Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

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markesquire
Posts: 19
Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2016 3:38 pm

Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by markesquire » Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:37 am

I am an attorney, and would appreciate guidance in evaluating whether/how to find a higher-paying position. I have been practicing for 10 years, and I am pretty comfortable in my current position, but I am beginning to notice that I am paid less than colleagues with similar experience.

My Background: I attended non-prestigious state schools in the Midwest because I was offered full rides for college and law school, and wanted to remain debt-free. I started as a litigation associate at a mid-sized regional firm in the Midwest (3 years), then clerked for a federal judge (2 years), and have been working in-house as a litigator in a HCOL city (5 years).

My Current Position: I currently earn $125k. That's more than enough to cover my expenses, but my anecdotal research shows that it is relatively low, given my experience and HCOL market. My company has been struggling and has only given 2% raises for the last several years (not enough to keep up with inflation, let alone cost of living, or increased value/performance), and there is no sign of that changing. It's also extremely bureaucratic, and they do not negotiate individually - they provide accross-the-board raises and just let people leave if they present an ultimatum (not great for morale). But my current position has a lot of qualitative benefits: the work-life balance is generally very good (telework, very reasonable hours), I like my boss and colleagues, and I am performing well.

Why I Want a New Position: I'm not earning a bad salary, I'm relatively comfortable in my current position, and fear that I will not find a similar work-life balance, but my actual purchasing power will stagnate or decrease if I stay, precisely during periods when I am actually gaining experience and becoming more valuable.

What I'm Looking For: I would strongly prefer to remain in-house, primarily for the work-life balance (fewer hours, less stress, single client, ability to focus on my work instead of juggling work with marketing and administrative duties). However, I am slightly intrigued by the possibility of exploring plaintiff-side litigation boutiques, as much of my experience is in class-action litigation, and they seem to make significant money. Also, I'm currently in a HCOL city, and would like to consider options in a less stressful LCOL area, if possible.

What I'm Asking: How would you go about targeting types of positions to pursue, and employers to target (I currently monitor www.goinhouse.com)? Are there any options you would recommend I consider? What salary range would you demand, given 10 years of experience? Also, how would you recommend actually getting an interview and landing the job? I find that I do well if I can get an interview, but I often submit my resume and am not selected for an interview.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions! :sharebeer

alfaspider
Posts: 1990
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 4:44 pm

Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by alfaspider » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:18 pm

Websites Linked in and goinhouse and the like can be a tool, but they shouldn't be the primary tool for job hunting for the type of position you are looking for. Get out into the community through practice area, industry organizations, and bar committees and get to know as many people as you can. When you apply to a position, it should NEVER just be a faceless application through a website. Find a way to meet someone from the organization who is willing to forward your resume past the HR screen. The very best positions are either not advertised, or advertised mostly as a formality after a candidate has already been identified.

If you are underpaid, you need to assess why that might be. Was it simply that you came into the organization making a low salary and were therefore offered something well below your peers? Are you in a less marketable specialty? Are you in a company or industry that tends to be lower paid?

I suspect one problem is the litigation practice area. Most in-house jobs tend to be more transactional focused. The companies that are repeat players in class action litigation to the exent that they want a full-time expert on staff have to be relatively far and few between. You are absolutely right that the big money is plaintiff's side. It will be a lot more work than in-house if you want to be successful. I suppose the question is whether you are willing to sacrifice some work-life balance for the pay.

ohai
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Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by ohai » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:31 pm

Wife is a litigation attorney. Based on what she says:

1) Phone rings off the hook with recruiter calls.
2) All the job listings by comparable firms seem to make it to Indeed.com somehow.
3) Otherwise, people change jobs when recruited by friends or former coworkers.

So, other than what has been stated, maybe it is worth calling a recruitment agency to see if they have anything that fits your profile.

anon_investor
Posts: 116
Joined: Mon Jun 03, 2019 1:43 pm

Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by anon_investor » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:38 pm

Have you been contacted by any recruiters? Because you are in-house it is likely that recruiters are not coming across you (they generally scour firm websites and linkedin). I found my last 2 positions through recruiters: big law and now in-house at a mega corp, they contacted me both times. I have in the past interviewed at other big law firms and companies via recruiters. I've also interviewed at large and mega corps I applied through linkedin or the company/firm's own websites. Your success using these methods may be limited by your practice area.

As alfaspider mentioned networking, is another way to find other opportunities. Networking was really helpful for me to find positions at certain points in my career.

I am not sure what the going rate is for your practice area and region or the size/industry of your company, but with your years of experience $125k (assuming that is total comp, no bonus?) seems low even for in-house especially in a HCOL area.

Great work life balance is generally not going to happen at any law firm, despite what they claim. I have worked at boutiques, mid-sized and large law firms and work life balance was always a joke (but could be a by-product of being in a large HCOL city). In-house positions vary, and some companies have good work life balance and some are almost as bad as law firms (e.g. big tech). I am at a mega corp with a good work life balance, I have friends with similar experiences and some with bad ones (mostly at big tech).

It never hurts to look around.

