The role of BigLaw associate is shifting and growing as the legal sector experiences an onslaught of new competition, according to industry experts who say market forces are driving young attorneys to fill new shoes and metamorphose into more than simply stellar legal practitioners.
In addition to being the best of the best at understanding and practicing the law, associates must now too be well-versed in the art of business development and attracting new clients, a role bestowed on them as law firms struggle to compete in a flooded legal market, law firm recruiters say.
According to Ru Bhatt, managing director of Major Lindsey & Africa's associate practice group, associates are responding to firms' requests that they perform more client development work by asking firms for more training in that arena.
"I'm working with several junior associates right now and they've come up to me and said, "I'm interested in joining a firm where they can help me cultivate business development skills," especially if they want to make partner," Bhatt said.
While it's a lot of pressure, he said associates are excited about this relatively new task because it allows them to have "another feather in their cap."
"I think that it's an important decision-making factor for a lot of associates, and some have declined offers because the firm doesn't give that much importance to an associate's business development skills and have chosen other firms instead," Bhatt said.