Michelle Bigler explains that whilst there has been an increase in graduate hire into law firms, the stakes are now higher and more and more is being expected of new starters.
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US firms look for more than a top law degree

Posted by: Michelle Bigler 05/07/16
Speculation over a potential mass pay hike in the highly competitive New York market, following Cravath Swaine & Moore’s move to raise junior pay from $160,000 to $180,000, will undoubtedly see a greater number of talented young professionals set their sights on a Biglaw training contract. However it’s not just applications for New York’s most prestigious firms that are becoming more competitive, firms across the US are increasingly looking for more than just academic achievement in their junior lawyers.

According to figures from the National Association for Law Placement released last year, the employment rate of new graduates rose for the first time since 2007 in 2014, increasing by 2.1% compared to the year prior. The research also indicates that in recent years the number of graduates taking up positions in small firms has risen and now outnumbers the percentage working in roles at firms of over 100 lawyers.

The market remains decidedly competitive at all levels. With positions at the largest firms becoming scarcer many graduates with degrees from prestigious schools, who 10 years ago would have been near enough guaranteed a Biglaw contract, are finding themselves in roles at midsized firms. It’s this ripple effect that means it is vital, now more than ever, that junior lawyers support their academic accomplishments with strong examples of additional professional development, such as chairing a law society or editing a school’s legal journal.

However it’s not just graduates who should be concentrating on developing their personal and professional skillsets. In an increasingly competitive legal market strong interpersonal skills will strengthen the prospects of any legal professional looking to make a career move. Firms are seeking well rounded lawyers that have demonstrated the ability to market themselves and land new clients, even at the mid-level associate stage. Our clients are seeking entrepreneurial spirited attorneys that have that fire in their belly to attract and retain clients. A few of our law firm clients will financially reward lawyers for bringing in new work, even if the attorney does not ever touch the matter.
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