GCD
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Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by GCD » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:42 pm

If it's primarily work/life balance you are concerned about, have you considered government work? Many Federal attorneys make as much or more than you and they have a pension and good health care to boot. Admittedly they aren't going to approach high-end partner compensation, but that doesn't seem to be what you are looking for. If you have the slightest interest, you should give USAJobs a look.

alfaspider
Posts: 1990
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Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by alfaspider » Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:01 pm

anon_investor wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:38 pm
Have you been contacted by any recruiters? Because you are in-house it is likely that recruiters are not coming across you (they generally scour firm websites and linkedin). I found my last 2 positions through recruiters: big law and now in-house at a mega corp, they contacted me both times. I have in the past interviewed at other big law firms and companies via recruiters. I've also interviewed at large and mega corps I applied through linkedin or the company/firm's own websites. Your success using these methods may be limited by your practice area.
I'd mention that you should vet recruiters very carefully. While there are some good ones, some will actually hurt your chances by spamming your resume all over the place, and applying to jobs where recruiters are not particularly welcome. The last time my company hired, we were forbidden from even considering recruiter submitted candidates because the company did not want to pay the recruiter fee. The first question you should ask any recruiter contacting you about a job is whether they have been retained by the company to assist with the search. If the answer is no, you are probably best off looking elsewhere. I'd also note that they are probably more useful for overworked biglaw associates who don't have much time to manage their job search.

anon_investor
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Joined: Mon Jun 03, 2019 1:43 pm

Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by anon_investor » Tue Jul 09, 2019 5:35 pm

alfaspider wrote:
Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:01 pm
I'd mention that you should vet recruiters very carefully. While there are some good ones, some will actually hurt your chances by spamming your resume all over the place, and applying to jobs where recruiters are not particularly welcome. The last time my company hired, we were forbidden from even considering recruiter submitted candidates because the company did not want to pay the recruiter fee. The first question you should ask any recruiter contacting you about a job is whether they have been retained by the company to assist with the search. If the answer is no, you are probably best off looking elsewhere. I'd also note that they are probably more useful for overworked biglaw associates who don't have much time to manage their job search.
Those are some really good points. The recruiters that placed me at my prior and current job were actually hired by my old law firm and current mega corp.

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htdrag11
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Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by htdrag11 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:11 pm

My volunteering work is in helping folks in transition, especially the 45+ but occasionally we do have newly graduated college kids showing up.

Anyway, recently an attorney in corporate litigation was let go by his firm since he was not a partner, being the oldest and also was the highest paid. He had no problem of finding work, just matching his old pay. We're also in a HCOL area. I surmised that his bonus is more than his salary (doubling yours).

If you like, send me a private message and he could LinkedIn with you about his adventure. You must have a LinkedIn account. He used Indeed as well. He also commented that there is no such thing as work life balance in his case. Guess that is the price of an expensive house and kids in college.

GL.

Valjean
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Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by Valjean » Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:04 pm

The way you do this is you start intentionally and aggressively networking. Every week you should be have breakfast, coffee, or lunch with 3-5 colleagues you know at firms and in-house. You become active your local chapter of the Assoc. of Corporate Counsel. You become active in your state or local bar association. You can talk to headhunters but many jobs are never posted.

Chicago60
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Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by Chicago60 » Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:09 am

If you are interested in plaintiff class action work, you should investigate the handful of firms who do that work in your area and contact them directly; though I would not be optimistic that someone with a number of years of in house experience is necessarily the type of candidate they would have in mind.

Bkybdgr
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Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:10 am

Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by Bkybdgr » Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:39 am

In-house attorney here with a similar amount of experience.

While none of the advice you’ve received is wrong or bad, it also isn’t all that tailored to the realities of in-house roles. In my experience in-house pay is more industry dependent (e.g., non-profits are going to pay less than tech companies) than it is on practice niche. And, if you’re inclined to move to a geographic location that is farther away from metro centers, you generally get compensated for it — even if the cost of living is less. There are a hundred attorneys in every large metro that know software licensing or structured finance but the talent pool gets smaller for companies that are HQ’d in some place that is further off the beaten path.

Happy to chat more if you msg me.

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Dargo
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Location: State of Mind

Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by Dargo » Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:42 am

Network with other attorneys. If you want to turn to the dark side :wink: talk to friends who do it first. You definitely want to consider work life balance before changing. Try to get the real story from attorneys working at firms you are interested in and don't just rely on what you are told at an interview.

The best way to find out about an open job is to talk to people at the places you want to work. If you are looking to change cities then it's going to be harder.

If you are looking to change you are probably at the right stage. If you have 10 years of experience you are at a good spot you have enough experience to be of value. If you want straight from us to collect to.law school you are in mid 30s which is probably a good time to look. As you get older, it gets harder.
Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans..John Lennon

milo minderbinder
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Re: Advice for Job Search (Attorneys)

Post by milo minderbinder » Fri Jul 12, 2019 11:46 am

I would think long and hard before joining the stock drop plaintiff bar. Unlike your present situation you will be working with a lot of people you won't like. If you think you may have any moral qualms with a sue first, find liability later extortion mentality don't do it.

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