Offer to stay back 1 year to lateral?

(Deciding to leave, same firm different office, Reference requests)
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Offer to stay back 1 year to lateral?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 17, 2020 10:32 am

I am an associate at a high-end litigation boutique and enjoy my work. However, the firm is not particularly stable due to various combinations of external and internal forces, and while once "prestigious", it may not have the same cache it used to, and there's not much work these days.

I am interested in applying to lateral to Big Law, ideally to a top Vault-ranked firm. My question is: should I offer to be held back a year in terms of seniority and pay, in order to make myself a more competitive lateral applicant? Or will offering to do that signal to the firm that I am not as valuable an applicant and am just desperate to be hired?

I don't know if large Big Law firms care that much about this, but I somehow get the sense they do, and that offering to come in as a 4th-year associate rather than what my actual seniority level of 5th-year (to use an example) would make a material difference in my viability as a lateral hire.

Any thoughts, especially from people with experience on the lateral hiring market at Big law firms in places like NYC?

PPL

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Re: Offer to stay back 1 year to lateral?

Post by PPL » Sat Jul 18, 2020 8:17 pm

OP: I think it's ultimately up to the hiring firm to decide what to do with you in terms of placement. Only if they are interested in hiring you would they even think about holding you back a year or more. I'm in an NYC corp practice where the group hired people from other firms and held them back a couple of years (during boom times) because the group hiring partners felt that the laterals just didn't have enough relevant experience (and couldn't charge clients the higher fee for those assocs).

But it's not like the laterals had any sort of say in what year they would lateral as (also you coming in as a fourth year rather than fifth year would mean you bill at a lesser rate anyways--so not an advantage from firm's perspective for you to offer a step down). A recruiter likely can weigh in.

Also are lit groups hiring in this environment? What groups besides bankruptcy are active nowadays?

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Re: Offer to stay back 1 year to lateral?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jul 18, 2020 9:10 pm

PPL wrote:
Sat Jul 18, 2020 8:17 pm
OP: I think it's ultimately up to the hiring firm to decide what to do with you in terms of placement. Only if they are interested in hiring you would they even think about holding you back a year or more. I'm in an NYC corp practice where the group hired people from other firms and held them back a couple of years (during boom times) because the group hiring partners felt that the laterals just didn't have enough relevant experience (and couldn't charge clients the higher fee for those assocs).

But it's not like the laterals had any sort of say in what year they would lateral as (also you coming in as a fourth year rather than fifth year would mean you bill at a lesser rate anyways--so not an advantage from firm's perspective for you to offer a step down). A recruiter likely can weigh in.

Also are lit groups hiring in this environment? What groups besides bankruptcy are active nowadays?

Thanks for the response, this is helpful. I didn't mean to suggest it would be up to me what year I'd be, just that I would be willing to stay back a year if that helped make me more competitive as a lateral hire. They could pay me less, and I wouldn't expect to be on the 'partnership track' quite as soon. But you're right that that probably would mean they'd have to bill me out at a lower rate.

I'm not sure if corp/lit are in the same boat, because as a 4th year I pretty much know what I need to know in most Big Law lit circumstances, whereas corp can be more technical and esoteric.

There are a few litigation departments in Big Law that are busy and recruiters have told me they might be willing to hire. Given the current lit shop I'm in, ideally I'd like to lateral someplace within a similar, narrow bandwidth of top firms. I know that sounds snobby, but it relates to the type of work more so than anything else. (But yes, I'm also aware of the current conditions and how beggars can't be choosers.)

objctnyrhnr

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Re: Offer to stay back 1 year to lateral?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Tue Jul 21, 2020 6:34 am

I think this is only helpful if you’re very senior and you use it to indicate to the firm how badly you want to come in and crush it, for the purpose of getting a partnership look.

And in this scenario, I might even offer two years down.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t say anything either way BUT if it looks like that’s where their heads are at as you go through the process, I would indicate that you’re amenable to it.

pobyrne

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Re: Offer to stay back 1 year to lateral?

Post by pobyrne » Mon Aug 31, 2020 3:37 pm

Unless you cannot afford the financial pay cut, if a firm asks you to take a step back (or two) in terms of years, they generally have a reason for doing so. If you are used to performing at an exceptional level, I suspect that your year will quickly be forgotten when work is assigned to you. You may be doing work beyond your compensation level, but that will only make you more valuable to the firm.

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