By Carey Bertolet
It's the holiday season, and it appears that Manhattan is singular of purpose: celebrating the end of the year. However, we have been somewhat surprised to find ourselves more busy than usual in the New York office. While past years may have seen a shuttering up at the end of the year, many firms are truly gearing up their lateral recruiting efforts, and BCG candidates continue to interview on a daily basis!
Of course, many of us, when thinking about Christmastime, think of large-scale commercial litigation. While that's certainly not true, it is true that firms are focusing on their litigation searches, many of which are quite different from the others. While some large firms are specifically pinpointing laterals with significant litigation experience outside of the library, others are more focused on those with investigations experience, especially with respect to criminal investigations before the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice, or the Federal Trade Commission, to name a few. There is a high demand for litigators who show a great deal of maturity and personality and who are likely candidates to go to client meetings and represent the firms. Intellectual property patent litigators with a good client-development orientation will do very well.
As always, New York is the capital of cutting-edge corporate work, and that work includes the most novel and interesting corporate transactions. All manner of debt and equity transactions, from the warehouse-backed securitization to the LBO to the IPO to the CDO, go on here in large measure. Clearly, then, an attorney with these specialties in any degree is quite in demand. While a junior-level associate with access to some of these types of transactions has great mobility, more senior spots are generally reserved for those with more of a focus and specialization. We are seeing great demand for senior-level associates with broker/dealer regulatory experience, among a myriad of other corporate and finance specialties.
Corporate attorneys should also be aware of what conventional wisdom sees as a fairly significant experience gap, not surprisingly, from the classes of 2000 to 2002. An associate at that level who is at or above his/her class in terms of actual transactional experience in the corporate work—especially securities, high-yield 144a offerings, and mergers and acquisitions—will have significant opportunities. Importantly, many of these opportunities have a better road to promotion because even in large corporate departments, there will be less likelihood of competition.
Intellectual property is still very much focused on electrical engineers and computer science majors, who are desperately needed by firms for patent prosecution and, at the more senior level, litigation, transactional work, and counseling. For those firms looking for patent prosecutors, the class-year level they are willing to consider is much more constrained—a senior electrical engineer may have too high a billing rate to participate solely in prosecution.
We have seen more trademark positions, although they are already in more limited supply relative to other practice areas, given the perception that the work is more fun than that of other intellectual property practices. Increasingly, many of the trademark positions integrate both traditional trademark prosecution and litigation, so they are especially attractive to those lawyers who like a bit of diversity in their day-to-day trademark matters.
All year, it's been all about real estate attorneys. Similarly, firms are not indiscriminately hiring any real estate attorney that crosses their paths. Many firms have slowed their searches to wait for candidates who are more mid-level associates and are focused on those who have taken on significant transactional responsibility. Residential real estate experience will, more often than not, not satisfy the commercial real estate groups looking, although there are firms who are handling marquee residential real estate transactions. More than before, real estate finance is the type of experience sought, and a candidate with even limited access to sophisticated real estate finance transactions will have substantial opportunities.
We are still working on some incredibly exciting antitrust opportunities, both regulatory- and litigation-oriented. It bears repeating that partnership opportunities may be much more likely in this area, as are several opportunities to do high-level newspaper-headline-making work. A candidate who can legitimately claim a facility with Hart-Scott-Rodino will likely do extremely well in terms of a lateral move.
We have seen quite a bit of interest in good trusts and estates lawyers, and several searches have been quite urgent and have opened and closed rather quickly. Firms are stating some specific needs in tax, although the hiring in that practice area has simply not been matched by the stated needs of firms. There has been some labor and employment litigation activity, but generally speaking, we have not seen too robust a market for these lawyers, although a smattering of very good opportunities does exist.
The holiday season is often an emotional time for people, who take stock of where they are in terms of their families and lives. We believe it is also an appropriate time to take stock of your career goals and consider whether there are opportunities suited to your background.
Do these sorts of reports influence what fields you want to practice in?