Legal Recruiter’s Advice to Job-Seeking Attorneys: Diversify Your Experience

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While the overall DC attorney market remains slow, legal recruiting firm BCG Attorney Search has identified several key practice areas that are experiencing growth. Law firms are seeking attorneys in patent litigation, patent prosecution, corporate, and international trade.

BCG Attorney Search

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Attorneys who specialize in more than one area are helping themselves be better positioned in terms of making a lateral move and, within their own firm, for shifts in the needs of the marketplace.

In what has otherwise been a slow-growing market, DC law firms are hiring in a few select practice areas, according to legal recruiter BCG Attorney Search. Currently, the DC legal market is showing movement in the areas of IP litigation and prosecution, international trade, and corporate finance. DC recruiter Bonnie Nathan advised job-seeking attorneys to combat a competitive employment market by specializing in more than one practice area.

Within IP, law firms are primarily seeking associates with backgrounds in electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, although there are some opportunities in the life sciences. In a recent development, many of the positions have been trademark-related.

“Corporate is pretty healthy, but I’m seeing definite trends in terms of what firms are looking for,” said Ms. Nathan. “Most people are not general corporate attorneys; most specialize. Last summer, all the firms were desperate for real estate corporate attorneys. Later in the fall, firms starting wanting M&A specialization. Right now, I’m seeing a huge need for finance attorneys, especially bank finance attorneys. This started in NY and is starting to trickle into DC.”

Overall, the DC market remains slow. The tough job market has been compounded by the government’s current hiring freeze, which has created an additional influx of job-seeking attorneys who might otherwise be employed in the public sector. “The DC market is disproportionately hurt by sequestration,” said Ms. Nathan. “There are attorneys who would normally go work for the government, and for now, the avenue to go work in the public sector is closed. This means that it’s that much more competitive for attorneys looking for private sector jobs.”

Seasonally, the lateral market tends to slow between April and October as law firms’ in-house recruiters are preoccupied with summer associate programs and fall recruitment, and summer vacations make it logistically difficult to schedule interviews with the necessary partners.

At the same time, Ms. Nathan was quick to point out, “It doesn’t mean that attorneys won’t get jobs. You can get a job over the summer, just like you can get a job over the holidays, but the likelihood is reduced. The market is slow right now, but it’s cyclical.”

Attorneys looking to lateral to DC firms face unusually stiff competition for the above reasons, making the help of a recruiter even more crucial in the job search process. Ms. Nathan advised associates looking to make themselves more marketable to diversify their experience by specializing in more than one area.

“To the extent that you have experience in a couple different areas, it’s good to keep those up because if you’re looking to make a lateral move, you have that many more options,” said Ms. Nathan. “Having more than one specialty helps you to ‘recession-proof’ yourself. Attorneys who specialize in more than one area are helping themselves be better positioned in terms of making a lateral move and, within their own firm, for shifts in the needs of the marketplace.”

Having associates who specialize in multiple practice areas is beneficial from the firm’s perspective as well. Provided that attorneys can demonstrate that they are equally capable in and equally committed to the different practice areas, law firms are eager to hire attorneys with expertise in multiple specialties. “The last thing the firm wants is to have the work dry up in one area and to have lay off the attorney,” noted Ms. Nathan. “To the extent that firms have the potential to divert their resources and move them into a different area because their attorneys have the ability, it’s better for the firm.”

About BCG Attorney Search:

BCG Attorney Search is a premier recruiting firm for experienced attorneys in the United States. BCG Attorney Search has 10 offices across the U.S. and its recruiters focus only on working with attorneys. Since the year 2000, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys with employers who were the best fit for individual candidates, and helped law firms and companies with their recruitment efforts. For more information, please go to

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Andrew Ostler
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