring rather than leaving the firm. This can be more complicated than it appears at first glance. Often it is a matter of personalities and your perceived value by the managing partner in your current office. If you are moving from a situation where you are sought after to do work for partners to a situation where you may be begging for work, then perhaps going to a new firm will make more sense than a transfer.

When approaching firms in the new city, a good legal recruiter can help you frame the transition so that it can be seen as a positive and your departure from your first firm is reflected in the best possible light. Try to speak to a recruiter before you give notice or, even better, before you have a rigid time frame. The recruiter can give you market information regarding the potential time frame in that market to find what you want. This can vary tremendously. Optimally you will not give notice until you have a new position lined up. In tight markets, there may come a time when you simply have to join your fiancé/husband and leave without having a new position. Be very sure you understand how this will affect your search before you give notice. It can be handled, but it can be a significant negative to many law firms to consider hiring someone who is currently unemployed.

As you consider moving to a new firm, it is a wonderful time to reexamine your values and what you want professionally. After working for a year at a big firm, most associates have a much better idea of what they want and need to develop their careers. Pause before you go immediately for prestige and paycheck, and make sure the firm lifestyle supports your career goals.

It may also be time to rethink your professional goals in light of your married status. Will you have additional time responsibilities at home related to what you and your spouse plan for the near future? Will the choice of neighborhoods to support your goals as a couple have an impact on what you are willing to do in terms of a commute? Will supporting your financial goals as a couple mandate a certain level of compensation, or will your marriage allow more freedom in that respect?

An unexpected career transition related to a committed relationship need not be a professional negative. Communicate with your spouse-to-be so that everyone’s values and goals are acknowledged in formulating the plan. Approach the firm you are leaving with honesty, humility, and flexibility. Use your legal search consultant to help you form a search strategy in your new location that recognizes your evolving career goals, the realities of the market you are entering, and the need to make a graceful exit from your old firm.

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Common Issues Faced When Transitioning to a New Law Firm

by A. Harrison Barnes on April 10, 2012

Law firms across the country are now more than ever focused on strategic planning for growth and expansion in a legal marketplace that places high value on sophisticated talent and timely delivery of legal services. With the increased surge toward growth and expansion both domestically and globally among the top international and national law firms, partners with a significant level of expertise and business are in high demand. Irrespective of the size of their book, their practice area, or other factors which may play a part in transitioning to another law firm, most partners have a number of factors influencing them to leave their current firm and affecting their ability to transition their business to a new law firm. Partners who are cognizant of, and prepare for the factors that might affect their ability to transition their business, will be better positioned to move their book when the right opportunity presents itself. Some of the issues facing partners transitioning to a new law firm are discussed in more detail below.

