As a recruiter, I am constantly in touch with the recruiting coordinators and/or hiring partners of firms in the west coast market both to find out what their hiring needs are and to see if they have any interest in the candidates I am representing. It is fantastic when a candidate directly matches a current need, but if there is not a pressing need for an associate in a particular practice area, the most common response BY FAR is:
“Your candidate is great, but we just don’t have a need in that area. However, we would definitely be willing to consider someone in that area with a portable book of business.”
Business is key, so whether you like your current firm and want to eventually make partner, or you want to improve your future chances of a lateral move, breaking into a new market, or leaving big firm life to open up your own boutique shop, you should be thinking about and taking action now to develop business going forward. Nine times out of ten, a firm will be more interested in hiring a lawyer with lesser credentials and average legal skills but who has a strong ability to develop and retain business than an outstanding attorney with no client base, especially in the area of litigation.
Most firms do not have any formal training on this front, so it will likely be up to you to proactively network, to build relationship with your firm’s clients to the point where they consider you integral to their legal needs, and to pester your partners to include you in client pitches, development events, and the like. And if your partners or the firm pushes back, or it appears that there are no long-term prospects to develop this side of your career, you may want to start looking for a new opportunity sooner rather than later, because the more senior you are, the harder it is to lateral without business…
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