Attorney Hiring 2017

Aebra Coe’s future assessment of attorney hiring in 2017 certainly highlights some very sound reasons for a potential boon in attoney hiring. In my opinion it over estimated the amount of work and number of attorneys that would be needed for 2017….good article nontheless.  As always we are finding the primary need is for mid level attorneys with books of business.  That being said, the need for mid level tranactional associates is very good and books are not an absolute necessity.

2017 Is Set To Be Another Hot Year For Lateral Moves – Law360, New York 

by Aebra Coe

Lateral movement in the U.S. legal industry will likely reach a fever pitch in 2017 as law firms adjust their ranks to accommodate the influx of work precipitated by shifting regulations and laws that often accompany a new presidential administration.
The uptick in activity in the lateral job market for lawyers was predicted by legal recruiters and other industry experts who spoke to Law360. The biggest factor spurring the movement, they say, is the new presidential administration: President-elect Donald Trump has promised to “repeal and replace” not only health care legislation, but also a slew of other measures implemented during President Barack Obama’s time in office, all of which would have a significant impact on businesses and the law firms that represent them.

If campaign rhetoric should become reality, law firms will likely be scrambling to accommodate a need for their help navigating new regulatory environments and policies, including potentially major changes in health care, immigration, trade policy, environmental regulation and tax law, and, as a result, will be engaged in a fight for talented lawyers in those areas.

Other major drivers of lateral movement this year include a shifting global economy, in which the makeup of the European Union is in flux, as well as the increasing consolidation of the legal industry, which has been picking up over the past several years since the Great Recession.

According to John Remsen, founder of law firm recruiting and strategic planning firm The Remsen Group, the actions of the Trump administration in the new year will have an enormous impact on lateral movement in the legal industry.

Many of the changes that have been proposed have the potential to create additional work for law firms in two ways, he says: First, businesses must adjust to the new regulatory landscape, and second, the likelihood is that lighter regulations under a business-friendly administration could give business a boost, a factor that often promotes healthy law firms and consequently lateral movement.

The trick, he says, is knowing what campaign promises the new president will actually follow through on.

“Lord knows what [Trump] will do when it comes to trade policy, the environment, immigration, you name it. He often says he’ll do things and then ends up taking different positions on issues,” Remsen said. “A lot of firms are trying to get a jump on that as this new administration takes charge.”

Some potential changes Remsen sees in the near future include a lightening of environmental regulation, creating more business for oil and gas companies, an uptick in the number of new infrastructure projects in the U.S., leading to more public-private partnerships, and of course potential repeal or an the altering of the Affordable Care Act, which would create massive changes in the healthcare industry.

Chris Batz, owner of legal recruiting firm The Lion Group, explained that if the new administration is able to bolster business, that will likely mean more lateral movement.

“Law only cares about the business industry. So, when you have a positive business environment law firms thrive,” Batz said. “When the market ticks up, books of business increase and that drives laterals.”

Diane Rifkin, CEO of Rifkin Consulting, added, “With the election behind us, if the incoming president and Congress begin planting the seeds for job growth by reducing regulations, making health care more affordable and lowering taxes, these measures should incentivize law firms to take a more assertive stance toward lateral hiring. Although it’s uncertain how quickly such changes may be passed and implemented, an overall sense of cautious optimism for businesses may prevail.”

In addition to politics at home, the business and political landscape abroad will have a big impact on the future legal market, according to Batz.

“Two thousand seventeen is going to be critical for our country. I think we’re going to see a lot of things take place on a global level for law firms,” he said.

That could include the impact of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union. Additionally, France, Germany and the Netherlands have elections coming up and, Batz says, protectionist immigration policies could spring up during those elections, in addition to the policies that have been proposed by president-elect Trump.

“I think we’ll see more consolidation and upheaval in Europe. I think whoever lands the work, with the uncertainty of these governments, will be significant on a global level [in 2017],” he said.

The uncertainty will likely lead to consolidation as some firms suffer and others thrive, according to Batz, creating more movement of lawyers between firms in the new year.

Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal, says he too expects more lateral movement in the new year and sees especially strong demand in hiring for midsize and boutique firms.

“Midsize and boutique firms are seeing accelerated growth. Many of them opened up coming out of the downturn when partners left big firms and opened sophisticated practices. Those continue to expand and look for partners,” Volkert said.

The reason the smaller firms are thriving is due in part to their willingness to offer alternative fee structures and hourly rates that are attractive to clients, he says.

“We’re seeing increased demand for those firms and, as they bring on more clients, they don’t necessarily have the needed resources internally that some of the larger firms have and that drives a demand for laterals,” as well as contract attorneys and other staffing solutions, he explained.

Fee flexibility is something Volkert says he believes will help law firms of all sizes attract clients in 2017.

“The more creative the firm is, the more solutions that they’re providing, potentially at different cost scenarios, those firms seem to be busier than firms that are not doing that,” he said.

Volkert said he also sees a demand for associates with between four and six years of experiences at firms of all sizes.

“Across all of the firms that are looking to hire, there is a need for more associates who may have a small book of business or the interpersonal skills to develop business,” he said. “They want someone who knows how to practice law and has the people skills to handle clients directly.”

–Editing by Rebecca Flanagan.