Minimal Book and No Time to Build It. This is a common problem for service partners who spend the majority of their billable hours servicing other partners’ matters. A prime example of this is the partner, often highly regarded, who is practicing directly under the heavy thumb of a practice group leader. He is so highly regarded that the practice group leader, as well as other rainmakers in his group, look to him to service their books while they continue to market to their prospective clients. Unfortunately, sometimes this service partner wakes up ten years later with excellent client servicing skills, but little or no book of business to speak of.
Partners who find themselves in this situation should not be discouraged, however. If the service partner is not satisfied simply servicing someone else’s book, then he has only one option – to move to a firm which will allow him the opportunity to build a book. Assuming a partner is coming from a prestigious firm, has the business contacts to effectively build his book, has a well defined and creative business plan, and has excellent client development skills, he/she is an excellent prospect for a firm who is seeking out highly motivated partners interested in starting and/or growing a practice group. This move may require a partner to make some adjustments in compensation, benefits, etc. in the short-term, but partners who find themselves in this situation must be willing to exchange the short-term loss for the long-term benefit of gaining a higher level of autonomy and security in their practice.
Mergers and Firm Dissolutions. Mergers are business transactions that can bring about enormous profitability but can also sometimes create great cultural stresses. In this marketplace of constant change through spin-offs, acquisitions and dissolutions, partners need to be ready and able to immediately transition their clients. Some partners may find themselves faced with the prospect of having their practice excluded from a merger transaction altogether because of conflicts. Others may be faced with the dissolution of their firms and the resulting need to aggressively pursue firms which make sense for their clients long-term.
Although both of these circumstances can seem somewhat disconcerting for partners, particularly for those who have been with their firm for many years, we have found that these partners are often the most successful in transitioning their business to a new firm. In particular, partners servicing attractive clients, some of which may be institutional, have much to offer a prospective firm. These partners are often pleasantly surprised by opportunities to start and/or build practices for other firms with strategic plans for growth. Some of these partners have even been afforded the unique opportunity to start a new office for a firm. Partners faced with this potential obstacle should be greatly encouraged by this marketplace of opportunities and may find themselves pleasantly surprised by the alternative options available to them.
Billing Rates are Too Low. This is a common obstacle for partners who are seeking to transition from smaller or mid-size firms to larger national or international practices and can often compel partners to remain at their firm, seemingly trapped by the inability to move their practice. Some partners are more fortunate and are faced with only a portion of their book involving clients which may have lower billing rate arrangements. In these cases, partners who are willing in the short-term to leave behind work that does not fit in with the prospective targeted firm’s overall practice may reap the benefits of such a strategic decision long-term.
Partners whose billing rates are too low should not feel there is no way out. Assuming everything else is a good fit, firms are generally receptive to working with partners to come up with creative solutions to gradually move their clients’ rates over time to levels more in line with the target firm’s billing rate structure. Client loyalty and confidence is, of course, essential in this type of effort. Generally we have found that partners who have had long-term relationships with their clients do not have a problem convincing them to gradually move to higher rate structures. This is largely because of the excellent representation the client has received over a period of years, but may also be a result of the fact that the partner may have a better platform from which to service his clients once he has moved to the target firm. Thus, clients have been very receptive overall to making these changes and we have seen a number of partners transition to larger, more sophisticated practices and in some cases more than double their books because of the broader platform they realize in “upgrading” to a larger firm.
Billing Rates are too High Turning Away Business at Current Firm. The converse of rates being too low – rates being too high – can also appear to some partners to be an issue when attempting to transition their book of business to another firm. A prime example of this type of situation is a partner practicing at a major firm with a minimal book who has served primarily as a service partner for other rainmakers in his current firm. This partner may have had an opportunity to build a small book, but because he has primarily been servicing other partners’ business, his book is minimal and he believes he is, as a result, precluded from making a move. Coupled with the feeling that he is unable to move, this partner may also find that he is unable to get new business from cross-selling within his firm because he is competing with many other service partners with whom he practices. The partner may also be forced to turn down business he would otherwise be able to bring in and service himself because the rates for these clients are too low for the rate structure at his current firm.
Partners in this situation will soon find that an alternative firm size and billing structure may be essential to building their book and gaining the independence and autonomy in their practice they so desire. We have found that there are firms which provide these types of partners the opportunities they are looking for. For example, there are a number of “spin-off” firms which are comprised of partners who have left large practice looking for an alternative environment within which to practice. These firms offer great opportunities for partners with smaller books to continue to practice at a high level of sophistication, bring in work at slightly lower billing rates than might otherwise be found at larger firms, and begin accepting the work they for so long had to turn away.
Client Conflicts Prevent Building Book. This is a serious issue which can occur for partners that lateral to a firm with little knowledge about the existing client base and the primary clients or types of projects the firm most often services. A firm that might in all other respects look very attractive, can become a partner’s worst nightmare, precluding the partner from bringing in new business and building his/her book. We have seen partners in these types of situations literally be faced with turning away hundreds of thousands of dollars in new business because their current firm is involved in so many cases that present conflicts. If you are a partner transitioning to a new firm, your recruiter’s thorough due diligence regarding the firm’s existing client base and its effect on your ability to bring in new business and continue to build your book is absolutely key to making your transition smooth and successful.
Current Firm’s Strategic Plan No Longer Supports Practice Group. With the focus on strategic planning and expansion, many firms have changed courses and have had to make tough decisions about practice groups they will no longer support over the long-term. Some partners may find themselves pursuing another firm whose practice and long-term strategic plan is more fitting for their practice. This does not present a huge dilemma for a partner with a sizable book whose practice area could be attractive to other firms in the marketplace. However, it can present a serious dilemma for a partner whose book is marginal and whose practice area may not be one that most firms in the marketplace are expanding. Here, a partner’s ability to convince a prospective firm that his clients and practice fit in with the firm’s long-term plan for growth is essential. The partner must rely on his/her recruiter’s ability to inform the partner about the prospective firm’s strategic plan for growth and expansion and its current client base and practice group distribution, all essential to the partner’s ability to understand how his practice could add value to the firm. It is this added value which will enable the partner to more effectively move his book.
Personal Historical Data. Though still operating as historical partnerships, many firms are moving toward more of a traditional business model, often overseen by COOs and CFOs who may or may not be attorneys but who in most cases are numbers-driven and continually monitor firms’ viability and profitability. A partner’s three-year historical record, including billable hours, billing rates, and client billings, is the minimum information law firms will assess during their due diligence to determine whether a partner may be a valuable addition to their firm. This three-year history is vital to a partner’s attractiveness to a prospective firm and presents a model for which the prospective firm can look forward to in terms of the partner’s ability to contribute to the firm’s bottom line. Partners must continually focus on and monitor their personal data and be cognizant of the effect the strength of their historical data, or lack of strength of their historical data, could have on their ability to effectively transition to a new firm.
Retirement Plans, Capital Contributions, Benefits, Tax Considerations. Many law firms provide fairly sophisticated Defined Benefit Plans for their partners that require significant contributions over a period of time and offer large long-term payoffs. These plans often motivate partners to remain on board at firms they would have otherwise departed many years prior. Partners should not feel “trapped” because of benefit plans at their current firm. Many firms are open to working with partners to create compensation plans which take into account a partner’s Defined Benefit Plan structure at their current firm. Likewise, partners who have the option of joining firms as equity partners are often faced with large capital contributions and potential significant changes to their benefit packages or serious tax consequences in the year in which they move. These are all factors partners must weigh in their overall assessment of whether a particular firm is a good fit, but partners must be flexible and open to discussing creative solutions to these factors.
These are but a few of a vast array of issues partners may encounter when making a lateral move to a new law firm. At BCG, we have the privilege to work with partners nationwide in every conceivable practice group, all of whom have important objectives and who face a variety of issues relating to moving their practices to new firms. It is our pleasure to work with these partners in successfully transitioning them to new firms where they can realize their long-term career objectives.

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philanthropists giving away free money to help people isn meant to be exhaustive, but it is meant to provide some form of recognition to those that are willing to help out worthy causes with their wealth. In this article, I list some of the more generous of the super rich people that have pledged to give away half of their wealth during their lifetimes, or upon death, to worthy causes, like charitable organizations. Three cheers for philanthropy and these well known Forbes names!.

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