Associates Find Opportunities In Uneven Market

Source: The Am Law Daily

By MP McQueen

Despite sluggish overall demand for legal services and uncertainty among managing partners about the year ahead, the market for midlevel and senior associates is strong, recruiters say.

Corporate and finance associate hiring is robust, they say. And while litigation work appears to have slowed at many large firms, litigation associates with several years of experience are in high demand.

"There has been a real uptick in the boutiques hiring very well credentialed junior and midlevel associates from the larger firms," said Jacquelyn Knight, a partner at legal recruiter Major, Lindsey & Africa in New York.

Knight said that over the past six months demand for litigation associates had increased "in many cities, at large firms, midsized firms and boutiques." Most of the work in major cities is related to securities, financial institution litigation and white-collar crime, she said.

According to Major Lindsey's Knight, litigators aren't the only ones enjoying better-than-expected demand. "A lot of people assume that because of the economy, corporate associate hiring is on the decline, but it is not true," she said. "We are very busy on the corporate associate front. I think it is going to be a very good year for that group."

Knight also said that for the first time in many years there is significant growth in demand for restructuring associates. Hiring of restructuring associates in different cities has doubled in the last three years, she said, some tied to the energy slump. Overall, however, demand at the larger firms is still strongest for corporate and M&A associates, at least in New York, she said.

On the compensation front, Knight said that some litigation boutiques are matching associate compensation at large firms in their markets. For boutiques that offer less, compensation generally runs 15-20 percent below the rates at major firms in the same city, she said.

Read more of this feature at The American Lawyer.

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