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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

October 30, 2016
Question

Why do some employers require Big Law firm experience for their in house jobs?

answer
Julie Q. Brush

Employers come in all shapes and sizes. And when it comes to senior legal hires, so do their requirements. Each hiring manager and executive team possesses a vision of their perfect profile and their own set of priorities and values that govern a senior level legal search. Some of these “must-haves” are based on logic…others, on emotional drivers. So every company…and search differs.

The requirement of “Big Law” experience most certainly exists for some opportunities…but not all. In fact, a large number of hiring managers place more emphasis on the quality of overall experience than on the law firm brand during a candidate’s early professional years. So if you’re feeling demoralized and/or frustrated by your recent employment rejections, it is important to know that in today’s legal market, a background in Big Law is not an across-the-board requirement.

With this said, it would be helpful to understand why an employer might value this experience so you can create an interview strategy to address any future objections. Below are a few reasons a Big Law background may appeal to the hiring brass:

Great Training.

Some employers view Big Law as a great training ground for young lawyers. This is where they learn the ropes – with smart midlevel and senior lawyers there to supervise, train and mentor. The work is diverse and plentiful and the hours are hefty – requiring a Herculean work effort. It also provides an environment to develop a strong foundation for a sophisticated legal practice. Big Law is viewed as a high quality springboard for an in house practice.

Variety of work. Variety of Clients.

Big Law lawyers work with multiple clients and on a high volume…and variety of deals/cases. This exposure is appealing to an employer – as diversity provides a deeper level and wider range of expertise.

Sophisticated Work.

Big Law clients are typically well branded, prominent and have sophisticated and complex work. If the work is sophisticated…so is the lawyer who services it.

The Bar is High to Join The Club.

It ain’t easy landing a job in Big Law. Criteria such as law school cache and grades dominate the hiring musts. So if you can make it through the door, chances are you’ve excelled academically. For some employers, this is achievement is an important quality and an indicator of professional success.

The “Credential” Gives Credibility and Status.

The legal profession isn’t the only one that is status conscious. Lots of GCs, hiring managers, business executives…and board of directors are as well. To these folks having a Big Law background signifies distinction and status – which is an important reflection of the company, the executive team and the legal function.

If you do not possess Big Law experience, you can use the insights above to address any future objections. And as you prepare for your interviews, identify examples of how your background showcases your experience in these areas. For some clients, it won’t matter how persuasive or qualified you are, the lack of Big Law experience will be a non-starter. These situations are out of your control. So let them go and move on. There will be other opportunities more aligned with your background and executives who will value what you have to offer. So be patient and remain optimistic – because there’s good reason to be!

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