There’s an old saying that “timing is everything”, and for any lawyer who’s seeking a fresh career challenge that adage certainly rings true. For one reason or another, certain months of the year are more conducive to landing a new job based on a given applicant’s skills and legal experience. Selling a home, planning for a year-end bonus, or waiting for kids to get out of school can all potentially alter a lawyer’s timetable when seeking greener pastures. However, if all of these considerations are equal, there are specific times of year that are better for attorneys to pursue a career move.
The best time of the year for lawyers to make a career move is early January to Mid-April due to increased hiring as companies near the end of the financial year and start new annual budgets. Mid-August through October is also a great time as staff members come off vacations and summer internships draw to a close. And while November and December aren’t always ideal times to find a new position, opportunities still exist even at the end of the year. Read on to learn how to position yourself and prepare for these opportune times.
Best Time: Early January to Mid-April
During these months, nearly twice as much hiring goes on at law firms and corporate counsel departments than at any other time of the year due to:
- New hiring budgets being rolled out in January
- Employee hiring and firing decisions that are finalized in late December
- Some lawyers and partners wait for their end-of-year bonus before searching
The legal hiring process is notoriously slow, which means candidates who are initially screened during early January may not receive a formal offer until well into February or even March.
Next Best: Mid-August through October
During the late spring and summer months, the hiring pace slows down due mostly to vacations, along with the fact law firms and their recruiting staffs are busy accommodating summer law associates. Once that respite is over, the interviewing process tends to heat up again around Mid-August.
Near the end of October, hiring activities usually taper down until January for these reasons:
- Key decision makers are out of the office more (Holiday travel, etc.)
- Law firm and corporate counsel budgets are tapped out
- Many employers are assessing their hiring needs for the upcoming year
November and December Can Be Hidden Opportunities
If you’re wondering when to change jobs as an attorney, you can’t go wrong by sticking with the common wisdom outlined above. The beginning of the calendar year usually does hold the most opportunities for job-hunting lawyers. Keep in mind, bonuses are generally given out at the beginning of the year, which might keep employees around through the New Year so as not to miss out on that additional cash.
However, opportunities do still exist in the final two months of the year, a period of time that’s traditionally thought to be a waste of time when job hunting. It isn’t. Here are some of reasons why you may still secure a new position during November and December.
Law firms have a hiring budget they either use or lose at the end of the year
Hiring decisions often get made due to external factors rather than the excellence of an applicant’s qualifications, education, or prior performance. By the end of the year, firms have started firing and begun planning for hires in the New Year. It’s during this time that they realize they have remaining budget that they could lose, and one of the biggest reasons why firms make new hires in November and December is to avoid surrendering those funds.
Law firms look to fill positions that have been open for a considerable amount of time
This reason is related to previous one. If a position has remained unfilled for an extended period of time, firms face added incentives to do so before year’s end. The current state of the legal market also plays a role. At time of publishing, the demand to fill legal positions remains high, far outpacing the available supply. If there’s ever a time to fill a long-vacant position, it’s in the final two months of the year.
Law firms are often eager to get the hiring process done
Most attorneys do not particularly enjoy the hiring process — and they know that they’re likely to face a deluge of candidates come January. If they can get an appropriate hire “out of the way” before the rush begins, many will take the opportunity.
Law firms have work that is not getting done and are more eager to hire
Firms aren’t the only ones thinking about hiring at the start of the year. Attorneys are as well, which is why many of them quit their jobs during the holiday season. Firms may find themselves with far less work getting done during November and December, and that can lead them to take new hires seriously.
Law firms may move faster when they are less busy
In fact, because ordinary operations slow down during holiday time, firms often find themselves more available for hiring than they are at the beginning of the year. Applicants during this period may end up receiving more thorough consideration than they would if they waited for a new calendar to start.
End of year reviews can result in new openings
The end of the year is a period during which most firms make decisions regarding who will remain and who needs to move on to the proverbial greener pastures. The fact of the matter is that some attorneys will find themselves without jobs during this period, and it’s not uncommon for firms to begin to try to fill those open positions as soon as they become available. If you apply quickly enough, you may end up securing a job before it even gets advertised to the general public.
What if You Don’t Want to Wait?
In addition to the time of year, there are other circumstances during which you might find yourself in that perfect moment to interview for a long-awaited opportunity, such as:
The worst time to search for a job is when everyone else is. However, if your resume reflects a winning track record in comparison to other candidates, it doesn’t matter that much what time of year you throw your hat in the ring if your particular skills and experience are needed now.
Practice Specialty Area(s)
Anytime during the year, a firm or corporation’s legal department may get unexpectedly overloaded, facilitating the need to hire more help in one or more practice areas:
- Trademark: When a company is seeking regulatory approval for a new product.
- Bankruptcy: Bankruptcies increase when economic activity falls.
- Litigation: Experienced litigators are needed whenever a firm lands a big case.
- Healthcare: When new legislation is passed it sometimes spooks providers.
- Corporate: During an economic downturn, employees are let go and then sue.
- Real Estate: If interest rates are low, real estate activities tend to pick up.
When Key People Leave
Highly qualified lawyers take new positions, or are fired, every day. When old positions are vacated, new candidates must be recruited to fill them. In larger cities, like LA or New York, promising job openings are constantly available if you know where to look, and who to talk to.
A Hiring Spree
As corporations and law firms expand, for example when opening-up a satellite office overseas, it can trigger a legal hiring spree to fill new positions. And, those expansion opportunities can happen anytime throughout the year.
Another driving force within a given geographic area is how well the economy is performing. Rapid economic growth coincides with a need for good lawyers in nearly all specialties, be it financial, real estate, corporate or family law. For example, states that have recently legalized cannabis now have a plethora of legal jobs associated with all aspects of that burgeoning industry. On the flipside, during the recession of 2007-08, hiring slowed down appreciably in all regions of the U.S., which significantly impacted the legal profession too.
Good Legal Recruiters Place Candidates All Year Long
Timing and qualifications trump time of year for talented attorneys seeking a career change. If you’re a potential employer, several other market forces also influence hiring. Good legal recruiters grasp these trends and work as advisors whenever career advancement openings become available. Local recruiters have the insider information, networking contacts and candidate-vetting capabilities to better serve the interests of all parties involved. Visit the Legal Recruiter Directory today to search for a good legal recruiter in your area.