I have a confession to make.
I cringed when the salary wars in BigLaw started. Why you may ask, would a recruiter be unhappy about higher salaries?
Having been an attorney recruiter for more than twenty years, I bore witness to the Great Recession and what occurred just before – compensation raises trickled through the market. So, when the wars started, I felt conflicted. Now we are in another recession, and there is talk of BigLaw and stealth layoffs.
Should you be worried?
In my experience with both associate and partner attorney recruiting and working with managing partners who speak openly about their strategies and difficult decisions, I know the first place firms look to cut is not associates who were last in the door.
They are looking for unproductive attorneys throughout the firm to “cut dead wood,” as in pruning what is draining nutrients of an otherwise healthy tree (the firm).
Realistically, if work slows, the partners feel pressure to fill their plates first, keeping work they would otherwise pass on to service partners or associates.
Depending on who staffs a file, associates (and partners) can suffer by becoming unproductive, resulting in “dead wood.”
Protect Yourself By Becoming Indispensable
Those attorneys who made the jump to capture the highest paying lawyer jobs in the market may or may not need to be concerned.
While interviewing partner attorneys for NIMBLE ESQ.’s podcast and content, one thing became clear – partners need associates who anticipate what is next and take action to be ahead of it. They do not wait to be told or guided, instead betting on themselves and taking the chance they may not get it right. Becoming indispensable is a process that begins with not being high maintenance or overly eager, and it is a subtle progression of trust that results from going the extra mile without expecting a lot of recognition for it (at first). The key here is to be indispensable to partners, and/or clients, and other associates. When they turn to someone, it will be you.
Partners are being pulled from every direction. Be resourceful, and think analytically in advance of what is going on. If you make your partners’ lives easier – in a day full of pressure – they will never let you go and will be willing to mentor and sponsor you.
Is It Wise to Move for Money
As lawyer headhunters and consultants, we at VCG guide our candidates and clients in strategic moves or placements that impact long-term marketability and success. We advise candidates to move for higher pay only if other variables are present: gaining valuable experience, client contact or development opportunities, or having the ability to make an impact, which includes being indispensable to both the client and the partner(s). Combining these variables creates marketability that multiplies choices as you progress throughout your career.