Lateral Moves/Hires During Times of Crisis

- Richard Brock

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.
In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”        ― John F.  Kennedy                                                                                                                                                                                         
Today’s big questions: How much does COVID-19 affect my career in law? Should I move forward with my 2020 goals for a lateral move or place it on pause? If I want to continue forward, are law firms even hiring? Is a lateral move running on the edge, or is it a wise plan for your future?

Consider the months leading up to COVID-19. Lateral moves in the legal field had run a steady course.

  • In 2018, lateral hiring increased by more than 20% (NALP)
  • In 2019, more than 60% of leadership within firms expected to grow their equity partnerships through lateral hires and promotions. (ABA Journal)
  • The growing M&A trend is an ongoing factor in lateral moves. (The Legal Intelligencer)

Law is a highly competitive market. Firms must continue to focus on expansion and growth, increasing both revenue and their network of clients via the acquisition of high-caliber attorneys. While the entrance of COVID-19 changed the landscape, it does not eliminate the need for growth. Rather than stagnate, firms must get creative in the best ways to engage talent, highlight their culture, and present current opportunities. While the process may be slower, forward progress remains essential.

The same holds for attorneys. When a storm hits (in this case, COVID-19), dropping anchor in your safe harbor may feel the wisest action, but those who brave the winds and learn new ways to tack their sails will be further along their desired course when the storm quiets down.

Adjusting course is critical for both the firms and legal talent. Pay attention to market needs. Bankruptcy, restructuring, litigation, and employment practices, as well as healthcare and insurance, are hot areas currently, and demand for expertise in these areas is expected to increase. Firms must focus on the areas of practice currently in demand. Lateral hiring/moves may take on a different approach, but they will continue to happen. Remaining abreast of the action enables firms and attorneys to create new pathways for making authentic connections. Being willing to change and adapt to the challenges will open the door for both firms and attorneys, putting them at the front when the crisis ends.

Support is essential. At Onboard Search, we understand the needs of both individual attorneys who are exploring career options, and the law firms and companies that depend on top legal talent for their success. Each member of our team is an expert on attorney recruiting and the legal industry as a whole. We have decades of experience in talent acquisition in the legal field, and our CEO is a former practicing attorney. We believe our expertise in the legal sector is vital because we know our clients and candidates are experts in their chosen fields, and experts deserve to work with other experts. We specialize in placing the best lawyers with outstanding law firms and leading corporate legal departments. Our work on your behalf is always discreet, confidential, and effective. To learn more, contact us today.